Tag: culture

Spiritual Reflection – Spiritual / Human Wellbeing

Spiritual Reflection – Spiritual / Human Wellbeing

What  makes for spiritual, or human, wellbeing?

A report in 2013 came up with these suggestions:

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…

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…

Spirituality can be considered as being essentially about primary relationships. In this regard there are at least four qualitative relationships that express spirituality, and these are the relationships between: people and their environment (land, mountains, sea, sky, etc); people and other people in terms of justice and love (families, communities, nations, etc); people and  their and other persons’ heritage (ancestry, culture, history, etc); and people and the numinous (that which is other, beyond the physical, transcendent, what some people refer to as God.)

(from https://spiritualityandwellbeing.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/spirituality-and-wellbeing-discussion-paper-2013-final.pdf)

All of these suggestions seemed helpful and sensible. 

Informed by this together with my own reading and experiences, the following seven dimensions of human wellbeing seemed to resonate:

The physical/bodily dimension

Physical health and wellness, diet, exercise and the physical environments of our lives

The emotional/spiritual dimension

The ability to experience and express the full range of emotions, both ‘negative’ emotions like grief, fear, anxiety, and ‘positive’ emotions like contentment, joy, love, hope

The mental/spiritual dimension

Our understanding ourselves and others; our beliefs, values and convictions about meaning; ‘conscience’

The relational / connection dimension

The context of our relationships, with ourselves, with others, with the natural world, with our culture and the transcendent (see below)

The will / freedom dimension

The ability and power to make decisions and choices

The historical/cultural dimension

The influence of history and culture – both familial, local, national and international

The transcendent dimension

The role of the unseen / ‘God’ and beliefs about the soul / the spirit, even if these are beliefs that reject these concepts.

Spiritual Reflection: Beyond the Here and Now

Spiritual Reflection: Beyond the Here and Now

Identity is a spiritual matter to my mind, as my spirituality is an intrinsic aspect of who I am.

T.S. Eliot wrote that “here and now cease to matter” – and I wonder if one of the problems with modern concerns about identity are about an obsession with the “here and now”.

“What am I thinking and feeling here and now?” might be the preoccupation of an anxious person – whereas the idea that thoughts and feelings are temporary and fleeting gives us a sense of perspective and the reassurance that existence embraces much longer periods of time.

This led me to consider how we construct our identities beyond the here and now – with reference to the past, and to the future.

It is obvious that we are shaped by our pasts. Some have had traumatic pasts which leave a present which is problematic because of things that happened years and years ago.

Many of us learn valuable lessons because of past experiences we have been through. Some of us have been lucky to have had inspiring families, role-models, teachers and leaders, who have nurtured us and provided us with principles and practical coaching in various character strengths.

But we are also influenced by more distant pasts, whether or not we are aware of it. The culture we are born into was shaped by hundreds and thousands of years.

Our genes have been shaped by thousands, perhaps millions of years. What we read may have been written by people who died many years before we were born.

For myself, I think of books by my “inspirers”, and others: writings by wise leaders, on spirituality, philosophical and ethical ideas by the great thinkers of history, of passages in the greatest world poetry and literature.

These treasured contributions to culture have shaped my identity. I go back to them time and time again, and they continue to shape and form my identity. They are a wellspring of inspiration and guidance. My identity is forged well beyond the here and now by these thought leaders of the past.

And then there is the future: the contribution that our own goals, ambitions and hopes make to our sense of identity. I have been much influenced by Stephen Covey’s book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” – he demonstrates how each of us has the power of decision-making, regardless of our past and present circumstances. It is a challenging idea, as it does not allow us to look upon ourselves as victims of circumstance. We have to own our reactions. There is always a gap – as he says – between stimulus and our response to it.

This means that every decision I make in the present about the future is my own free choice. My future identity is in my hands. I am choosing whether I become a better person each day, or the opposite. My thoughts about the future – optimistic or gloomy, hopeful or depressing – play a huge part in influencing my beliefs about myself and my identity.

Identity turns out to be very complex : a merging of the past and the future with the present.

Identity is a journey – a fascinating journey – perhaps one of the quintessential journeys we make as human beings.

And many of the answers are to be found beyond the here and now.

“Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future

And time future contained in time past.”

(T.S.Eliot, Four Quartets)

Spiritual Reflection: What is Spirituality?


There is ethics, there is philosophy, there is psychology, there is religion…and then there is spirituality!

What is spirituality, then?

To start with, I wouldn’t want to be too specific about spirituality.  I think that would be a mistake.

Perhaps one way of thinking about spirituality is as a series of overlapping circles, but each of which is perhaps three-dimensional and potentially infinitely deep, high and wide.

Some of these circles may be philosophy, psychology, religion, ethics…and also nature, art, literature, culture…

I think spirituality is a vast topic, and that each of these other topics touch on spirituality in some way or other.

Perhaps there are other circles?

How would you define spirituality?