Spirituality encompasses a wide range of beliefs, practices and experiences. It can include a desire to understand life’s mysteries and an emphasis on the sacred and the transcendent. It can also involve rituals and prayer, the search for meaning and purpose in life, a focus on relationships with self, others and the environment, and feelings of connection, inner peace, compassion and support.
A large portion of Americans describe themselves as spiritual, and many of these people report engaging in a variety of spiritual activities. For example, half of the population reports regularly praying or meditating, while three-in-ten say they believe in spirits or unseen spiritual forces and have experienced one of these forces themselves. In addition, more than a quarter say they have had a strong feeling that someone who has died is communicating with them.
The ways that people nurture and express their spirituality are often influenced by culture. For example, a woman from the Goddess religion may regard her daily activities—walking in nature, playing music and attending community gatherings—as spiritual, while a man practicing Zen may view his work and family life as spiritual.
When considering how you and your clients define spirituality, try to identify the cultural influences that have shaped them. To help you with this exercise, look at the word/phrases below and then draw a line between them and the center word “spirituality.” A thick black line indicates a strong relationship; a dotted line indicates a weak or distant relationship; and a squiggly line shows a conflictual or opposing relationship.