'Falling Upward' is one of those books that you need to dip in and out of after you have read it once. It describes the two halves of life. The first half is when we are achieving and establishing our own little kingdoms. The second half of life invites us onto another journey where we 'lose ourselves' and grow spiritually. Some people never reach the second half of life that Rohr is talking about. He is not talking about age but a way of being and acting.
Rohr suggests that once a human being has found the True Self then he/she begins to live in the bigger picture. This is what Jesus was saying when he talked about the Kingdom of God. We have to let go of our own smaller kingdoms of selfishness. By letting go, living in the now and accepting the flow of life whatever our circumstances we begin to discover the depth of life. This letting go is all very counterintuitive and by its very nature is a paradox. But that is what life is about. Much of spirituality is paradox.
Rohr talks about the 'stumbling stones' that we fall over and these are an opportunity for growth (i.e. the 'falling upwards' of the title). If you are on a 'classic' spiritual path Rohr suggests that someone will come into your life that will push you to the edge and you will 'lose' at something. Three of Christ's parables are about losing. This falling, says Rohr, is necessary in order to steer the individual towards 'home'. This has to happen so you give up control to the Real Guide in your life. Falling is necessary in order to move upwards. God turns us around - effects the 'metanoia'.
The chapter on 'The Shadowlands' is excellent in showing how we need to look at our own storyline and explore the 'shadow self' that keeps us in darkness. Rohr suggests that 'sin' and 'shadow' are not the same thing. Liberation is about transforming the shadow. Spiritual growth is about learning to see more clearly. Jesus said: 'The lamp of the body is the eye' (Luke 11:34). Apparently the closer one gets towards the light the more the shadow makes its presence known. Strong emotional reactions are a sign of the shadow self. Rohr uses a very apt expression -'shadowboxing'- to describe the activity of recognising and seeing the shadow self and all its games. An individual needs to confront his hidden/denied self in order to win freedom. Then he/she is the True Self without any need to protect the 'I' (ego-self - the true self in all its fullness - our full humanity. True saints are those who have shed the shadow and can see life as it is.
The following areas are explored with great insight: loneliness and solitude; depression and sadness; the tragic sense of life;hating family; home and homesickness; conditional and unconditional love.
Rohr ends with a beautiful poem by Thomas Merton that expresses the freedom that the soul journey can lead to if you choose to take the path and be prepared for the inevitable stumblings, failings and losses that turn you around. The poem encourages us to join the cosmic dance.
Worthwhile read whether you are Christian or not. Richard Rohr is a Franciscan with considerable insight into the human condition.