A friend recently asked me to recommend some books that had an influence on my spiritual development over the years.
Nothing immediately came to mind, other than the book that is most blowing my mind right now: "Raising your Spirited Child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. If you've got a child, or know a child, who seems unusually difficult but is really just extra sensitive, persistent, intense and slow to adapt, this book is for you. It may very well set your spirit at ease, as it has mine, and so, though it is technically a parenting book, it is also certainly a spiritual text.
Otherwise, these items came to mind as having had an early and profound influence on my journey:
"The Seven Story Mountain" by Thomas Merton
A Columbia University student, and carousing literary star in the making, finds the Catholic church and becomes a monk. He even gets a girl pregnant, though he leaves that part out. A compelling story of redemption, I first read this when I a senior in college, kept breaking up with my boyfriend and was longing for a more spiritually authentic life.
"Journey of Awakening: A Meditator's Guidebook" by Ram Dass
There was a time when I didn't know how to meditate, when I didn't even know what meditation was. Amazing! This book was my introduction and a very useful one at that. I gave away my original copy to a friend, but I still remember it fondly. Anything by Ram Dass is entertaining, instructive and profound, whether you're reading his books or listening to him on audiotape. As he would say, he's not a guru, just a very human teacher.
“New Seeds of Contemplation” by Thomas Merton
My copy of this book lacks a front and a back cover. It is underlined and notated like crazy. Each chapter is around ten pages long and gives the reader something to think, pray and wonder about. Chapter headings include "What is contemplation?", "What contemplation is not", "Integrity" and "Faith." This stuff never gets old.
"The Perennial Philosophy" by Aldous Huxley
Huxley compares the words of mystics from the world over, finding commonalities in faith and insight. I read and reread it through college and graduate school and its pages, too, are covered with notations. It’s not an easy read and it surprises me today that I got so much out of it when I was so young. I may have been smarter then than I am now.
"Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said" by Philip K. Dick
For those not familiar with Philip K. Dick's novels, but familiar with the movies inspired by them, these are not action stories. (This is a major pet peeve of mine about which I will say no more right now.) That said, this is a novel about lost identities, lost love, and the mysteries of our shared and un/shared realities.
These five books laid a foundation for the spiritual development of my early-adult years, and I will share many more in the future. What books/works of art have inspired you over the years, and how did they relate to your circumstances at at the time?