Ever since I can remember, I’ve been plagued with existential anxiety. Why am I here? What’s my purpose? I am sure these are questions all of us may grapple with at some point in our lives, but for me the questioning has been constant.
I am so grateful to these spiritual leaders for their transformative work, which calmed my soul and helped me allow myself to just “be”. Below are the elements of their work that most nourished me and that I hope will resonate with you as well.
1. Eckhart Tolle
Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now changed my life. While the book teaches you how to be present in the moment, its most impactful concept is that you are not your mind. Tolle explains why you shouldn’t identify yourself with your problems because when you do that, they become a part of your ego and that means you’ll never be rid of them, because the loss of problems will mean the loss of self.
He also teaches you how to use your body as way to keep you present in the moment, and how to truly listen to someone else without being in your own head. Finally, Tolle explains that you can feel peace without feeling happiness, and that the source of drama in your life can be traced to the lack of acceptance.
Being from India, I have a bias towards gurus as so many are charlatans. Sadhguru isn’t- he is perhaps one of the wisest and yet the most practical spiritual teachers I have encountered. His teachings are rooted in simplicity and honesty. “A human being, the more intelligent he becomes, the more confused he gets – every step is a confusion. Only an idiot is dead sure. The sign of intelligence is that you are constantly wondering. Idiots are always dead sure about every damn thing they are doing in their life.”
And he’s ultimately practical: “If you want to cross the street, you don’t need to think positive thoughts or start chanting a mantra to avoid the cars and prevent yourself from getting hit. All you need to do is see clearly and look where you’re going. It’s the same with anything: If you want to succeed, you simply need to see things the way they are and deal with them as they are, and not how they could, should or might be.”
3. Louise Hay
Louise Hay published Heal Your Body in 1976, long before it was fashionable to discuss the connection between the mind and body, which is what Ayurveda is based on. “You Can Heal Your Life” is the book I would recommend as its shows the path out of victimhood and to self-love without guilt.
My favorite quote from the book is: “The past has no power over us. It doesn’t matter how long we have had a negative pattern. The point of power is in the present moment. What a wonderful thing to realize! We can begin to be free in this moment!”
4. Paulo Coelho
When I picked up Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, I didn’t expect it to be spiritually uplifting. It was. Coelho’s writing has deeply spiritual messages of detachment:
“When I had nothing to lose, I had everything” – Paulo Coelho
The laws of attraction:
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” – Paulo Coelho
And allowing yourself to make mistakes:
“Everything tells me that I am about to make a wrong decision, but making mistakes is just part of life. What does the world want of me? Does it want me to take no risks, to go back to where I came from because I didn’t have the courage to say “yes” to life?” – Paulo Coelho
5. Deepak Chopra
There are several Deepak Chopra books that I like, but the one that I found particularly interesting was The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. While the emphasis on success doesn’t feel particularly spiritual – it’s the point of the book. Unless you’re a hermit, you need to be comfortable reconciling both economic and spiritual prosperity.
The laws Chopra details could very well be the laws of life and the one I liked most was the law of least effort where Chopra suggests that when our actions are motivated by love and not the desires of the ego, we generate excess energy that can be used to create what we want. In contrast, seeking power over others or trying to get their approval consumes a lot of energy. Acting from the higher self brings abundance.
6. The Dalai Lama
If you haven’t read The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, I would highly recommend getting yourself a copy today. It’s the Dalai Lama and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s gift to humanity. The book explores how to find and choose joy amid all the chaos, depravity, and sorrow encountered in our everyday lives.
My favorite quote from the book is: "We suffer from a perspectival myopia. As a result, we are left nearsighted, unable to see our experience in a larger way. When we confront a challenge, we often react to the situation with fear and anger. The stress can make it hard for us to step back and see other perspectives and solutions ... But if we try, we can become less fixated, or attached, to use the Buddhist term, to one outcome and can use more skillful means to handle the situation. We can see that in the most seemingly limiting circumstance we have choice and freedom."
Are there spiritual leaders whose works have transformed your lives? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!