Good Reads on Aging and Spirituality
Richard Rohr – Falling Upward
In Falling Upward, Fr. Richard Rohr seeks to help readers understand the tasks of the two halves of life and to show them that those who have fallen, failed, or "gone down" are the only ones who understand "up." Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling down can largely be experienced as "falling upward." In fact, it is not a loss but somehow actually a gain, as we have all seen with elders who have come to their fullness.
Explains why the second half of life can and should be full of spiritual richness
Offers a new view of how spiritual growth happens?loss is gain
Joan Chittister – Gift of Years
Well-known in Catholic circles for her willingness to take on anybody-even the pope-in defense of women's rights, Chittister, now in her 70s, examines how it feels "to be facing that time of life for which there is no career plan." Clearly, getting older has not diminished the controversial nun, activist, lecturer and author of nearly 40 books on feminism, nonviolence and Benedictine wisdom. This collection of inspirational reflections, "not meant to be read in one sitting, or even in order, but one topic at a time," abounds in gentle insights and arresting aphorisms: "'Act your age' can be useful advice when you're seventeen; it's a mistake when you're seventy-seven." Beginning each short chapter with a trenchant quotation ("'It takes a long time,' Pablo Picasso wrote, 'to become young'"), she ponders topics such as fear, mystery, forgiveness and legacy. Old age is rich for those who choose to thrive, not wither: "We can recreate ourselves in order to be creative in the world in a different way than the boundaries of our previous life allowed."
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Kathleen Dowling Singh – The Grace in Aging
Learn to use your later years for awakening and spiritual growth.
Encouraging, inspiring, and practical, The Grace in Aging invites all those who have ever experienced spiritual longing to awaken in their twilight years. Since aging, in and of itself, does not lead to spiritual maturity, The Grace in Aging suggests and explores causes and conditions that we can create in our lives, just as we are living them, to allow awakening to unfold—transforming the predictable sufferings of aging into profound opportunities for growth in clarity, love, compassion, and peace.
Barbara Brown Taylor - Learning to Walk in the Dark
From the New York Times bestselling author of An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark provides a way to find spirituality in those times when we don’t have all the answers.
Taylor has become increasingly uncomfortable with our tendency to associate all that is good with lightness and all that is evil and dangerous with darkness. Doesn’t God work in the nighttime as well? In Learning to Walk in the Dark, Taylor asks us to put aside our fears and anxieties and to explore all that God has to teach us “in the dark.” She argues that we need to move away from our “solar spirituality” and ease our way into appreciating “lunar spirituality” (since, like the moon, our experience of the light waxes and wanes). Through darkness we find courage, we understand the world in new ways, and we feel God’s presence around us, guiding us through things seen and unseen. Often, it is while we are in the dark that we grow the most.
With her characteristic charm and literary wisdom, Taylor is our guide through a spirituality of the nighttime, teaching us how to find our footing in times of uncertainty and giving us strength and hope to face all of life’s challenging moments.
Dr. Bill Thomas - Second Wind
From one of the most original and innovative thinkers in medicine, this “stirring and splendid book” (Wall Street Journal) offers groundbreaking insight to the postwar generation on facing their second coming of age, a developmental opportunity to reshape their lives and our society.
Dr. Thomas is at the forefront of a strong nationwide movement to reframe “life after adulthood” as an exciting stage of human growth and development. In Second Wind, he explores the dreams and disappointments, the struggles and triumphs of a generation of 78 million people who once said they would never grow old and never trust anyone over thirty. Instilled with the belief that they would always be Joni Mitchell’s “stardust,” many Boomers are having a harder time transitioning into elderhood than previous generations. But the reality is that every 10.8 seconds an American turns sixty-five. Among all the human beings who have ever lived to see old age, more than half are living among us right now. In Second Wind, Dr. Thomas attempts to guide Boomers into this final developmental stage filled with hope and a new sense of what is possible.
As the Post War generation entered adulthood, they saw three models of what an adult could be: hippies, activists, and squares—the “square” model becoming the dominant model. Now, many Boomers now feel “stuck” inside the frenzied, performance-based, money-driven world that no longer suits them. But if they can learn to go slower, go deeper, and be more connected to themselves, their loved ones, and other members of their community, they can find the wisdom, happiness, and fulfillment that comes with a life that is in balance.
Lars Tornstam - Transcendence: A Developmental Theory of Positive Aging
"Lars Tornstam's Gerotranscendence demands that we look more deeply at those admirable qualities of character found among those who have lived the whole course of life, people who have attained a level of freedom and spiritual fulfillment that can be a goal for us all...He has set a standard that will inspire both scientific investigation as well as practice in the professions. More questions will undoubtedly be asked as others are inspired by Tornstam's gound-breaking work."
--Harry R. Moody, PhD, Director of Academic Affairs, AARP, in The Gerontologist
Robert Atchley - Spirituality and Aging
A spiritual life, one focused on personal growth and deep human experience, is a major focus and motivator for people over the age of forty. Yet there is a marked lack of rigorous academic study of spirituality's importance in the lives of aging people. Noted gerontologist Robert C. Atchley remedies this problem by developing complex concepts and language about spirituality.
Spirituality and Aging incorporates material from two decades of interviews, observations, study, and reflection to illustrate ways of thinking about and discussing spirituality―what it is, why it is important, and how it influences the experience of aging. This book provides a nuanced view of spirituality and the richness it brings to the lives of older people.
The book is divided into three sections, with the first providing basic frames of reference for examining spirituality and aging, such as the nature of spirituality, spiritual development, and the spiritual self. Atchley next focuses on two dimensions of spirituality that are likely to manifest later in life: becoming a sage (developing the capacity to bring spiritual light to everyday issues) and serving from spirit (creating opportunities for service that are rooted in spirituality). The last section illustrates how spirituality informs other aspects of late life, such as psychological coping and the experience of dying and death.
Separating spirituality from religion―something few books on this topic do― Spirituality and Aging offers a plan for incorporating spirituality into gerontological scholarship, research, education, and practice.