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"The Power of Gratitude"
Thursday, April 16, 1998

The following article recently appeared in Joel Metzger's ONLINE NOETIC NETWORK (ONN) <http://www.wisdomtalk.org/> and is reprinted here by special permission of the author.

With Love & Best Wishes,
David Sunfellow



By Jill H. Lawrence

There is perhaps no person more filled with gratitude than the woman who single-handedly -- with a little help from Oprah! -- taught the world that gratitude is a magical elixir. Sarah Ban Breathnach (pronounced Bon Brannock) is the personification of gratitude and she believes her life overflows with abundance as a direct result of her continuous focus on gratitude.

Her everyday existence is a living testimony to her words: "Gratitude is the most passionate transformative force in the cosmos. When we offer thanks to God or to another human being, gratitude gifts us with renewal, reflection, reconnection... every time we remember to say 'thank you' we experience nothing less than Heaven on earth."

Unquestionably, Sarah has a lot to be grateful for! She has authored two best-sellers -- Simple Abundance as well as the more recent The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude. Simple Abundance, first published two years ago in November of 1995, has sold over two million copies and has found a home on the New York Times' best-seller list for twenty consecutive months, holding the top spot for nine of those months. One year later, her Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude was published and Sarah became the first author in the history of the Wall Street Journal's weekly compilation of best-selling books to appear in both the Number One (Simple Abundance) and Number Two (The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude) slots simultaneously.

So great is Sarah's resulting stature today, People Magazine asked her to fly to London to cover Princess Diana's funeral "in search of lessons to take from the princess's vibrant life and wrenching death." In the article she penned, Sarah noted " ... Diana never realized the depths of love the world held for her. We were too stingy with our praise and thanksgiving, too generous with our disdain and criticism." Sarah fervently believes that whatever the context, the more we focus on gratitude, the more our lives become filled with wonders to be grateful for. Oprah Winfrey agrees.

It was Sarah who first suggested to Oprah that writing down five things you are grateful for each day has a life-transforming impact. As a result, Oprah began doing it herself and was so positively affected that she incorporated a "Gratitude Moment" into many of her television shows this year. Even now Oprah's website contains a gratitude section comprised of a variety of aspects related to gratitude.

"I turned on Oprah and saw one show this summer where the whole show was devoted to gratitude," Sarah recalls. "I just started crying. I cannot believe I was blessed to be the conduit of something so profound. I am so happy doing Spirit's work out in the world. I'm having the time of my life!"

In fact, Sarah's books have been featured on four Oprah shows in the last year -- two of those times involved in-depth interviews with Sarah. Oprah aired a show entitled "Gratitude Day" April 14, 1997, on which she said, "If you focus on what you have, you'll end up having more. If you focus on what you lack, you will never have enough. That's a guarantee ... We are celebrating gratitude and really trying to 'inspire' a shift in consciousness in this country ... a different way of looking at your life, being thankful for what you have ... "

Oprah is the first to say that Sarah Ban Breathnach was the catalyst for all this gratitude focus. And the positive repercussions ripple 'round the world.

"I literally shake my head in astonishment," Sarah reflects. "A hospital in Illinois called recently and wanted to lock me in to speak in '98 and '99! The idea that there are people out there thinking like that is very, very surprising!"

Of course, people weren't always lining up years in advance to make certain they could hear her words. Time was when Sarah was a relative unknown -- an unknown sparked by a divinely inspired mission.

She had written a manuscript for what would become Simple Abundance and spent two years shopping the manuscript to publishers. Her literary agent and close friend Chris Tomasino believed passionately in the book and in the fact that there were women who passionately needed to read it.

"Sometimes Chris and I would cry on the phone together," Sarah remembers. "I had a total of thirty rejections in two years and I can't even believe I survived those two years now. I was an insane woman. I would not give it up. I knew that Simple Abundance was the book I was born to write."

Sarah would often cry herself to sleep not comprehending why her manuscript was not selling. Chris would recount rejection after rejection, tears would flow and Chris would tell Sarah that it was all going to be okay and just to go to bed and sleep.

Despite such well-intentioned advice, Sarah suffered many dark nights of the soul. She remembered that Joseph Campbell, the world renown expert on the power of myth, often said that all doors fly open when you are following your bliss. And Sarah most emphatically was following hers, but doors were remaining tightly closed.

"I'd cry and talk to God and I'd say obviously this is not what you want me to do because the doors are not opening! And that's how I would be before I'd go to bed," the author recalls. She was mystified, frustrated, filled with angst and completely non-comprehending. Could it be that she was mistaken? That she was not born to write this book? That she was not following divine guidance by writing this book after all?

Finally sleep would come and by the next morning, the storm would have passed and it would be all right again. "I'd get up the next day simply acting as if I had a contract!" Not surprisingly, her gratitude journal would often contain the name of her friend and literary agent Chris Tomasino. Together the two kept the faith.

And then one day, after being turned down by twenty-seven publishers, Chris called bubbling over with excitement. She told Sarah that Liz Blumer at WARNER BOOKS was very interested and that she loved Simple Abundance. But there was one "minor" proviso. Liz Blumer wanted Sarah to re-write her book and turn it into a daily book of 365 segments. She wanted a daily inspiration book for women.

Sarah's response was not what Chris expected! Despite the twenty-seven rejections, Sarah issued a rejection of her own -- no she would not change her book from a conventional format to a daily book. "I said 'are you crazy? I can't write an inspirational book for women! I need an inspirational book!'"

So Chris loyally continued to contact publishers, garnering another three rejections in the process, in an attempt to sell the manuscript. And Sarah continued to shake her head and wonder what was going on. "I was in prayer and meditation one day and I was again asking 'Why, if this is what I am supposed to be doing -- and I know in my soul this is what I am supposed to be doing -- then why are you not leading me to the right publisher?' And I heard a voice say loud and clear, 'We already have! Can we get to work now please?'

"I get marching orders from Spirit and that was one of them!" Sarah laughs. So she put the material from her manuscript into small doses and was amazed how powerful it was. "The lesson in that one was: we're waiting for God to work in our lives when God is waiting for us to cooperate!"

It took Sarah almost two years to convert the manuscript to a daily format. The finished manuscript was a whopping 977 pages long. "I obviously felt I had a lot to say! It's a wonderful thing to be in collaboration with Spirit. I thought I was writing about eliminating clutter in your life, but Simple Abundance knew much more than I did. There would be times I would read what I wrote and I'd say 'Where did that come from?' and it would be exactly what I needed that day.

"Mother Teresa said that she was just a pencil in God's hand and I really know now that I'm just a pencil in God's hand. I was using every gift I was ever given in order to write the book. It is something that resonates with over two million people and it is not the work of one human being. It's humbling and I'm very grateful!" the author emphasizes.

Her editor Liz, cut her manuscript down to 500 pages and Simple Abundance went to press. In the meantime, Liz herself got the central message of the book -- to live authentically -- and after she shepherded the book onto the best seller list, she left Warner Books to follow her bliss and become a literary agent with the Karp Finger Agency in New York.

Getting onto the best seller list birthed a saga in its own right. WARNER BOOKS had told Sarah that Simple Abundance was a woman's book "which is a euphemism in the publishing industry which means 'no publicity,'" Sarah explains. "They told me this was going to be a slow burn.

"Here I was, having invested four years of my life in this thing and they say it's going to be promoted by word of mouth!" Sarah sighs.

The first printing in November 1995 was 24,000 copies. "I'm sure they thought they were taking a big risk," Sarah says. The book received almost no promotional attention, there was not a single advertisement for it and yet in only three months times 35,000 copies had been sold. It was truly a word of mouth phenomenon!

But 35,000 copies sold sets no fires aflame in the book industry and Sarah was looking to Spirit for guidance. She was told by Spirit to send thirty copies to The Oprah Winfrey Show "because if this is going to be word of mouth, then every woman on her staff should have a copy of this book. Warner thought I was crazy and they finally sent the books just to shut me up!

"It wasn't too long before I received a response from the show. 'Thanks very much for the book, but it's really not a show.' Of course I was devastated again! I probably cried myself to sleep that night, too. I got virtually no advance payment for the book and I knew I had to get a "real" job to carry my weight.

"Nonetheless, women would stop me wherever I went and they'd thank me and tell me how the book was changing their lives. They were saying just incredible things, things difficult to process emotionally because they were so profound. Then one day I went to pick up my daughter Katie at school and a woman came across the parking lot, put her hands on my shoulders and said 'I know you are hearing this all the time, but this book has literally changed my life and my mother-in-law's life.' We were looking each other directly in the eye and it really got through to me.

"When she left, I said 'All right God, this was never my book, it was always your book and maybe I'm not supposed to earn a living from it, but please let what I wrote in this book not be a lie when I tell people when they use their authentic gifts that they can earn a living. Let me support myself from this book.' And at the same time I surrendered and let God do whatever He/She would do," Sarah reports.

Her surrender came the end of January 1996 and on February 7th she got The Call -- Oprah really loved her book! Sarah and her daughter Katie flew to Chicago and the rest is pretty much history!

During the time period between the taping and when the show actually aired, Sarah kept saying "It's a miracle, it's the parting of the Red Sea, it's a miracle! But the people at Warner said 'It's not a miracle, you earned this.' And I'd say there are 1,000 to 10,000 writers who work as hard as me and this is a miracle. Then they'd say I could no longer use the word miracle because I'd earned this!"

And then the Oprah show aired on March 21st, 1996. On the show Oprah said, "I know this sounds like an infomerical, but it's not," referring to her endorsement of Simple Abundance. She said it was her favorite book of the year.

Simple Abundance sold out in some cities before the show finished airing. Other cities like Lansing, Michigan took two whole hours to sell out. The next day Sarah received flowers from Warner Books along with a card that read, "It's a miracle!"

Two weeks later Simple Abundance hit the New York Times best seller list and hasn't come off since. Now many say it's a miracle!

After all this, Sarah's best advice for anyone and everyone is still the same: to get down on your knees tonight and give thanks for five things in your life. "I swear to you," she promises, "if you start giving thanks for five things every day and do it for sixty days you will say it absolutely turned your life around! Yes, give thanks for your health, children and job, but I'm also talking about the little things you normally overlook."

She lists 150 often overlooked blessings in the front of her gratitude journal. Such things as serenity as you pay bills, holding your child in your arms, the desire for knowledge, watching a sunset, room service, feeling a sense of pride in yourself and a nap are included on the list.

Sarah emphasizes her agreement with the words of Meister Eckhart when he said, "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough." Besides saying thank you, how does Sarah show her gratitude? By giving back, of course. She formed the Simple Abundance Charitable Fund and tithes 10% of everything she earns from Simple Abundance and The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude.

Her mission is to change the face of philanthropy and to increase awareness that doing good and living the good life are one and the same. She emphasizes that gratitude is what jump-starts simple abundance coming into your life and giving keeps the cycle in motion.

"I feel very much that the Simple Abundance Charitable Fund is part of my job and is why Simple Abundance sold over two million books because now I'm supposed to do my real work. I believe that we are meant to be living lives of abundance because we can do so much more for the world when we have abundance," the author affirms. In the past year, her fund has supported the vision of twenty non-profit organizations.

"We fight over who gets to pick up the phone and say who gets the money!" Sarah grins. "It's so wonderful! The windows of heaven are opening and showering abundance over me. Ten years ago I would not have known what to do with this success. I now know how to circulate it and it keeps coming back and blessing me.

"I don't limit God any longer. I learned that lesson real quickly. I don't say 'It's enough.' Instead I stand with my arms wide open and say, 'Great! Keep sending! And Thank you!'"


Jill H. Lawrence is a columnist, Executive Editor of THE SHIFTING TIMES NEWSMAGAZINE, national speaker, radio personality and seminar leader. She can be reached at "RubySlipp@aol.com" or by calling her at (330) 478-8895.

Joel Metzger's ONLINE NOETIC NETWORK (ONN) (http://www.wisdomtalk.org/) publishes frequent interviews with the pioneers of new thought and enables members to correspond by email with these well-known experts. Membership is $25 and all ONN members receive email, about three articles a week, including feature articles, essays, interviews, creative works, question and answer correspondence, and the ONN listserv. You are invited to join his free samples mailing list. For more information, write to: "ONNJoel@wisdomtalk.org"


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