January Reading List: Spiritual Practices

In The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind, Cynthia Bourgeault writes, “It’s not about right belief; it’s about right practice.” In Western culture, we’ve drained religion of its contemplative mystery, and we argue about “right belief,” divide ourselves along the lines of belief, and profess belief publicly together in a space of worship.

According to the Pew Research Center, religious affiliation and attendance are declining in the United States. As individual and collective identity within religious traditions wanes, where will we take our existential questions, our spiritual longings, our efforts to understand ourselves, the other, and divine mystery? How will we learn to cultivate rich lives or do deep work?

The religious tradition of my upbringing did not afford this sort of space or grant this sort of insight. More often than not, I left church fuming about the patriarchy, from a very young age. Now, as an adult, who has studied religion, I’m learning to piece together a life grounded by practices, which in the words of Richard Rohr, teach me “how to see.”

From my experience, still so new and still unfurling, practices knit mystery – the sacred – to the mundane. It feels more solid, like a richer way to live.

For Clerestory’s January’s book recommendations, we’re offering texts on spiritual practices to help you make space for the sacred in your life.


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About the author

Sarah James

Sarah James is the founder and director of Clerestory. A graduate of Middlebury and Yale, she identifies as a biracial South Indian-American woman of color and studies contemplative religion at the Living School for Action and Contemplation. Her writing appears elsewhere in Darling, Relevant, The Porch, and others.

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