There are so many wonderful books available in the realm of spirituality and personal growth. I sure have gathered a large collection of them over the years! As we face the challenges of an uncertain political climate, as well as increasing evidence of environmental destruction, it is easy to become disheartened. During times like these, I often ponder the question, “which 10 spiritual books would you reach to in the midst of times of profound change and intense challenge?” A few come to mind that have been trusted guides throughout my life. These are the books that have been at my bedside, in the backpack, and away from the bookshelf the most often. They have inspired me, over and over again, always continuing to teach me in profound ways.
1) The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz This small and simple book teaches us to live in ever more happiness by disengaging from habitual mental patterns that bring so much suffering. Don’t take anything personally. Always do your best. Be impeccable with your word. Don’t make assumptions. With these simple ideas, I have found my life transformed over and over again. If you haven’t read this book, make it a priority.
2) The Bhagavad Gita, translated by Stephen Mitchell This wonderful translation is clear, beautifully expressive, and very connected to the heart of the teachings of this perennial classic from India. In the Gita, we meet Arjuna, a warrior, and Krishna, his guru and great master. Through the story of Arjuna’s collapse in the face of battle, Krishna guides all of us to embrace the challenges, to be strong and willing to face what is difficult in life, to do the right thing as inspired by the heart, and to release attachment to any results.
3) Love, Freedom, Aloneness, by Osho This book is a wonderful guide that inspires us to fully embrace a love that is free of attachment and expectations, and to fully accept life as it is, whether bringing us into togetherness or solitude. It has been a wonderful re-centering guide for me as I have navigated challenging and transforming relationships of all kinds, and wanting to reconnect with my own center.
4) Animal Speak, by Ted Andrews This is a wonderful resource for connecting with the intuitive and instinctual teachings of animal totems. If you find yourself crossing paths with crows, foxes, deer, or even insects of any particular kind, this book offers guidance in interpreting the messages that these creatures may hold for you.
5) A Thousand Names for Joy (or any other book), by Byron Katie With love, compassion, and no-nonsense clarity, Byron Katie brings people to question the very ground of the stories we tell ourselves that cause so much suffering. She encourages people to question these stories and thoughts by asking “is it true?” As I have approached her work (often reluctantly and with lots of resistance), I find myself unravelling my own thoughts instead of attempting to solve the problems that I have created as a result of those thoughts. This is always a welcome process!
6) Practicing Peace in Times of War, by Pema Chodron A tiny book compared to her others, but a wonderful gift. This book encourages the reader to practice presence, and reflect on the wars that we enact within ourselves, inspiring us to embrace acceptance, compassion, and peace from within. I love to underline meaningful passages in books, and I must say, most of this book is underlined! Truly a wonderful book that encourages us to practice freeing ourselves from war in our daily lives.
7) Earth Prayers, by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon This is a wonderful collection of prayers, poems, invocations, chants, and writings from a wide variety of spiritual traditions. Each one expresses a deep connection to the natural world, abiding love in nature, and deep mourning for humanity’s loss of connection with our Earth Mother home. I sometimes like to keep this by my bed, reading one short inspiring piece each day.
8) Blue Truth, by David Deida This book is a collection of short writings by Deida, each intended to be a powerful reminder of the ephemeral nature of living, and to inspire us to open to ever greater capacities of loving. Sometimes sensual, sometimes shocking, this book returns me to presence in my body, and connects me to the deepest longing of my heart.
9) The Lost Language of Plants, by Stephen Harrod Buhner – Buhner is part poet, part biologist, and part philosopher. His words have inspired me over and over again, reminding me of the deep and visceral connection that we humans have to the Earth, and especially to the green growing world of plants. His vision and language are clear and filled with both incredible knowledge and heartfelt love. His words come to me as a reminder of what I have always known, what is buried in our collective human consciousness and DNA.
10) Radical Acceptance, by Tara Brach – I truly love Tara Brach’s kindness, compassion, wisdom, and willingness to be vulnerable and open about her own life and practice. Her humor and stories are lighthearted and filled with wonderful teachings about this human existence, and the practices from the tradition of vipassana meditation she shares are always a gift. Through her work, I have learned that it is possible to return to the moment, open my heart and mind to what is arising, and accept what is with gratitude and awareness.
Please feel welcome to add your favorite books to the list in the comments below! And if you have read any of the above, how they impacted your life, too!
Modified from an original post, published March 14, 2012