A selection of recommended books on Spirituality (or Mind Body Spirit) for anyone on the path to awakening and self-knowledge. These are some of the books I’ve found particularly helpful or inspiring over the years. There are longer reviews attached via links, and more to come…
Martha Beck – Finding Your Way in a Wild New World
In her inimitable style, Martha Beck takes you through four simple but powerful steps to awaken you to a more connected way of living in this wild new world. She calls each step a Technology of Magic, and they’re designed to help you find your true calling: Wordlessness; Oneness; Imagination; and Forming. This is all about getting back in touch with your true nature and finding your team, with a little help from the wild animals Martha meets in Africa. The first two steps take you out of verbal thinking and shift your consciousness into an expanded, interconnected state (your true self). Then using Imagination and Forming, you begin to co-create a new reality. Summarising it like this makes it sound like your typical New Age claptrap, but it’s just what the Taoists call ‘doing without doing.’ Martha Beck is a life coach with a wicked sense of humour. I’d recommend any of her books – inspiring and fun.
Deepak Chopra – The Seven Laws of Spiritual Success
The seven spiritual laws outlined in this little book are based on natural laws that govern creation and shatter the myth that success comes from hard work, planning, or ambition. That’s according to the blurb, and while it may be true up to a point, not many people realise what this means in practise. If we align ourselves to these laws, we will be living in harmony with the universe. Whether than means we’ll be ‘successful’ in the way that most would assume, is doubtful. Spiritual success is not the same as worldly success. If you want worldly success, read a different book. If you apply these principles to gaining anything in the world, it’ll backfire – maybe not immediately, but one day. So why am I recommending it? It’s a good little reminder of the basic truths that underpin our lives. It might help you fulfil your dreams, but that depends on what your dreams are. (*Out of interest, this book is listed as a SHAM classic by Salerno, see below!*)
Andrew Cohen – Evolutionary Enlightenment
This book provides a redefinition of spiritual awakening for the 21st century from a leading Integral spiritual teacher. Our world is characterised by exponential change and constant evolution. Andrew Cohen points out the obvious: life is evolution, so enlightenment must also evolve. In the past, awakening to the supreme identity was seen as a way to get off the wheel of rebirth and escape the world. With an evolutionary perspective, we can see awakening as part of a process of bringing spirituality down to earth. Rather than seeing it as an escape, it’s an opportunity to live in a more engaged and creative way in a world that never stops changing or evolving. Cohen outlines five tenets for living an enlightened life and empowers you to take an active role in shaping the world of tomorrow. Spirituality for the post-modern world, written with insight and compassion.
Tim Freke – How Long is Now?
This is a practical guide to experiencing what stand-up philosopher Tim Freke calls the ‘deep awake’ state. He shares stories from his own life to illustrate how to experience this ultra-conscious state in which you find yourself in love with the present moment. It includes powerful wake-up techniques, practical wisdom about love, romance and relationships, and a new understanding of death. Freke also clarifies some common misunderstandings to show that spirituality isn’t about ‘killing’ the ego or denying yourself pleasure or retreating from the world It’s simply about becoming more conscious of your own deeper nature – which is love – so that you can embrace your life just as it is. This book is packed with wisdom and wit. A realistic guide to living a spiritual life and embracing the Now.
More Tim Freke books worth reading:
A book you can read in an hour that will turn your world inside out. Lucid Living takes you through the basic truths about reality to nudge you awake. Short and sweet. Read the full review here.
>There are more Tim Freke books on the Religion Bookshelf
Gangaji – The Diamond in your Pocket
Gangaji was born as Toni Roberson and met her teacher, Papaji, on the banks of the Ganges. After her awakening, he renamed her Gangaji. This book provides lucid and compassionate guidance for discovering your inner radiance. Gangaji shows you how to experience the motionless, but powerful centre of your own being, so that your whole life can become informed by it. She is very clear that this doesn’t mean your life will become free of conflict, challenges, pain or suffering. But it means you will have a sanctuary, a place you can go, no matter what is happening around you, to find peace. Suffering is caused by ignorance of your true nature. Gangaji asks questions to encourage you to look beyond the illusions you have constructed to find the truth. This self-inquiry is the heart of the book, and should be the heart of your spiritual practice.
Benjamin Hoff – The Tao of Pooh
Winnie the Pooh has a Way about him, a way of doing things where things just seem to work themselves out without much effort. As Benjamin Hoff shows, Pooh’s Way is strangely close to the ancient Chinese principles of Taoism. While Eeyore frets, and Piglet hesitates, and Owl pontificates, Pooh just is. This is a great little book that explores Taoism through the wisdom of the Bear of Little Brain, at the same time as exploring Winnie the Pooh through the lens of Taoism. It contains the original illustrations by E.H. Shephard and loads of quotes from the books by A.A. Milne. Benjamin Hoff demonstrates the basic principles of Taoism through the exploits and adventures of Pooh and his friends, and invents more (just for fun). A great introduction to Taoist principles whether you’re a fan of Pooh or not (and why wouldn’t you be?!).
Catherine G. Lucas – In Case of Spiritual Emergency
A spiritual emergency happens when the natural process of awakening becomes too much and you’re plunged into crisis. Sometimes called a Dark Night of the Soul, they can be triggered by spiritual practice, loss of faith, overwhelming daily struggles, the death of a loved one, and even childbirth. Unfortunately, spiritual emergencies are often misdiagnosed as straightforward cases of psychosis, depression or mental breakdown. The spiritual part of the experience is ignored which cuts the sufferer off from learning the deeper lessons of the process they are going through. This book provides a map to help you through the crisis using first-hand accounts from individuals who have lived through it. There are also chapters on the medical and scientific background of awakening, and a summary of research into altered states of consciousness. This is a great book for anyone going through a spiritual emergency, written from personal experience, with understanding and compassion.
Caroline Myss – Anatomy of the Spirit
This book is based on fifteen years of research into energy medicine and shows that we can be responsible not only for our health but for our healing too. It explores the links between spiritual and emotional stresses, and the illnesses these create through the energy system and chakras. Caroline Myss presents her model of the body’s seven centres of spiritual and physical power and synthesises it with the ancient wisdom of three traditions – the Hindu chakras, the Christian sacraments, and the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life. There’s a chapter on each chakra with questions you can ask yourself to dig deeper into your needs for healing at that level. She helps you to discover the spiritual causes of illness and how to sense and correct energy imbalances before they express as physical disease. This is a brilliant and essential resource for healing.
John Parkin – F**k it
An inspiring and fresh take on the spiritual path that doesn’t require any chanting, meditating, or eating tofu. John Parkin shows you how to stop struggling and do what you fancy instead. Just ignore what everyone else is telling you and go your own way. I had huge reservations when I picked up this book. It seemed like a perfect recipe for self-indulgent narcissism, and it may well be used that way by many. Saying fuck it to the hard things in life seems like a good idea, but it could lead to avoidance and denial. I was also concerned about the negative attitude it seemed to imply. Saying fuck it could be taken as nihilism. But if you read the whole book and digest what Parkin says, it’s about saying no to things that don’t matter while saying a big fat yes to the things that do. Spiritual growth with a grin.
Steve Salerno – SHAM
SHAM stands for Self-Help and Actualisation Movement. This book is an expose of that movement and multibillion-dollar industry, revealing the real damage it does, not just to its customers but to all of society. Salerno demonstrates how the self-help movement’s core philosophies have infected every aspect of Western life, and exposes the downside of being uplifted. The ‘empowering’ messages have a shadow side of victim-blaming that ultimately disempowers. He discusses the rise of gurus and the Recovery movement, and looks at the inside story on some of the biggest names in the industry. If you’ve read any self-help books, you may want to inform yourself about their darker undertow. This book will help (!) and may inoculate you against being suckered by any more gurus. In the end, it’s all just another ego trip. Don’t believe the hype and learn to think for yourself.
Steve Taylor – Out of the Darkness
This is an inspiring collection of stories about people who have undergone the ultimate transformation – spiritual rebirth. This often occurs after intense trauma or turmoil, and Taylor expertly reveals what can happen if an individual is willing to surrender at the point of greatest darkness. Most of the people featured have transformed themselves after suffering in extreme ways, and their stories offer hope to anyone going through something similar. To focus on suffering may seem morbid, but it’s only by pushing beyond our limits that we discover our strengths. Not many would choose to suffer as some in this book have, but it’s reassuring to know that there is a way through. Taylor also suggests it may not be necessary to experience extreme suffering in order to have a spiritual awakening. If we can learn from the experiences of others and practise detachment, we may find we have more freedom than we imagined.
Ken Wilber – No Boundary
This is a Wilber classic. It’s a comprehensive but simple guide to the types of psychologies and therapies available from both the East and the West, from psychoanalysis to Zen, existentialism to tantra. He provides a clear map of human consciousness against which the various theories and therapies are introduced and explained. This is the popular version of his first book, The Spectrum of Consciousness (find it on the Consciousness Bookshelf) which was more academic in tone. No Boundary distils the ideas and presents them in an accessible and direct way. It charts human growth and potential through the whole spectrum from body to mind to soul to spirit, or pre-personal to personal to transpersonal. If you want to get a grip on Ken Wilber’s ideas, this is the best place to start because it retains its simplicity without losing its depth.
Missed any good ones? Recommend a book in the comments section below…