"Spend time in a flower garden. Stay there as long as you wish, but make sure your visit is long enough to take in the various charms that the world of blossoms and petals provides. You can sit in a chair or on the grass, lie down looking up at the flowers from below, or walk around. However you choose to spend your time, be aware that you are a guest in someone else's home — nature's — so act accordingly.

"If the day is warm and sunny, savor the rays and imagine how the flowers must feel at this very moment. Look closely at the variety of blooms, at the different shapes and colors, at the way the individual blossoms grow out of their leafy sheaths. Now use your sense of smell to take in the stunning array of fragrance, all of which can be divinely overpowering.

"Keep an eye out for the various animal life that also lives in the garden, the birds and squirrels, the insects that fly, the ones that crawl. Notice how intently they go about their business, how they move from place to place trying not to notice you but in fact finding that task difficult. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds of the garden, the chirping and humming, and the movement of the stems and leaves in the mild breeze.

"Now see if you can transcend your individual senses and feel the presence of the garden inside you. Try to become just another flower, at home in the garden as if you were in your own house or place of worship."

— Alan Epstein in How to Have More Love in Your Life

When we included this passage in Spiritual Literacy and later saw it illustrated with beautiful close-up photography in the "Beauty" episode of the Spiritual Literacy DVDs, we decided that Alan Epstein was really onto something. Gardens are special places — spiritual places — because they engage our senses, evoke our sense of wonder, bath us in beauty, and connect us to a wider nonhuman world. A garden can be a place of play and of transformation. It is a setting where we can celebrate both The Mystery and our own larger being.

This map points you in the direction of quotes, films, books, excerpts, and audios that show how being in a garden can be a spiritual experience and gardening can be a spiritual practice.