What does it mean to be spiritual? – by Galen Watts


An article worth reading and sharing.





Healthcare chaplaincy needs support

Kia ora koutou,

I’ve read a couple of papers recently that highlight the importance, usefulness, value and care that healthcare chaplaincy offers that no other healthcare profession can do. As I’ve noted on this site before, we underpay them, they are poorly resourced, and they could be much better integrated into our health systems, to the benefit of patients, whanau and staff. As one of these papers notes:

“Our findings suggest that: (1) Chaplains should attempt to work with all patients, even those who do not express strong religious or spiritual views in advance, (2) there is value to including chaplains as a full member of typical care team, and (3) there are observable and consistent characteristics of chaplains and their style of interaction with patients (and physicians) that contribute to their effectiveness.”

Continue reading

Spirituality & suicide?

Kia ora koutou,

For some time I’ve thought there is a relationship between spirituality and self-harm / suicide. However there is very little discussion, at least at in the public sphere, about this aspect of causes. Below is another study suggesting this relationship.



Compr Psychiatry. 2017 Aug 26;80:39-45. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2017.08.004. [Epub ahead of print]

The influence of spirituality and religiousness on suicide risk and mental health of patients undergoing hemodialysis.



Despite the large amount of literature assessing how spiritual and religious beliefs have an impact on mental health and suicide risk in various groups of patients, few studies have investigated patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). The purpose of this study is to investigate whether spirituality and religiousness (S/R) are associated with the presence of suicide risk as well as whether those beliefs are also associated with the presence of mental health problems in patients undergoing hemodialysis.


Cross-sectional study carried out in three Brazilian dialysis units involving hemodialysis patients. The study assessed religiousness (Duke Religion Index); spiritual well-being (FACIT-Sp 12); mental health – depression and anxiety (Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview-MINI); and risk of suicide (MINI). For analysis, adjusted logistic regression models were applied.


A total of 264 (80.7%) patients were included, 17.8% presented suicide risk, 14.0% presented current major depressive episode, and 14.7% presented generalized anxiety disorder. Concerning spiritual well-being (FACIT-Sp 12), the subscale of “Meaning” was associated with lower risk of suicide, depression, and anxiety. The subscale “Peace” was associated with lower depression and anxiety, whereas the subscale “Faith” was associated with lower suicide risk and depression. Religiousness measures were not associated with the study outcomes.


Spiritual beliefs were associated with lower suicide risk and better mental health among hemodialysis patients. Factors related to spiritual well-being, such as “meaning”, “peace” and “faith” were more associated with the outcomes studied than religious involvement. Further studies are needed to replicate our findings in different cultural and religious settings.

Good 2018 conference – abstracts due soon


to register for the Fifth International Conference of the British Association for the Study of Spirituality (BASS)

Thursday 17 May – Saturday 19 May 2018
Coventry University, Coventry, England, UK

In an exciting new collaboration, the 2018 BASS International Conference will be a joint venture with the European Conference on Religion, Spirituality and Health (ECRSH). This is in recognition of the academic interests that BASS shares with ECRSH. The conference will be designed in a spirit of international co-operation and collegiality in the field of the study of spirituality, which is an important part of our mission.

As the venue for the conference will be the city of Coventry, an internationally recognised centre for peace and reconciliation, this conference also offers an important opportunity for both organisations to explore the spirituality of forgiveness and reconciliation in the many contexts in which it is encountered. Thus, the main theme of the conference will be:

Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Health, Medicine and Social Sciences

Although keynote speakers from a variety of academic disciplines and professional backgrounds will provide a comprehensive overview of this topic, papers and workshops presented in concurrent sessions need not have an overt focus on forgiveness or reconciliation but must fit within the remit of BASS* or ECRSH.

You are warmly invited to participate in this biennial gathering of researchers, scholars and practitioners from many nations, and to submit abstracts for oral presentations, symposia or posters on related topics in your own academic or professional context.

Deadline for the submission of abstracts is 31 October 2017

Please note that registration and submission of abstracts is via the ECRSH website. It asks for abstracts in the traditional ‘scientific’ format of ‘background, aims, methods, results, conclusions’. If this is not appropriate for your academic discipline or professional context, please submit an abstract in your usual style. In all cases, write ‘BASS Abstract’ at the top.

Information about the acceptance of your abstract will be sent by the end of February 2018. You are encouraged to register now to take advantage of reduced rates. Registration can be cancelled in the event of non-acceptance of an abstract.

We very much look forward to meeting you.

To register for the 2018 conference, click here.

To submit your abstract until 31 Oct 2017, click here.

To visit the BASS website and read the Conference and Abstract invitation, click here.

Please circulate this invitation through your own networks and to anyone who might be interested.

If you wish to unsubscribe from the BASS conference mailing list, please send an e-mail to charidimos.koutris@durham.ac.uk with the subject UNSUBSCRIBE and your e-mail address (eg. UNSUBSCRIBE: charidimos.koutris@durham.ac.uk)




* The purpose of BASS is to advance education for the public benefit in the subject of spirituality by promoting:

  1. a) the critical study of all aspects of spirituality;
  2. b) education and dissemination regarding these matters; and
  3. c) the development of inclusive and respectful policies and professional practices.




BASS is a Company Limited by Guarantee (Company No: 7549446)

and is on the Register of Charities (Registered Charity No: 1166990)

Spirituality / wairua and evaluation

Kia ora koutou,

I keep coming back to this excellent paper. One of the big challenges, after understanding spirituality, is putting into our work practice. This paper is one of few that help to explain how wairua can be included in evaluation. Here is the abstract and citation:

Wairua and Cultural Values in Evaluation

Wairua (spirituality) is threaded through cultural beliefs, practices and values of Māori (Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand). It is an inherent part of the daily life and cultural vitality that is embedded in Māori services and programmes. In a wānanga (forum for discussion and learning) Māori and Pasifika (peoples from the Pacific Islands, Polynesia, who reside in Aotearoa New Zealand) evaluators were asked to share their thoughts about how they acknowledge, value and represent wairua in their evaluation work. Seven principles emerged from this sharing: Mauri – the life force – feeling connected; Aroha ki te tangata – respect for people; Manaaki ki te tangata – generosity and sharing with people; Kaitiakitanga – guardianship; Kia tūpato – taking care; Whakanoa – cleansing of the spirit; and Mōhiotanga, mātauranga and māramatanga – knowledge collective wisdom and enlightenment (Kennedy, et al., 2015). In this paper Māori evaluators expand the discussion of the first three of these themes, using the dialogue of the wānanga to inform the further exploration of Aroha ki te tangata, Manaaki ki te tangata, and Mauri. The evaluators examine how rituals of encounter, and the building and maintaining of relationships strengthen the a wairua (spiritual) connections with evaluation participants that last beyond the life of any single evaluation; whilst engendering notions of care, respect and obligation. It is hoped that the exploration of these experiences will prompt other evaluators to contemplate how wairua is woven into their culturally responsive evaluation practice.

Kennedy, V., F. Cram, K. Paipa, K. Pipi and M. Baker (2015). “Wairua and cultural values in evaluation.” Evaluation Matters-He take tō te aromatawai 1: 83-111.

Question about spiritual flourishing

“What are the environments where spirituality is already flourishing?”

– religious, cultural/ethnic, alternative, communities, countries?

I ask this question as I’m looking into spirituality in public health – population health. And part of the answer must be about what is already happening.

Any and all comments welcome.


Dublin and Ramadan reflection

A conversation with new friend in Dublin keeps coming to mind. I’ve just finished six weeks in Dublin. The first couple of weeks I stayed at a peaceful Catholic retreat centre called the Avila Carmelite Centre – it was a luxury – very quiet, my own wee house, and very reasonable. However, they couldn’t accommodate me the whole time in Dublin. Therefore, through the wonders of Facebook, a friend of a friend offered me a room in her two up two down wee house in Drimnagh, a suburb of Dublin. It was a very different experience from the retreat centre. Small, busy, loud, and lots of time spent with my lovely Dublin host and her man.

Down the road from the Drimnagh house was a row of shops – amazingly there still existed a butcher, a fruit shop, an off-licence, and three small grocery shops. The first of the shops was where I often bought coffee. The shop owner was a lovely man from Pakistan, though for the last thirteen years a Dublin resident. Ramadan happened while I was in Dublin and most days I spoke with my coffee man about it, his fasting and the challenges. For example, Dublin only has about five hours of darkness, with Ramadan falling at the peak of summer and long hours of light.

On my last morning in Drimnagh before going off to the airport, I went to get a coffee and say goodbye. A free coffee and an interesting discussion later, I was off to the airport. The conversation stuck with me. It was all about Ramadan and the aim to bring the spiritual fruits of a month’s long fasting, prayer and reading scriptures into every day life, until next year’s Ramadan. He talked about the need for reflection about one’s life, how one was living, and how one needs to treat all people with care, love and respect. This Ramadan message contrasts all the Islamophobia that comes through much of the media today. This spiritual impulse expressed so beautifully by the lovely coffee man in the wee shop was my last impression of Ireland, a land in spiritual transformation.