The Spirit of Gardening, by Nancy Mair (Crystal Clarity, Nevada City, CA), 2005, $15

This is no ordinary gardening book. Stripped of the encyclopedia of plants and the discussion of fertilizers and pH levels, what remains is a text that teaches how to put you into your garden. "The essence of gardening is creating and caring for a garden that is personally fulfilling – a garden that reflects what you wish to feel inside." In this delightful book containing gorgeous full-color images of gardens, plants and environments to inspire every personality, Nancy Mair guides you through creating your dream garden to meet your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. Do you want to feel comforted? Are you seeking refuge and tranquility? Do you want a place to play? Your garden can either reflect or compliment your personality, but should harmonize with both the design of your house and your neighbor’s landscape. If you want a garden filled with energy, add playful elements like wind chimes, mobiles and even a place for the cat to climb and claw. If you are always on the go and want a place to relax, a still water pond can manifest the calm you seek. If you are an early riser, your garden can feature flowers that bloom in the morning and are complimented by the glow of first light. Covering a wide range of topics such as scent, visual mystery, vignettes from windows and spigots, this spirited book approaches gardening from a unique perspective.

The Secret Gateway: Modern Theosophy and the Ancient Wisdom Tradition, by Edward Abdill (Quest Books, Wheaton, IL), 2005, $15.95

For those interested in philosophy and spirituality who have not yet ventured into Theosophy, this text puts all the pieces together in such a beautifully precise way that what was once disjointed or uncertain about life becomes clear and flowing. Edward Abdill, using contemporary and engaging language, boils the gigantic and intellectual writings of Helena Blavatsky down to their essence: a worldview that appeals to both reason and the heart. As "a synthesis of principles from the wisdom tradition that has run through all the great cultures of humanity," Theosophy’s writings quote equally from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu traditions, to directly address the nature of consciousness and its interplay with physical reality. The teachings reveal how the system works as a whole, moving from raw consciousness (atma) through spiritual intuition, the mind, emotions, etheric double, prana, and finally to the physical body. Along the way Abdill explains what happens after physical death, why we choose to reincarnate, the evolution of consciousness, and the true nature of evil (the result of "reasoning man who dissociates himself from nature"). Helena Blavatsky, the primary figure in the founding of Theosophy, traveled the globe in the 1800s (no small feat) in search of understanding her own psychic powers, thus receiving teachings in all the great spiritual traditions. As an independent and outspoken woman, she was quite controversial, but maintained many well-known followers, including L. Frank Baum (author of The Wizard of Oz), Thomas Edison and Henry Wallace (Vice President under Franklin Roosevelt). Although very serious, her writings are full of passion and love. When asked, "What is the most important aspect of a spiritual life?" Blavatsky replied, "common sense," followed by "a sense of humor." Abdill’s summary of modern Theosophy breathes accessibility into the principles, generating a great number of "a-ha" moments along the path to enlightenment.

The Fasting Handbook: Dining from an Empty Bowl, by Jeremy Safron (Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA), 2005, $11.95

"Fasting brings us closer to ourselves and offers us the opportunity to press the reset button on our body and life. By fasting, we can create new beginnings." Toxins enter our bodies every day through the air we breathe, the food we eat, and even the thoughts we think. While the body is able to process toxins, over time they build up and wreak havoc in the body. When we choose to live and eat simply, we allow the body to focus its work on cleaning out the old debris, rejuvenating and functioning optimally. Jeremy Safron, a living foods health practitioner and advisor to raw food restaurants around the country, offers this appropriately small book, absent of fluff but full of vital fasting information and suggestions to meet your lifestyle and desires. With options of fasting from speech, media, people, sleep, sex, sweets or your favorite toxin, what is left to consume? Depending on your physical needs, you can choose among fasting on air (not recommended for most people), water, juices, sprouts, master cleaner (a special lemonade), and more. To properly prepare you for your experience, Safron reviews the basics of the body’s organs and how to start and end a fast properly. He includes schedules for several fasting programs, emphasizing the need to gather all materials prior to the fast. Standing firmly in the world of raw vegan foods, you won’t find any mention of teas or brown rice. Instead, coconut water (almost identical to human blood plasma), wheat grass and juices are stressed – along with love, "the greatest food there is and the most important ingredient in any meal." When even your sweat smells fragrant, you will be thankful for Safron’s advice.

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