Falling Upward: Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass, 2011)

It may not surprise you if I say that this book has been seminal in my life. It has shaped the direction my spiritual growth has taken.

In this book, author, speaker and spiritual leader Richard Rohr describes the working of grace in each of our lives — and how that work results in growth.

Rohr uses the Jungian concept of the “two halves of life” to describe our life-long spiritual and developmental journey.  “There are two major tasks, ” said Rohr in an Amazon interview. “In the first half [of life] you’ve got to find your identity, your significance. You create your ego boundaries. You create your ego structure It’s  what I call “the creating of the container.” But that’s just to get you started. In the second half of life, once you’ve created your ego structure, you finally have the courage to ask: What is this all for? What am I supposed to do with this? Is it just to protect it, to promote it, to defend it? Is there some deeper purpose? The search for meaning is the task of the second half of life.”

Rohr clarifies that the first/second half of lie is not about counting years, but rather about a shift in purpose.  It’s a shift often created and marked by crisis and “initiation.”  What is this crisis?  “You normally have to fail through some form of transgression or humiliation or defeat (the necessary suffering). Then you can look to some elders, some wiser people who know how to guide you across the transition and into the second half of life. ”

“There is a necessary falling that comes into every life, ” says Rohr. “It’s not like you have to manufacture or create the falling; it will happen. If you can find grace or freedom in and through that falling, you find that it moves you forward, upward, broader, deeper, better—to spiritual growth. That’s just the opposite of what you first think when you fall, fail, or lose.”

In Falling Upward Rohr provides exactly that kind of guidance, showing how the way up is down.

Read this book if you you’re looking to clarify your purpose and place in the world.