As a chaplain at a Level I Trauma Hospital and as a chaplain in the reserve component of the United States Military, I oversee and deal with religious, spiritual, and emotional concerns/dynamics of patients, soldiers, and their respective families. This article will hone in on why spirituality is essential for overall health and well-being of the everyday person.
What is spirituality?
Am I talking about a spiritual realm (i.e. heaven, talking to beings on a different plane or sphere, etc…) in contrast to our current context of something that is in our realm/dimension? Not exactly. I’m referring to wider and more accepted definitions of spirituality within professional interfaith and pluralistic contexts. Spirituality as defined by the United States Army Heath Center as, “…a sense of connection that gives meaning and purpose to a person’s life. Spirituality is unique to each individual, and refers to the deepest part of you.” Clinically there is a very similar (and accepted definition) amongst many clinicians – “the aspect of humanity that refers to the way one experience(s) connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.” What’s semi-implied here is that everyone innately has a sense of spirituality – a sense of meaning and purpose to their life, whether they are aware of it or not. I’m sure there are people who would highly disagree with this statement, but one would have to consider that even the most basic core components of the socio-emotional units: our family, friends, hobbies, occupation and/or vocation gives (or can take away with the lack of) gives a sense of purpose in life. A few thoughts:
You don’t necessarily have to be religious to be spiritual.
Organized (and thus institutionalized) religion has gotten a bad rap these days (I’ve never been a big fan of these institutions of myself, and I say this as an ordained Christian minister). The two are often misconstrued as synonymous, when they aren’t. They definitely are related, as religion does provide a framework for dogmatic meaning in one’s life (for myself as a Christian, I draw meaning in being reconciled to God through Christ), many can contest the many atheists and nihilists who would consider themselves “spiritual” per the definition guidelines I mentioned above, but not religious. What I am basically saying, spirituality is for all as long as you are a human being. Because every human being values something, even if it is the value of valuing nothing.
Know your purpose.
It’s imperative to be aware of what gives you meaning and purpose.
It’s easy to not think about your purpose and what you value in your life when 1.) you are too busy to do so, and 2.) you don’t have a reason to. As I sit with dying patients, patients who have just loss a newborn child, or a soldier who transitions back from a mobilization who may not have a strong supportive community, the idea of “what is important to me,” and “what I value the most” becomes completely evident. A huge buzz word in the military is “resilience” – this sense/ability to be able to bounce back when you fall. Remembering what gives you meaning and purpose, especially when it is held sacred can “game-changing” to a person’s resilience.
Spirituality is attractive.
Lastly, spiritual people are attractive. Not necessarily in the romantic sense, but as unique and upstanding social individuals. Come on, recall that time where you were drawn to that person who was absolutely passionate about something? Watching their eyes light up when talking about dancing, or when talking about working for/with ____. There is something charismatic about someone who has a sense of meaning and purpose … I suspect its because the human being innately has a need to have a sense of purpose in his/her life. In closing – I encourage you all to explore your spirituality. You just might thank me for it.