In the Press
Publisher's Weekly Review
September 11, 2017
Drawing deeply on her own experiences as well as stories and studies about aging from other cultures, Hoblitzelle (Ten Thousand Joys & Ten Thousand Sorrows) explores the ways that readers can nourish their inner lives and spirit even as their bodies age and facilities diminish. Hoblitzelle stresses the reflective nature of the aging process: noticing how the body changes can provide space for reflection on life’s gifts and challenges, and aging often brings family members together, creating an opportunity to heal broken relationships. She offers seven guidelines to being attentive to the gifts that grow more valuable with age: spiritual orientation, practice of silence, practice of mindfulness, practice of stopping, finding the sacred in the commonplace, meditation, and the practice of gratitude. She also shares the stories of six 'wayshowers,' individuals whose stories illustrate aging with compassion (Emerson Stamps reflects on his enslaved African ancestors while writing a memoir in his 80s, and Maud Morgan finds solace in the words of Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: 'The world is filled and filled with the absolute―to see this is to be free'). Hoblitzelle’s heartfelt book invites inspiring reflections on finding beauty in aging, facing death with dignity, and rejoicing in earthly blessings.
Foreword Review: Body, Mind & Spirit
Reviewed by Sarah White
Navigating the changes that come with age and the inevitability of death can be difficult, especially in cultures where the wisdom of elders is not typically revered. As a counter, Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle offers comforting and empowering reflections, readings, and lessons on growing older in her book, Aging with Wisdom.
Hoblitzelle’s previous book explored her and her husband’s experiences after his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, through to his death six years later. This book widens those explorations of aging and death to include many other examples of people who chose to live their later years on their own terms. Hoblitzelle’s is a heartfelt, heartening guide to the later years. It shares approaches for opening up to the aging process, for finding beauty and grace in the inevitable decline and losses of old age, and for seeking gratitude, humor, and joy in the final stages of life.
The time of life after children have grown up and left their childhood home is referred to in Hindu philosophy as the “forest monk” stage—when contemplation and a potentially more spiritual life can come forth after the busyness of career and child-rearing have calmed. This period should not just be seen in terms of loss, Hoblitzelle argues, but as a time when personal development can come to the forefront.
As much as it is about living well, the book is also about dying well. It includes stories about people who have served as the author’s guides in her understanding of what it means to age with wisdom. It explores a variety of spiritual traditions and includes loving profiles of people who have served as wayshowers to the author as she navigates the challenges and opportunities of growing older.
These stories should help readers to understand what’s happening in the final transitions of life and guide them to having a more meaningful and graceful experience of this time, whether with aging parents or family members or in their own lives.
Spokane Favs "Faith and Ethics" Review:
Book on Aging draws on Buddhist wisdom but fitting for people of all faiths
November 14, 2017
Reviewed by Bill Williams
More than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, which results in severe memory loss and physical deterioration — and the numbers are growing.
The writer Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle lost her husband and mother to this awful ailment. She first wrote about the subject several years ago in “Ten Thousand Joys & Ten Thousand Sorrows: A Couple’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s,” a poignant recounting of the struggle of dealing with this terrible malady.
She has now written a second book, “Aging with Wisdom: Reflections, Stories & Teachings,” which is filled with spiritual wisdom drawn from Christianity, Buddhism and other religious traditions.
“Something is seriously amiss in our culture,” she writes. “Materialism, consumerism and the quest for youth combined with the fear of aging and denial of death make for a culture that is strangely arrested in an adolescent dream.”
Hoblitzelle, who is 80, celebrates the miracle of life, while acknowledging the inevitability of death. People remember examples of physical deterioration. “Recently I had such a moment … when I saw with new eyes that my entire arm had become a symphony of wrinkles.”
Buddhism makes a useful distinction between pain and suffering. Physical, mental and emotional pain are inevitable, while suffering is what we add to the painful experience through our thinking. In other words, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.
Hoblitzelle ends the book with brief essays about six men and women who have influenced her spiritual growth. Among them is Father Bede Griffiths, a Benedictine monk and mystic who settled in India, where he was nourished by multiple traditions and intensely felt God’s love and presence. In his dying days, he would often say, “I am so happy. I am so full of love,” almost like a chant.
Hoblitzelle is a fine writer, although the book’s structure is a bit awkward – a mixture of poetry, narrative excerpts and brief profiles under the umbrella of the author’s wisdom.
Much of the book draws on Buddhist wisdom. One need not be a Buddhist to benefit from its life-changing teachings on meditation and mindfulness. Hoblitzelle cites the example of the twin problems of desire and aversion when we cling to the things we enjoy and push away what we don’t like, thereby creating needless suffering.
In a chapter titled “The Ultimate Mystery,” Hoblitzelle says we “dwell in the realm of the great unknown.” She refers often to mysticism, which can be found in multiple religious traditions. Rather than trying to define or contain God, mystics live with the mystery.
Hoblitzelle was moved to write this book after dealing with the ravages of Alzheimer’s in her husband and mother, combined with her desire to address the negative feelings directed at older people.
She lists these guidelines for reflection: Rejoice in the blessings we still have. Let go of our struggle with life. Accept loss and change. See beauty in old age. Cultivate lightness and humor. Deepen awareness through meditation. Open to the unknown. Make friends with death. Cultivate the life of the spirit.
Mindfulness has flourished in recent years and meditation groups have sprung up across the country. Countless books have been written about the subject. “Aging with Wisdom” is a worthy addition.
Story Circle Book Reviews
November 30, 2017
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
If you are concerned about aging consciously and connecting with your own inner spirit, read this book. In the past several years, many books have been published about aging well. Very few have been written with such sensitivity and gentleness. Hoblitzelle's stories, poems and reflections lead us towards inner examination and an expansive view of later life. She offers the reader personal examples as well as the stories of others in a variety of cultures about aging, diminishment and dying. Especially poignant is her relating how she and her husband dealt with his Alzheimer's decline.
"A Buddhist maxim says simply that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional." As we age, our bodies begin to break down, even with our taking care. Hoblitzelle writes of her main theme, "the call of the inner life, deepening in wisdom, and living consciously with the purpose of awakening...." Our bodies are the vessels of who we are. She counsels reaching out to others in kindness and humility as a way of letting go of self-attachment.
Hoblitzelle includes practices of the heart and vignettes of wayshowers—those who have shown her the way. She acknowledges that she has needed maps and guidance. Perhaps, we do too. If so, Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle might be a wayshower for you as she was for me.