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Sarah Ban Breathnach: Moving On

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Jan 01, 2006
Category: Self Help

‘Simple Abundance’ — who doesn’t remember this book? Is there a woman who watches Oprah who doesn’t have a copy?

It’s like a demarcation line. Once upon a time, there was no ‘Simple Abundance.’ Then, in 1996, Oprah read it and passed a blessing over it. And suddenly five million copies sold and it was #1 on the Times bestseller list for so many months in a row that you just stopping looking at that page.

For those few women — and fifty million men — who don’t remember ‘Simple Abundance,’ here is the cheat sheet: You have everything you need. Inside you. So pour yourself a cup of tea, sit yourself down, and savor…yourself.

The books Ban Breathnach wrote next were riffs on that theme: Dig into yourself, excavate your unique and authentic essence, come to love who you are.   

And then it was as if Ban Breathnach (you pronounce it "Bon Brannock") hit a wall.  

For five years…silence.  

‘Moving On’ explains that silence. Oh, there are the familiar Ban Breathnach prayers and incantations and quotations from writers famed and obscure. But there is something new here — a story, carefully threaded through the book. And not a pretty story at that.  

It seems that success was not kind to Ban Breathnach. She took her considerable fortune and — violating the first rule of entrepreneurship — invested it in herself. That is, in the idea of spreading the ‘Simple Abundance’ gospel through a combination of print-and-online media. A nifty idea — now. Back as the Internet bubble was starting to pop, it was a nifty way to burn money.  

Then there was the divorce. The move to New York. The accidental discovery that Sir Isaac Newton’s "chapel" was for sale, followed by the impulsive purchase of that two-room structure outside of London. And an accident that sent her to bed for months.  

Sarah Ban Breathnach was having what you or I might call a run of bad luck. But Ban Breathnach believes that things happen for a reason. And as she undertook a new round of self-excavation, she realized that she’d been in denial most of her life — and that maybe other women were as well.

The issue was houses. They weren’t really homes. No one wanted to admit that, but it was true: Women didn’t feel comfortable in their own homes.  

‘Moving On’ is about finding and making a home. Forget ‘him’ — this is all about you. It’s about the purse full of recent history, the mess on the kitchen counter, the clothes spread over the dresser or treadmill. That clutter, says Ban Breathnach, is protection — against feeling, pain, life.  

Why do women pile stuff up? Because, she believes, they are afraid of ending their days as penniless, homeless bag ladies. So what do they do? They store the last six months of receipts and a warehouse of beauty products in their handbags — they create now the persona they fear will be theirs later.

A very sharp perception, that. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg.   Ban Breathnach is hard on herself, because, she says, that’s what works — a sharper, tougher brand of excavation. And because she’s learned: The thing you avoid may be the thing you need most.

Like a home. Where you walk in the front door. Where you feel right. A literal "house of belonging."  

Ban Breathnach was well along that path and feeling pretty good about herself when she ran into a man she had met decades earlier. This time, they were both free. Everything clicked. Now they’re married. The book is dedicated to him. Even more, it’s infused with him.  

Fairy tales do come true? How Disney. But Sarah Ban Breathnach is unashamed. You don’t win big if you don’t aim high, she would say. Dreams don’t actualize if you never dream.  

Ban Breathnach dared. And it worked out. She’s the best proof of her own philosophy. Don’t be surprised if many women are freshly inspired by this book. And that millions of homes in America are suddenly neater.    

To buy ‘Moving On: Creating Your House of Belonging’ from, click here.  

To buy ‘Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy’ from, click here.