Book Report: Shopping my Library for Books on Spiritual Practices

February 23, 2023

Get ready for a barrage of books.

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, leading those of us in the Christian faith into the Lenten season. Lent seems like a good time to reflect on the role of spiritual practices in our lives. Even though I have written about and offered workshops and talks on this topic many times before, I know I can still learn more. My ongoing hope is to demystify the nature of spiritual practices and to explore ways to integrate spiritual practices into our daily lives.

Often the place I begin is in my own library. What have I underlined in books I have read? What books feel like a classic resource in my own spiritual development? What books opened me to something new? What books no longer fit my evolving faith? Which books have become a presence in my life? Which books deserve another look?

Well, it is quite a rabbit hole, but here are a few impressions and notes from my recent browsing:

Jane Vennard in Fully Awake and Truly Alive, Spiritual Practices to Nurture Your Soul introduced me to the Buddhist terms, “on-cushion practices” and “off-cushion practices,” and changed the way I think about spiritual practices. “On-cushion practices are the more intentional, formal, perhaps traditional kinds of practices like meditation and centering prayer. “Off-cushion practices” are less formal and more spontaneous experiences, like pausing to look at a sunset and feeling connected to all of creation or sending blessings when you see the neighbor children walking to school every morning. The poetry/meditations of Being Home by Gunilla Norris have helped me be aware of the many opportunities for off-cushion practices throughout my days.

from "Choosing What to Wear"

I stand by the closet door
barefooted before this choice.
When I pick now I want to remember
that You have picked me--
no self-made woman, but one brought forth
by the lives that have gone before me,
lives that have made mine possible...
from the first single-celled creatures,
those ancient ancestors,
to the dear ones I call parents.

Liturgy of the Ordinary, Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren also starts with the possibilities for spiritual practice in each day, the overlooked moments and routines, like sitting in traffic or checking email. She examines these moments as doorways to the sacred and to living a life of deeper awareness of the holy.

I want to learn how to spend time over my inbox, laundry, and tax forms, yet, mysteriously, always on my knees, offering up my work as a prayer to the God who blesses and sends.

page 100

I have consulted and even re-read in their entirety several of these books, including An Altar in the World, A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor and two of Christine Valters Paintner’s books, The Soul’s Slow Ripening, 12 Celtic Practices for Seeking the Sacred and The Soul of a Pilgrim, Eight Practices for the Journey Within. All three of these books have become sacred texts for me.

Whoever you are, you are human. Wherever you are, you live in the world, which is just waiting for you to notice the holiness in it. So welcome to your own priesthood, practices at the altar of your own life. The good news is that you have everything you need to begin.

An Altar in the World, p xvii

Some of the books I have had on my shelves for a long time, and they continue to inform and inspire me. I think I bought Tilden Edwards’ Living in the Presence, Spiritual Exercises to Open Our Lives to the Awareness of God when I was in spiritual direction training in the 90’s–one of those basic texts. Not as dense, lighter, but no less wise is A Sacred Primer, The Essential Guide to Quiet Time and Prayer by Elizabeth Harper Neeld. Another title that has served me well is Living Faith Day By Day, How the Sacred Rules of Monastic Traditions Can Help You Live Spiritually in the Modern World by Debra K. Farrington. Farrington approaches spiritual practices from the structure of creating a rule of life for one’s life. That may sound daunting, but she makes it approachable and desirable.

The topic continues to be relevant, and I continue to add books to my collection, including Pilgrim Principles, Journeying with Intention in Everyday Life by Lacy Clark Ellman, The Wild Land Within, Cultivating Wholeness Through Spiritual Practice by Lisa Colon Delay, and another with an intriguing title, Desperately Seeking Spirituality, A Field Guide to Practice by Meredith Gould. Each one of these books feels like a generous and welcoming companion. One more –a book I have acquired, but not yet read, Essential Spirituality, The 7 Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind, by Roger Walsh. Stay tuned for a further evaluation.

Several of the books refer to spiritual practices that include specific ways the body is a tool for care of the soul, but one book stands out, Spiritual Exercises, Joining Body and Spirit in Prayer by Nancy Roth. This book reminds us that walking and doing Pilates and yoga and T’ai Chi and dancing and receiving a massage are also ways to experience the movement of God.


My library includes separate shelves with books on aging and spirituality. Several of those titles address spiritual practices, including Aging as a Spiritual Practice, A Contemplative Guide to Growing Older and Wiser by Lewis Richmond, A Season of Mystery, 10 Spiritual Practices for Embracing A Happier Second Half of Life by Paula Huston, and Pilgrimage into the Last Third of Life, 7 Gateways to Spiritual Growth by Jane Marie Thibault and Richard L. Morgan. I will save reflections on these books for another time.

A Gentle Reminder

As much as I love books and as much as book enriches my spiritual life, reading about spiritual practices does not substitute for practicing. Writing posts in my blog is one of my spiritual practices.

An Invitation

What are your spiritual practices? I would love to know.

2 thoughts on “Book Report: Shopping my Library for Books on Spiritual Practices

  1. I’m familiar with a few of these books, the others I’m not so will have to look them up. I’m currently reading The Wild Edge of Sorrow by Francis Weller.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s