What is spirituality? It is a simple question that can have complicated answers. So let’s try and keep it simple. In the Modern world spirituality is something that gives you a sense of purpose for life that is bigger than you and your immediate needs. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence identifies four elements to care: Physical, Psychological, Social and Spiritual.
It can be a cause – looking after the environment; it can be a purpose – making sure that the kids are fine even though money is tight; it can be a sense that there is a power greater than human beings that can give them strength. Take, for example, the 12 steps recovery programme.
In short it can be a whole range of things that allows each one of us to realise that the world does not revolve around us, that there are bigger things in life and that we need to be aware of them. It is the belief in something bigger that can be so important when someone is ill. The desire to get better, to have a purpose is a powerful factor in health and wellbeing.
This is why spirituality comes in in that list of physical, psychological, social and spiritual elements to care. You can be physically fit, emotionally balanced, psychologically sound but still lack direction in life and the sense of a higher purpose.
For this basic reason, the most fundamental thing that anyone needs in order to be healthy and well is a reason for getting out of bed in a morning. In fact, so powerful can spirituality be that even if you are not physically, emotionally or psychologically well, you will still want to get out of bed in a morning.
So how can anyone get this spirituality? Spirituality can be grown in a number of ways. The most obvious is belonging to a religious community but it can also include moments of silence, a sense of wonder in the natural world (and sometimes fear and respect) meeting with a friend and feeling valued. The list could go on. However, a word of warning, not all spirituality is good.
Good or bad?
The 20th century saw many things that would fit a description of spirituality, a sense of purpose, but were bad and cruel. The commitment to the cause of Hitler in World War 2 was a spiritual fanaticism with horrible consequences. Some would argue that the ‘worship’ of economic growth in the West has broken up communities and families and contributed to social isolation leading to other social problems, not to mention damage to the environment. Spirituality neds to be thought abut seriously.
Spirituality is a small but important part of the Lancaster Health Festival. It plays a bigger part in life than we often realise, it needs open, honest conversation and people need space to be able to explore spirituality for themselves.