What Is Spirituality?


Spirituality refers to a person’s beliefs and feelings about their sense of purpose, connection and meaning in life. It encompasses a belief in something larger than the self and often includes an emphasis on values such as compassion, kindness, love, forgiveness and peace. Those who are considered spiritual may express their beliefs through religion or in non-religious ways. It also includes an interest in the immaterial, such as a desire to connect with something beyond the physical world or to find answers that scientific materialism cannot provide.

It is important to note that there is not a single, widely accepted definition of spirituality. Even within scholarly circles, the definition is very broad and there is much disagreement about what it encompasses. This ambiguity is problematic because it makes it difficult to study spirituality systematically, which in turn impedes the capacity to understand and communicate findings.

Several approaches to understanding spirituality have been proposed. One of these is to distinguish between religion and spirituality, which is not always easy to do because many people describe having a religion, have walked away from their religion or are searching for a new religion. However, it is important to note that religious and non-religious expressions of spirituality occur within many of the same relationships, families, organizations and communities, and that a person can be spiritual without being religious or having a religion. A person who studies the teachings of a particular tradition and contemplates on them deeply, for example through listening to talks or reading the foundational texts of that tradition is practicing spirituality.