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What Even is Spirituality?

Spirituality is a very expansive and broad topic with space for many different perspectives.

Generally, spirituality includes a sense of connection to something greater than ourselves, and typically it involves a search for the meaning of life.

It is a universal human experience—something that touches all people, animals, and things.

People may describe a spiritual experience as transcendent, sacred, expansive or a deep sense of interconnectedness, feeling alive or awake.

Some may find that their spiritual life is intricately linked to their association with a church, temple, mosque, or synagogue.

Others may pray or find comfort in a personal relationship with God or a higher power.

Still many people seek meaning through their connection with art or nature.

Your personal definition of spirituality may change throughout your life, similarly with your purpose, adapting to your own experiences and relationships.

Experts’ definitions of spirituality

Christina Puchalski, MD, Director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, contends that "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."

According to Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary, researchers and authors of The Spiritual Brain, “spirituality means any experience that is thought to bring the experiencer into contact with the divine (in other words, not just any experience that feels meaningful).”

Nurses Ruth Beckmann Murray and Judith Proctor Zenter write that “the spiritual dimension tries to be in harmony with the universe, and strives for answers about the infinite, and comes into focus when the person faces emotional stress, physical illness, or death.”

The Relationship Between Spirituality and Religion

While spirituality may incorporate elements of religion, it is generally a broader concept. Religion and spirituality are not the same thing, nor are they entirely distinct from one another. The best way to understand this is to think of two overlapping circles like this:

In spirituality, the questions are: where do I personally find meaning, connection, and value? In religion, the questions are: what is true and right?

Where the circles overlap is the individual experience, which affects the way you think, feel, and act.


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