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If you were to look up the term “personal growth,” the words that would most likely pop up would be self-improvement, success, goal-setting, etc. But I believe that personal growth also involves deepening one’s relationship with God. In this Easter season, I’d like to offer you five books that I return to over and over because they nourish my soul.
Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton
Merton, a Trappist monk and bestselling author who died in 1968, wrote this classic about monastic Prayer. But I find its guidance and description of contemplative prayer extremely helpful for me as a layperson. Merton clearly writes from experience, and his words about union with God simply resonate with truth. I highly recommend the book for those who are inclined toward a practice of contemplative prayer.
Lost in Wonder: Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness by Esther de Waal
I discovered this book on a Holy Week retreat five years ago. Rather than highlight passages in the book, I took notes when I found some gem of wisdom or insight. As a result, I have pages and pages of quotes—about silence, listening, prayer and awe. The poetry she includes and the quotes she cites are somehow especially appropriate around this time of celebrating the Easter mysteries.
Listening Below the Noise: A Meditation on the Practice of Silence by Anne D. LeClaire
LeClaire took up a practice of a day of silence (and eventually two days of silence) a month and wrote about its impact on her creativity and her spiritual journey. Married with children at the time, she explains how she managed to keep silence in an active household. That alone would be tremendously useful for moms and dads who seem daunted by the very idea of such a practice. But the real benefit of the book for me is her beautiful description of the fruits of silence.
The Artist’s Way Every Day: A Year of Creative Living by Julia Cameron
The Artist’s Way is an international bestseller in which Cameron outlines very practical ways (morning pages, artist’s dates with yourself, etc.) to nourish your creativity and live a creative life. This volume culls passages from several of her books, all based on the same theme. I have used it as devotional reading after my morning prayer.
A Book of Psalms: Selected and Adapted from the Hebrew by Stephen Mitchell
I can’t tell you how worn the pages are in my copy of this book. I once used this too every morning as a devotional. But I also dove into its pages when leading centering prayer groups or when simply feeling distressed or anxious. Mitchell uses very colloquial language in his translation of the psalms, so purists beware. But for those of us who simply seek solace from the psalms, I would highly recommend this book.
Anne Simpkinson is the online managing editor of guideposts.org. She co-authored Soul Work: A Field Guide for Spiritual Seekers and has edited two anthologies entitled Sacred Stories: A Celebration of the Power of Stories to Transform and Heal and Nourishing the Soul: Discovering the Sacred in Everyday Life. A spiritual practice, good friends, lakeside cottage and two lovely feline companions continue to transform and enrich her life.