Reads for the Head and Heart, July 2022


New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton (1961)

This is a very smart book, filled with wisdom about the spiritual life, from a Christian (Roman Catholic and monastic) perspective. A lot of this material anticipated both the rediscovery of contemplative practices in the West and the shift towards personal authenticity that happened in the 1960s and ‘70s, so this book felt very relevant, despite being too told to be new and too recent to be a ‘classic’. I personally got far more out of the first half the book, which deals with the theology that lies behind Christian contemplation than I did out of the more practical second half, but this could be because so many people have written on the practicalities of the contemplative life since this was published.

Read this if you’re interested in:

  • Twentieth-Century Roman Catholic spirituality
  • Monasticism
  • Contemplative and meditative practices
  • Embodiment
  • Integration and authentic selfhood


There is no evil in anything created by God, nor can anything of His become an obstacle to our union with Him. The obstacle is in our “self,” that is to say in the tenacious need to maintain our separate, external, egotistic will. It is when we refer all things to this outward and false “self” that we alienate ourselves from reality and from God. It is then the false self that is our god, and we love everything for the sake of this self. (21)

My Rating, 9/10

Monthly Roundup

  • Jewish Wisdom for Daily Life: Sayings of Rabbi Menahem Mendl of Kotzk, ed. Miriam Chaikin (2014), 6/10: This collection of sayings was a little disappointing; there were some gems, but most were more like truisms that didn’t need to be immortalized in a book (Judaism, Sayings, daily living)

Know yourself, yes, but don’t stop there. Repair yourself.

  • Still Stace, Stacey Chomiak (2021), 10/10: See my full review, here. (Christianity, Memoir, LGBTQ2S+)

Peace. Full, soft, healing … peace. In that moment, I finally allowed this truth to enter my heart and resonate deep within. The fears in my head and fears of what God’s people thought of me were no match for the perfect love of God himself.

  • Spirituality and the Awakening Self, David Benner (2012), 9/10: This is a wonderful approach to growth, development, and integration from a Christian, Jungian perspective. One wonderful aspect of this work is that it takes the role of community (family, friends, church, etc.) in growth seriously. (spiritual development, Christianity, Jung, integration, community)

We either open each other up to the transformational possibilities that we encounter in life or close each other down. Sadly, it seems to me that much of the emphasis on spiritual formation and transformation that exists in Christianity does the latter, as do the ways we relate to each other in Christian communities and churches.

  • You Can Heal Your Heart, David Kessler and Louise L. Hay (2014), 8/10: This is an interesting duo of authors, with Kessler having been a colleague of Elisabeth Kubler Ross, who developed the famous five stages of grief, and Hay having been a prominent figure in the ‘new age’ and self help space. Here they collaborate on a good, basic introduction to the process of putting life back together after loss (grief and loss, relationships, healing)

A broken heart is also an open heart.

  • Handbook for an Integrated Life, Sharon Schneider (NEW RELEASE! 2022), 9/10: It may seem impossible to go against the flow of our culture of more, but Schneider offers some helpful, and gentle approaches that can can help us live with greater alignment between our values and actions. This will be of particular use for American readers, since many of the resources provided are directed toward an American audience. (Sustainability, Values Integration, Ecology, Economics)

But what does being a ‘good person’ even mean? For me, at the most fundamental level it means embracing shared prosperity instead of lopsided benefits for me and my inner circle of family, friends, and those who share my political ideology.

  • The Upside of Uncertainty, Nathan Furr and Susannah Harmon Furr (NEW RELEASE!  2022), 10/10: In an increasingly topsy-turvy world, understanding how to navigate uncertainty is becoming a required skill set for all of us. In this wonderful book, the Furrs offer readers a timely and needful toolkit to help us do just this. The tools are very accessible and practical, useful for both personal and professional development. (Resilience, Uncertainty, Personal Development, Psychology, Leadership, Surviving being Human in the 2020s)

Discovering the upside of uncertainty starts with undergoing a radical shift in perspective: instead of fearing and avoiding the unknown, you recognize and embrace it as the origin of possibility.

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

%d bloggers like this: