Spirituality means different things to different people.
It may include (a search for) one’s ultimate beliefs and values; a sense of meaning and a purpose in life; a sense of connectedness; identity and awareness; and for some people, religion.
It may be understood at an individual or population level. (Egan, et al.,2011)
For many people this meaning making is done beyond religious traditions. For some there is a pick and mix approach, drawing from religions alongside philosophy, art, science and music.
Spirituality is 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 (Puchalski, et aI., 2009).
These definitions sound positive, but spirituality, particularly in healthcare, is up for debate in the academic literature. Some say it’s a construction, ill defined and not properly researched. Others say their research shows spirituality is a valuable and overlooked aspect of healthcare.
However spirituality is constructed or packaged, the challenge is to ensure that it is backed up by solid, academic research.
I’m not saying that science can explain everything, but I think we have to use a mix of methods, including science to help us explore and explain what we mean. Think of it like this …. studying art helps us see how paintings are created, a way to understand more about the materials, textures, colours and symbolism used. Knowing these things doesn’t mean that the painting is any less an art form or that there hasn’t been an energy in the artist that is hard to define.
Neither does it dismiss the idea that symbolism may come from a deep connectivity in humanity that we need to learn more about. What it could mean though is that we are progressively learning more about the human condition and can adjust our living accordingly. For more information about spirituality from a New Zealand perspective check out the Spirituality and Wellbeing website here.