Reading Suggestions


Richard Rohr,  Falling Upwards: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. Jossey-Bass, 2011.
The Franciscan priest Richard Rohr explores how our failings can help us to enter a more mature spirituality in the second half of life.

Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind--A New Perspective on Christ and His Message. Shambhala, 2008.
The Episcopal priest and gifted teacher Cynthia Bourgeault traces contemplative teaching back to Jesus's words and explores with depth and insight how Jesus invites us into a transformation of consciousness.

Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See. Crossroads, 2009.
This exploration of the teachings of Jesus and the Christian mystics by the Franciscan priest and great teacher Richard Rohr makes clear why Christian contemplative practice is essential: “We must move from a belief-based religion to a practice-based religion, or little will change."

Christopher Morse, Not Every Spirit: A Dogmatics of Christian Disbelief.
Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1994.
This book lays out the theology of orthodox Christianity and is useful for anyone with Christian beliefs who is struggling to decide what he or she believes. Particularly valuable is the section on tests of doctrinal faithfulness, which provides ten criteria for examining statements of belief.

Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert. New York: New Directions, 1960.
The Desert Fathers and Mothers were fourth century Christian hermits who lived in the deserts of the Near East. In this book, the great spiritual writer and Trappist monk has collected his favorites from their stories and sayings.

Simone Weil, Waiting for God (Perennial Classics). New York: Harper & Row, 1951.
These brilliant essays are by an intriguing twentieth century figure who was born into a comfortable family of Jewish descent and converted to Christianity yet remained outside the church.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. 
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000.
A beautiful book on how to find one’s true calling. Palmer discusses how we must listen to our call or we will hurt ourselves and others.

Donald W. Musser and Joseph L. Price. ,A New Handbook of Christian Theology. 
Nashville TN: Abingdon Press, 1992.
This helpful handbook has essays on many different theological subjects, arranged alphabetically and written by major theologians.

Elizabeth A. Johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse. 
New York: Crossroad Herder, 1999.
This excellent book helps us to find language to speak about God without leaving the feminine out of the picture, yet remains rooted in classical Christian theology.

William Johnston, ed. The Cloud of Unknowing. New York: Image Books, 1996.
By an anonymous author from the fourteenth century, this book is one of the great classics of Christian contemplative wordless prayer.

Meister Eckhart, Meister Eckhart, from Whom God Hid Nothing. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1996.
An introduction to the work of the great fourteenth century writer, preacher, and mystic.


Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1970.
This short, beautifully written book is a very good introductory text on how to pray.

Ann & Barry Ulanov, Primary Speech: A Psychology of Prayer. Atlanta, GA: John Knox, 1982.
A very helpful book on the psychology of prayer, including chapters on difficult subjects such as prayer and sexuality and prayer and aggression. This book rewards careful reading.

A New Zealand Prayer Book - He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989.
The prayer book of the Anglican church in New Zealand contains prayers in both English and Maori, including some lovely alternative versions of familiar prayers and prayers for many occasions.

Centering Prayer

Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart. New York: Continuum, 2006.
A good introduction to centering prayer, a method of silent contemplative prayer that is somewhat similar to Zen meditation but derived from the Christian tradition. This classic book has recently been revised in honor of its 20th anniversary.

Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation. Bloomsbury, 2012.
This book by one of the founders and great exponents of centering prayer explores the spiritual growth that takes place when centering prayer is seriously undertaken.

David Frenette, The Path of Centering Prayer: Deepening Your Experience of God.
Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2012.
David Frenette has taught Centering Prayer under Fr. Thomas Keating’s guidance since 1984 and is my own beloved teacher.  This wonderful book provides a good introduction for beginners but also goes more deeply into the practice for the more experienced practitioner.  Includes chapters on the sacred breath, the sacred glance, and the sacred nothingness as well as the sacred word.  The second part of the book looks at eight contemplative attitudes: receiving, consent, simplicity, gentleness, letting go, resting, embracing, and integrating. These attitudes represent subtly different ways of being in the prayer that allow one to relate to the sacred symbol more and more deeply.Thomas Keating calls David's book "the best, more comprehensive, and most practical book on centering prayer."  Read my extended review of this book on the Amazon website

David Frenette, Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God. Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2014.   
David's guided meditations are one of my favorite parts of being on retreat with him and these recorded meditations, available on CD or audio download from Sounds TrueAmazon or Audible, focus on the eight contemplative attitudes described in his wonderful book The Path of Centering Prayer.  The meditations can be used to introduce a period of Centering Prayer, then paused for a period of silent prayer, then turned on again to end the session. It's a lovely way to frame a session if you have a little extra time, like being on a mini retreat with David.

Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening. Cambridge, MA: Cowley, 2004.
Cynthia Bourgeault has worked closely with Thomas Keating and this book is an excellent guide for those who would like to go deeper into centering prayer. Includes a good chapter on the welcoming prayer.

Contemplative Outreach website
Contemplative Outreach is a great resource for more information on centering prayer, centering prayer weekly groups, and centering prayer retreats.

Lectio Divina

Thelma Hall, Too Deep for Words: Rediscovering Lectio Divina. Paulist Press, 1988.
This classic book contains not only instruction for traditional lectio divina and theology but many reference numbers for scripture passages that may be used in lectio divina.

Christine Valters Paintner, Lectio Divina—The Sacred Art: Transforming Words and Images into Heart-Centered Prayer. Skylight Paths, 2012.
This book approaches lectio divina with openness and creativity, exploring traditional and non-traditional approaches.  Includes passages and questions for reflection.

Watch a short video of my colleague Steve Standiford describing Lectio Divina.

The Psalms

The Saint Helena Psalter. New York: Church Publishing, 2004.
The Book of Psalms is a collection of one hundred and fifty ancient prayers considered scripture in both the Jewish and Christian traditions. They provide a biblical model of how to pray and express the full range of human emotions. This lovely translation of the psalms features inclusive language.

Stephen Mitchell, A Book of Psalms: Selected and Adapted from the HebrewNew York: HarperPerennial, 1993.
A selection of the psalms, translated quite loosely and very beautifully by the well-known translator and poet.

Ellen F. Davis, Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament. Boston: Cowley, 2001.
A collection of excellent essays on the Old Testament, including six essays on the psalms which are helpful in understanding how to use the psalms in prayer.

Cynthia Bourgeault, Chanting the Psalms: A Practical Guide with Instructional CD. 
Boston: Shambhala, 2006.
An introduction to chanting the psalms, from the simplest monotone to more complex systems, including a CD that provides examples of all the different styles. Chanting is a wonderful practice for those who are looking for a more embodied form of prayer.

Prayer Anthologies

Desmond Tutu, An African Prayer Book. New York: Doubleday, 1995.
An anthology of Christian and non-Christian prayers from Africa selected and with introductions by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthologyed. Timothy Ware. London: Faber & Faber, 1966.
An anthology of texts on prayer by different authors from the Christian Orthodox tradition. The Eastern Orthodox tradition has focused more on the practice of prayer, the "how to," than the Western church, and so their writings can be very helpful and practical. I particularly recommend the writings of Theophan the Recluse and St. Dimitri of Rostov in this anthology.

The Oxford Book of Prayered. George Appleton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.
An anthology of primarily Christian prayers, with short sections of prayers from other traditions.

Online Prayer Resources

Richard Rohr’s Daily Email Meditations.
I begin my day with Richard Rohr's short, free, daily email reflections on contemplative spirituality. A Franciscan monk, Rohr has a deep appreciation of the spirituality of other religions and is very good at discussing with sensitivity and balance the ways in which Christians have gone off course and suggesting how Christian scripture and theology can be interpreted with intelligence, tolerance, simplicity, and love.

Contemplative Outreach website
Contemplative Outreach is a great resource for more information on centering prayer, centering prayer weekly groups, and centering prayer retreats.
These short daily podcasts include spiritual music, scripture passages, and suggestions for how to reflect upon the passages.

Judeo-Christian Tradition

Ellen F. Davis, Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament. Cowley, 2001.
An excellent book of essays about how to read the Old Testament in a spiritually engaged way.

Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets. Harper Perennial 2001.
The great Heschel explores the way that the passionate prophets teach us to enter into a very personal relationship with a God who cares about us and is affected by us.  

Zen Meditation

Shunryu Suzuki. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (Shambhala Library). New York: Weatherhill, 1970.
A classic introduction to Zen by a Japanese master who was a leader in bringing Zen to the West.

Thich Nhat Hahn. The Miracle of Mindfulness. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1976.
An introduction to the practice of mindfulness, a way of bringing our meditation into our daily lives, by the Vietnamese Zen master who was nominated by Martin Luther King for the Nobel Prize for his work in the peace movement during the Vietnam war.

Jack Kornfield. A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life.
New York: Bantam, 1993. This book covers the subject of meditation in a very multi-faceted way, addressing a wide range of issues and is especially helpful in its discussion of how to experience emotions more fully.

Stephen Mitchell, ed. Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn. New York, Grove, 1976.
Seung Sahn was a Korean Zen master who taught using koans, or kong-ans in the Korean tradition, the mysterious Zen sayings that lead us beyond regular thought into “don’t know mind.”

Charlotte Joko Beck. Everyday Zen: Love & Work. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989.
This book by an American Zen master addresses the question of how to make our life our practice.

Chogyam Trungpa. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1987.
This Tibetan master studied at Oxford and writes very beautifully. He founded the Shambhala Centers that continue to provide excellent meditation training.

Thich Nhat Hanh, How to Walk. Parallax, 2015
This small book collects some of the writings of the Vietnamese monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, a great master of walking meditation, and gives a great sense of the flavor of the practice.


Diana L. Eck, Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
This short book is an eloquent and profound examination into the role of seeing in Hindu worship.

Stephen P. Huyler, Meeting God: Elements of Hindu Devotion. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.
Huyler spends a part of every year in India, and his wonderful photographs give a vibrant sense of the color, texture, and variety of Hindu worship.

Priya Hemenway, Hindu Gods: The Spirit of the Divine (Spiritual Journeys).
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2003.
This small book uses classic Hindu paintings to introduce the reader to the different characters of the Hindu pantheon.

Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, Loving Ganesa: Hinduism's Endering Elephant Faced God. Kapaa, Hawaii: Himalayan Academy, 2000.
This book contains many useful reference materials, including detailed descriptions of how to worship, lists of the many different forms of Ganesha, pictures of the different objects that Ganesha may hold in his hands and their meanings, and an extensive glossary of Hindu terminology. This book and others published by Himalayan Academy can be read online.


Georg Feuerstein, Shambhala Guide to Yoga: An Essential Introduction to the Principles and Practice of an Ancient Tradition. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1996.
This is a good introduction for those who would like to understand yoga as a complete discipline.

B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga: The Bible of Modern Yoga. New York: Schocken Books, 1979.
A guide to the asanas, or yoga postures, by the developer of the Iyengar method and probably the most famous yoga teacher in the world.

Swami Satchidananda, trans. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Commentary on the Raja Yoga Sutras by Sri Swami Satchidananda. Yogaville, VA: Integral Yoga Publications, 1999.
The ancient text that is the “Bible” of the study of yoga.

Qigong and Energy Work

Kenneth Cohen, The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing. New York: Ballantine Books, 1997. A good introduction to this ancient form of Chinese energy work.

John Mann and Lar Short, Body of Light. Boston: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1990. This book examines the tradition of the “subtle body” or intuitive energy body in Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and other traditions and discusses how to develop the sense of the subtle body.

Wendy Palmer, The Intuitive Body: Aikido as a Clairsentient Practice.
Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1999.
A fascinating book by an aikido master on how to use bodywork to develop the intuitive faculties.

Interfaith Connections

Diana L. Eck, Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras. 
Boston: Beacon Press, 1993.
An excellent introduction to religious pluralism and the relationship between different faiths. Eck combines a clear, scholarly approach with descriptions of her own experiences with Christianity and Hinduism.

Rodger Kamenetz, The Jew in the Lotus: A Poet's Rediscovery of Jewish Identity in Buddhist India. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1994.
In 1990, a group of Jewish rabbis and scholars traveled to Dharamsala, India to advise the Dalai Lama on the secret of Jewish spiritual survival in exile as he struggled to protect his own Tibetan tradition. This book describes their historic dialogue.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ. New York: Riverhead Books, 1995.
The great Vietnamese Zen master explores the points of intersection between Christianity and Buddhism.

Beatrice Bruteau, ed. The Other Half of My Soul: Bede Griffiths and the Hindu-Christian Dialogue. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, 1996. 
This collection of essays by theologians and thinkers such as Thomas Keating, Matthew Fox, Rupert Sheldrake, Wayne Teasdale, and Paul Knitter introduces the reader to the thought of Bede Griffiths, a Benedictine monk who lived in an ashram in India and was a pioneer in Hindu-Christian dialogue.

Individual Spiritual Direction

William A. Barry & William J. Connolly,  The Practice of Spiritual Direction. HarperOne 2012.
A classic on helping people develop a relationship with God.

Margaret Guenther, Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction. Cowley, 1992.
A wise book on how to give others the gift of disinterested, loving attention.

Kenneth Leech, Soul Friend: An Invitation to Spiritual Direction. HarperSanFrancisco, 1992.
Another classic about the deep spiritual friendship that is spiritual direction.

Anne Winchell Silver,  Trustworthy Connections: Interpersonal Issues in Spiritual Direction. Cowley, 2003.  This is one of the most practical books about the how-to of spiritual direction, addressing many of the issues and challenges that can arise with wisdom and clarity.

Group Spiritual Direction

Ed. Rose Mary Dougherty,  The Lived Experience of Group Spiritual Direction. Paulist, 2003.
Rose Mary Dougherty is a pioneer in developing spiritual direction for group use and this anthology explores many of its issues.

Suzanne G. Farnham et al. Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community. Morehouse, 1991.
This is a great book on how to recognize and define God’s call, individually but particularly in groups.