Spirituality & Love

Everyone has a moral compass or rudder to guide choices. For some of us, this is connected to spirituality or some notions about life beyond the material. For others, it is about mindfulness and being present here and now. For most, our hearts urge us to love and to explore what love means for us. Our compass, spirits, and desire to love are, for many, connected. The resources here explore spirituality and love and their connections.

Click the title of each organization or article to explore further.

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Go-To Websites

Center for Action and Contemplation
Richard Rohr is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation and a prolific writer on topics that make the connections between spirituality, contemplation, social justice, and recovery so clear and compelling. He says the most important word in the organization name is AND! Find his daily meditation, books, and the resources of the Center all at https://cac.org/.

I had the privilege of knowing and learning with the founder and early leaders of Shalem. It has served as my spiritual home and anchor for over three decades. This is a great resource for learning the power of silence and listening to discern God’s will and guidance and the power of prayerful communities.

Garrison Institute
This retreat and education center housed in a former monastery outside New York City on the Hudson offers a wonderful mix of spirituality and science. If you are interested in Buddhism and how mindfulness changes habits and behaviors, visit this site.

HeartMath Institute
Love and the heart are frequently connected, sometimes in so many ways as to get confusing. This Institute uses research and science to show the power of living and breathing through the heart. Their website offers practical tools and life-changing ways to better connect with the heart and live from there more peacefully and lovingly. 

Marianne Williamson
Marianne Williamson is an amazing leader and writer on love and spirituality and how the interaction of love and spirit shows up in our everyday lives and even in our politics. https://marianne.com/

Most Helpful Short Reads

There are many websites and blogs with posts I have found helpful. For additional short reads, look at the blog posts of any of the organizations or writers listed on this page. 

Discernment: A Path to Spiritual Awakening and Group Spiritual Direction
Rosemary Dougherty
My spiritual director for a time, Rosemary introduced me to the spiritual power and intimacy of group spiritual direction. Her writing is clear and makes a compelling case for listening to God’s guidance, trusting our desire to grow the ability to discern, and letting go of the results.

A Testament of Devotion
Thomas Kelly
This book introduced to the Shalem community by Gerald May is among the clearest contemporary writing on what it means to practice the presence of God in daily life. Kelly, a Quaker, offers a practical guide to connecting justice, discernment, and doing God’s will.

All Will Be Well: Based on the Classic Spirituality of Julian of Norwich: 30 Days With a Great Spiritual Teacher
Richard Chilson, Julian, and John Kirvan
Excellent series – short, simple, and easily readable. It includes Therese of Lisieux, Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, and others.

Islam in Brief
A Harvard University-produced YouTube video that provides a clear introduction to the basics of Islam. An amazing amount of information helpful to those not of the Islam tradition is contained in this six-minute video.

The Power of Vulnerability
Brené Brown
This 20-minute Ted Talk is a great introduction to the important research and writing Brene’ Brown has done on moving beyond shame and guilt to embracing our humanness and vulnerability.

Meditations of the Heart
Howard Thurman
This is a collection of meditations and prayers by Howard Thurman. A great spiritualist and mystic, he was renowned for the quiet beauty of his reflections on humanity and our relationship with God and connection to the racial justice work of his time.

Love is Letting Go of Fear
Gerald Jampolsky
For me, this is a wonderful classic which makes clear how as I go through every day I make choices based on love and my spirit center/heart or based on fear. It is a very short book, a very easy read and for me quite impactful.

The World’s Newest Major Religion: No Religion
Gabe Bullard, National Geographic
There is an amazing tension between the movement for some away from organized religion and faith in “God” to being present and mindfulness. Just as it is important to understand faiths different than our own, it is important to better understand those who choose a different path.

Where to Find Help

Spiritual Directors International
The field of spiritual direction is not known to many. I have benefitted from early exposure and being connected to a spiritual companion for much of my adult life. To learn more about how a spiritual director might support you in growing spiritually and exploring what spirituality means for you, check out their website and practical resources including connections to spiritual directors.

For more resources, visit the websites of the contemplative centers listed above or those of others in your community.

Important Books and Longer Reads

The Awakened Heart: Opening Yourself to the Love You Need
Gerald May
Gerald May began his career as a psychiatrist and became the research director and authority on contemplation and spirituality for Shalem. This book links our desire to love with our spirituality and practice of God’s constant presence and love.

Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and your World with the Practice of RAIN
Tara Brach
Self-love, for me and many I know, is challenging. Tara Brach, in her Ted Talks, meditations, and books, teaches self-love in ways that are practical and powerful.

The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality
Ronald Rolheiser
A friend recommended this book to his sister. After reading it, she told him it was the first thing that made sense of the Christian faith and practices. I found it that way also.

The Other Side of the Mountain: The Journals of Thomas Merton, Thomas Merton: A Life in Letters, and A Thomas Merton Reader
Thomas Merton, various editors
Thomas Merton is inspiring and practical. I particularly enjoy and learn from reading his journal entries and writings, found in these and other books.

The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day
Dorothy Day
Faith in action is hard and messy. Dorothy Day, like Mother Teresa and other spiritual leaders, model the possibilities of making love the central guide for our actions.

Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers
and Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair
Anne Lamott
Lamott uses humor to make faith and spiritual practices real.

To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings
John O’Donohue
Poetry has a way of making the divine clearer. O’Donohue uses poetry and short essays to that end.

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life
Richard Rohr
A wonderful map of how and why our spiritual practices and lives differ so much from young adulthood through aging and death. I found it helpful to read late in life; I imagine it would be equally helpful to a younger reader.

Abraham Joshua Heschel: Essential Writings
Abraham Heschel, Selected and Edited by Susannah Heschel
Within the Jewish faith, there are strong connections between faith and justice. Abraham Heschel stands out among many Jewish authors for his courage in expressing his faith and the call for action.

Embracing the Call to Spiritual Depth: Gifts for Contemplative Living
Tilden Edwards
Tilden is the founder of Shalem and writes clearly and persuasively about the invitation we all have to experience the presence of God by intentionally “seeing with the eyes of our spiritual heart, and not our ego.”

The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You Grow Older
Kathleen Dowling Singh
This application of Buddhist practices to the inevitable experience of growing older is a great grounding in the choices of embracing or fighting aging.

What Everyone Should Know About Islam and Muslims
Suzanne Haneef
Written by an American Muslim, this work presents a brief, yet comprehensive, survey of the basic teachings on the significance of Islam’s central concept, faith in and submission to God. Recommended by a practicing Muslim friend as a great introduction for those not familiar with Islam beliefs and practices.

The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning
Ernest Kurtz
Kurtz was a leading researcher and writer on the history and practice of the Twelve Steps and its beginnings with Alcoholics Anonymous. This amazing book traces the roots of spirituality in general and Twelve Step spirituality in a way helpful to all.

The Wounded Healer
Henri Nouwen
When Nouwen died, one friend observed that he wrote the same book over and over. And that is why I enjoyed all his books. He embraces our brokenness and connects it so clearly to faith in God’s love.

Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening and The Heart of Centering Prayer
Cynthia Bourgeault
Bourgeault, an Episcopal priest and mystic, makes a form of meditation known as centering prayer accessible to all. For me, there is a direct connection between the daily practice of centering prayer and an opening of my heart to accept God’s love more fully and pass it on more whole heartedly.

Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love
Richard Rohr, Selected and Edited by Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger
As he does so often, Rohr offers language and concrete examples of the possibilities of love and the practices that make love more real.

The Cloister Walk
Kathleen Norris
A Midwest spiritual writer, Norris describes her experience living and praying in a monastery. If you like diaries, personal honesty, and reflection on the big and small issues of life, you will enjoy this classic.

A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles” 
Marianne Williamson
“A Course in Miracles” is a powerful tool for personal growth embraced for decades by those in Twelve Step recovery and other spiritual seekers. Williamson reveals how we each can become a miracle worker by accepting God and by the expression of love in our daily lives.

Other Useful Websites

Joan Chittister
Urban Faith
Spirituality and Practice
Reddit- Atheism
Friendly Atheist
dotMagis Blog
Liberation Theologies
American Psychological Association

About Tom Adams

Tom AdamsTom Adams writes and speaks on topics vital to the intersection of our personal lives with our community and global lives. He has for decades been engaged in and written about nonprofit leadership and transitions, spirituality and spiritual growth, how we each contribute to a more just and equitable world and recovery from addictions and the Twelve Step recovery movement.