Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach (org 1995)

In the mid-nineties, my mother was in the heart of her “Oprah worship” years. She devotedly watched The Oprah Winfrey Show every single day and if she could not (which was rare, as she curated her schedule to be home for her show) she taped it using our rickety VCR.

She was a member of from the very first of Oprah’s Book Club and read every single selection and tuned in to watch the book discussion on the show. When the book Simple Abundance was selected for the book club, my mother went out and bought a copy, something she never did because we had an amazing library in our town which had copies of every book we could hope to read.

The book begins on January 1 and offers readers one short reflection or mediation for each day of the year. My mother read Simple Abundance and was moved by its message: that there are lessons to be learned everyday simply by paying attention, and honoring, the things and people around us. I was a teenager who had just gone away to college when my mother discovered the book and was sent a copy to — presumably — read night and reflect on my life. Sadly, I sat it on a shelf where I did not open it for many years. As you know, eighteen-year-old’s know all there is to know about life and do not need instructions, advice, or reflection…not from their mothers, not even from Oprah.

Something profound happened when I finally did pick the book up, on January 1 many years later as a new wife and mother living in a town more than three thousand miles away from family and friends. To my shock, I fell in love with Simple Abundance. I loved how its daily meditations — never more than two pages — allowed me a chance to pause and think about the magical things that had happened that day, even when it seemed (before reading the passage) that nothing of import had occurred at all. The book represented a kind of self-reflection and meditation that fit right into my life as it was, no new age music or meditation instruction required. All the author asked was that I think about the special gifts each day, each season, had to offer and be thankful for them.

Last month, mid-December, amid the craziness of the holiday season I asked my husband if he could help me locate my copy of Simple Abundance. I had a sudden yearning to read one of its passages each night of 2016. How glad I am to have dusted that old treasure off!

The six daily reflections that I have read so far have been calming and uplifting all at once.  The goal she sets out for us this January is not to create resolutions but rather “embrace the gentle yearnings of your heart…gradually become the curator of your own contentment.”

I love how accessible her language is and how she weaves her everyday life into the reflections — one passage on the magic of watching snow fall, another on the special quality of conversations by a fireside, later come reflections on hearing the first spring birds return or harvesting food from your garden.

While the language can be a bit new-agey and there are some references to guardian angels and a”Higher Power,” that does not diminish the sentiment of the book, which is to highlight that power of pausing each day to find the unique gift it has brought to your life.

That sounds like a wonderful way to start –and end — the year.

 

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