Defining An Expansive Spirituality

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Following are definitions of spirituality from a list compiled by the National Center for Cultural Competence (Georgetown University): 

1. “the experience or expression of the sacred” (Adapted from Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 1967).
2. “…the search for transcendent meaning” – can be expressed in religious practice or …expressed ”exclusively in their relationship to nature, music, the arts, a set of philosophical beliefs, or relationships with friends and family” (Astrow et al. 2001).
3. “individual search for meaning” Bown and Williams 1993).
4. “the search for meaning in life events and a yearning for connectedness to the universe” (Coles 1990).
5. “a person’s experience of, or a belief in, a power apart from his or her own existence” (Mohr 2006).
6. “a quality that goes beyond religious affiliation, that strives for inspiration, reverence, awe, meaning and purpose, even in those who do not believe in God. The spiritual dimension tries to be in harmony with the universe, strives for answers about the infinite, and comes essentially into focus in times of emotional stress, physical (and mental) illness, loss, bereavement and death” (Murray and Zentner 1989:259).
7. …refers to a broad set of principles that transcend all religions. Spirituality is about the relationship between ourselves and something larger. That something can be the good of the community or the people who are served by your agency or school or with energies greater than ourselves. Spirituality means being in the right relationship with all that is. It is a stance of harmlessness toward all living beings and an understanding of their mutual interdependence.” (Kaiser 2000)

Some common elements of the definitions:

  • experience takes precedence over belief…
  • connection/harmony with the sacred / transcendent / universe / God
  • connection/harmony with others and nature
  • search for meaning/purpose…
  • lived out in actions that benefit self, others, nature

My definition of an emergent, expansive spirituality:

Spirituality is the integration of an expansive experiential flow of meaning and purpose in life as the truly Human One connects with self, others, and nature in such a manner as to attend to and celebrate the Mystery (that is, all that happens in the name of God). Such a spirituality continues to blossom throughout life and is expressed as inner peace and contentment, as well as respect, compassion, and justice toward others and nature.


  • spirituality is about personal integration / wholeness
  • spirituality is an open process that can be described, but not scripted
  • there is no final goal (destination) to be attained; just a wholesome life to be lived abundantly
  • the abundant life is relational, connected, responsive

[See previous post on An Emergent Spirituality: the Expansive Event. Subsequent posts will describe some practices (traditionally called “disciplines”) of an expansive spirituality.]

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