Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Elder Beat: Two Great Books on Aging, and a P.S.

 Carol Orsborn is one of my favorite commentators on aging well. Ever since I first spotted an article she wrote in the Huffington Post, I've been interested in knowing what she has to say about engaging with the aging process in  positive ways. Orsborn doesn't romanticize aging or its challenges and she describes the unique opportunities that later life offers in a way that makes sense to me.

I am a fan of hers, so I was looking forward to reading her new book, which is the 21st book she has published! Orsborn has written self-help, spirituality and business books--all aimed at the boomer generation. She's been on Oprah and the Today Show. She writes for Huffington Post, PBS's Next Avenue and BeliefNet. She is what is called a thought leader these days.

Her new book is titled  Fierce with Age: Chasing God and Squirrels in Brooklyn.  A very engaging memoir, the book chronicles Orsborn's experiences and observations during one particular year in  her early 60s, which as it happened was a year that brought home the realization that she was definitely leaving the territory of mid-life and entering the realm of old age.

There are so many great reviews of the book available and I want to include some excerpts of them here.

In her wonderful blog, Any Shiny Thing, (which I highly recommend checking out)  Lynne Spreen writes, "When I read this book, Fierce with Age: Chasing God and Squirrels in Brooklyn, I knew for sure. Carol Orsborn is on to something that I, at age 59, am really hungry for. I want to know how to feel valuable, powerful and at peace in the second half of my life, while still fully functioning in a society that demeans, caricatures, and negates older people."

Author Connie Goldman, who herself has written a number of wonderful books on aging, writes, "I've not read anything as honest and revealing as the tale of Carol Orsborn's personal journey into becoming Fierce with Age. Through searching deeply and having the courage to share the experience, she offers us all insights and validation of who we can become in mid-life and the years beyond." —Connie Goldman, author of Who Am I . . . Now That I'm Not Who I Was

So yes, I do recommend that you read this book, whether you are 45 or 75. Orsborn's storytelling is easy to take in. It's honest, vulnerable, feisty and seasoned with bouyant doses of humor.  What she has to say is valuable and how she says it is delightfully written and full of insights and surprises.

Right now, I am a student in The Possible Elder, a 10-session class taught by Carl Marsak at our local OLLI (Osher LifeLong Learning Institute).  Marsak founded the Enneagram Center of Ashland in 2008. He is a great teacher and I have been enjoying the experience of each class session. It's really fun to be a student rather than a teacher sometimes. One of the books that Marsak is using in the class is  Aging as a Spiritual Practice by Lewis Richmond. Richmond is a Zen priest who was a student of the great master Suzuki Roshi, one of the first teachers to bring Buddhism to America.

Because I've been a Buddhist for 40 years,  I make some assumptions which may not be very accurate, it seems. I assume that everyone recognizes that aging ---no matter what your spiritual inclination or lack of it--is a profoundly spiritual process that involves surrendering the ego, the attachment to and identification with the transient self--and in the process, if the process is taken on full bore-- letting go, forgiving, getting over oneself, recognizing that the work of "laying down the mantle"  and moving toward dying--as they say in the gospel songs-- is a primary work of later life.

If you are feeling called to explore this territory, the realm of Aging as a Spiritual Practice, then this is a wonderful resource and support for you in your quest.

"As someone who recently turned 70, I ate up Lewis Richmond's words on seeing growing older a spiritual practice. The book is fun and enlightening. I'll never forget some of the stories and the sharp formulas the author uses to remember how to age with some pleasure. The Buddhist point of view is especially fresh and useful. There's some Zen in all of us, deep down."
---Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul and Writing in the Sand

The book is warm and easy to read, and it includes valuable exercises along with its valuable insights.

My own memoir, Songs of the Inner Life, is moving forward toward publication. More news on that in my next blog--you can check out our website, for some wonderful reader comments on the book.


  1. Thanks for the recommendations for books. As a Brooklynite myself coming to terms with aging, I am definitely looking into "Fierce with Age". I already own the other book and have to agree. It is great.

  2. Thanks for commenting....glad you like the Aging as a Spiritual Practice. Let me know what you think of Fierce with Age.