"In the final analysis, both parenting and mysticism come down to love. This is so basic and so often repeated that it is a cliché. But — precisely because it is so fundamental — how can I write a book on either parenting or the mystical path without clearly reinforcing its importance?

"The task of both the parent and the mystic is to open channels though which love may more fully enter the world. The mystic does this through the instruments of his or her own heart and mind and body. The parent does this by offering the world new individuals in whom the light and blessing and power of love can find new forms of expression.

"When I see my children having faith in themselves, listening to each other, fostering each other, and acting in compassionate ways, that is when I feel successful as a parent. If I see my children loving in ways that transcend my own — opening their hearts to the world in ways that I may have been unable to do — and if I can therefore learn from them more about being loving, then I have fulfilled my role both as parent and as mystic. How they embody that love, that presence of the Beloved, in their lives — whatever their professions, their vocations, their hobbies, or their callings — is up to them. Being able to embody it is the gift I wish to give them. It is the greatest inheritance of all, one that my parents and Julie's parents passed on to us in good measure, and one that defines our commitment to our children. It the legacy that will help them define the culture in which they live and the future they will co-create.

"Love is the place where the parent and mystic meet. It is the center, the attractor, that connects them and gives them meaning and power. You can have all the elements of a spiritual practice, and you can do all the things that a good parent is supposed to do, but if love is not there, you only have forms from which spirit is absent. You have bone and blood but no soul.

"The bone and blood are important, too. When I think of love, I think of something robust and intelligent, vigorous and skillful, grounded and wise. It is not a vague feeling or a diffused emotion. It is embodied in action, in behavior, in relationship, and in responsibility. Love as a feeling is not enough; what we want is love as the full-bodied expression of a life lived compassionately and intelligently with a sense of its connectedness with a greater whole.

"Love is spirit incarnate: powerful, courageous, and splendid. It is a light in the dark times, a spring in the dry times, a fire in the cold times, and a gathering of allies in the fearful and questioning times. It is not ignorant of consequences or uncaring of effects. It is passionate and disciplined, wild and domesticated, a demanding task and a delightful play. It is a paradox, a presence with many faces.

"Love is also very simple and immediate: a snuggly hug, a lap, a warm washcloth on a teary face. It is the gift of time in a busy life, a word of advice, a word of praise, a listening ear, a prayerful heart, an unbreakable commitment.

"Parents and mystics both come to know the many faces of love as they explore and serve the mystery of an emerging soul, on the one hand, or an emerging sacredness, on the other. When all is said and done, it is the same emergence in both instances.

"And the same love that makes it so."