As I’ve found in myself and in conversation with other spiritually-friendly people, the path leading to spiritual awareness usually develops during or after a period of suffering.
For me, this suffering was about 3 years ago: I had just ended a very serious long-term relationship, I was unemployed, and questioning just about everything in my life. I felt isolated and lonely, and as a result of this stress, my health had taken a blow as I began to experience some serious digestive issues. Now, comparatively, I wasn’t in that bad of a situation. My parents provided me with a roof over my head, I had great friends, and a family that loved me.
It wasn’t like I was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, or was drafted to war, or committed a heinous crime or anything like that. But at the time, it felt like rock bottom, to me.
I was living in my own self-induced hell, and I felt trapped…in my own head. As much suffering as I put myself through, it was during this time that I began to turn to books for support, guidance and comfort. And so I’m grateful for that shitty time because it helped pave the way for my own spiritual development.
Now, I’m no yogi by any means. I don’t have it all figured out. Like you, I’m just trying to find my own way through this crazy beautiful world.
I don’t have all the answers.
I don’t know if God exists.
I don’t know if the Universe started as a big bang.
And I for sure don’t know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.
However, what I do know, is that I’m hell of a lot happier, more productive and optimistic about my life than I have ever been, and I have to thank a handful of books for leading me in the right direction. Although I’ve gone on to read deeper books on the subject, I always seem to fall back to the ones that first sent me on this incredible journey of self-discovery.
So when Rav, one of my Facebook friends, asked which spiritual books I’d recommend to read, I had to jump on the opportunity to share with you the books that have truly made a difference to me in my life and personal growth.
Although I labeled this list as “must reads for spiritual newbies”, I feel that anyone, regardless of where he or she is in life, can truly benefit from the following books.
I hope you enjoy.
5 Must Reads for Spiritual Newbies
1. The 4 Agreements
Clips of the movie “The Matrix” flashed in my mind while I was reading this book. And after reading this book, I have a developed a completely new appreciation for the trilogy. Like the movie portrays, our ideas and perceptions of our reality are a complete illusion.
In the Matrix, humans are bred and forced into a state of unconsciousness and force-fed a false reality. Well, minus The Ebikenezer, electrical sockets at the base of the skull, and crazy-multiplying-suit-wearing-bad-guy-people, it’s not much different than the world we live in now.
Like the humans in the Matrix, how we view our reality is determined for us from birth. The way we think, the way we speak, and the ways that we dream are shaped for us by the world we live, and the people who raise us.
As Don Miguel Ruiz describes, we’ve “domesticated” ourselves, much the same way we do animals. We teach our children how to behave, what is right, and what is wrong. Ruiz, whom is a Toltec nagual or shaman, presents us with just 4 simple agreements based on ancient Toltec wisdom, to help us achieve freedom from the false realities we’ve created for ourselves. The ideas that are presented are so simple and obvious, you’ll being saying “D’uh” to yourself, but somehow, amongst the chaos of modern living, we forget these simple truths.
I’ll spoil the fun and tell you the Four Agreements, but I do highly suggest this book. A great starter book for anyone looking to learn more about spirituality, personal growth, and enlightment. The 4 Agreements are:
1. Be Impeccable With Your Words
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
4. Always Do Your Best
Here’s a sample from the book:
The word is a force; it is the power you have to communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life. The word is the most powerful tool you have, but like a sword with two edges, your word can create the most beautiful dream, or your word can destroy everything around you. One edge of the sword is the misuse of the word, which creates a living hell. The other edge is the impeccability of the word, which will only create beauty, love, and heaven on earth.
2. The Alchemist
Paulo Coelho. What an awesome name. Paulo. And I have to confess, that I didn’t actually READ the book. I listened to the audio. Which by the way, is a great way to “read” and I find that I actually get more from listening than I do reading.
The book reads like a fable – a story about a young shephard on his personal journey, out to follow his destiny. Filled with tales of adventure, mysticism, and omens.
Lot’s of symbolism and hidden meanings throughout the book which means that you’ll get something new from it every time you read/listen to it. Plus, the guy narrating the audio track has the coolest voice EVER.
Everyone, when they are young, knows what their destiny is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their destiny… It’s a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your destiny. It prepares your spirit and you will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth. — pg. 22
3. The Power of Now
When I first “read” The Power of Now (again, I cheated and actually listened to the audio), I couldn’t get the book off repeat. No joke,The Power of Now was the soundtrack to my life during the summer of 2009.
I listened to it before I went to bed, while I was mowing the lawn, while I was cooking, cleaning, walking, and even working out.
I’m not quite sure I even know how to sum up the basis of the book better than the title itself — Happiness and enlightenment is found right here, in the “now”. Learn to let go of the analytical, self-absorbed ego portion of your mind, and you’ll find peace and joy. “You are not your mind”. Pretty heavy stuff.
Eckhart Tolle approaches a very deep and complex level of thinking and introduces it to you in a very simple and easy to understand format. He takes an otherwise abstract notion (enlightenment) and actually turns it concrete for his readers, or listeners, to understand.
I could feel that a deep longing for annihilation, for non-existence was now becoming much stronger than the instinctive desire to live. “I cannot live with myself any longer.” This was a thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. “Am I one, or two?”. If “I” cannot live with myself, there must be two of me. The “I” and “self”, that “I” cannot live with. Maybe, I thought, only one of them is real.
4. The Secret
But don’t get me wrong, I highly recommend the book, or it wouldn’t have made it on this list. The Secret has made a significant impact on main stream media and how the majority of us look at creating the world around us. However, I find that at times it gets a little hokey pokey.
I do give the author a lot of credit for introducing the notion of the Law of Attraction in way that makes it more “main-stream” and easier to understand.
I believe that we manifest the world around us. But sometimes talking energy fields and the vibrations our thoughts emit can raise many eyebrows. The Secret has made it easier to explain the complicated laws of physics and how they apply to our lives.
Thoughts that bring about good feelings mean you are on the right track. Thoughts that bring about bad feelings means you are not on the right track.
5. Being Peace
And just for that very reason, it is one of the only books that actually has permanent residency on my night stand.
Thich Nhat Hahn is a cool-ass dude. The guy is like 80 years old but doesn’t look a day over 40. He’s bald, and buddhist, which aside from living a life of celibacy, I find very intriguing.
He can talk about the wind, the air, and the clouds in way that actually makes you want to go out to the woods and sing with the birds, and he makes practicing mindful meditation hip.
Here’s a little taste about interdependence:
Suppose you and I are friends. (In fact, I hope we are friends.) My well-being, my happiness depends very much on you, and your well-being, your happiness, depends upon me. I am responsible for you, and you are responsible for me. Anything I do wrong, you will suffer, and anything you do wrong, I have to suffer. Therefore, in order to take care of you, I have to take care of myself. –pg. 42
As I’ve gone on to read more books on the subject, and have furthered my spiritual development through other practices like reiki and drumming (yes, I said drumming) it is these 5 books that I seem to always fall back on. I hope that after reading this list you feel inspired to pick one of them up the next time you’re on Amazon or at the book store.
And I’m curious, to hear what you’re reading.
What books have you read (spiritual or not) that have had a significant impact on you?
Let me know in the comments below.