As a Franciscan priest, inspirational speaker, spiritual director, and author of more than 20 books, Richard Rohr guides thousands of people in their quest to lead more balanced lives. But he acknowledges he hasn't quite perfected the art himself.
"I find balance almost every day, and I lose it almost every day," he says. But Rohr believes those times of imbalance—whether in the form of small sufferings or major upheavals—are necessary for spiritual growth. It's an idea he explores in his newest book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass, Apr.).
Drawing on Carl Jung as much as the Gospels, the book argues that the structure and ambitions of the first half of life should serve as a "container" meant to hold the more meaningful "contents" of the second half, during which individuals let go of many selfish desires. The two halves are complementary, and the distinction between them is not marked by age but by experience and an interior shift.
"The whole book is ‘both/and', " Rohr says, stressing the importance of nuanced rather than dualistic thinking. "That's my obsessive way of seeing reality."
The concept for the book grew out of more than a decade of talks. Rohr found that the "two halves" provided a framework for discussion about a broad range of questions surrounding suffering and growth. Jennifer Wenzel, senior marketing manager, says Jossey-Bass and the Center for Action and Contemplation, which Rohr founded in Albuquerque, N.Mex., in 1987, have joined forces to promote the book to Rohr's loyal fan base of progressive Christians. But both Rohr and his publisher hope Falling Upward will appeal to a wider audience.
"I talk about Jesus unapologetically," says Rohr, "but I think that any open-minded, sincere seeker can find the meaning in the book."
Rohr says Falling Upward allowed him to use the language of two of his passions: psychology and theology. "The psychological process sometimes best describes [theological questions]," he says. "I think: what does a saved person look like? Some people might dismiss that as too humanistic, but I believe that if God is real, it will have very observable results in people's lives."