The Grace in Aging

The Grace in Aging Review: 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.

Kathleen Dowling Singh streamlines vast and complex teachings into skillful means and wise views. Straightforward language and piercing questions bring Singh’s teachings into the sharp focus of our own lives; the contemplative nature of each chapter allows for an uncommon depth of inquiry. Examples from our lives and from the chatter in our own minds touch the reader personally, offering the chance to absorb the implications deeply and do the work of freeing his or her own mind. Ecumenical in spirit, tone, and language, Singh offers wisdom from teachers from a variety of spiritual backgrounds: Chogyam Trungpa, the Apostles, Annie Dillard, and more. Lessening our attachments, decreasing our aversions, unbinding what binds us, we bear witness to the possibility of awakening for all beings.

The Grace in Aging offers guidelines for older individuals of any wisdom tradition who wish to awaken before they die; no need for caves or seven-year retreats. This is spiritual practice for the lives we live.

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A Sampling of Reviews

The Grace in Aging

“In her wonderful book Kathleen Dowling Singh helps us to face and embrace the hard truth of the precarious nature of our life. With acceptance of this fact arises a deep appreciation of life's preciousness. Then we don't want to waste a minute. We are inspired to enter our lives fully. Through her skillful guidance we come to see that aging can be a time of grace and great aliveness.”

Frank Ostaseski, Founder, Metta Institute, Co-Founder, Zen Hospice Project

“I find Kathleen Dowling Singh's insight and wisdom compelling, readable, and life changing (Death changing too!). This book is indeed grace! It is both preparation and deep liberation.”

Richard Rohr, author of Falling Upward, A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

"Kathleen Dowling Singh reveals the clear opportunities for spiritual awakening throughout the wonder and challenges of our aging process. The Grace in Aging is a practical guide into our psychospiritual dynamics that can be helpful at any age but is especially tuned to the trials of the later stages of our life. The reader will not find any sentimentality concerning the impact of aging, but rather Kathleen leads us forward with such dignity and resolution that we become convinced that this phase of life holds a promise and a potential unlike any other."

Rodney Smith, author of Awakening, Stepping Out of Self-Deception, and Lessons from the Dying

"With her own special grace, Dowling Singh eases us into the foreshortened shelf life we all face as we age and approach death. This future is shorter than our past, but she optimistically shows how we can use it for the spiritual awakening we may have long sought. Wise and remarkable clear, The Grace in Aging can be a comfortable, easy and peaceful fit for our deepest and heartful seeking...."

Jean Smith, author of The Beginner's Guide to Zen Buddhism and Now: The Art of Being Truly Present

"The inevitability of aging need not be a dismal, morbid scenario, but a glorious opening to a gentle wisdom and peacfulness that the tempests of youth manage to obscure. Let Kathleen Dowling Singh be your guide in the extraordinary period of life, which can be a time of celebration instead of defeat."

Larry Dossey, author of One Mind

"Old Age, the close and personal encounter with impermanence, is the ultimate challenge to the sovereignty of the ego. In Kathleen Singh's luminous words, the hidden nature of old age as a practice stands fully revealed with all the potential for fulfillment of a true spiritual path. The Grace in Aging is an act of service. Don’t grow old without it."

Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, author of Kitchen Table Wisdom

"In The Grace in Aging, Kathleen transposes into a new key all previous discussion of aging. Her book sings with both depth and grace, erudition and that insight born only of deeply sifted experience. All those who have woken up in the morning one day older than when they went to bed the night before owe her a debt of gratitude for pointing us toward that eternal Now, which reveals both life and death as single embrace of transforming Mystery."

Martin Laird, author of Into the Silent Land and A Sunlit Absence

"Establishes guideposts in the fog for those seeking greater meaning and fulfillment as they edge toward life’s grand finale; Singh urges us to reclaim the process of aging. The impact is exhilaration."

Spirituality and Health

Positive Aging Review: The Grace in Aging: Awaken as you Grow Older. A Book Review

Samuel Mahaffy submits this review of the book by Kathleen Dowling Singh. The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You Grow Older (2014) is available from Wisdom Publications a leading publisher of classic and contemporary Buddhist books and practical works on mindfulness.

Aging is a time of awakening. Or, so it can be. Through the lens of a Dharma practitioner and psychotherapist, Kathleen Dowling Singh explores the interface of Buddhist practices and the journey into the senior years of life.

The Grace in Aging steps directly into the challenges that may come with aging. The predominant perspective on aging has long been one of diminishment. This work embraces the perceived limitations of aging. Borrowing from the language of the mystic Pierre de Chardin, the author suggests a pathway that allows us to “hallow our diminishments” (p. 65).

With conscious intention, aging will be a time of awakening and transformation. “Through committed practice, we can…sustain our growth and transformation through all that arises as we age”(p. 34). This picture of aging as awakening looks more like sitting practices and less like finding ways to be busy in the world.

The quintessential aspect of aging as awakening, is to move beyond self. As we age, “our wish to bear witness to all that lies beyond self intensifies” (p. 38). “We can deepen our determination to awaken beyond self during this time of our aging” (p. 204). Aging is a time for dropping our “seperable sense of self” (p. 81).

Aging as awakening means shifting our priorities. “Aging brings…the opportunity to change our priorities, to shuffle our deck of settled habits and settled routines and settled importance” (p. 105). Aging is an opportunity to downsize. Aging can be a time to “so some pruning…in accordance with wisdom and intention” (p. 117).

Imagine aging as a time of alertness and awareness. “As we age…thoughtfulness begins to emerge into the foreground” (p. 80). Aging is a time to step into being an elder. The author suggests that “to become an elder…we need a daily practice” (p. 39).

What might aging look like in the context of a committed spiritual practice? The author echoes the work of researchers who find that aging may be a time for seeking things spiritual. While deeply grounded in Buddhist practices, the author invites a broader understanding of spirituality and aging.

The author shares a rich understanding of Buddhist practices. The language of this stream of practice, need not be a stumbling block for those in other traditions of spirituality. The author’s understanding of grace is cosmic. “Life’s longing for itself is a path of grace” (p. 79).

The longings that we have minimized throughout our life, might yet be realized in our senior years. Aging might well be a time to “hold the space for peace in our world” (p. 166). “We can…in this time of aging, allow our mind to open” (p. 253). In awakening practices, we can free our own awareness, trust ourselves more and grow in alertness and understanding.

The author offers a new lens on the notion of downsizing as we age. Downsizing may be less about getting rid of things and more about pruning that which is unessential from our minds and hearts.

It is only a small stretch to suggest that aging as awakening, might organically move us toward constructionist practices. Aging is a time when “we encourage each other’s boundaries to become more porous” (p. 235). Aging is a time for letting go of labels. “In aging, we may experience the chaos of confronting unexamined beliefs” (p. 53). “Aging offers a thousand opportunities to crash into our own beliefs” (p. 54). In my experience, the same might well be said of social constructionist ways of framing the world.

In aging, we step more out of our individual story and more into our shared stories. Stepping into our shared stories is a way of inviting healing as we age. “We can…in this time of aging, allow our mind to open” (p. 253). The invitation to awakening beyond self is extended to us, no matter our age. The author suggests that if we have not accepted the invitation to awakening early in life, our senior years is certainly an opportunity to do so.

The Grace in Aging offers a unique and deep perspective on the process of growing older. This is a work of hope and possibility. In this book about awakening, you will find thought-provoking nuggets about the aging process. “If our intention is to awaken, we weave a new experience of being” (p. 42). If our intention is to awaken, we will, with certainty, have a new experience of aging.