The best books on spirituality for understanding one’s life purpose and navigating grief

Barron Steffen Author Of The Final Gift of the Beloved: Her Disappearance-13 Days
By Barron Steffen

Who am I?

Without my longtime commitment to the spiritual path of Siddha Yoga, I am quite sure that I would never have even met my wife Seana for I would not have been ready for her, let alone survived the trials along the way. And I certainly would not have been able to meet the calamity of her sudden death and come to know it as something else entirely. I have discovered the most strange and wonderful thing—that hidden within the death of a loved one may also be her final gift to us. And this is what I wish for you—in your moment of greatest need, though the world feels shattered into a thousand shards—may you remember this possibility and fully receive what the beloved longs to give you in farewell.

I wrote...

The Final Gift of the Beloved: Her Disappearance-13 Days

By Barron Steffen,

Book cover of The Final Gift of the Beloved: Her Disappearance-13 Days

What is my book about?

This intense, moment-by-moment chronicle begins with the officer’s words, “She is deceased.” For the next 13 days following the fatal automobile accident of his wife, the author draws on nearly forty years of study and training with gurus and meditation teachers to discover ecstatic love, save fractured relationships, and glimpse a greater arc and purpose for being alive.

The Final Gift of the Beloved: Her Disappearance—13 Days is the story of one man’s sudden, astonishing brush with devastation and the Divine under the most heartbreaking of circumstances. A love story disguised as a tragedy, Steffen weaves extraordinarily poignant and powerful experiences with honesty and revelations that will change lives. Along with intense pain and emotion, prepare yourself for great beauty and transcendent insight, for nothing is as it appears.

The books I picked & why

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Sadhana of the Heart: A Collection of Talks on Spiritual Life

By Gurumayi Chidvilasananda,

Book cover of Sadhana of the Heart: A Collection of Talks on Spiritual Life

Why this book?

Uplifting, inspired, essential—in this volume of timeless wisdom, my guru Gurumayi teaches students about Siddha Yoga sadhana, the spiritual study and practices that lead to liberation.

Siddha Yoga is a spiritual path. It feels important to understand that it is a philosophy, not a religion, and it includes people from many different faiths. For myself, at its heart, Siddha Yoga sees the highest reality as divine Consciousness that dwells equally in all people. On the Siddha Yoga path, seekers come to recognize this, their innermost Self, experientially.

Destiny of Souls: New Case Studies of Life Between Lives

By Michael Newton,

Book cover of Destiny of Souls: New Case Studies of Life Between Lives

Why this book?

A few years ago when my wife suddenly died, on the second day I spoke to a dear friend who also happens to be a longtime monk on my spiritual path. He mentioned a book by a psychologist who took people to see the greater arc of their soul’s journey—their ‘lives between lives’. That doctor was Dr. Michael Newton, and this is my favorite of his series.

At the time, reading it had a profound effect on my growing understanding of the greater arc of the human soul and provided an immense sense of peace. Above all, it soothed my tattered mind at a moment when life felt incomprehensible and helped me make sense of our larger purpose for being here even while still grieving. Through 70 case histories of real people who were regressed into their ‘lives between lives,’ Dr. Newton reveals life continuing on the other side, ways that spirits connect with and comfort the living, and much more.

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

By Michael A. Singer,

Book cover of The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

Why this book?

Who are you? Are you a physical body? A collection of experiences and memories? This wonderful book explains in very simple yet profound teachings many of the aspects at the intersection between daily and spiritual life. I found this book to fit effortlessly alongside my own spiritual path, exploring the question of who we are and arriving at much the same conclusion—that our eternal identity is to be found inside us in our own awareness. By tapping into traditions of meditation and mindfulness, Singer offers a highly accessible glimpse into how putting our attention onto our awareness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization.

The Gift of Nothing

By Patrick McDonnell,

Book cover of The Gift of Nothing

Why this book?

The Gift of Nothing, written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell, happens to be one of my absolute favorite books. Nestled like a rare bird in between Captain Underpants and Star Wars at a book sale in an elementary school cafeteria, I made a gift of it to my wife, Seana, and in time the story of Mooch and Earl grew into a cherished part of ours as well.

Mooch (a cat) is looking for the perfect gift for her best friend, Earl (a pooch). She wonders, What do you get someone who has everything? It dawns on her. Nothing! So, after looking everywhere for nothing and not finding it, she finally gets a really big empty box (because it was a lot of nothing). When Earl opens it, he declares, “There’s nothing here!” “Yesh!” says Mooch. “Nothing ... but me and you!”

I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

By Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj,

Book cover of I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Why this book?

"Love says: 'I am everything'. Wisdom says: 'I am nothing'. Between the two my life flows.”

I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj is widely considered to be a modern spiritual classic. Through a compilation of talks with the Indian sage in the early 1970s, this collection absolutely delivers. Over the years, I have contemplated specific excerpts from this book time and again marveling how each repetition seems to take me deeper into a silent space where understanding patiently awaits me just behind the words. This book brings to mind metaphors such as “the layers of an onion” or “why temples have a sanctum sanctorum”, appropriate images for the sublime experience of this rare work. I regard this text as existing right alongside other major contributions to the spiritual advancement of humanity.

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