What Is Spirituality?


Spirituality can encompass a wide range of experiences and beliefs – often tied to religion but sometimes not. The breadth of this area and lack of an operational definition makes it challenging for researchers and health care professionals to develop and assess spirituality. It’s important to distinguish between the cognitive or philosophic dimension of spirituality and the experiential and emotional dimensions such as the sense of meaning, purpose in life, and well-being.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs offers one way to view the spiritual journey: beginning with physiological, basic biological needs; moving toward self-actualization, where the search for meaning and satisfaction in life take center stage; then reaching a state of transcendence – an awareness that there is a greater good that one can connect with and be a part of.

For some, this process is a long and winding road, including many ups and downs. For others, the path is more of a sudden experience, such as astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s “calling” when he saw Earth from space and felt a profound connection to humanity as a whole.

Regardless of the type of spirituality you choose, the core principles remain the same: embracing what it means to be human, including the negative, and opening your heart and feeling empathy for others. You can engage in a spiritual practice through many different activities and practices such as meditation, mindfulness, prayer, volunteer work, focusing on your values, or simply by taking time to reflect on what matters most in your life.

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