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A Christian, A Jungian, and A Buddhist Walk Into a Bar
December, 2022

Dear Friends,

Well, that's not exactly right. A Christian, a Jungian, and a Buddhist walked into my consciousness, not a bar. But it seems to me as if these three people stepped up to buy me a beer in a cozy pub and I've been benefiting from their wisdom ever since.

The Christian is Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest and author. The Jungian (as in Carl Jung, the pioneering psychologist) is psychotherapist Connie Zweig. And the Buddhist is Dharma practitioner and teacher Kathleen Dowling Singh. All of them have written wonderful books on aging, a topic that's been on my mind lately because I'm . . . well, aging.

You might also be in this stage of life, a time when you're searching for answers about how to age well. And if you're not in this stage, you will be in it eventually (if you're lucky!).

So let me tell you about three books by these authors that have given me hope, spiritual insights, and practical advice on dealing with the march of time.

The first is Richard Rohr's Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. Its central premise is that we all have two halves of life. The first half is preoccupied with creating an adult life filled with things such as a career, marriage, children, and friendships. The second half begins when a crisis of some sort breaks that life apart---a divorce, health crisis, job loss, etc. While the task of the first half is to build a container for your life, the task of the second half is to realize that this container is not your true self. In questioning what you thought was certain, you can set out on a spiritual path that is deeper, richer, and more authentic.

Writes Rohr: "We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right . . . If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially our own. What a clever place for God to hide holiness, so that only the humble and earnest will find it!"

The second book is Connie Zweig's The Inner Work of Age: Shifting From Role to Soul. As a therapist deeply influenced by Carl Jung, she writes eloquently about the role of the Shadow in our lives--those parts of ourselves that we find unworthy, embarrassing, or self-destructive. Shadow-work, which involves confronting and integrating insights from these parts of ourselves, is especially important as we deal with our negative perceptions of aging.

The book's other major concept is about the shift into being an Elder. Traditional cultures around the world revere elders for their wisdom and guidance, but the contemporary world has largely lost this vital role. Zweig explores how we can become true elders as we age, rather than simply elderly. 

Writes Zweig: "We can make the shift of identity from role to soul, dropping our conditioned personas, habitual fears, and automatic reactions and choosing, instead, to be fully real, transparent, and free, perhaps for the first time. Age is our curriculum."

The third book is my favorite of the three: Kathleen Dowling Singh's The Grace in Aging: Awaken As You Grow Older. Drawing on her experiences as a Hospice worker and longtime practitioner of Buddhism, she writes that growing older provides unique opportunities for spiritual transformation. The vast majority of us have allowed our unexamined attitudes to live our lives for us, she says, but aging offers the chance to orient ourselves toward the inner life, which is an infinitely more reliable refuge than anything the world can offer.

Writes Singh: "We're now old enough to recognize that it is not relief from problems that we want so much; we have a growing sense that relief is only a temporary respite. It does not last. We want the experience of unshakeable peace in the face of any arising, every new wave." 

These books are about aging, but they're actually for everyone. Their authors are wise companions no matter what your stage of life.

All good wishes,


Recommended Viewing:

I loved A Man Called Ove, a 2015 Swedish film about a man who through the goodwill of his neighbors regains his will to live after the death of his wife. It's based on a novel of the same name by Fredrik Backman.

Another cinematic treat is The Mole Agent, which was nominated in 2020 for an Oscar for best documentary. Filmed and produced in Chile, it's about an 83-year-old man who goes undercover in a nursing home to investigate suspected abuse. Like A Man Called Ove, it's heartwarming, funny, and poignant.


News About My Newest Book:

As regular readers of this newsletter know, I'm the author of the new book The Soul of the Family Tree: Ancestors, Stories, and the Spirits We Inherit. See my website for a full list of reviews and media, including my NPR interviews with Rick Steves (part one; part two). 

Interested in doing The Soul of the Family Tree in a book group? You can find discussion questions here

If you've read and enjoyed any of my books, I hope you'll post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other online sites. Your review will help other readers discover my work.

My Previous Books:

Near the Exit: Travels with the Not-So-Grim Reaper is about places that have helped me come to terms with mortality. 

“This book’s journey to spiritual places near and far is worth taking.” Library Journal (starred review)

Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God is a memoir told through trips to a dozen holy sites around the world.  

“Whether describing mystical visions or the rhythms of everyday life, Erickson turns the spiritual journey into a series of exciting transformations.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)



Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She's the author of The Soul of the Family Tree, Near the Exit and Holy Rover. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world. 

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