Spituality – what even is it? I’ve viewed myself as someone who is spiritual for quite some time. We often here a comment along the lines of “I’m not religious but I am spiritual”. While I had a sense of what I meant by this, I was also very aware of my inability to fully articulate what I meant. And this always bothered me (admittedly only to a small degree – after all, it is only now I’ve put some actual effort into exploring this more!).
So this blog is just me, exploring what was out there in the research on spirituality. I hope to update the blog, or make it a series, as I read more on the topic. I am mindful that heading to pubmed may not be the best resource for such a topic, but habits are hard to break! I have just ordered Waking Up by Sam Harris which looks like it will be a great book to help me on this quest.
My desire to write this blog has also recently been enhanced by a recent blog on wisdom. Some of the literature states that spirituality may actually be a component of wisdom. Want to be wise? Get spiritual!
Suffering is defined as the result of not accepting reality as it is.
What Is Spirituality?
Below are some of my favouite definitions of spirituality that I came across:
Spirituality is a personal search for meaning and purpose in life, which may or may not be related to religion. It entails connection to self-chosen and or religious beliefs, values, and practices that give meaning to life, thereby inspiring and motivating individuals to achieve their optimal being. This connection brings faith, hope, peace, and empowerment. The results are joy, forgiveness of oneself and others, awareness and acceptance of hardship and mortality, a heightened sense of physical and emotional well-being, and the ability to transcend beyond the infirmities of existence.
Spirituality is the indefinable urge to reach beyond the limits of ordinary human existence that is bounded by unconscious forces and self-interest, and to discover higher values in ourselves and to live them consistently in our relationships and roles. It involves developing practices that aid us in rising and expanding, perhaps beyond the merely good to the transcendent, in the process of looking inwards rather than outwards for our own morality and guidance. Above all, it means becoming a more loving and compassionate human being, in thought, word and deed.
One’s striving for and experience of connection with oneself, connectedness with others and nature and connectedness with the transcendent.
The aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred
As well as finding these definitions, I found a great paper that discussed certain attributes of spirituality which include:
- Belief and faith
- Inner strength and peace
Belief and Faith
Belief and faith could entail believing in a higher power or God. It could also entail believing in significant relationships, self-chosen values/goals, or believing in the world without acknowledging God (Burnard 1988, Carson 1989).
Inner Strength and peace
Inner strength and peace come from having faith and a belief system.
How well one is connected to oneself, a supreme purpose or meaning, a higher power, or significant relationships. According to Stoll (1989), connectedness has vertical and horizontal components. The vertical component involves a person’s relationship with a higher power or God and the horizontal component is one’s relationships with others, the environment, and the self.
Connectedness with oneself is expressed by aspects such as authenticity, inner harmony/inner peace, consciousness, self-knowledge and experiencing and searching for meaning in life.
Connectedness with others and with nature is related to compassion, caring, gratitude and wonder. Connectedness with the transcendent includes connectedness with something or someone beyond the human level, such as the universe, transcendent reality, a higher power or God. Aspects related to this last theme are awe, hope, sacredness, adoration of the transcendent and transcendental experience
As a result, it comes with no surprise that a lack of connection is discussed in the literature as a source of loneliness, and to spiritual pain/distress.
Can We Assess Our Level Of Spirituality?
The most frequently used empirical referent is the spiritual well-being scale (SWB) by Paloutzian and Ellison (1982).
Many spiritual assessment tools are available. For example:
- The JAREL spiritual well-being scale is a 21-item Likert-type format assessment tool designed to clinically assess individuals’ spiritual concerns and strengths (Hungelmann et al. 1996).
- Dossey et al. (1995) offer a 55-item spiritual assessment tool assessing: meaning and purpose in life, interconnectedness, and inner strength.
- In primary care settings, the spirituality pictorial charts developed by McBride et al. (1998b) provide a quick, easy, and nonintimidating method of assessing spirituality. The spirituality pictorial charts are assessment tools, which contain questions that may be used to assess individuals’ spiritual practices and experiences. The spirituality charts have been found to have high reliability and validity
What Are Some Of The Benefits Of Spirituality?
Spirituality has been associated with peace, hope, strength, and a sense of well-being, which facilitated individuals recovery from health ailments. Other benefits of spirituality indicated by research include a restored sense of well-being and recovery from psychological conditions, such as sexual abuse, substance abuse, and homelessness.
Illness creates a loss of identity for many, leading to psychic distress and adding to their suffering
So can supporting someone explore their spirituality, when suffering with a chronic illness help them establish an identity again? Can it reduce the psychic distress? If spirituality includes connection with nature, and with others, then how many health care practitioners are already enhancing the spirituality of their clients? We already discuss ‘forest bathing’ and the valuable role of healthy relationships.
But that’s enough for today. I hope this blog has been interesting and helpful. It has certainly helped me figure a few things out!
I am fascinated by the interconnectedness of all these things though. Wisdom is connected with spirituality. Spirituality is connected with wisdom. Both are connected with self-awareness. To be self-aware requires sound understanding of our values. Spirituality is connected with nature, and with people.
It makes me wonder whether, based on so much of my reading on psychedelics creating huge shifts in awareness around connectivity, whether the more we feel connected (to ourselves, our fellow humans, nature, earth, the universe) we can establish greater faith, greater inner strength, and greater peace/clarity around our true values.
Is this why the counter culture of the 1960’s/70’s came about – the wide spread use of psycchedics and their ability to make us much more conected with nature and the universe?
- Towards clarification of the meaning of spirituality: click here.
- Spirituality, religiosity, aging and health in global perspective: A review: click here.
- Measuring spirituality as a universal human experience: a review of spirituality questionnaires: click here.
- Healing, spirituality and integrative medicine: click here.
- Waking Up by Sam Harris