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Spirituality: what it truly means to you!

Spirituality is one word which puts a human being on the highest pedestal of life. It is field of
Spirituality traveling on which one reaches the last leg of cosmic life nay the form of human being

The goal of Spirituality is attaining salvation (moksha in Hinduism)! From the beginning of the first
manifestation as an amoeba to the last manifestation (the 8.4 millionth manifestation)... the goal
of every life remains the same.

The phase of life as a human being announces that the life has come full circle. It is only as a
human being that one can get enlightened (reach the stage of Nirvikalpa samadhi) and attain
salvation (moksha in Hinduism). Reaching the stage of enlightenment is the last step in the field
of Spirituality.

Spirituality is living life as it was meant to be... not as we may have desired or wanted living it.
Living a life of choice is not the forte of all human beings. Those on the path of pure Spirituality...
the true seekers of Spirituality are sometimes able to manifest destiny by establishing absolute
control over it.

It is a certain fact that only the true seekers of Spirituality become the masters of their destiny.
Knowingly or unknowingly many people who have a materialistic goal in life travel the path of
Spirituality and become successful in life. It was not a happening by chance... all was the result of
a law which cannot err. These highly acclaimed individuals unknowingly tread the path of pure
Spirituality and achieved the goal of their life.

Spirituality in other terms means that before we ask God the Almighty for material riches to be
bestowed upon us... we need to compensate by giving something equivalent or more back to the
community. This is the path undertaken by most successful entrepreneurs.

In terms of Spirituality we are not supposed to get anything unless we promise to do something in
return... in the system of God there is fair play all throughout. As we desire... so shall be the
corresponding karma we would be required to perform. Mere false promises bring us nothing.

It was the forte of JRD Tata that he always loved his country and the countryman. The benefit of
the society was foremost in his mind all the time. The prime reason why the Tata Empire is known
as the foundation builder of India! Tata name itself is representative of building a technological
Empire for the benefit of entire nation. This is what Spirituality is all about.

JRD Tata was a trustee par excellence. According to him everything belonged to God and he was
merely a trustee carrying out the dictates of God. In his lifetime he never built a house for himself.
His love for the material riches of life did not seem to exist at all. His every endeavor was aimed
at improving the quality of life of human life and the country as a whole.

What a noble persona JRD Tata was... a true karma yogi indeed! He did not live Spirituality rather
Spirituality lived in him. He was a perfect example of how a true spiritual seeker must live his life.
JRD may have never admitted that he lived a spiritual life but unknowingly he practiced
Spirituality every moment of his life.

JRD Tata followed the dictates of Bhagwad Gita throughout his life unknowingly. Apart from being
a true karma yogi... he also excelled in teaching the core values to the society. He was one of the
rarest kinds that have ever dwelled on mother earth as material riches and comforts in life never
attracted him come whatever may.

JRD Tata excelled in human values to the extent that even most accomplished people on the
path of pure Spirituality get dwarfed by his accomplishments. Spirituality is not only seeking the
domain of God but even in day-to-day matters of life every human being needs to practice

The famous saying, "whatever we want others to do unto us... we should do unto them" forms the
core teachings of Spirituality. It is not merely a saying. It has to be practiced in reality as was
preached and advocated by Napoleon Hill in his famous books "Think and Grow Rich", "Master Key to
Riches" and the famous " Law of Success in sixteen lessons".

These three Bible books by Napoleon Hill... "Think and Grow Rich", "Master Key to Riches" and the
famous "Law of Success in sixteen lessons" form the core of Spirituality. There is no argument about
that. At every stage Napoleon hill has prophesied that before we can expect anything from God
we need to give something back to the community. He was also a true practitioner of Spirituality
from heart.

Spirituality definitely helps one take control of destiny. As we proceed on the path of pure
Spirituality we tend to develop a positive approach towards life. Reeling all the time under a
positive attitude of mind... One is able to fine-tune those critical aspects of life which are an
absolute must if one needs to become the master of his own destiny.

Spirituality makes a perfect man out of a negative thinker. In the field of Spirituality there is no
place for any negative thinking. One who has fixed a goal in life and always indulges in positive
oriented thinking can not be a loser in life. It can never happen!

Spirituality imbibes the following virtues in a human being:

Spirituality makes you feel all the time that there is something higher than the mere existence as
a human being.

Spirituality spells out that God exists within every living being as our soul (the atman within). It is
God within us which guides us on the right path whenever we tend to go wrong.

Spirituality inculcates in every human being a feeling of positive ness all throughout. Floating on
the positive mental plane brings one closer to our goal of life.

It is Spirituality and spirituality alone which prompts and guides one in the right direction
whenever we feel cheated by the senses prevailing upon us. To be able to come out of the
clutches of the five senses is what Spirituality is all about.

If we desire to know God truly then we need to follow the path of pure Spirituality. It is only as a
true spiritual seeker shall we realize God one-day.

It is a Spirituality which cuts short the path and makes the whole world look like a family. In the
spiritual domain there is no space for different religions, dogmas or creeds. Our wanton desires
cease to exist... the moment Spirituality takes complete control over us!

Spirituality truly is the essence of life. However materialistic we maybe on the earthly plane...
there shall come a day when Spirituality would completely wipe us clean of all the impurities
within us.

Without Spirituality the life or a human being is like a rudderless boat going round and round in
the unfathomable sea of life.

It is Spirituality which teaches every human being the real value of life... being spiritual is not
being religious alone... Spirituality teaches us the core values of life... the real essence of us!

It is only through the medium of Spirituality that God is able to guide the mankind towards its
destined goal. As many human beings... as many different spiritual paths!

Right from day one when we are born and until the last breath... it is Spirituality which keeps our
heart pumping all through. It is Spirituality which clears all doubts that our soul (the atman within
the body) is the real master and our body is but to decay and die.

Spirituality clears all doubts related to the concept of God. Whenever in doubt... the wise follow
the dictates of the spiritual masters of the era! Every spiritual being merges his identity with the
Supreme Being (the Almighty God).

Spirituality confirms that life has to go on... it is a journey to be completed in many phases (8.4
million manifestations in fact). It is Spirituality which confirms that the life of a human being of 70
to 80 years is but a trickle in the total life a span of our soul (the atman within). The total life span
of the soul being a maximum of 96.4 million earthly years!

Spirituality has no relationship whatsoever with religion. Following a religion means following the
dictates of a successful spiritual master... one who has already covered the journey and has
become capable of guiding the mankind to its logical end.

Religion is meant for living a single span of earthly life. On the contrary Spirituality guides every
living being to its logical end in the unending cosmic journey undertaken by the soul (our atman

It is Spirituality alone which removes the fear of death from those who have released the pinnacle
of spiritual life. Spirituality gives you a commanding position in life. One can work for above 23
hours per day having gained absolute control over sleep. This is not only possible but can be
observed by watching the topmost rung of spiritual masters.

The presence of Spirituality in our lives cannot be done away with for it forms the inner core of
our manifested physical life. Behind every success lies the core of Spirituality which guides one
inherently all throughout the cosmic journey.

In practice... when I started in search of God at an early age of 13 years... I was so confused
about life that I thought it was only the religious masters who shall guide me on the right path. I
was so wrong.

It was at the age of 37 that I came in contact with God one-to-one basis. It was the pinnacle of my
spiritual pursuit. My life had come full circle. This was to be my last manifestation. I had reached
the end of cosmic life. The distinction between Spirituality and religion were now absolutely clear
to me.

Having been able to traverse the path as a true seeker of Spirituality and reach the end goal has
been a really pleasant experience. Everything I try to convey to the community is based on true
personal experience of life. Being my last sojourn on Mother Earth I have but to impart the pearls
of Spirituality I have learned before I leave the mortal frame.

Spirituality is not to be practiced merely in theory. Spirituality is not contained in the sacred
textbooks alone. We simultaneously need to practice pure Spirituality and try reaching the end of
the cosmic life. Achieving salvation in the present life would be something every human being
would desire.

Why not all of us practice pure Spirituality all the time!

Exploring the Meaning of Spirituality

One of the great gifts of spiritual knowledge is that it realigns your sense of self to something you may
not have even ever imagined was within you. Spirituality says that even if you think you're limited and
small, it simply isn't so. You're greater and more powerful than you have ever imagined. A great and
divine light exists inside of you. This same light is also in everyone you know and in everyone you will
ever know in the future. You may think you're limited to just your physical body and state of affairs —
including your gender, race, family, job, and status in life — but spirituality comes in and says "there is
more than this."

Notice that spirit sounds similar to words like inspire and expire. This is especially appropriate because
when you're filled with spiritual energy, you feel great inspiration, and when the spiritual life force leaves
your body, your time on this earth expires. These are two of the main themes of the spiritual journey:
• Allowing yourself to be filled with inspiration, which also translates into love, joy, wisdom,
peacefulness, and service.
• Remembering that an inevitable expiration awaits to take you away from the very
circumstances you may think are so very important right now.

The study of spirituality goes deeply into the heart of every matter and extends far beyond the physical
world of matter. Spirituality connects you with the profoundly powerful and divine force that's present in
this universe. Whether you're looking for worldly success, inner peace, or supreme enlightenment, no
knowledge can propel you to achieve your goals and provide as effective a plan for living as does
spiritual knowledge.
Going beyond the physical world

Perhaps the best way to think about a spiritual approach to the world is to contrast it with a more
common materialistic approach.
• The materialistic approach: The materialistic approach relies primarily on empirical
evidence provided by the five senses — what can literally be seen, heard, tasted, touched, or
smelled. This approach depends on the outer appearances of things to decide how and what to
think and feel about them. A materialistic person fixes whatever may be wrong or out of place in
his or her world by moving things around and effecting outer changes.
• The spiritual approach: In contrast, the spiritual way is to see beyond mere outer
appearances and the five senses to an intuitive perception of the causes behind outer conditions.
Someone with a spiritual approach may change and uplift their world by first transforming and
improving his or her own vision.

One of the main teachings of spirituality is to look within and find what you seek within yourself. The
external world is ephemeral, temporary, and ever changing; in fact, your body will die one day, sweeping
all those worldly accoutrements away like a mere pile of dust. Your inner realm, on the other hand, is
timeless, eternal, and deeply profound.
Knowing how spirituality differs from religion

Although religion and spirituality are sometimes used interchangeably, they really indicate two different
aspects of the human experience. You might say that spirituality is the mystical face of religion.
• Spirituality is the wellspring of divinity that pulsates, dances, and flows as the source
and essence of every soul. Spirituality relates more to your personal search, to finding greater
meaning and purpose in your existence. Some elements of spirituality include the following:

• Looking beyond outer appearances to the deeper significance and soul of everything

• Love and respect for God

• Love and respect for yourself

• Love and respect for everybody

• Religion is most often used to describe an organized group or culture that has generally
been sparked by the fire of a spiritual or divine soul. Religions usually act with a mission and
intention of presenting specific teachings and doctrines while nurturing and propagating a
particular way of life.
Religion and spirituality can blend beautifully

Different religions can look quite unlike one another. Some participants bow to colorful statues of deities,
others listen to inspired sermons while dressed in their Sunday finery, and yet others set out their prayer
rugs five times a day to bow their heads to the ground. Regardless of these different outer
manifestations of worship, the kernel of religion is spirituality, and the essence of spirituality is God or the
Supreme Being.

Spirituality is:
• Beyond all religions yet containing all religions
• Beyond all science yet containing all science
• Beyond all philosophy yet containing all philosophy

As one becomes more spiritual, animalistic aggressions of fighting and trying to control the beliefs of
other people can be cast off like an old set of clothes that no longer fits. In fact, many seekers begin to
feel that every image of divinity is just one more face of their own, eternally ever-present God.
Loving and respecting all religions and images of God doesn't mean that you have to agree with all their
doctrines. In fact, you don't even have to believe and agree with every element and doctrine of your own
religion! This goes for any teachings you may encounter along your path. Everybody thinks that what they
are doing is right. That's what's so fun about the world. Everybody is doing something different, and each
one believes deep in his soul that what he believes is right — some with more contemplation and conviction
than others.

Spirituality, in a narrow sense, concerns itself with matters of the spirit, a concept closely
tied to religious belief and faith, a transcendent reality, or one or more deities. Spiritual matters
are thus those matters regarding humankind's ultimate nature and purpose, not only as
material biological organisms, but as beings with a unique relationship to that which is
perceived to be beyond both time and the material world. Spirituality also implies the mind-
body dichotomy, which indicates a separation between the body and soul.

As such, the spiritual is traditionally contrasted with the material, the temporal and the
worldly. A perceived sense of connection forms a central defining characteristic of
spirituality — connection to a metaphysical reality greater than oneself, which may include
an emotional experience of religious awe and reverence, or such states as satori or nirvana.
Equally importantly, spirituality relates to matters of sanity and of psychological health.
Spirituality is the personal, subjective dimension of religion, particularly that which
pertains to liberation or salvation (see also mysticism and esoterism) .
Spirituality as a way of life concerns itself with aligning the human will and mind with
that dimension of life and the universe that is harmonious and ordered. As such spiritual
disciplines (which are often part of an established religious tradition) enjoin practitioners
(trainees or disciples) to cultivate those higher potentialities of the human being that are
more noble and refined (wisdom and virtue). Accordingly, many spiritual traditions
across diverse cultures share similar vocabulary. Terms such as the "path", the "work",
the "practice" are universally applied to the ongoing discipline involved in transforming
the coarser energies present in the human soul into more subtle and pleasing ones. As a
spiritual practitioner one seeks to become free of the lesser egoic self (or ego) in favor of
being more fully one's "true" "Self".
Noted photographer Rafique Sayed talks about the profound influence spiritual leader
Anandmurti Gurumaa has had on his life and philosophies. “There are spiritual leaders,
masters and gurus. And then there is Anandmurti Gurumaa, undoubtedly one of the most
charismatic and beautiful human beings I have ever met. There is a certain aura about
her; you can feel the glow when she walks into a room. But what makes her truly special
is the fact that you can discuss any topic under the sun with her and she is sure to have
convincing answers to all your dilemmas. Guruma does not only talk about Hinduism;
her philosophies and ideologies have their roots in Sufism, Christianity, Zen and Islam,
which make her teachings truly unique.”

• 1 The spiritual and the religious

• 2 Directed spirituality
• 3 Spirituality and personal well-being
• 4 Spirituality and science
o 4.1 Opposition
o 4.2 Integration
• 5 Origin of spirituality
• 6 History of spirituality
• 7 The study of spirituality
• 8 See also
• 9 Footnotes
• 10 Further Reading
• 11 External links
o 11.1 Overviews

o 11.2 Specific spiritual traditions

The spiritual and the religious
An important distinction exists between spirituality in religion and spirituality as opposed
to religion.
In recent years, spirituality in religion often carries connotations of a believer having a faith
more personal, less dogmatic, more open to new ideas and myriad influences, and more
pluralistic than the doctrinal/dogmatic faiths of mature religions.[1] It also can connote the
nature of believers' personal relationship or "connection" with their god(s) or belief-
system(s), as opposed to the general relationship with a Deity as shared by all members of a
given faith.
Those who speak of spirituality as opposed to religion generally meta-religiously believe
in the existence of many "spiritual paths" and deny any objective truth about the best path to
follow. Rather, adherents of this definition of the term emphasize the importance of
finding one's own path to whatever-god-there-is, rather than following what others say
works. In summary: the path which makes the most coherent sense becomes the correct
one (for oneself).
Many adherents of orthodox religions who regard spirituality as an aspect of their religious
experience tend to contrast spirituality with secular "worldliness" rather than with the ritual
expression of their religion.
People of a more New-Age disposition tend to regard spirituality not as religion per se, but
as the active and vital connection to a force/power/energy, spirit, or sense of the deep
self. As cultural historian and yogi William Irwin Thompson (1938 - ) put it, "Religion is not
identical with spirituality; rather religion is the form spirituality takes in civilization."
(1981, 103)
For a religious parallel to the approach whereby some see spirituality in everything,
compare pantheism.
For a Christian to refer to themself as "more spiritual than religious" implies relative
deprecation of rules, rituals, and tradition while preferring an intimate relationship with
God and/or talking to Him as one's best friend. Their basis for this belief is that Jesus
Christ came to free man from those rules, rituals, and traditions, giving them the ability to
"walk in the spirit" thus maintaining a "Christian" lifestyle through that one-to-one
relationship with God. Some excellent resources that further explain the "spiritual
Christian" are found in the Bible, Gospel of John 4:24 for example, and in the works of
Watchman Nee.[2] Nee probes deeply into the building blocks of mankind and derives that
we are Spirit, Body and Soul.
Directed spirituality
"Being spiritual" may aim toward:

• simultaneously improving one's wisdom and willpower.

• achieving a closer connection to Deity.
• removing illusions or "false ideas" at the sensory, feeling and thinking aspects of
a person.

Plato's allegory of the cave

in book VII of The Republic gives a well known description of the
spiritual development process, and may provide an aid in understanding what "spiritual
development" exactly entails.
Spirituality and personal well-being
Though many people practise prayer and believe it affects their health (for example
adherents of Christian Science), only limited scientific evidence supports the efficacy of
prayer. In keeping with a general increase in interest in spirituality and complementary
and alternative treatments, prayer has garnered attention among a growing number of
behavioral scientists. Masters and Spielmans[3] have conducted a meta-analysis of the effects of
distant intercessory prayer, but detect no discernible effects. They review the literature
regarding frequency of prayer, content of prayer, and prayer as a coping strategy; then
make suggestions for future research, including the conduct of experimental studies based
on conceptual models that include precise operationally-defined constructs, longitudinal
investigations with proper measure of control variables, and increased use of ecological
momentary assessment techniques.
Spirituality has played a central role in self-help movements such as Alcoholics Anonymous:
"...if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-
sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead...."[4]
Spirituality and science
Analysis of spiritual qualities in science faces problems — such as the imprecision of
spiritual concepts, the subjectivity of spiritual experience, and the amount of work
required to translate and map observable components of a spiritual system into empirical


Science takes as its basis empirical, repeatable observations of the natural world, and thus
generally regards ideas that rely on supernatural forces for an explanation as beyond the
purview of science. Scientists regard ideas which present themselves as scientific, but
which rely on a supernatural force for an explanation, as religious rather than scientific;
and may label such idea as pseudo-science. In this context scientists may oppose
spirituality, at least in the scientific sphere.


New Age physicist-philosopher Fritjof Capra has articulated connections between what he
sees as the spiritual consequences of quantum physics.[5] Ken Wilber, in an attempt to unite
science and spirituality, has proposed an "Integral Theory of Consciousness".[6]
Ervin Lászlóposits a field of information as the substance of the cosmos. Using the Sanskrit
and Vedic term for "space", akasha, he calls this information-field the "Akashic field" or
"A-field". He posits the "quantum vacuum" (see Vacuum state) as the fundamental energy-
and information-carrying field that informs not just the current universe, but all universes
past and present (collectively, the "Metaverse").[7]
Origin of spirituality
See also: Origin of spirituality and Chimpanzee spirituality
History of spirituality
See also: History of religion
Spiritual innovators who operated within the context of a religious tradition became
marginalised or suppressed as heretics or separated out as schismatics. In these
circumstances, anthropologists generally treat so-called "spiritual" practices such as
shamanism in the sphere of the religious, and class even non-traditional activities such as
those of Robespierre's Cult of the Supreme Being in the province of religion.[8]
Eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinkers, often opposed to clericalism and skeptical of
religion, sometimes came to express their more emotional responses to the world under
the rubric of "the Sublime" rather than discussing "spirituality". The spread of the ideas of
modernity began to diminish the role of religion in society and in popular thought.
Schmidt sees Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) as a pioneer of the idea of spirituality as a
distinct field.[9] Phineas Quimby (1802-1866) and New Thought played a role in emphasizing
the spiritual in new ways within Christian church traditions during the 19th century.
In the wake of the Nietzschean concept of the "death of God" in 1882, people unpersuaded by
scientific rationalism turned increasingly to the idea of spirituality as an alternative both to
materialism and to traditional religious dogma.

Important early 20th century writers who studied the phenomenon of spirituality include
William James (The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902)) and Rudolph Otto (especially The Idea
of the Holy (1917)).
The distinction between the spiritual and the religious became more common in the
popular mind during the late 20th century with the rise of secularism and the advent of the
New Age movement. Authors such as Chris Griscom and Shirley MacLaine explored it in
numerous ways in their books. Paul Heelas noted the development within New Age circles
of what he called "seminar spirituality":[10] structured offerings complementing consumer
choice with spiritual options.
In English the word "spirit" comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning "breath" (compare
spiritus asper), but also "soul, courage, vigor", ultimately from a PIE root *(s)peis- (to
blow). In the Vulgate, the Latin word translates Greek (πνευμα), pneuma (Hebrew (‫)רוח‬
ruah), as opposed to anima, translating psykhē. The word was loaned into Middle English via
Old French.
The study of spirituality
Many spiritual traditions promote courses of study in spirituality.
Building on both the Western esoteric tradition and theosophy,[11] Rudolf Steiner and others in
the anthroposophic tradition have attempted to apply systematic methodology to the study
of spiritual phenomena.[12] This enterprise does not attempt to redefine natural science, but
to explore inner experience — especially our thinking — with the same rigor that we
apply to outer (sensory) experience.
Overall, scholars in disciplines such as theology, religious studies, psychology (but more
accurately parapsychology--'beyond psychology'--pneumatology, monadology, and esoteric
philosophical logic,) anthropology and sociology sometimes concentrate their researches on
spirituality, but the field remains ill-defined.
In the late 19th century a Pakistani scholar Khwaja Shamsuddin Azeemi started writing books
and teaching the somewhat hidden science of Islamic spirituality, of which the best
known form remains the Sufi tradition (famous through Rumi and Hafiz) in which
spiritual discipline is transmitted to students by a spiritual master or "pir".

Introduction to Spirituality and Meaning
The last topic on the Road to Well-being, spirituality and personal meaning, follows quite
naturally from the previous discussion of forgiveness. Forgiveness is often an important
part of what comes to mind when we think of spirituality. More and more people are
turning to spirituality to find meaning in their lives. For a growing number of folks, the
daily pressures and rapid pace of change in our world has made them wonder about the
meaning of life and if something has been lost in all of our busyness. These individuals
are asking the big existential questions that used to be reserved for the philosophers.
Questions such as: “Why am I here?” “What is the purpose of human life?” With all of
this interest in meaning, researchers are now starting to ask questions about the
connection between spirituality and well-being.
This section is going to look more closely at what the researchers have found. We have
chosen to organise this topic by separating spirituality from meaning. It is true that for
some people, meaning and spirituality are closely connected to one another and they
would consider the two inseparable. But for others, finding meaning in life does not
necessarily involve a spiritual connection. Consequently, we have decided to treat them
separately. The focus of first section is on spirituality, and the second section looks at
finding meaning in life.

All About

Spirituality and Religion

Although many people consider spirituality and religion, one and the same, it is possible
and important to make a distinction between them.

Similarities — Spirituality and religion both focus on the sacred or divine (for
example, divine being, higher power, God, Allah, or ultimate reality as perceived
by the individual). Most people who are spiritual or religious also have a set of
beliefs about the higher power or ultimate reality. In addition, there are usually
specific practices that followers use to attain or enhance a sense of the sacred, or
to experience an altered state of consciousness such as prayer or meditation.
Differences — The major difference is that religion is viewed as being linked to
formal religious institutions, whereas spirituality does not depend upon a
collective or organisational context (Pargament, 1997). In other words, I can be
spiritual and go or not go to church, but generally I can’t be religious and not go.
This is evident from the associations that we have to these terms. If we say that
someone is deeply religious, we tend to assume that person regularly attends
church (part of a formal institution). If we say that a person is very spiritual, we
tend to assume that person has some strong beliefs and practices, but we would
not necessarily assume that he/she attended church.

The distinction between spirituality and religion is important, because most of the
research concerning the well-being benefits of spirituality has focused on religious
beliefs and practices. Religious affiliation has been more researched due to the relative
ease of finding large groups of people who engage in common practices and from whom
data can be collected, and as a result we will focus on those research findings.

Well-Being and Religion

Did you know that research shows that religious practice can help to keep you healthy?
It’s important to note that most of the research has focused on Christianity, although there
is some evidence that other religious practices convey many of the same health benefits.
There have been some fairly large studies that found that people who attend church
regularly tend to be healthier and live longer than non-regular church goers. For example,
one study found that regular church attendees had a 25 to 30 percent greater chance of
living longer than those who never, seldom, or rarely attended church services
(McCullough et al., 2000). Although divine intervention has not been ruled out as an
explanation for these findings(!), there are other possible explanations for the relationship
between religious involvement and improved health. These are described below.

Possible Explanations for Relationship

Religiosity and Improved Health
Virtuous Behaviour — It is thought that the virtuous behaviours encouraged by
churches help people to engage in healthy acts and behaviours (e.g., forgiveness).
Likewise, religious organisations usually discourage people from participating in
non-healthy and harmful behaviours like alcohol and drug use, sexual
promiscuity, and crimes. However, researchers have a way of removing the
effects these have by holding them constant. This means that they can determine
if there is still a connection when the effects of virtuous behaviours have been
removed. Guess what? They found that there are STILL health benefits present to
church attendance. This means that there must be other factors responsible for the
relationship between religious involvement and improved health.
Social Support — As discussed in the City of Social Connection, social support
is very beneficial to well-being, and churches have a reputation for being a great
source of social support. Therefore, it is quite possible that the support found by
people who attend church regularly may explain, at least in part, why people who
attend church appear to be healthier. There are fewer studies that have looked at
this particular question, but those that have, report a connection between church
attendance, social support, and health benefits.
Meaning and coherence — It is also theorized that regular religious
involvement may go a long way in helping people to overcome their anxieties
about life and death. It may help people to gain a sense of meaning and purpose
in their current life and in a possible afterlife. In other words, peoples’ reasons
for living may become more clearly defined or accepted in the context of
religious or spiritual practice. This concept of meaning is further explored,
separately, in the next section.

Self-Assessment & How To's

— a worksheet to assess your current satisfaction with your

Taking Stock
spiritual beliefs and practices
If you feel that you would like to make a change in your spiritual or religious practices,
use the Goal-Setting Sheet (as found in Port Hope) to set a goal for increasing participation.


George, L. K., Larson, D. B., Koenig, H. G., & McCullough (2000).
Spirituality and Health: What we know, what we need to know.
Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 19, 102 – 116.

Larson, D. B., Swyers, J. P., & McCullough, M. E. (1997). Scientific

research on spirituality and health: A consensus report. Rockville,
MD: National Institute for Healthcare Research.

McCullough, M. W., Hoyt, W. T., Larson, D. B., Koenig, H. G., &

Thoresen, C. (2000). Religious involvement and mortality: A meta-
analytic review. Health Psychology, 19, 211 – 222.

Thoresen, C.E., Harris, A. H., & Oman, D. (2001). Spirituality, religion,

and health: Evidence, issues, and concerns. In T. G. Plante & A. C.
Sherman (Eds.), Faith and health: Psychological perspectives (pp.
15 – 52). New York: Guilford Press.

Other Resources
For a further academic review of research on health and religion/spirituality see:
Plante, T. G., & Sherman, A. C. (2001). Faith and health:
Psychological Perspectives. New York: The Guilford Press.

The Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health is another source of information on the
relationship between theology and health. It is a leading institution in the world for
scholarship in this area:
Personal Meaning

All About

"What people actually need is not a tensionless state but

rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of
them. What they need is not the discharge of tension at any
cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled
by them." (Frankl, 1963, p.166 – modified with inclusive
Have you noticed that as a society we can get caught up in “the rat-race”? Some would
say that our focus on self, through competition, experimenting sexually, and striving to
accumulate material things, is really misplaced. They would say that what we’re really
striving for is a sense of meaning and purpose and that we are just going about it in the
wrong way.
Researchers have started to look more closely at having a sense of meaning and how it is
connected to our well-being. Studies have found that having material wealth beyond what
is required to meet our basic needs is not associated with happiness. Of course, this is not
a new idea; maybe someone in your life has even said to you, “Money can’t buy you love
(or happiness)”. What is new is that we now have the research to prove it!
Researchers also have discovered a strong positive relationship between peoples’ mental
and physical well-being and having meaning in life. Specifically, some studies have
found that people who have a sense of life-purpose also report higher levels of well being
and do not tend to struggle with issues like depression.

What does having a sense of meaning mean?

Meaning is difficult to define but it is generally thought to include three main

1. finding purpose, value, and personal worth in one’s activities

(pursuits of goals, focus outside the self),
2. being able to fully appreciate emotional and sensory experiences
(e.g., beauty, truth, love, joy, wonder), and
3. striving to maintain a positive attitude in the face of suffering
and loss.

You will notice that these three components of meaning are very similar to the behaviour
circle that you learned about on the Plains of Optimism. It appears that activities that
provide meaning almost always comprise Motivational/Behavioural (e.g., component #1
above), Emotional (e.g., component #2), and Cognitive (e.g., component #3).
Below you will find each of these components defined by Wong, a leading researcher in
this area.

This is defined as… “…the pursuit of activities and life goals considered by the
individual to be valuable and worthwhile. A meaningful life is never passive…
there is a will to meaning – a forward thrust toward purposefulness and
significant life goals.”
These are the “…feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment that flow from the
pursuit of worthwhile activities and life goals.”
…an individually constructed way of thinking which “makes sense of life and
endows it with purpose and significance. This cognitive system is developed in a
particular cultural context, thus incorporating many of the beliefs, values, and
assumptions shared by that culture”
(all three from Wong, 1998, p.406).

One aspect of meaning that seems to be an essential part of all three components is the
need for connection to others. After having conducted research that looked at peoples’
sense of meaning in life, Wong concluded that:
“It requires that individuals have positive and mature attitudes
toward life and self and that they lead a purposeful and productive
life. There are limits to meaning-seeking if individuals are alienated
from their community and the spiritual realm. Therefore, individuals
need to get involved in and contribute to community. They also need
religious [sic spiritual] faith that makes sense of the larger and
difficult issues about life, suffering, and death” (Wong, 1998, p.118)

Victor Frankl, who wrote the opening quote to this section, managed not only to survive
but to find meaning and purpose in his experience of being captured and held in a Nazi
concentration camp. He survived this trauma and spent the remainder of his life sharing
his wisdom through talking with others and writing about the importance of meaning in
people’s lives. Frankl emphasized the importance of looking outside one-self. As you will
read in the quotation below, Frankl believed that to find meaning, people need to shift the
focus from being so caught up in themselves and their own needs to a more outward
focus: more love, hope, compassion, and generosity directed toward others. This of
course could include such things as working for a specific social cause, or engaging in
tasks and pursuits that are outside of the self.
"A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward
a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished
work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the "why"
for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any "how" (Frankl,
1963, p.127).

Frankl’s beliefs about meaning-finding have influenced the questions social science
researchers have asked. Recent exploratory studies have found that people tend to agree
that the following are common sources of meaning. However, as we stated earlier, the
relative importance of what makes life meaningful varies from person to person. These
are some common sources of meaning.

Sources of Meaning
Relationships — People find great satisfaction and personal meaning in
supporting and being supported by others. This includes friendships as well as
involvement in organisations or clubs whose work fosters community growth and
Intimacy — Meaning is achieved in the sharing of one’s innermost thoughts,
feelings, desires, goals, triumphs, and failures, with a special person. It could be
anyone; a lover, life-partner, friend, or relative, with whom you have a deep and
meaningful connection.
Self-acceptance — Individuals are more likely to discover meaning if they are
able to accept themselves for who they are. Self-acceptance comes from
developing the ability to learn from past mistakes, to identify strengths and
limitations, acknowledging areas of personal growth, and to working toward
being the best we can be. It is much more difficult to find meaning in life when
people focus on their perceived personal inadequacies.
Fairness/Respect — Being able to live and function in a place or nation where
fairness and respect is valued and practiced is certainly helpful in the process of
finding meaning. But as Frankl and many others have demonstrated, it is possible
to achieve a sense of life-giving meaning even under the most oppressive
Achievement — The ability to pursue and achieve one’s own goals, both large
life goals and even smaller projects, has been found to greatly contribute well-
Self-Transcendance — This goes back to what Frankl said about needing to
move out of the self and toward others. People who report that a fairly high level
of personal meaning in their lives believe that it is partly through their focus on
causes, responsibilities, and pursuits outside themselves.
Religion — Belief in a higher power and developing a relationship with God or
Allah or other omnipotent being is commonly found to be a strong source of
personal meaning for people.

You may find the accompanying Personal Meaning Profile in the Self-Assessment
section useful in helping you to determine in which of these areas you are currently
finding meaning. This may also help you to identify areas that you may be neglecting.


— a questionnaire to help you discover your sources of meaning

Personal Meaning Profile
and a worksheet to help you explore why/how your #1 source of meaning gives you