Priest Offers Spiritual Survival Guide for Recession
Article originally posted at www.CNN.com
By John Blake, CNN
Â (CNN) – Sooner or later, it happens to each of us, Richard Rohr says.
âThere always will be at least one situation in our lives that we cannot fix, control, explain, change or even understand,â the Franciscan priest said.
Maybe youâve been laid off from a job you held for years. Perhaps youâve experienced a nasty divorce. Or maybe the crisis is more subtle: You suddenly realized that youâll never have the life you dreamed of living.
Any life-changing moment can knock a person down. But it can also open doors if, as Rohr puts it, a person learns how to âfall upward.â
Rohr, a 68-year-old Roman Catholic author and internationally known speaker, says older Americans face a problem: Religious leaders arenât paying much attention to them.
Much of contemporary religion is geared toward teaching people how to navigate the first half of their lives, when theyâre building careers and families. Rohr calls it a âgoal-orientedâ spirituality.
Yet thereâs less help for people dealing with the challenges of aging: the loss of health, the death of friends, and coming to terms with mistakes that cannot be undone, he says.
Rohrâs new book, âFalling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,â is his attempt to fill that void. It also functions as a spiritual survival guide for hard times as millions of Americans young and old struggle to cope with âfallingâ: losing their homes, careers and status.
Rohr says he coined the phrase âfalling upwardâ to describe a paradox. Nearly everyone will fall in life because they’ll confront some type of loss, he says. Yet failure can lead to growth if a person makes the right decisions.
âIâve met people who because of the loss of things and security have been able to find grace, freedom and new horizons,â he said.
If youâre falling in any area of your life, Rohr says, one of the first skills to learn is accepting surprises.
He says itâs easy for people to turn bitter when things donât go as planned. He sees such people all the time, whether throwing tantrums at the airport because of long lines or flocking to angry rallies in opposition to some form of social change.
âYou start attacking anybody else who is not like you,â Rohr said. âIf you donât know how to deal with exceptions, surprise and spontaneity by the time youâre my age, you become a predictable series of responses of paranoia, blame and defensiveness.â
Why suffering is necessary
Rohrâs book may address contemporary issues, but the wisdom is old. He extracts insights from sources as varied as Greek mythology, Catholic mysticism and fairy tales like Cinderella.
Such stories often teach similar lessons about hard times: Suffering is necessary, the âfalse selfâ must be abandoned, and âeverything belongs, even the sad, absurd and futile parts.â Rohr, who has also written âQuest for the Grail,â a book on mythology, says people have learned these hard lessons for centuries through myth.
The heroes in mythological stories follow the same pattern. They must first experience humiliation, loss and suffering before finding enlightenment. They are often forced on their journey by a crisis.
No contemporary American is going to be asked to fight a monster, but an event like the evaporation of a retirement fund or the death of a spouse can force you to summon strength you didnât know you had, Rohr says.
The key is not resisting the crisis.
âYou have to allow the circumstances of God and life to break you out of your egocentric responses to everything,â he said. âIf you allow âthe otherâ – other people, other events, other religions – to influence you, you just keep growing.â
That growth, though, is accompanied by death – the death of the âfalse self,â Rohr said. The false self is the part of your self tied to your achievements and possessions.
When your false self dies, you start learning how to base your happiness on more eternal sources, he says.
âYou start drawing from your life within,â Rohr said. âYou learn to distinguish from the essential self and the self thatâs window dressing.â
Those who break through the crisis and lose their false selves become different people: less judgmental, more generous and better able to ignore âevil or stupid things,â he says.
It may sound esoteric, Rohr says, but many of us have met older people like this. They possess a âbright sadnessâ: theyâve suffered but they still smile and give.
âIâve seen that in the wonderful older people in my life,â Rohr says. âThereâs a kind of gravitas they have. âŚ Thereâs an easy smile on their faces. These are the people who laugh, who heal, who build bridges, who donât turn bitter.â
Rohr says this bright sadness isnât confined to older people.
âI’ve met 11-year-old children in cancer wards who are in the second half of life,â he said in a recent interview with Amazon.com, âand I have met 68-year-old men like me who are still in the first half of life.â
Learning the âgrace of failureâ
Rohrâs book has found some fans in high places who were touched by his insights.
Father Gerry Blaszczak, a chaplain at Fairfield University in Connecticut, says Rohrâs book challenges the notion that success is a natural result of being religious.
âOur culture is prone to imagine that growth takes place in a sort of constant, upward movement,â he says. âEven our religious culture tends to focus on success and stability as ideals for religious growth.â
Rohrâs book reminds people about the âgrace of failure,â Blaszczak says.
âIn the Christian tradition, loss, collapse and failure have always been seen as not only unavoidable, but even necessary on the path to wisdom, freedom and personal maturity,â Blaszczak said.
He says he knows older people who struggled to rebuild their identities after they poured much of their earlier livesâ energies into professional and personal success.
âIt is not that these professional or personal ideas were necessarily bad in themselves,â he said. âIt is more that they proved inadequate. We invested way too much in them. We thought our identities could be formed by them.â
Jim Finley, a retreat leader and Catholic scholar, says Rohr is reminding people about the value of elders.
âOur culture tends to be youth-oriented, and a lot of spirituality is youth oriented,â says Finley, author âThe Contemplative Heart.â âBut our elders are the embodiment of the wisdom that life matters at a much deeper level than what we can achieve and produce.â
Brian McLaren, author of âThe Naked Spirituality,â says Rohrâs book touches on an important paradox that you probably wonât hear in a Sunday morning sermon: âImperfect peopleâ are sometimes more equipped than âperfect peopleâ to help those who are struggling.
âThe person who never makes a mistake and always manages to obey the rules is often a compassionless person, because he sees people for whom the wheels have fallen off and he wonders whatâs wrong with them,â he said. âBut the person who feels that he has ruined his life often has more capacity for humility and compassion.â
McLaren says Rohrâs book helped reveal to him how much of his youthful spiritual energy was driven by narrow concerns.
âIâm embarrassed as Iâm getting older about how much of my energy and vitality as a younger man was driven by ego and a win-lose mentality.â
Today Rohr seems driven by something else: The need for rest.
For years, his life has been a whirlwind. Heâs traveled the globe speaking at retreats on everything from menâs spirituality to Catholic mysticism.
He also founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, an organization that encourages acts of justice rooted in prayer and respect for other religious traditions.
Yet after almost seven decades of living, Rohr said, âI am still a mystery to myself.â
Rohr plans on solving some of that mystery. He says heâs going to retire in two years to spend more time at his home in New Mexico. He says he needs more time for contemplation.
âThe first half of life, you write the text,â he said. âThe second half of your life is when you write the commentary. You have to process what it all meant.â
As Rohr withdraws from speaking and writing, he will be challenged to follow his own advice. Heâll spend less energy on his âfalse selfâ as his old identity dissolves.
He says heâs ready, though, to fall upward. If he lost his position as a priest, author and respected speaker, he says he would still feel secure.
âMost of us donât learn this until it is taken away, like losing the security of your 401(k). Then the learning either starts or you circle the wagons,â he said. âI know who I am beyond my roles.â
This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition
Author: Tess Pennington
Author's Web Site:
Made Available By: Ready Nutrition
Date: February 22nd, 2013
Related Categories: Finance and Economy, Preparedness Mindset