This is an extract from an article by the Royal College of Psychiatrists
In healthcare, spirituality is identified with experiencing a deep-seated sense of meaning and purpose in life, together with a sense of belonging. It is about acceptance, integration and wholeness.
According to one definition,
“The spiritual dimension tries to be in harmony with the universe, strives for answers about the infinite, and comes especially into focus in times of emotional stress, physical and mental illness, loss, bereavement and death.” This desire for wholeness of being is not an intellectual attainment, for it is no less present in people with learning disability, but lies in the essence of what it means to be human.
From the spiritual perspective, a distinction can be made between cure, or relief of symptoms, and healing of the whole person. Life is a perpetual journey of discovery and development, during which maturity is often gained through adversity. The relief of suffering remains a primary aim of health care, but it is by no means the whole story.
How is spirituality distinguished from religion?
Spirituality, described as “linking the deeply personal with the universal”, is inclusive and unifying. It naturally leads to the recognition that to harm another is to harm oneself, and equally that helping others is to help oneself. It applies to everyone, including those who do not believe in God or a ‘higher being’.
The universality of spirituality extends across creed and culture; at the same time spirituality is felt as unique to each and every person.
Religions offer community-based worship, each faith having its own set of beliefs and sacred traditions. However, when there is a lack of respect for differences of belief, religion has been used as a social and political tool leading to intolerance and divisiveness.
These span a wide range, from the religious to secular:
- belonging to a faith tradition, participating in associated community-based activities;
- ritual and symbolic practices and other forms of worship;
- pilgrimage and retreats;
- meditation and prayer;
- reading scripture;
- sacred music (listening to, singing and playing) including songs, hymns, psalms and devotional chants;
- acts of compassion (including work, especially teamwork);
- deep reflection (contemplation);
- yoga, Tai Chi and similar disciplined practices;
- engaging with and enjoying nature;
- contemplative reading (of literature, poetry, philosophy etc.);
- appreciation of the arts and engaging in creative activities, including artistic pursuits, cookery, gardening etc.;
- maintaining stable family relationships and friendships (especially those involving high levels of trust and intimacy);
- group or team sports, recreational or other activity involving a special quality of fellowship.
Healthcare spiritual values and skills
Spiritual practices foster an awareness that serves to identify and promote values such as
- hope and
- joy, all of which support good health care practice.
Healthcare spiritual skills include:
- being self-reflective and honest;
- being able to remain focused in the present, remaining alert, unhurried and attentive;
- being able to rest, relax and create a still, peaceful state of mind;
- developing greater empathy for others;
- finding courage to witness and endure distress while sustaining an attitude of hope;
- developing improved discernment, for example about when to speak or act and when to remain silent;
- learning how to give without feeling drained;
- being able to grieve and let go.
Spirituality is a deeply personal matter.
People are encouraged to discover ‘what works best for you’. A routine daily practice involving three elements can be helpful:
- regular quiet time (for prayer, reflection or meditation);
- appropriate study of religious and/or spiritual material;
- engaging in supportive friendships with others sharing similar spiritual and/or religious aims and aspirations.
It is possible to find advice about spiritual practices and traditions through the resources of a wide range of religious organisations.
Secular spiritual activities are increasingly available and popular too. For example, many complementary therapies have a spiritual or holistic element that is not defined by any particular religion.
The internet, especially internet bookshops, the local yellow pages, health food shops and bookstores are all good places to look.
Full article at; Royal College of Psychiatrists