Back in the mid-1990s, a modern revolution hit the bookshelves of women’s spirituality.
Only a few years after the end of the decade of decadence, Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy,” assisted by Oprah Winfrey’s stamp of approval, charmed the hearts and souls of women everywhere. There has since been a version adapted for men, as well.
Breathnach’s daily essays, grouped according to monthly themes, encourage readers to take delight in the simple pleasures of life, to find their own style – their “authentic self” – by noticing and incorporating into their daily lives those things that speak to their spirits.
For example, March’s reflections are devoted to “simplicity.”
Breathnach’s thoughts for the last two days of the month speak of the difference between fashion and style. Fashion comes and goes. But a personal style develops and evolves over time. Fashion is doing what everyone else does. Style is having the courage to be true to the spirit inside of you and expressing it in the way you live your life, the way you dress, the way you decorate your home or the way you spend your time.
Fashion is fleeting. Style remains.
One of the most well-known outcomes of the book has been the advent of the “gratitude journal,” to cultivate a greater sense of appreciation for the simple pleasures in life. In my own experience, I have found that intentionally practicing gratitude has a multiplicative effect.
The more you are grateful for, the more you find for which to be grateful.
I remember when “Simple Abundance” was fairly new. Looking back, it was as if the timing of its release was divinely inspired, coming just on the cusp of the explosion of the internet. It was almost as if it was a plea from the spirit to remember what is truly important, to remember that no matter how much the internet can help us, it will never – never – be able to satisfy the deepest longings of our souls.
Here we are in 2023, and most of us are all too aware of the dark side of online life.
Anyone who spends any amount of time on the internet knows how easy it is to go down the proverbial rabbit hole and waste hours, days, weeks, months and, yes, even years of their lives on clickbait.
I know about which I speak. One time years ago, I came across an app that could track how much time I had spent logged in to Facebook. I was astounded to find, at that point, I had already sacrificed over 3,000 hours of my life to scrolling through my newsfeed.
Those are 3,000 hours of my life I can never get back. And even worse, the number of hours I have spent on social media since then has multiplied.
I won’t even dwell here on how much online life has contributed to the steep decline in basic public discourse and civility. You all know what I mean. Whereas talk radio and television were the primary ways of debating topics in the mid 1990s, there was still some level of moderation and boundaries which no one would cross. Today, it is literally a free for all, in so many ways.
Last night, I was on Amazon.com, looking to find revised versions of “Simple Abundance.” (I know this in itself is illustrative of the dichotomy between the book’s message and modern living.) There is a newer edition available, updated to reference such things as social media that were not a part of our everyday lives when the first edition was released.
I was contemplating ordering the new edition, but then I read a review from a reader who has faithfully referred to the original version since it was released. It wasn’t a negative review of the newer edition, per se. She said not much of the content had changed, but there were some differences. She said the new version would be a good place to start for younger readers unaware of the earlier edition. But the reviewer did say she was content to keep the first edition as her primary reference.
The original edition, released in 1995, gives the reader an undeniable sense of warmth and contentment. The revised edition undoubtedly does the same, with a modern twist.
Maybe it is mid-life nostalgia on my part, but I am happy to stick with the original book. Some references might be outdated, but that just adds to the charm of the original, from a time when humans weren’t so enslaved to modern technology, and enjoying the simple pleasures of life wasn’t so countercultural.
Spirit Matters is a weekly column that examines experiences common to the human spirit. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at firstname.lastname@example.org to share how you engage your spirit in your life and community.