The Spirituality of Age: A Seeker's Guide to Growing Older by Robert L. WeberThe Spirituality of Age: A Seeker's Guide to Growing Older by Robert L. Weber

The Spirituality of Age: A Seeker's Guide to Growing Older

byRobert L. Weber, Carol Orsborn

Paperback | October 1, 2015

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A compassionate guide for transforming aging into spiritual growth

• Engage with 25 key questions guiding you to mine previously untapped veins of inspiration and courage

• Find a constructive role for regret and fear and embrace the freedom to become more fully yourself

• 2015 Nautilus Gold Award

As we enter the years beyond midlife, our quest for an approach to aging takes on added urgency and becomes even more relevant in our daily lives. Empowering a new generation of seekers to view aging as a spiritual path, authors Robert Weber and Carol Orsborn reveal that it is by engaging with the difficult questions about loss, meaning, and mortality--questions we can no longer put off or ignore--that we continue to grow. In fact, the realization of our full spiritual potential comes about not by avoiding the challenges aging brings our way but by working through them.

Addressing head-on how to make the transition from fears about aging into a fuller, richer appreciation of the next phase of our lives, the authors guide you through 25 key questions that can help you embrace the shadow side of aging as well as the spiritual opportunities inherent in growing older. Sharing their stories and wisdom to both teach and demonstrate what it means to feel energized about the possibilities of your later years, they explore how to find a constructive role for regret, shame, and guilt, realize your value to society, and embrace the freedom of your later years to become more fully yourself.

Coming from Catholic Jesuit and Jewish backgrounds respectively, as well as drawing from the latest research in psychological and religious theory, Weber and Orsborn provide their own conversational and candid answers to the 25 key questions, supporting their insightful and compassionate guidance with anecdotes, inspirational readings, and spiritual exercises. By engaging deeply with both the shadow and light sides of aging, our spirits not only learn to cope--but also to soar.
Robert L. Weber, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School and a former Jesuit. Recipient of the American Society on Aging’s 2014 Religion, Spirituality, and Aging Award, he is an advisory board member for the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology’s Center for Psychotherapy and Spirituality. He liv...
Title:The Spirituality of Age: A Seeker's Guide to Growing OlderFormat:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 8.25 × 5.38 × 0.6 inPublished:October 1, 2015Publisher:Inner Traditions/Bear & CompanyLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1620555123

ISBN - 13:9781620555125

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Read from the Book

Chapter 4 What Is Spiritual Maturity? We begin the body of our book with a series of questions that will guide you to take a deeper look not only at where you are coming from but also the progress you’ve made over time in the direction of what we call “spiritual maturity.” What do we define as spiritual maturity? Spiritual maturity is a stage in our development that allows us to look life in the eye, without denial, intensely appreciative and deeply trusting, even as we embrace the shadows and uncertainties. Spiritual maturity is not something we attain once-and for-all. Rather, it is a process of lifelong evolution and development. Along the way we discover that even the spiritual path can be full of bumps and potholes. The good news is that as long as we keep putting one foot ahead of the other, we are making progress. Question 1 What is a psychologically and spiritually healthy vision of aging? Carol Orsborn In chapter 1 of our book, Bob and I identify what is most problematic about the dominant notions of aging. In a nutshell, it is the failure to recognize the growth opportunity in growing older, which takes into consideration both the shadow and the light. In skewing the picture toward extremes of positives and negatives, what is left out is a psychologically and spiritually healthy vision of aging that is grounded in reality and hope. Here is a simple assessment you can administer to yourself to ascertain what theories of aging have been operative in your life. To begin, I ask you to imagine an elderly woman on a park bench staring vacantly into space. What do you assume about her? If your knee-jerk reaction is that she is depressed and marginalized, and that this is a problem, you have been influenced by activity theory. If you believe she is fading away from life, a kind of graceful receding into death, but that this is okay, you have been influenced by disengagement theory. But if you are even willing to entertain the notion that she is having a transcendent experience, not disengaged or marginalized by life but, rather, embracing the whole of it in a state of ecstatic, unspoken awe, you are a gerontological pioneer. This new approach actually perceives aging as a spiritual path. For me, personally, this represents a tectonic shift in understanding. Just three years ago, when I turned sixty-three, I plummeted headfirst from romanticized notions of aging into dread and fear. Over the course of that year, dealing with the unwanted physical, social, and emotional ramifications of growing older, I was forced to confront the limitations of my ability to make things turn out the way I wanted. As it turns out, when viewed through the lens of spiritual maturity, this was a good thing. When we strip away the impositions, the fantasies, and the denial, we begin to view aging as holding the potential for activation of new, unprecedented levels of self-affirmation, meaning, and spiritual growth. Paradoxically, the more I surrender the illusion of control, the less I worry about what others think of me and the greater level of inner freedom I experience. What is a psychologically and spiritually healthy vision of aging? Bob Weber For a number of years I had been noticing a gradual loss of clear-sightedness. Despite the fact that my ophthalmologist had diagnosed the presence of cataracts, I seemed to be only semiconscious of what was actually happening. Now, as I look back on this period, I believe that this was due to a “denial” of my getting older. Only older folks need such a surgical procedure! Finally, in the fall of 2011, surgery was warranted since the cataracts had “ripened” sufficiently. After we set the dates for the surgery, the reality, both of the cataracts and of my aging, could no longer be denied. While I felt some misgiving about this, I actually found myself appreciating and even enjoying this evolution, just as I enjoyed the outcome of my surgery. Vividly, I recall the new experience of my own eyesight. I could not remember ever seeing so clearly, appreciating colors so powerfully, and I was no longer subject to the glare of lights at night that made driving dangerous. I could see more clearly in the “day light” and drive more confidently through the “dark night.” As time goes on I am realizing how alike psychological and spiritual maturity are. One of the first goals of psychotherapy is to move from a sleepy state of unconsciousness to a state of greater consciousness about what we think, how we feel, and what we do so we can live life more fully and freely. A second goal of therapy is to correct the many distortions that are fostered by the unconscious state of life. The third goal is to move to a greater freedom, to be the active agent of our lives. Fourth, we slowly but surely develop a deeper sense of our own worth and value as a human being. In their book The Psychology of Mature Spirituality, authors Polly Young-Eisendrath and Melvin E. Miller characterize mature spirituality as having three dimensions: integrity, wisdom, and transcendence. Ego integrity and wisdom are the terms Erik Erikson used to discuss the final developmental stage of life, old age. Living into this stage gives us the opportunity to integrate all the pieces of our lives, the good, the bad, and the ugly. If this goes undone, or is incompletely done, despair occurs. The fruit of this integration is wisdom, seeing the truth of life more clearly because we have lived and are living it freely and fully. This results in a transcendent perspective, not because we have bypassed the finite reality of our lives, but because we have entered it and experienced it more deeply.

Table of Contents


Summons to a Leap of Faith
Harry R. Moody, Ph.D.



Calling for a New Vision of Spiritual Aging

Chapter 1

Aging as the Path to Spiritual Maturity

Chapter 2

Our Spiritual Biographies

Contemplative Aging: Living Life to the Full
Robert L. Weber, Ph.D.

On Becoming Fierce with Age
Carol Orsborn, Ph.D.

Chapter 3
The Seeker’s Guide
Navigating the Wild Space beyond Midlife

Part II

25 Questions

A Journey of Spiritual Inquiry

Chapter 4

What Is Spiritual Maturity?

1 What is a psychologically and spiritually healthy vision of aging?

2 How has your spirituality changed and deepened over time?

3 How have your notions of the Divine matured since you were a child?

4 What is the relationship between spirituality and religion?

5 How can you assess your progress toward a more mature spirituality?

Chapter 5

What Is Spiritual Awakening?

6 Why do we want to stay asleep?

7 What wakes you up?

8 Has there been a particular experience that has finally awakened you?

9 What do you think the Sacred wants to awaken you to?

10 Is there a constructive role for regret, shame, and guilt?

Chapter 6

What Is Freedom?

11 What illusions does aging dispel?

12 Which illusions are the most difficult to let go?

13 Is there a positive purpose to keeping some of our illusions?

14 What does it mean to be free in light of the ebbing of physicality and social connection?

15 What still keeps you at the mercy of particular events, things, and people?

Chapter 7

How Can We Become More Fully Ourselves?

16 What can you accept about yourself that you previously disowned?

17 What qualities did you neglect in the first half of your life that you are now free to develop?

18 What do you especially value about yourself?

19 Who has believed in you even when you did not?

20 Do you experience yourself as having intrinsic value in the grand scheme of the universe?

Chapter 8

What Is the Value of Aging to Society?

21 Can withdrawal from the mainstream, by choice or circumstances, have value?

22 What is the dynamic tension between accepting marginalization and fighting against it?

23 Is there a spiritually/psychologically healthy response to those times when you feel disconnected from the Sacred?

24 What value, if any, do those who have suffered in their aging such things as cognitive impairment and physical pain hold for us?

25 How can spiritual maturity equip us to face our own unknowns?

From Midlife to Afterlife

Bear Us Away

The Last Question: What’s Next?

Extraordinary Moments in Ordinary Time
W. Andrew Achenbaum, Ph.D.

Editorial Reviews

“To my delight, this book prompted me to ask questions of myself that I had never posed before with so much clarity. The authors each respond to these questions themselves, a unique approach that is not ponderous or heavy-handed. I found myself leaving the safety of reader-as-spectator and entering the provocation of reader-as-participant. My own spiritual inquiry began to breathe more freshly.”