What Is Spirituality?


Spirituality refers to deep, often religious feelings and beliefs. It also includes an inner sense of peace, purpose and connection to others and the world at large. It’s a process of becoming aligned with our soul, which means all parts of our lives come together: our relationships work better, we’re doing work that’s meaningful and fulfilling, and our mental, physical and emotional health are in balance.

But the word spirituality can mean different things to people — it can be associated with new age beliefs and practices like psychic powers, astrology, healing and all things supernatural. For some it can mean religious practice, following a particular religion and its laws and traditions. For others it may be a desire to connect to something bigger than themselves, and to find meaning in their life through spiritual practices like meditation, yoga and prayer.

Our review of scientific literature showed that many definitions of spirituality have been proposed. However, these definitions are not consistent with one another, making it difficult to understand what spirituality actually is. We propose a framework (Figure 2) that represents the dimensions of spirituality found in the literature.

A dimension of spirituality is the sacred — the belief that something, whether it’s an object or experience, is imbued with divine-like qualities such as transcendence, immanence, boundlessness or ultimacy. This can be seen in all religions. For example, the 13th-century German mystic Meister Eckhart said that everything in the universe carries a spiritual presence, including rocks, trees and clouds.

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