Oct 10 2011
This past weekend we got our first real taste of Autumn — brisk, gusty winds, rain-splashed pavement. Good days for well-bundled walks, then a return home for a cup of tea, with a four-legged friend curled at your feet… and, of course, a good book open in your lap.
For your cozy weather reading, I thought I’d update and resend the following note. I hope it inspires some good exploration and deepening insight…
Where did my interest in the world’s spiritual traditions come from? Which religious tradition was I raised in? I’m asked these questions all the time.
A bit of background about myself…
I was raised by single mother, an ex-Catholic hippie turned social worker and secret New Ager who told me I should choose my own religion when I was old enough, but who also couldn’t hide her distaste for most organized religion.
By college age, I had a strong interior life and my own motley spiritual practice, but virtually no understanding of what most people call “religion.” While formally studying history and biology, I started sneaking into Bible as Literature classes — that was when I read the Bible for the first time.
At eighteen, I became a voracious reader on religion and spirituality in my spare time, often jumping right to the source material without any context. I read the Quran. I read the Bhagavad Gita and Buddhist texts. I read books on shamanism. I was fascinated and lost amidst everything.
Those were dazzling, bumpy years of searching.
You know what would have saved me a lot of confusion? Discovering the following books. Each of these books is a good, highly readable introduction to the deeper spiritual dimensions of a particular religious tradition. Check them out…
|Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies throughout the Ages
by Ursula King
Highly recommended if you want a brief survey of important visionaries and trends within the sometimes hidden history of Christian mysticism. Francis of Assisi, Hildegard von Bingen, the Beguines, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Brother Lawrence, Jacob Boehme, Symeon the New Theologian, and many others. The author of this book has done a nice job of balancing history with spirituality. This little book makes an excellent introduction to the depths of the Christian tradition that are too often overlooked in favor of creeds and rites. Even if you were raised within the Christian tradition, my guess is that much of your own spiritual history was not handed down to you. Here is a good place to start to regain that connection.
|The Shambhala Guide to Sufism
by Carl W. Ernst PhD
I am currently re-reading this book. It as an intelligent, insightful look at the history, practices, philosophies, schools, and even politics of Sufism. It doesn’t get deeply into the more esoteric aspects of the Sufi world, but it gives a good overview. If you’ve loved the poetry of Rumi but only have a vague idea of how Sufism fits within the Islamic faith, this book is an excellent place to start.
|The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice
by Georg Feuerstein
Unlike the other two books, which are relatively brief introductions to their subjects, The Yoga Tradition is truly encyclopedic. Dubbed “The Blue Phonebook” for its size and color, The Yoga Tradition completely dispells the misconception many have that yoga is just an elaborate form of stretching. It introduces us to ancient and modern yogic philosophies and practices. The many expressions of Hindu yoga, Jain yoga, Buddhist yoga, Sikh yoga, saints, philosophers, and reformers… This book helps us to get oriented amidst thousands of years of complex history with a surprisingly readable, coherent approach. Very highly recommended.
For even more book recommendations, click here.
I hope these books inspire some good exploration (minus the bumps)…