These are the books that most guided my own personal spiritual journey.
They are from teachers, contemplatives, and mystics from a wide range of wisdom faith traditions, and each of them are alive and still teaching today.
Falling Upward, Richard Rohr
Franciscan monk Richard Rohr describes the journey into a “second half of life” as a difficult and tumultuous shift followed by new understanding of one’s truest self and the nature of life. When I read this book I thought: “Yes. I want this to happen to me. I am ready.” Of course, I had no idea what I was talking about. I am very, very glad I read this book.
“If we go to the depths of anything we will begin to knock on something substantial, ‘real,’ and with a timeless quality to it.”
“We are created with an inner drive and necessity that sends us all looking for our True Self, whether we know it or not. This journey is a spiral and never a straight line.”
Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self, Richard Rohr
A follow-up to Rohr’s first book Falling Upward, this book explores “the second half of life” and is equally as compelling as its predecessor. This book developed my own understanding of how I can continue to grow and develop into the space of finding my truest self.
“There is something in you that is not touched by coming and going, by up and down, by for and against, by the raucous teams of totally right and totally wrong… There is a part of you that does not rush to judgement. Rather, it stands vigilant and patient in the tragic gap that almost every moment offers. It is a riverbed of mercy. It is vast, restful and resourceful, and it receives and also let’s go all the comings and goings.”
“We need and belong to one another, love says- we are not our own.”
Living Beautifully with Change and Uncertainty, Pema Chodron
American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron writes about facing adversity with an orientation toward awareness, acceptance, and transformation. This book was recommended to me by my therapist as I was going through a tumultuous and difficult time in my own life- and so began my deep love for Pema Chodron’s writing.
“Awakening is no a process of building ourselves up, but a process of letting go. It’s a process of relaxing in the middles- the paradoxical, ambiguous middle full of potential, full of new ways of thinking and seeing- with absolutely no… guarantee of what will happen next.”
“To the degree that we can open to our own pain, we can open to the pain of others…”
When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron
An extremely wise and quotable book from Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, there are so many pieces of wisdom to carry around in a pocket and run your fingers over when needed. I quote this book often in my own writing.
“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”
“Only to the extent that we expose over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.”
“We are here. We are carried off by the wind and then we are brought back. When one thought has ended and another has not yet begun, we can rest in that space.”
God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Mirabai Starr
Spiritual teacher Mirabai Starr combines poetic and personal experiences with an exploration of these three Western, monotheistic faith traditions to uncover more of what it means to connect with a “God of love.” I attended a very impactful retreat with Starr, which prompted me to get this book. She is a modern mystic worth following.
“When the music ends, the silence that pours into the empty space left by the song reverberates through every cell of my body, aligning my breath with my spirit and my aspirations with my disappointments, and a weariness at the core of my soul drains away.”
“We are called to be contemplatives who are passionately engaged in the world, and activists who ground our efforts int he silence and stillness.”
The Celestine Prophecy, James Redfield
This New Age inspired text is written as an adventure story set in Peru, the main character seeks a document called “The Manuscript” that outlines nine Insights that the protagonist slowly lives out on his journey. I read this book given to me by my Grandma Rose while I was in high school. I remember its descriptions of “energy” as quite intriguing.
“We humans have always sought to increase our personal energy in the only manner we have known, by seeking to psychologically steal it from the others–an unconscious competition that underlies all human conflict in the world.”
“Loving and energizing others is the best possible thing we can do for ourselves.”
The Seat of the Soul, Gary Zukav
This philosophical text exploring the changing frontier of human consciousness was another gift to me from Grandma Rose when I was young.
“Every experience that you have and will have upon the Earth encourages the alignment of your personality with your soul. Every circumstance and situation gives you the opportunity to choose this path, to allow your soul to shine through you, to bring into the physical world through you its unending and unfathomable reverence for and love of Life.”
The New Monastic: Interspiritual Manifesto for Contemplative Living, Adam Bucko and Rory McEntry
Adam Bucko and Rory McEntry outline a spiritual path for those who feel compelled to live as contemplative activists in the world and who want to dive deeply into the wisdom faith traditions. I saw Bucko at a retreat with Mathew Fox and have read much of his work since. He works with homeless youth in New York City to help them finding healing, transformation and a calling in the world. He is a contemplative activist in words and action.
“The new monastic movement attempts to bring people together in… a union of affinity and sympathy, in love, united behind a passion to bring a new world into being, a global civilization of the heart, and dedicated to each person’s uniqueness within a process of spiritual maturation.”