What Does Spirituality Mean To You? | VIA Institute

What Does Spirituality Mean To You?

By Dr. Ryan Niemiec

Breaking Down a Complex Strength

Meaning. Faith. Purpose. Transcendence. Ritual. Ultimate concerns. Contemplation. Meditation. Prayer. Mysticism. Religion. Nature. Holiness. Virtue. Morality. Unity. Engaged community.

These are some of the words that come to mind when people hear the word “spiritual.” And, scientists have found common ground: The generally accepted scientific definition of spirituality – the search for or communion with the sacred – can be aligned with any of these words. Each can be viewed as part of the experience of connecting with the sacred or as a pathway in seeking the sacred that lies within us or outside us.

The character strength of spirituality involves our capacity to dig deep and find the greater meaning in life, to align ourselves with a purpose that extends beyond ourselves, to find relationship and unity with something greater such as nature, God, or the transcendent.

When looked at broadly, with an open mind, this strength applies to all of us – the fervently religious, the atheist seeking meaning, the agnostic questioning life’s grand scheme, and the ever-increasing group of people who view themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”

And, research has shown that spirituality is one of the character strengths most associated with a meaningful life. It is linked with many of the areas that help make the world a better place such as greater compassion, altruism, volunteerism, and philanthropy.

Boost Your Spirituality

Want to tap into your strength of spirituality? Here are my top 5, research-based activities to get you moving strongly in that direction:

1. Build purpose: Become proactive in your community by taking on one new volunteer position.

2. Learn from spiritual models: Name a spiritual role model – someone in your life (or the public eye) who is an exemplar of goodness. Consider one of their best qualities and reflect on how you might take steps toward embodying that quality.

3. Make an object spiritual: Spend a few minutes each day with a special or cherished object (e.g., a photograph, a statue, a jewelry item). Bring your attention to the object each day in a quiet space – viewing it in a purposeful way – seeing it as holy and precious.

4. Pursue a virtue: Choose a virtuous quality you want to build up in your life (see the VIA Classification of character strengths to help you select one). Practice using the virtue in a new way each day.

5. Take the deathbed test: Find meaning by exploring this provocative test. Imagine you are lying on your deathbed and were to finish this sentence: I wish I would have spent more time ____. What would you say? How might you use your character strengths to help you?

No matter where the strength of spirituality falls in your profile you can quickly boost it with these tips, and perhaps build a stronger connection to your personal idea of "the sacred".

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