The Grace in Dying

The Grace in Dying Review: Right from the start Kathleen Dowling Singh proclaims: "Dying is safe. You are safe. Your loved one is safe. That is the message of all the words here." True to her promise, Dowling Singh walks us through the final stages of death with complete honesty, yet she manages to quell the ultimate fear of dying. Speaking of the "Nearing Death Experience," Singh has discovered a sequence of phases or qualities that signals when a dying person is entering the final stages of spiritual and psychological transformation. She names them as relaxation, withdrawal, radiance, interiority (a time of going inward), silence, sacred, transcendence, knowing, intensity, and perfection--all of which she explains in great detail. A hospice worker and worldwide lecturer, Dowling Singh is being touted as the next Kubler-Ross. Time will tell. One thing is for certain: this is an astonishingly intelligent and engrossing book about consciously surrendering our bodies and our egos to death. There are 500,000 hospice patients in the U.S. and 5 million hospice workers worldwide. And every one of them would probably find profound comfort in this breakthrough book on dying.

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A Sampling of Reviews

Oversoul by Alex Grey

"A profound and moving--and much needed--book."

Ken Wilber, author of A Brief History of Everything, The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion, The Atman Project: A Transpersonal View of Human Development, No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth, Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World

BOOK REVIEW: Kathleen Dowling Singh, The Grace in Dying: how we are transformed spiritually as we die
Inside Out Issue 38: Autumn 1999

This book stands head and shoulders over anything previously published on the difficult subject of death and dying. It is a wonderful read from start to finish and will undoubtedly reward anyone who lingers over its lyrical prose or who is involved in working with the dying. Singh is obviously a gifted and highly perceptive woman and must now be a serious contender for the mantle laid down by the late Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

This book combines her personal observations of working alongside the terminally ill, with the views of transpersonal psychology, Buddhist techniques on death and dying, contemplative practice and the wisdom of traditions of the world to produce a ground-breaking over-view of a process that is still often shrouded in mystery and ignorance.

Perhaps the real contribution of this work is the ability of Singh to differentiate the subtle stages of transformation in the transpersonal, spiritual, psychological, philosophical, energetic and physiological experiences of the person approaching death. Other authors have previously considered individual aspects of this multi-faceted process, but few if any have succeeded in grasping the vast complexity and depth of the subject in so comprehensive a manner.

This is a deeply humane and thought-provoking book for anyone who may ever have to face the death of a client or a loved one (or indeed, one's own death). It offers hope and the promise of grace abiding beyond pain and loss. I would really like to have someone who thoroughly understood this work by my death bed when my time comes. An important book.

Tim Hannan

"This splendid book is caressed by wisdom and compassion. It brings immense hope and meaning to life's final chapter. Congratulations to Kathleen. A splendid job."

Larry Dossey, MD, author of The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things: Fourteen Natural Steps to Health and Happiness, Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine, Recovering the Soul: A Scientific and Spiritual Approach

"Kathleen Singh has written a stunningly powerful book. Her account of what happens to us as we are dying elucidates not only the spiritual character of the death process but also the underlying unity of life and death. Singh helps us understand what it means to die. ...A wonderful book. Congratulations on a remarkable achievement and contribution."

Michael Washburn, Ph.D., author of Embodied Spirituality in a Sacred World (Suny Series in Transpersonal and Humanistic Psychology, The Ego and the Dynamic Ground: A Transpersonal Theory of Human Development

"The new Kubler-Ross has arrived, and her name is Kathleen Singh. In a stunning debut, she has written, quite simply, the most important book on the nature of dying since On Death and Dying. The Grace in Dying gives us new eyes with which to view death, and no one who reads Singh's work can come away from it without sharing her radiant vision. The book is a flat-out masterpiece."

Kenneth Ring, Ph.D., author of Lessons from the Light: What We Can Learn from the Near-death Experience, Heading Toward Omega, In Search of the Meaning of the Near-Death Experience - 1985 publication

"A rich weave of truths and sublime beauty."

Roshi Joan Halifax, founder of Upaya and author of Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death, The Fruitful Darkness: A Journey Through Buddhist Practice and Tribal Wisdom

"As a physician who has spent many years present with women at the moment of birth, I have often found myself moved to tears by the sacredness of this moment, when we emerge into physical life. As I read through the pages of The Grace in Dying, I found myself moved by the realization that the process of dying is the same in many ways as the process of giving birth, and that the same sacred energy that is so palpable in the delivery room will also be there for each of us at the moment of our death. There is great comfort in this remarkable book."

Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom (Revised Edition): Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing

"Kathleen Dowling Singh opens our eyes to the spiritual aspects of dying, as Sherwin Nuland and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross did for the the physical and psychological. Her message ... can offer reassurance throughout life."

Steven A. Schroeder, M.D., President, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Books like The Grace in Dying do not come along very often. It is so comprehensive in scope, so bold in its vision, and runs across so many disciplines—it truly is a book of particular genius. Not only is it wise, but tender, warm, compassionate, and most of all unbearably human. A PhD who has spent her life walking with hundreds of people through the dying process, Dowling Singh’s bold thesis is that no matter where people come from, what their culture or background, religious or otherwise—the dying process is remarkably similar when people actually have time to die (as opposed to sudden, traumatic death). In the same way that Rohr sees the “answer” in Christianity as already being programmed into the problem (through failure, sin and stumbling, we fall into resurrection), Dowling Singh sees divine grace as hardwired into the dying process itself. The argument runs something like this: We spend most of our lives building our ego, making judgements around our likes, dislikes, and preferences. The ego is not evil—ego-building is necessary in human growth and development. But the ego is not the true self, only our image or perception of ourselves. So we spend most of our lives living from that ego rather than living from our depths, living from the soul. In the process of dying, all of those ego mechanisms are slowly taken from us as the body becomes weak, frail, and dependent. And yet it is precisely in this letting go of the ego self, even against our wills, that we are liberated. While the process inevitably entails seasons of chaos, anger, and denial, before death there is generally a time of unparalleled acceptance and peace, however long or short—the last burst of a soul finally living beyond the constraints of the ego. Grace indeed, however harsh it may come.

Dowling Singh herself is Buddhist, but the book is chock full of insights from Jesus and great Christian thinkers and mystics. In fact, I think the book at its core level is about nothing more or less than “losing your life to find it,” and Dowling Singh quite understands the essence of Christian theology from the outside infinitely better than most of us insiders. If it doesn’t move you, you don’t have a pulse. And if there is not Spirit and life all over this book, I don’t know where the Spirit is. I dare you to make it through this book without both blowing a few mental circuits and shedding some hot tears. “We will discover for ourselves that the tragedy is not in dying, the tragedy is in living disconnected from Life. I have heard it said that our culture suffers not so much from the forces of darkness but the forces of shallowness. We will experience grace the moment we experience our connection with Spirit, the transcendent Reality, the Center to our periphery. We will experience grace the moment we experience Life beyond our cramped self-definition, the moment we take off the blinders and glory in all that is beyond ‘me.’”

And later, “The path home could be easily traced, much like a mother following her child’s path to bed. She sees what has been dropped on the way. If we were the mother following an enlightened being or the consciousness of one who has entered the Near Death experience, we would see the toys left behind and the shoes that had been dropped, the socks, the pants, the shirt, and the underwear; the body, the emotions, and the thoughts; and last, before the bed, just discarded on the floor, all separate sense of self.” Mercy.

Dowling Singh’s visionary, monumental work reframes the challenge of Jesus’ own teaching in an evocative, potentially life-altering way: if these are in fact the qualities of death and dying, what it would like if a person were able to experience the grace of dying while they are still alive?

Jonathon Martin, the books that most shaped me in 2014