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What is Spirituality?

Feb 21, 2019

Dr. John Dyben, DHSc, MCAP, CMHP | Chief Clinical Officer

When I would ask that question ten years ago, most people would respond by describing religion.

Today, my experience is that there is a more common perception that spirituality and religion are two different things.  However, when I ask people now to describe the difference between religion and spirituality, I find that most cannot.  They know the two are unique and different constructs but actually defining spirituality in a concrete, operational manner is very difficult.

Part of the confusion for some approaching 12-step recovery is that terms like “God”, “prayer”, “meditation”, “moral”, and “spiritual awakening”, are words that are used in the context of a spiritual program, but were almost always introduced to people early on in life in the context of religious structure.  For this reason, the following definition of spirituality becomes very important because it provides access to people of any faith, no faith, or confused faith to a spiritual program that transcends religion.

So, imagine being in a room of 30 people in which each person is asked about their religion.  Some would describe having a religion, others would describe having walked away from a religion, others would describe being without religion and currently seeking for the right one, and finally, others would describe no interest in religion whatsoever, past, present or future.   In other words, religion is something that one can have or not have.  It is something that we can gain, lose, find, or reject.

Spirituality, on the other hand, is something that every living human being has.

The word spirituality comes from the Latin “spiritus” which literally means “breath”, signifying Life.  The most important thing we have is this gift of Life.  It then follows that if we have this amazing gift of Life, then we all have a way that it is being manifested in and through us.  So, the simplest definition of spirituality is: ”Spirituality is one’s Way of Life”.

Given this definition, we become less interested in asking questions about theological beliefs and the only important question becomes “Is my Way of Life one that is healthy or one that is unhealthy?”

With this question at the forefront, we propose that healthy spirituality is characterized by connection, mindful awareness, and celebration of Life.  Unhealthy spirituality, then, is characterized by disconnect, lack of awareness and denigration of Life.

In recovery, healthy spirituality is evident when one is living out honesty, accountability, responsibility, and a genuine connectedness with self, others, and all of Life.

Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for mental illnesses and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting wellness. For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1033.

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