Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
After writing Simple Abundance, Sarah Ban Breathnach received countless letters from readers and found a certain recurring theme throughout. Readers explained that their lives had improved markedly after embarking on the Simple Abundance path, yet they still felt a small twinge of . . . something, something indescribable. Sarah Ban Breathnach knew exactly what they meant, for in spite of a successful writing career, a beautiful and loving daughter, and contentment with the material things in her life, Sarah too felt there had to be "something more" to truly enjoying life, so she set out to investigate that elusive "something more." The result of that search was Something More. This reading group guide, coupled with Something More itself, will help you in your quest to live life to the fullest and experience the joy that is your spiritual birthright.
About the Reading Group Guide
Something More is a deeply provocative book that asks you to contemplate many issues that you may not be used to thinking about. Because of this, it is a book that is truly enriched by discussion and analysis. Below are some questions that take themes from the book and create a framework within which to begin discussion.
Because Something More is not a book that you should read straight through quickly, it may be best to proceed with this study guide slowly, tackling issues only as you are ready for them, and spreading out your study over several sessions. You may want to meet over a ten-week period, with one session corresponding to each chapter, and with one session left to wrap up.
These questions are meant to stimulate discussion, but they are by no means the only questions that will come up as you read; let this guide serve as a catalyst for exploring the issues, but allow your discussion to progress in whatever form it chooses. There are no right or wrong answers--or right or wrong questions--so be open to the thoughts that are expressed within the privacy of your group. No matter where your discussions go, they will help you on the journey to discovering your authentic Something More.
After a book like Simple Abundance, which promotes the theory that "all you have is all you need," the concept of needing Something More may seem counterintuitive, yet it is not. Discuss ways in which one may be on the Simple Abundance path but still feel a need for Something More.
Something More asks us to distinguish between happiness and joy. Do you feel you understand the difference? Discuss the nuances of each concept. Do you think you have been taught to look for joy, or is it something that just happened along the way? Does it feel foreign or uncomfortable to demand and expect joy out of your life? Analyze the feelings that surface in this discussion.
In "When the Student Is Ready," Sarah explains: "Soul-directed events push us past the perimeter of comfort and the safety of old patterns . . . defy logic, and ridicule reason. But soul-directed events--authentic moments--never betray us." Try to come up with your own personal definition of a soul-directed event. What are some of the soul-directed events that have made a difference in your life?
In the section "Small Things Forgotten," Sarah points out that small things from our past may convey special meanings. Are you able to remember material objects that were "worthless" to others--a dime-store thimble, perhaps, that your grandmother used to teach you how to sew, or a beat-up rag doll that you played with long ago? Are any of these objects monetarily valuable? How does our society assign value to objects? How does this alter our own behavior? Use these questions as a jumping-off point for learning how to ascribe worth to objects, behaviors, our selves.
In "Starting Over," we are told that there are only three ways to change the trajectory of our lives for better or worse: crisis, chance, and choice. Do you agree with this statement? Try to identify points in your life where major changes occurred: Can you pinpoint what precipitated this change? Discuss the incidence of chance, crisis, and choice in your life: Do you think one plays a stronger role than the others? If so, are you happy with the strength of that role, and if not, do you see a way to try to change it?
In "Surviving," Sarah makes a provocative statement: "Self-loathing is the silent hemorrhaging of the soul. You don't feel or see the life force changing until it's no longer there, and then, of course, it's too late." This raises an interesting point: If you are physically ill (broke your arm, running a high fever, covered with hives), do you try to cure what ails you, either on your own or with a doctor's aid? But if, in contrast, you feel soul-sick, do you ignore it and think it will pass? Why is there such a different inclination for matters of the soul? Is there anything you can do to change this?
"Settling" looks at the word "settle" and notes that it changes depending upon which adverb is modifying it: We can "settle down," "settle for," "settle up," and "settle on"; and at some point in our lives we do all four. What does the word "settle" mean to you? Is it a giving up of standards (as in "settling for"), or does it imply a move toward comfort and stability (as in "settling down")? Sarah goes on to affirm: "There's no way around it, only through; on our deeply personal journey to authenticity we must all become pioneers and make peace with settling before we can move on." What issues in your life must you settle before achieving the joy of Something More?
In "Stumbling," Sarah defines the concept of the Wilderness in several ways: "a Divine detour to bring us home to ourselves after a lifetime of running away"; "tough love"; "a radical spiritual amputation of the weaker and toxic parts of our personalities." She contrasts these definitions with one conjured up by an ancient legend: "a place of learning, spiritual growth, understanding, healing, and accomplishment." Can you synthesize these definitions? Think of phrases that parallel this concept in common speech: "it hurts me more than it hurts you"; "had to learn it the hard way." Is this a concept that you have paid lip service to in the past but never believed? Try to come up with some personal lessons that were learned only after a difficult trial.
"Fragile moments come to all of us," Sarah tells us in "Shattered," "so when our 'little days' come, when we feel alone and helpless, we need to remember that outstretched arms are waiting to pick us up, not to make it all better for us, but to help us make it all better for ourselves." How does our faith--whether religious, spiritual, or just an undefined sense of confidence in the Cosmos--rescue us in times of need? Many of us do not stop to think about what we truly place faith in until we must turn to it in emergency. Stop and think about what the source of your faith is and try to put it into words for yourself and for others in the group (keeping in mind that this is quite difficult).
In "Sensing," Sarah asks us to think back to the best moments of our lives. "Moments of caring, clarity, communion, companionship, commitment . . . of transcendence and transformation . . . of exhilaration and engagement . . . it's at these moments that the soul's Morse code . . . not only connects, but resonates on the deepest level." Can you conjure up these moments? Do they have elements in common? Discuss these elements, and observe the similarities (and differences) among each group member's moments. What does this say about your Authentic Selves?
"Something More," our final chapter, finally reveals the secret of what we've been looking for. Are you surprised by the discovery? Disappointed? Nervous? Excited? Discuss your definition of Something More and your plans to achieve it.
Something More naturally lends itself to a few follow-up projects. In October 1999, Warner Books published an interactive hardcover titled The Illustrated Discovery Journal. This is the same journal referred to as a tool for following both Simple Abundance and Something More. It is the ultimate repository of magazine clippings, photos, drawings, and other creative stimuli; with Sarah's guidance, you will learn to discern your own authentic preferences by examining the material you have collected.
Sarah Ban Breathnach would like to hear from you. For more information on her activities or about The Simple Abundance Charitable Fund, please write her at:
P.O. Box 1123
Takoma Park, Maryland 20913-5870
Reproduced with the permission of the publisher, Warner Books; All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Grand Central Publishing.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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