A while back I sat in a café with a heart-friend who asked me to recommend some books for spiritual awakening. Thinking back, I’m not sure if that was the exact phrase used — it might have been “books to help me wake up” or “books for healing” or “books for spiritual growth.”
In any case, I was being asked this question because recently my life had fallen apart and now it was getting put back together with the aid of new ideas, many of which I was discovering in the synchronicity of the right book appearing at the right moment.
During the month preceding that encounter over coffee I’d started reading The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo every morning. I’d also torn through Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein and The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte during a visit to Florida, where I was starting to get right with my life.
In the year prior, as my inner world melted down despite my best efforts to maintain exterior appearances that all was well, I intermittently read borrowed copies of Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia by Robert Brezney and Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century by Barbara Carrellas. These books brought me great comfort when I had the grace to open them up to the same passages, over and over again (the Pronoia News Network chapters and a Journey Through The Chakras section, respectively).
Be Here Now by Ram Das had been sitting on my mom’s bookshelf throughout my entire childhood but I hadn’t yet read it myself at the time of this coffee shop request. In that moment I’d also forgotten about the book Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach, which had been given to me three years earlier by the person sitting across the table from me in the café asking for recommendations.
That day over cooling hot tea I said, “I’ll have to think about it and get back to you.”
It’s only now, a few years later, after living with the teachings in these books on a regular basis that I feel confident making the following suggestions. Each of these books helped me enormously at the beginning of my spiritual journey and continue to be mainstays in my commitment to personal development.
These spiritual development books are filled with practical suggestions, open-hearted inquiry into the metaphysical, and a tone of vulnerable personal sharing on behalf of each author.
The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have by Mark Nepo
This is my daybook. Each morning after splashing cold water on my face, oil pulling, and making my bed, I light a tea candle on my bedroom alter and read Mark Nepo’s passage for the day.
A poet, spiritual seeker, cancer survivor, and kindred soul, Mark Nepo’s reflections and guided meditations always strike a chord in my heart, set me up for a day of gratitude, and offer a bridge from my inner life to my perceptions of the outer world.
Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles by Gabrielle Bernstein
This is one of the first personal development books that caught my attention. In an autobiography grounded in teachings from A Course in Miracles, Gabrielle Bernstein shares her recovery journey with the ego towards a life filled with love, miracles, and purpose.
Spirit Junkie is packed with guided meditations, thoughtful written exercises, and invitations for profound mental shifts around developing self-love, healing romantic relationships, and finding your divine purpose in life.
The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte
It turns out that we aren’t chasing goals, but rather we’re chasing feelings. Danielle LaPorte guides her reader through prose, poetry, and an included workbook to identify Core Desired Feelings.
Most people have it all wrong. We think that when we have more _____ (money, time, etc.) then we’ll be able to _____ (go on the vacation, buy the dream home, etc.) and then we’ll feel _____ (relaxed, loved, etc.). When we switch the formula we start with a core desired feeling (relaxed, loved, free, silly, purposeful, etc.). With that clarity we can take aligned action and reap more of that which we are seeking: a desired feeling. This process is about inviting the journey to be the destination. The Desire Map is all about creating goals with soul.
Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia by Rob Brezney
I’ve been reading Rob Brezney’s weekly horoscopes for 15+ years. His masterful mix of poetry, irreverence, humor, divine wisdom, cheekiness, and heart-centered guidance has always spoken right to my soul. Pronoia is filled with illustrations, stories, exercises, positive news breaks, and ample encouragement to write in the margins and color outside of the lines.
This book always reveals more to me as I’m ready to accept more knowledge. It’s the kind of book I can open to a random page and feel satisfied or read linearly from cover to cover. I find Pronoia often quoted in my life, tremendously accessible when I’m in a terrible mood, and a crowd-pleaser whenever presented to a new reader.
Be Here Now by Ram Dass
When I was ready to crack Be Here Now open in 2014, it felt like coming home. Organized into three sections, the first portion of the book narrates Ram Dass’ journey from suburbia to prestigious college professor to habitual LSD user to spiritual quest in India.
The second section of the book is all hand-drawn and lettered, describing Ram Dass’ trip through the rabbit hole of perception to meet ascended masters, discover the guru within, and to make peace with consciousness. Part three, the cookbook, offers quotes, teachings, and detailed suggestions for a seeker to wake up and to stay awake.
Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century by Barbara Carrellas
A satisfying mash-up of storytelling, solo and partner exercises to awaken pleasure in the body, and refreshingly inclusive language around gender, sexuality, and divinity, Urban Tantra is a book that I’ve been moving through slowly and with gratitude.
Barbara Carrellas posits that cultivating presence and intention in our sexual lives is integrally linked to spiritual practice. If you’re not interested in exploring anatomy and orgasm in depth, you could still spend ages practicing the breathing, movement, and chakra exercises presented in the first two sections of Urban Tantra with serious study and enormous playfulness.
Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach
Given to me in 2011, this was the first metaphysical manual that infiltrated my noisy life of partying, repeated romantic dramas, and often paralyzing fear of global apocalypse.
Richard Bach guided me through my first conscious manifestation exercise, in which I chose to manifest a peacock feather. To this day, whenever I see one of those feathers I’m overcome with the sense that I’ve encountered a clue on the treasure map of my life path.
Other favorite lessons from this book include: Perspective, use it or lose it; You are best at teaching what you most need to learn; and, both excruciatingly and magically, “Don’t be dismayed at good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.”
A few more well loved books for spiritual awakening include:
Zero Limits: The Secret Hawaiian System for Wealth, Health, Peace, and More by Joe Vitale and Ihaleakala Hew Len // “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.”
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach // “Overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now.”
Conversations With God Book 3: Embracing The Love of the Universe by Neale Donald Walsch // “You keep forgetting. But life is not ‘for getting.’ Life is ‘for giving,’ and in order to do that, you need to be forgiving to others—especially those who did not give you thought you were going to get!”
Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles by Marianne Williamson // “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”