"My spiritual life is a rich blend, even as I feel drawn to and at home with some religious traditions over others. Christianity is my family, and the church is the place where I celebrate Jesus and honor the special place he holds in my life.

"Along with church services, I also regularly attend synagogue services, a practice I began after a Jewish congregation invited my church to participate in an interfaith service which piqued my interest in Judaism. I've grown to love Judaism and I honor the unique place it holds in my life.

"Yet while Christianity and Judaism strengthen my relationship with God, I began to yearn for a spiritual path that would lead me deeper into the mysteries of faith and would allow me to taste the esoteric worlds of which the great mystics wrote. I longed to plunge beneath the surface of religion, into the mysteries that lie at its heart. I wanted a spiritual path with greater depth, rituals, and disciplines that would lead me through the mystical worlds, or spiritual levels, experienced by the mystics. I grew to cherish the ecumenism, unity, and love that the mystics emphasize.

"Because I'd spent most of my life thinking in terms of black and white, with little mystery, and few questions, I felt deeply drawn to the mystical life of Sufism, with its particular rituals, passion, lack of dogma, and its poets and teachers, that intensely attracted me.

"The branch with which I chose to affiliate has a universal emphasis. Before I received initiation, for instance, I sat down with the shaykh who is now my Sufi teacher and asked him if being a dervish, as Sufis are more commonly called, would conflict with my connection to Christianity and Judaism.

" 'Sufism can be practiced within any religion,' Sherif Baba told me. 'It is the heart of religion.' . . .

"The strongest attraction of Sufism for me has been, though, its emphasis on the romance of Divine Love."