Kathleen Dowling Singh, The Grace in Living: Recognize It, Trust It, Abide in It. Wisdom Publications, Somerville, MA, 2016, 216 pages, $17.95.
By Julianne Dickelman
We spend so much of our lives trying to figure “it” out. We seek the right teachers, the right books, the right spiritual path, the right ministry. We seek peace, enlightenment, oneness with the Divine. What is the source of this yearning? Called by many names, this author refers to that longing in our hearts as grace.
Kathleen Dowling Singh is a bestselling author, Dharma practitioner, and teacher who invites us to engage in spiritual biography, “… a bench to sit and rest in the midst of our journey and take stock of what life has been about.” This is a different exercise than spiritual auto-biography, which she distinguishes as more self (ego)-oriented. A spiritual biography notices “growing illumination” where one is “tracing the awakening of your own essential nature as it comes to know itself as grace.”
Depending on where we are in life, many of us have bumped into that doing, achieving, seeking exhaustion. Singh’s invitation may be attractive: to sit still and remember, to recollect (re-collect) the “transformative shifts” in our lives, to allow a gentle movement from “surviving” toward “surrendering into the stillness of being.”
This book offers itself as a dialogue partner, perhaps a literary version of a chaplain, who sits with you in holy curiosity, asking good questions, inviting you to listen to your story with new ears. Singh uses depth language rooted in her Buddhist practice and draws from the wisdom and mystical traditions of other paths.
She offers us a pattern of “four quarters” as movements of the journey, and reflections from six other spiritual journeyers whose stories, I found, triggered my own recollection of forgotten or discarded memories.
The four quarters include:
(1) Moving from tasting to hunger. What were the moments that led you to search for greater being, for spirit? What were the moments that called you back to limitation, to survival mode?
(2) Seeking to end seeking, from seeking to seeing. What inner obstructions did you bring to the journey and what has been the changing nature of your relationship with them?
(3) Healing into maturity — a deep preference for letting go of what no longer serves us. What practices and experiences have brought you more deeply into your heart?
(4) Ripening. Trust permeates us when we stop believing frightening illusions of separation. What are you grateful for? What do you offer the world?
Why this book for those of us in spiritual care ministries? Perhaps you have already walked a road in northern Spain or entered into St. Teresa’s “interior Castle” and are looking for another provocative, poetic entry point that will allow you to rest in grace. Additionally, you may find the stories, reflections and questions inspiring in your attentive ministry to others’ yearning.
You can listen to an interview with the author on The Wisdom Podcast (February 10, 2017).
Julianne Dickelman, BCC, is a chaplain educator at Providence Healthcare in Spokane, WA.