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The word “spirituality” gets tossed around casually in conversation and in the media, but how closely would your definition of it match your neighbor’s, your colleague’s or even your best friend’s?

Many people are vague when it comes to describing spirituality. Religious life has a spiritual element, yet many nonreligious people also live rich spiritual lives.

“Spirituality is the essence of who we are,” says Julie Haber, Director of Spirituality at Canyon Ranch in Tucson. “It’s an exploration – going deeper inward and discovering who you really are. It’s a way to be your best self and gain a sense of peace in your life as you connect with something larger than yourself – whether it’s nature, God, love or kindness. Spirituality is about unity, living your personal values and bringing out the best in yourself and others.”

It’s Good for Your Health, Too

Attending to your spiritual life can increase your sense of purpose and help create more meaningful connection with other people. It can also reduce stress and improve your health. Studies have shown that people with religious beliefs or who meditate daily tend to have lower levels of stress hormones than those with no consistent spiritual practice; they’ve also been found to live longer and to heal more quickly.

Chronic stress is strongly related to cardiovascular disease, depression, obesity and many other physical conditions, and meditation can help reduce that risk. A regular practice increases activity in the “feel good” area of the brain, so taking a few minutes of “me” time is literally a healthy way to start your day.

Finding Your Spiritual Niche

We each have a different spiritual personality. Some people are contemplative, others are community-oriented, some are devotional. Honoring an individual approach can connect you with a sense of purpose and inner harmony.

Meditation is a recognized pathway to exploring your spirituality – but sitting still and “doing nothing” may not be the right fit for you. Not a problem, says Julie; meditation needn’t involve stillness.

“You can also connect spiritually while skiing, running, biking or listening to music. It’s about cultivating an awareness of how you spend your time, and focusing on what matters. It’s when you’re extracting the nourishment from the present moment.”

Taking care of your spiritual needs can help minimize the stresses of daily life and increase your ability to cope with them, says Julie:

“Nurturing your spirituality can help strengthen your intuition and make you better equipped to move through transitions, make decisions and perceive opportunities. You become more in touch with who you really are. You put less emphasis on the external, helping you to manifest your true potential, which always comes from within.”

Ways to Develop A Personal Spiritual Practice
  • Make a book or journal about things that really matter to you. What brings you alive?
  • Start your day with intention. If you’re in a leadership position, it might be: “To manage my team allowing each person’s gift to come forward.” As a parent, you may resolve to: “Spend one hour just being with my children, without judgment or letting chores take precedence.”
  • When you feel stressed, don’t hold onto it. Close your eyes and do some mindful breathing in a setting that nurtures you.
  • Meditate in your own way; repeat a personal affirmation, prayer or inspiring mantra to center yourself, such as: “I can be anything I choose to be,” or the appropriately named Serenity prayer: “… Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
  • Spend time connecting with others. Start a hiking group and enjoy a walking meditation together, or join a book group and explore a spiritual book. Take an expressive dance or yoga class.
  • Light a candle mindfully, as you might on a holiday or other special days. Make every day sacred.

Finding Your Spirituality Through Fitness

Are you a walker or runner with an interest in spirituality? A new workshop at Canyon Ranch in Tucson can help you turn your favorite fitness activity into a transformational spiritual practice.

Finding Your Spirituality Through Fitness is the brainchild of spiritual service provider Stephanie Ludwig, PhD, MA, MDiv, who years ago experienced firsthand the many benefits of “moving meditation” to alleviate depression, anxiety and spiritual malaise. The workshop invites you to begin a daily habit of running or walking in a natural setting to bring about a transformative experience. For many, it fosters self-healing, enhanced awareness, confidence and joy. If you are already established in a running or walking regimen, the workshop teaches how you can shift the focus toward psychospiritual development.

Stephanie recommends the following components:

  • Run or walk every day, preferably in a pre-established routine.
  • Throw away the goals and the wristwatch! “This is not about high levels of athleticism.”
  • Set your intention before each outing. It can be a prayer or mantra – Stephanie suggests “faith, gratitude, grace or love,” or simply a focus on the present moment.
  • Be in nature, and leave the iPod at home. This “opens a core spiritual sense of interconnectedness with the self, human others, animals and the earth.”
  • Synchronize breathing with the rhythm of your movement. Get in tune with your body.
  • Reflect on your experience afterward, either by thinking or writing down how you feel.

Visit our New Spiritual Wellness Center in Tucson

Explore your inner life through our expanded spirituality services and beautiful new additions in Tucson. The beautiful Spiritual Wellness Center will open this winter, followed by the tranquil Zen Garden and Sanctuary.