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SIPPA (Students of IPPA)

SMD Foundational Definitions

SMD Foundational Definitions

Spirituality is universal yet it has many dimensions. The specific content of spiritual beliefs varies amongst cultures, but all cultures have a concept of an ultimate, transcendent, sacred force. From a scientific standpoint, spirituality is consistently defined by scientists as the search for, or communion with, the sacred (Pargament, Mahoney, Exline, Jones & Shafranske, 2013). This has become nearly a consensual definition among scientists in the study of spirituality as this definition is reflected in approximately two-thirds of studies on the topic (Kapuscinsky & Masters, 2010). Three common elements tend to sit within definitions of spirituality by researchers:

  • the sacred or the transcendent (beyond the ordinary),
  • a connection or relationship with the sacred, and
  • the search for ultimate meaning or purpose (Mayseless & Russo-Netzer, 2017).

The word “sacred” most commonly refers to God, higher power, divinity or qualities associated with the divine, such as transcendence, ultimacy, boundlessness, and deep connectedness. People can experience the sacred through a variety of channels, such as a sense of connection, closeness, or oneness with the transcendent, a theistic being, oneself, humanity, all living beings, or nature and the environment.

A key point is that spirituality could be both a result of meaning/purpose or the source of meaning/purpose. While meaning may closely relate to spirituality – and for some people “meaning” is their source and journey for spirituality – it is a distinct construct.

The science of meaning has consistently delineated three main types of meaning –

  • coherence – making sense of life, understanding how everything fits together,
  • significance – feeling that life matters, knowing the value of life, and feeling that appreciation for oneself/others, and
  • purpose – taking action for the greater good, following one’s calling (George & Park, 2016; Martela & Steger, 2016).

Spirituality and meaning, as a sense of interconnectedness to something beyond ourselves and a sense of purpose, have been shown in many studies to enrich people’s lives and foster well-being.  There are correlations to increased optimism, greater resilience in the face of and following trials, and a sense of direction in one’s life, to name a few.