Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Losing Everything, Finding Yourself

Some weeks ago I watched Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday where she interviewed Sarah Ban Breathnach, the bestselling author of Simple Abundance. She had already been her guest in the Oprah Show nine times and Oprah admits Sarah’s the reason she writes in her gratitude journal to this day. Ms. Ban Breathnach sold seven million books, becoming an instant sensation and multi-millionaire. Fifteen years later, however, Sarah tells Oprah that she has lost it all: her love, her home, and her way. She told Oprah that it took losing everything to help her find herself.
In one of my several trips to Spain in the nineties, I received Simple Abundance as a gift. I immediately fell in love with the book which became my cheerleader whenever I needed a pep talk. Sarah’s words were comforting. I always admired her ease to convey analogies and “feel-good” stories. She reminded me to enjoy simple things, live every moment to the fullest, and above all, to be grateful.
I had no idea Sarah had started as a freelance writer, living paycheck to paycheck before writing her bestselling book. She is one of the few (lucky) writers that made it big, so big, that she was able to buy Sir Isaac Newton’s chapel which became her private writing studio.
In the interview, she explained how she was on the New York’s Best Seller’s List for more than two years and went from making six-figure royalty checks to literally nothing.
As I continued to watch the interview, I learned that she started as a struggling writer, made it to the top, achieving what every single writer dreams of, and ended up where she had started. Ironically after all that success, she found herself living “a simple life” in a room out of her sister’s apartment. I was in disbelief.
Sarah confessed that at the pinnacle of her success, she didn’t want to ask for help (bother anyone). She felt she could manage her business and handle success. She added, “I’m a smart woman, I wrote Simple Abundance so I should be able to figure it out by myself.” Bad financial advice from her ex-husband also led her to a downward spiral into hell. Despite all this, she didn’t see it as a fall from grace, just a fall that helped her move on to her new sense of awareness. She stated that she’s at peace now and financially stable again.
In her new book Peace and Plenty, Sarah shares that the great spiritual lesson is to “guard your heart. Watch your treasures for what it’s your treasure will be your heaven on earth”.
Since the publishing of her new book, Sarah has moved out of her sister’s place. She is enjoying simple pleasures again (e.g., listening to the rain and writing in her gratitude journal). Towards the end of the interview she quoted T.S. Eliot, “We go back to where we began”.
In Oprah’s words of wisdom, I’ll leave you with, “True success is the feeling of reward and self respect.”
Do you agree with Oprah’s thought? What about T.S. Eliot quotation? Did Sarah’s story inspire you in some way?


  1. I'm not much into Oprah, but I agree with T.S. Eliot. What he says was said even before him by many philosophical figures and religious texts, including the Bible.
    There's one thing I have to say though: once I become rich and famous thanks to my skills, I hope it doesn't take me losing everything again to rediscover myself... I mean, do I really have to sink again to come back afloat? :)
    If I get rich, I promise I won't forget who I am!

    1. Hi Jay,
      LOL! I hope when you become famous you don't forget about me, or your friends. ;)
      Well, Sarah's situation was very unique and perhaps it doesn't repeat too often. One can only learn from her or someone else's experience.

  2. Thanks for sharing Sarah's story. How amazing- from nothing to something to nothing then to finding peace. I like that! I also like that we can break cycles through experience and maturity. I wish evil things for her ex-husband and hope she never ever trusts her hard earned monies like so!
    :-) I love that she had family to fall back on. I hope Sarah continues on stronger and more financially confident after such a journey!

    Oh I miss Oprah!

    Take care

    1. Hi Kitty,
      Yes, family is important (especially a supportive one) to give you a hand in trying times. I'm glad her journey ended in a good note though ;)

  3. This is a wonderful piece, Claudia. I, too, read "Simple Abundance" when it came out and gave it to friends who needed a boost as a gift. How sad that Sarah should have endured such a blow, but if it helped her get where she is now, it will all have been worth it. I think that's the lesson for all of we handle our misfortunes define us. Yes, success is definitely defined by a feeling of reward and self-respect. As for always "goign back where we began"...that depends on whether or not we learn to break old patterns, no?

    1. Hi Ingrid,
      You're right. If we don't learn a lesson after going back to where we started then we're in trouble. I agree with you when you said, "how we handle our misfortunes define us". Well said.

  4. I believe every day is a gift. And yes that is easier to say for some than for others.

  5. PS Nice to see you back, Claudia

    1. Hi Mike,
      Thank you for dropping by. In the summer, I find it difficult to blog. And you are so right by saying that every day is a gift. Beautifully put!

  6. I kind of disagree with Oprah-- but I don't know why. Maybe she's right, but intuitively I feel that true success is measured by something else.

    The T.S. Elliot quote is very much true. All of life is cyclical!

    I had no idea about Sarah's story, either. I've seen her book everywhere-- from bookstores to friends' homes, and I think my mother had a copy. I've never picked it up before, but the next time I see it, I will.

  7. Hi Raquel,
    Remember, we all have our own definition of success. That was just Oprah's opinion ;)
    This book is full of anecdotes and personal experiences that Sarah shares with her readers. You read it every day if you want to, or just whenever you need a boost. Ask your mom to lend it to you. ;) It's a feel good book.

  8. Sounds like a GREAT read! I'll have to try and get my hands on Sarah's book.
    I agree that it's the simple things in life that bring true happiness...
    I also believe that in all spheres of life, the journey is most important... the destination, (whatever it is), is simply a bonus!

    1. Hi Michelle,
      Thank you for stopping by. Remember, this is an inspirational book. It's like a journal so you can read it at your leisure ;)
      I like what you say at the end of your comment, so true :-)

  9. Hi Claudia! I am grateful for your post because it reminds me that gratitude is not simply something we say, but something we live. Although I wasn't aware of Sarah Ban Breathnach's story, I can relate because I have had to start from what felt like scratch, carving a new life. Gratitude accompanied me every step of the way on that precarious journey. Now I know that where I am right here right now is the result of gratitude for all that I have and all that I am. Thank you for your thought-provoking post!

  10. Hi Kelly,
    Awwww, those are very sweet and kind words. I'm happy to hear you empathize with this story. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Hoping you continue on that beautiful journey you're in right now ;)

  11. Oprah's words remind me of when author Ray Bradbury visited our english class and said almost the same things.
    Some folks are commercial writers and writing for the monetary goals, others are writing from the heart. Maybe if one can expand their writing horizons early in their career, they will be able to do a bit of both.

  12. Hi Royce,
    Thank you for stopping by. WOW! I can't believe Bradbury visited your English class!!!! :) Lucky you! I read Fahrenheit 451 in high school. Unfortunately, my English teacher was dull and a lot of the students didn't care about discussing the book (which I think is a great book). Usually, writers who write from the heart don't make money. They do it for the love of art. I've known quite a few good writers in Montreal who are excellent writers but are not well-known because they didn't write a commercial book. :(