The terms ‘spirituality’, ‘spirit’ or ‘spirited’ are used widely within New Zealand society – the ‘spirited’ performance of teams, the ‘human spirit’, spiritual experiences, but what these terms actually mean and why they are important is not well understood or discussed.

The main content on the pages of this website are taken from a discussion paper prepared by the Spiritual and Well-being Strategy Group. The complete paper is also available here as a PDF, so it’s easier for transporting and printing.

This website and discussion paper aims to generate wider discussion about how we as humans understand and respond to the spirit and spirituality. Discussion on the well-being of individuals, families, communities and environments often omits the dimension of spirituality, despite the evidence of people who claim to experience and value it and the considerable research showing its efficacy in enhancing quality of life when people are sick or recovering from an illness or disability (Puchalski, C., 2012).

Next page from discussion document: definitions »

12 thoughts on “Introduction

  1. Comment.

    Thank you for the ‘Spirituality and Well-being: Discussion Paper’. It provides much food for thought and reflection and has helped me crystallize some thoughts of my own.

    I suspect that it is implicit in the definitions but it may be helpful to be made explicit – the relationship of spirituality and work. In olden times this was termed ‘calling’ though, of course, it has always referred to a much wider range of occupations than just ordained ministry.

    Doctors, nurses and teachers felt called, even when they did not profess a religious faith.
    Artists and musicians are inspired by something outside them.
    Political and ecological activists similarly feel impelled to try to work for a better world.
    The vast range of community service organisations exist because of an army of mostly voluntary labour by people wanting an enhanced community.
    Parents feel called to care for children.
    The list goes on ..

    One of the major causes of distress when people are ill is the break with the activity from which they derive a major part of their feelings of self-worth – their occupation. An extended period of un-employment, under-employment and meaningless employment could well be ‘soul-destroying’.

    Mostly the church and religion have exacerbated this distress by magnifying the importance of the ordained leadership and correspondingly diminished the importance of secular employment. The Church and religion sideline themselves by not acknowledging other sources of wholeness and particularly work.

    A second comment is that it is an academic paper and it is a bit like me talking about myself in the third person. I.e. He .. rather than I .. Spirituality can be an object to be studied but really it all-pervasive and personal. Recently I saw a bumper sticker which read: ‘I think therefore I am an atheist’ which is as profound a spiritual statement as any other.

    Then I recalled the encounter Moses had with God at the burning bush in Exodus 3. The account tells us that Moses turned aside to see the strange sight of the bush that was burning yet the wood was not being consumed. It is the spirit of inquisitiveness that Moses first encounters the divine – the precursor of all scientific enquiry.

    The encounter points to something else, the spirit of inquisitiveness, the fire that burned within Moses as he saw the burning bush, ennobled rather than consumed him. So we perceive the work of the divine when it ennobles us rather than creating ‘burn-out’. So people recognise spirituality when they and humanity are ennobled.

    In the encounter Moses is given the task of rescuing the Israelites from their servitude in Egypt, so the work of the divine is to ennoble others as well.

    Interestingly another ancient story is the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) which describes humanity’s attempts to reach the divine, a task which is utterly scuttled. Humanity’s task is to live in community with others and find ennobling amongst neighbours. The church’s preoccupation with communion with God is ultimately futile, because it is essentially self-serving. And this is as true on a corporate level as it is on a personal level. No one community has a special relationship with the divine, just as no one person has a special relationship with the divine.

    I suspect modern secular humanists see the self-serving nature of much religion and rightly reject it.

    I hope that this is helpful and I am happy to engage further in this discussion.

    christopher heath
    chaplain St George’s Hospital

    • I like this (and the whole website!) and much of what Christopher says resonates with me, especially the piece about recognising spirituality and somehow being ennobled by it as a result. Words have a tendency to fail at that point and a namelessness has to do. Thanks Christopher.

  2. Kia ora koutou,
    this is worth a look:

    Duke University Center for Aging and Human Development

    December 1, 2013

    This December issue of CROSSROADS…exploring research on religion, spirituality and health is a publication of Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology & Health. The purpose is to provide updates on new research, news, current events, and funding opportunities related to spirituality and health.

    December 1, 2013

  3. Kia ora tatou, I have been encouraged by this website, and as I work as Spiritual Director/companion and often with people who’ve become disillusioned with church, or their own spiritual lives because as the writer above explores, they have had life changing circumstances. I am excited and hopeful at the ever growing readiness to enter into dialogue about spirituality. I work with all ages, and often with life situations that cause a person to lose, challenge, deconstruct their faith and need someone to listen as they trust the deep knowing (calling) within to keep learning, letting go and to trust.
    Very c=encouraged.

    • Good to meet you Susannah. Maybe this is the beginning of a supportive network. You and your clients might find two other websites interesting.

      Mine is which has a range of articles about spirituality. I haven’t been blogging so much this year but there’s plenty there to meander through.

      Then there’s the new Progressive Spirituality group that’s emerging. who are organising a conference for this year.
      Best wishes with your work.

  4. HI, I’m frm nz, I work as a Spiritual Director/companion, and live in a community with 12 others. We are so excited by the ever growing openness to Spirituality, I work with so many whove become disillusioned by church, and lost their faith or have begun to de construct it, which is painful and a shock to some. It’s a privilege to work in this area, and listen others lives back to their spiritual calling, wellbeing, I love the links to so many others working in this field, thank you, thank you.

  5. The article “Join a conversation on spirituality” in the Easter 2014 edition of The Anglican prompts me to make this observation. The members of the Spirituality and Well-being Strategy Group seem heavily weighted in favour of academics. Now that is not a criticism. My request is that the Group consider issuing an invitation for a representative of the Dunedin Police to join their Group. My reasons for making this request are that following the suicide of my youngest son in Dunedin almost two years ago, I had reason to consult the Dunedin Police , who I found to be helpful and empathetic. During our consultation I was informed of the number of suicides that the Police are called upon to deal with in Dunedin. (And I have no reason to doubt that the replication of that statistic through other regions in New Zealand). The Police officer with whom I was in discussion expressed a high degree of disquiet about this circumstance and expressed a desire to seek a cause and possibly a remedy. My enquiry is two-fold. Firstly I am convinced that the deliberations of the Group could be enhanced by the experience and knowledge from this source and secondly it is of some concern to me of the effect of these repeated incidents on the individual officers involved. (It is a traumatic experience for family members and, I imagine, only marginally less so for Police and other aid personnell.) The name of the officer, a Senior Sergeant if my memory serves me well, but if you require the name of the individual officer who attended the suicide, then please contact me.
    Philip Meyer, Pukekohe.

    • Thanks Philip for your post and the phone conversation.

      While we could benefit from other members, the Spirituality and Well-being group is primarily about getting the discussion out there, rather than working at an operational level. However all members of the group are working operationally on various spirituality projects. (e.g. I’ve been working with Hospice New Zealand who have just rolled out a professional development package on spirituality for all hospice staff).

      That said, your point about the spirituality and those at the front line, like police, is well made; and I/we would be happy to discuss with those involved if there were opportunities.

      All the best


  6. Kia ora koutou,

    My name is Natasha Tassell-Matamua, and I am a lecturer at Massey University in Palmerston North, and my primary areas of interest are near-death experiences and spirituality. I have contacted the Strategy Group to ask if I can post this…. :)

    Recently, a colleague and I launched a survey seeking people who believe they have had a spiritual experience at some stage in their life. When we say ‘spiritual experience’, we are not looking to define the term for people. We understand that spirituality and spiritual experiences can mean different things to different people. We are also not looking to place judgement on such experiences in any way. Both my colleague and I have a strong sense of spirituality and incorporate it into our daily lives. Rather, we are hoping people will feel free to tell us what spirituality and spiritual experience means for them, and the impact of this.

    If you would like to complete the survey, which might take about 20-30 minutes, Karen and I would be very grateful. Linking to the survey can be done in two ways:


    If you would like any further information, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for your time.

    Kind regards,
    Natasha Tassell-Matamua, PhD
    School of Psychology
    Massey University

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