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How people draw on spirituality and utilize counselling to create experiences of healing and wellness Gockel, Annemarie 2007

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HOW PEOPLE DRAW ON SPIRITUALITY AND UTILIZE COUNSELLING TO CREATE EXPERIENCES OF HEALING AND WELLNESS by Annemarie Gockel B.A., Concordia University, 1992 M.S.W., University of Toronto, 1996 A THESIS SUBMITTED LN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in The Faculty of Graduate Studies (Counselling Psychology) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA JULY 2007 © Annemarie Gockel , 2007 Abstract This narrative study explores the stories and experiences of people who draw on spirituality for healing and wellness. Twelve participants in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia were identified through the purposive sampling of educational and social networks. In order to qualify for the study, participants self-identified as drawing on spirituality for healing and wellness and as having received professional counselling services. Participants identified spirituality as integral to both their experiences of healing and to their experiences of facilitative counselling. In response to a broad variety of mental and physical health crises, participants developed a seven step process of spiritual exploration and development through which they created experiences of healing and wellness. This process includes: (1) openness, (2) shifting to a spiritual perspective, (3) going within, (4) connecting with spirit, (5) clearing, (6) setting a healing intention and (7) following one's inner guidance to healing and wellness. A minority of participants experienced counselling as lacking in spiritual integration and moved onto more spiritually focused practitioners or to other spiritually-based healing modalities. The majority of participants experienced counselling as a spiritual endeavor and identified the spiritually-infused counselling they experienced as an important part of their process of healing. Participants described spiritually-infused counselling as centred in the counsellor's ability to connect to the client on the level of soul and to demonstrate their own holistic development and personal healing in their approach to practice. This study demonstrates the importance of considering spirituality as a dimension of counselling practice. iii Table of Contents Abstract ii Table of Contents iii Preface ; viii Acknowledgements ix Chapter One-Introduction : 1 Overview 1 Definitions of Major Concepts 2 Spirituality 2 Wellness and Healing 5 The Rise of Spirit in the Discipline of Psychology '. 6 Rationale for the Study 9 Chapter Two-Review of the Literature 13 Spirit and Psyche: Friends or Foes 13 Consequences of the Marginalization of Spirituality 16 The New Discourse on Spirituality 18 The New Discourse on Spirituality and the Discipline of Psychology 23 The New Discourse Impacts the Discipline of Psychology 25 Roots of Spirituality in Psychological Research and Practice 26 Theoretical Roots of Spirituality in Counselling 28 Spirituality, Health and Healing 31 Religion, Spirituality and Mental Health 34 Spirituality as a Psychological Resource 38 Spirituality as a Counselling Intervention 41 Gaps in the Quantitative Literature ..45 Qualitative Research 47 Gaps in the Qualitative Literature 49 The Current Study 51 Chapter Three-Research Methodology 53 Research Questions 53 Research Design 55 Rationale for Narrative Methodology 57 Role of the Researcher 60 Sample Selection .' 62 Participant Profile 63 Data Collection 65 Data Management and Analysis 72 Reflexivity Revisited 76 iv Representing the Findings '..77 Criteria for Assessing the Credibility and Contribution of the Study 78 Chapter Four-Results. 81 Section One: Participants' Stories .....83 Bruce's Story .' ... 84 Anne's Story :..86 . Eva's Story 90 Lila's Story ' 94 Janet's Story ..' '. ..96 Katherine's Story 99 Robert's Story '...'. ; 103 Michaela's Story 106 Sigrid's Story ... 109 Silke's Story :.. .' 112 Mia's Story (Re-written by the Participant) .116 Miriam's Story (Re-written by the Participant) : 120 Section Two: Spirituality and the Path to Healing....... 124 Participants' Definition of Spirituality : : 125 Spirituality is a Unique and Personal Experience 125 Spirit is All There is and We are Spirit : 126 Spiritual Not Religious. •.: 127 Religion Also Provides an Avenue for Spiritual Expression 129 Participants' Journeys to Drawing on Spirituality for Healing and Wellness. 131 Spirituality is a Journey , 131 A World of Magic and Wonder: Feeling the Presence of Spirit in Childhood 132 . The Healing Crisis: Illness and Trauma as a Doorway to Spiritual Exploration.... 133 A Journey of Many Steps 136 Reading: the Door to a New Vision of Spirit 136 Learning Through Attraction and Experience 137 Finding a Community of Support ,. 139 Spiritual Experiences Provide Support and Affirmation 140 The Journey.Becomes the Goal 142 Participants' Reflection on the Journey , 143 Spirituality is an Intrinsic Part of Who I Am 143 A New Way of Life 145 Summary ; 146 Section Three: Creating Healing and Wellness through Spirituality 147 Step 1: Openness 148 Step 2: Shifting to a Spiritual Perspective 150 Developing a spiritual purpose 152 The world comes alive ..; 153 And the earth moved : .155 Step 3: Going Within '. '. 156 Step 4: Connecting with Spirit 158 . Step 5: Clearing i. ..... 160 V (a) Watching the pattern 161 (b) Entering the felt experience 163 Patterns are built around unresolved experiences 165 Family of origin issues 167 Unresolved issues create disease 169 (c) Acceptance and surrender 171 (d) Making a choice and committing to the process of change 173 Step 6: Setting a Healing Intention ....175 Step 7: Following Your Inner Guidance 178 Clearing Brings Us Home 180 The Process of Healing: Putting the Pieces Together 182 Section Four: Experiences of Healing and Wellness 185 Definition of Healing '. , ....186 Healing is an Experience of Personal Integration 186 Healing is About Acceptance 187 Definition of Wellness 189 Wellness is Being Fully Alive 191 Experiences of Healing and Wellness: The Outcomes of the Spiritual Journey.. 192 Healing the Original Issues 193 Healing Through Transforming the Self 195 Healing Relationships 197 Living the Spiritual Life 201 Changes on the Inside are Reflected in Changes on the Outside 203 Wellness and Generativity 206 Coming Full Circle: Seeing Obstacles as Opportunities 209 Healing and Wellness: The Outcome of the Spiritual Journey 210 Section Five: The Role of Counselling Psychology 212 Participants' Exposure to Counselling ..214 Views of Psychology: Mainstream Approaches 215 Views of Psychology: Integrative and Spiritually-Infused Approaches 218 Benefits of Counselling 220 The Limitations of Counselling: Counselling is "Mental" Process 222 A Lack of Spiritual Integration ':. 223 Counselling is a Vehicle for Spiritual Healing 227 Spiritually-Infused Counselling 228 Spiritually-Infused Counselling Facilitates Healing and Growth 231 Making a Spiritual Connection, Honouring the Soul 232 Effective Counsellors Demonstrate Spiritual Integration 235 . Active and Proactive Clients , 240 On My Own 241 Counselling is a Step on the Healing Path 243 Summary ....244 Summary of the Results 245 Chapter Five-Reflections on the Research Process...:........ ..249 Linguistic and Conceptual Challenges 250 vi Insider/Outsider Positioning 251 Finding Surprises 252 The Value of the Narrative Approach 255 Summary 258 Chapter Six-Discussion 260 Overview 260 Major Concepts and Definitions . 261 Spirituality 261 ' Healing 262 Wellness .262 The New Discourse on Spirituality 264 Participants' Stories: The Journey of Spiritual Healing 267 The Study Reflects the Literature 267 The Study Differs From the Literature 273 Spirituality and the Process of Healing 276 The Study Confirms and Adds Significantly to the Existing Literature 276 Summary 291 Spirituality, Healing and Counselling 294 The Study Reflects the Literature 295 The Study Adds to the Literature 298 Summary 308 Contributions of the Study 310 Limitations of the Study 313 Recommendations for Future Research 316 Recommendations for Counselling Training and Practice .317 Conclusion 324 References 327 Appendix A Telling Their Stories .... 344 The Formal Analysis Supports and Extends the Content Analysis 345 It's Hard to Find the Words '. 346 Multiple Identifiers 348 Distinctive Vocabulary 349 Referring to Experience and Experiencing Emotion 350 Deploying Language to Create New Concepts 352 Deploying Language as a Tool for Healing 353 Demonstration as Confirmation 355 Summary: Formal Analysis 356 The Literary Analysis Supports and Extends the Content and Formal Analyses 357 An Epic Form 359 Participants as Spiritual Seekers ..360 A Meandering Journey 361 A Magical World 361 Learning Through Experience 361 vii Demonstrable Wisdom 362 Coming Home , 362 A New Kind of Epic 363 A New Kind of Hero , 365 The Formal and Literary Analyses Add to Our Understanding of Participants' Experiences 370 Appendix B Study Flyer 372 Appendix C Consent Form 374 Appendix D Interview Guide 377 Appendix E Demographic Questionnaire 379 Appendix F Ethics Approval Form 383 Vlll Preface Welcome to a study which investigates how ordinary Vancouverites draw on their spirituality for healing and considers the role that counselling plays in that process. The next few paragraphs are intended to orient you to the layout of the thesis you are about to review. The following manuscript contains four levels of titles. Each chapter contains chapter titles that are in 14 pt. upper and lower case script, bolded and centred on the page. Major chapter divisions are centred on the page and bolded in upper and lower case script in regular size 12pt font. Section headings are in bolded upper and lower case script and appear on the left hand side of the page. Sub-headings within a particular section are indented-and bolded in lower case script beginning with a capital and ending with a period. The thesis is comprised of six chapters and two appendices in total including: an introduction, a literature review, the methodology, results, a reflection on the research process, a discussion and appendices containing secondary formal and literary analyses and the documents used to recruit participants and collect data. ix Acknowledgements I am grateful for the support of the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada in funding this dissertation and my research training. I am also grateful to my research committee including: Dr. Bill Borgen (chair), Dr. Susan James (co-chair), and Dr. Maria Buchanan for their time, guidance and support. I want to thank Dr. Borgen in particular for all of his support specifically in terms of reading.and revising the text and more generally in terms of lending his wisdom and guidance to the project and to my development as a researcher and psychologist. I would also like to thank my partner Andre Russo for his daily help, support and encouragement* without which I could not have completed this project, and my friends Loretta James, Greg Van Wijk, and Pat Pattison for knowing the truth of and for me through all of the dilemmas along the way. Last, but certainly not least, I would like to acknowledge the generosity and dedication of my participants in sharing their time, their stories and their most profound experiences with me in order to support the ongoing development of our field. 1 Chapter One-Introduction Overview Spirituality and psychology have always been intertwined in complex ways. Shamans, witches, healers, and priests were the community leaders originally charged with responding to problems we would now describe as psychological. However, when psychology emerged as an independent enterprise in the later part of the 19th century, the fledging discipline hooked its wagon to the rising star of science, eschewing its spiritual and religious roots in the process. Although the positivist tradition has dominated the discipline for the last century, spirituality has always played a role, particularly in counselling psychology. The awareness of counselling as a spiritual as well as an interpersonal encounter was preserved in the writing of seminal researchers, theorists, and clinicians such as Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and Victor Frank!. A growing popular interest in spirituality over the last 20 years and novel forms of spiritual practice have created the opportunity for a reconsideration of the role of spirituality in the counselling process. This thesis aims to contribute to the recognition of the role of spirituality in counselling practice. Counselling psychology focuses on helping people with a range of problems in living. These problems cover the gamut of experiences including mental health disorders, trauma, addiction, illness and death, family relationships, career transition, maturing through various life-stages and self-actualization. Depending on the problem at hand, a counsellor aims either to facilitate healing where there has been injury or wellness where current challenges call for ongoing development. The recent explosion of interest in spirituality in popular culture creates a situation where popular change 2 outpaces disciplinary development in many regards. People are increasingly returning to spiritual approaches to address the problems they face in day to day life. In this thesis, I will be turning to past and current counselling clients to understand how they are using spiritual approaches to facilitate healing and wellness in their lives. Their experiences may well serve to guide practitioners in understanding what clients are seeking from spiritual approaches and how best they might be integrated into counselling practice. Definitions of Major Concepts Spirituality The major constructs I am considering are spirituality, wellness and healing. The construct of spirituality has been a subject of considerable debate in the literature. In addition to the traditional complaints that spirituality is too "soft" or unscientific a topic for serious study (Miller & Thoresen, 2003; Haque, 2001), the popular shift in spiritual practices and viewpoints represented by the new discourse on spirituality has turned the field on its head (Sperry & Shafranske, 2005; Zinnbauer et al., 1997). Prior to World War II, religion was viewed as the broader all encompassing category, and spirituality, when it was discussed, was conceptualized as a more personal or mystical experience of the divine experienced within a religious framework (Zinnbauer et al., 1997). The vast majority of scholarship on spirituality within the psychology of religion reflects this emphasis on religious variables and tends to conceptualize religion specifically within a Christian framework (Wulff, 2003). As popular culture shifted with the counter culture revolution and the birth of a post-industrial society, spirituality emerged as a vital, lived experience of the divine posited against a backdrop of religion which was increasingly painted as formal, institutional, bureaucratic and meaningless (Sutcliffe, 2003). More recently, spirituality 3 has emerged to reflect the larger catch all category representing one's lived experience of god or spirit whether that exists within or outside of a religious context or tradition (Sperry & Shafranske, 2005; Sutcliffe, 2003; Zinnbauer et al., 1997). The sub-field of the psychology of religion has been slow to respond to the popular shift in understanding. As a result, a survey of the field reveals a confusing array of definitions of spirituality representing all three periods and views of spirituality, and a plethora of instruments each measuring a slightly different construction of spirituality, which promulgates ongoing conceptual confusion in the area (Zinnbauer et al., 1997). More recently, researchers have started to return to the field and qualitative studies that seek to create an empirical basis for understanding spirituality by surveying popular conceptualizations have emerged. These studies reflect both an investigation of the meaning of spirituality within psychology in general and an investigation of the meaning of spirituality in relation to specific sub-disciplines such as organizational psychology. Common themes from these studies suggest that people view religion and spirituality as over-lapping but distinct concepts and that more people identify with the term spirituality than identify with the term religion (Zinnbauer et al., 1997). Popular definitions of spirituality revolve around a personal, lived experience of spirit whether it is variously conceived as god, nature, a higher or greater self, or a greater force in the world. Themes of transcendence, immanence, love, integrity, forgiveness, peace, connection, vitality, and felt experience reflect the all inclusive and unique nature of each person's experience of the spirituality (Freshman; 1999; Mitroff & Denton, 1999; Zinnbauer et al., 1997). . . 4 In defining spirituality for this study, I have chosen to start with Sutcliffe's (2003) definition of spirituality as a "vivid, vital" personal experience of the transcendent, which may be variously conceptualized as a divine being, as nature, as a higher self or greater force within the self and/or the world, depending on the individual (Sutcliffe, 2003, p. 214). Sutcliffe's'definition recognizes and encompasses the uniquely individual nature and broad variety of people's experiences and understandings of spirit, reflecting the inclusive postmodern framework of the new discourse on spirituality. In keeping' with the empirical literature on the definition of spirituality, I will refine this definition to substitute the word divine for transcendent, encompassing a clearer recognition that the divine may be either or both transcendent and immanent. Qualitative studies further focus on spirituality in particular as an experience as well as a set of beliefs, values and behaviours. I will include the concept of spirituality as a lived experience in the proposed definition. I will also include the concept of one's relationship to the divine as essential to spirituality because the relational nature of spirituality and spiritual experience is the other major theme which emerges from qualitative studies. This theme is visible in the literature's focus on spirituality as providing a sense of connection and as encompassing love, forgiveness and other relational values, behaviours, and experiences (Freshman, 1999; Mitroff & Denton, 1999; Zinnbauer et al., 1997). Thus, the definition of spirituality that will guide this study is that spirituality is conceptualized as a: vivid, vital and personal, lived experience of the divine and one's relationship to it. This definition is intended to create as broad a framework as possible to invite diverse traditional and non-traditional experiences of spirituality to emerge in the study. 5 Wellness and Healing There is considerably more clarity and agreement around the emerging concepts of healing and wellness. As a discipline, psychology tends to reflect a focus on the concepts of coping and development rather than healing or wellness. These concepts have emerged largely from the literature on health but are increasingly making their way into psychology through the influence of health psychology. Following Prilleltensky & Prilleltensky (2003), I am relying on the World Health Organization's (1948, p. 100) definition of health "as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Wellness is conceptualized as including "psychological and physical health" (Prilleltensky & Prilleltensky, 2003, p. 198), but extending beyond it. Wellness not only encompasses the practices required to support health, but also practices that reach beyond basic health to further enhance mental, physical, social, and spiritual resources and experiences. In contrast to the traditional constructs of finding a cure for disease, alleviating symptoms, or increasing coping that are most often reflected in the medical and psychological literature on health, concepts of wellness and healing at once reflect both novel and ancient conceptualizations of health that are in keeping with the holistic focus of the new discourse on spirituality. I draw on Jonas and Chez (2004) to define healing as: processes of recovery, repair, renewal and transformation that increase wholeness... .Healing is an emergent process of the whole system and may or may not involve curing, (p. 172) Healing is sought when any dimension of health (physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual) and subjective well-being is experienced as being comprised. In keeping with a 6 hol ist ic f ramework, these definit ions reflect an understanding o f the integrated role o f m i n d , body, emot ion and spirit i n the process and experience o f heal ing rather than be ing l i m i t e d to the concept o f mind/body d u a l i s m tradit ional ly reflected i n Western medic ine and psychology . These definit ions serve to define and target the central area o f invest igat ion w h i l e s t i l l creating a broad enough f ramework to capture divergent experiences on the topic. Because o f the conceptual confus ion around the def ini t ion o f spir i tual i ty i n the literature and because the new discourse on spiritual i ty suggests that there has been a shift towards a n o v e l p s y c h o l o g i c a l v i e w and use o f spiri tual i ty for heal ing, part icipants ' conceptualizations o f a l l o f these major concepts are also an important part o f m y invest igat ion. T h u s , invest igating participants o w n understandings o f spir i tual i ty , heal ing, and wel lness w i l l be an integral part o f answering the study's research questions. The Rise of Spirit in the Discipline of Psychology A l t h o u g h integral to the development o f c o u n s e l l i n g p s y c h o l o g y , spir i tual i ty has been m a r g i n a l i z e d as a topic i n d isc ip l inary research and as a resource or consideration i n professional practice for the majority o f the 20th century. R e l i g i o u s and spir i tual questions have tradit ional ly been v i e w e d as unscienti f ic topics o f study (Fal ler , 2001; H a q u e , 2001). L i t t l e funding or support has been available for research i n the area, and consequently, i n compar ison w i t h other domains , there has been re lat ive ly l i t t le research on spir i tual and rel ig ious issues i n p s y c h o l o g y (Fal ler , 2001; H a q u e , 2001). Spir i tua l i ty has also received scant recognit ion as a consideration i n teaching or c l i n i c a l practice. F o r example , F a l l e r (2001) notes that very few introductory textbooks even ment ion re l ig ion as a variable i n mental health. T h e relative absence o f spiri tual i ty f r o m d i s c i p l i n a r y 7 discussions has largely gone unnoticed because psychological history has traditionally been written from the perspective of the dominant positivist paradigm (Leahy, 2000). Within the clinical sphere, the ascendance of the psychodynamic model of practice in the early 20 th century fostered a general disregard and suspicion of religion and spirituality (Argyle, 2000; West, 2000). From this perspective religion was viewed as a defense mechanism, and potentially as a symptom of disorder (Freud, 1927/1968). Although models of practice have expanded exponentially, until very recently, psychological training has continued in the long tradition of disregarding spiritual and religious issues (Brawer, Handel, Fabricatore, Roberts & Wajda-Johnson, 2002; Schulte, Skinner, & Claiborne, 2002). As a result, Brawer et al. (2002) estimate that fewer than five percent of clinical practitioners have any training in assessing or addressing spiritual or religious issues in counselling practice. Over the last 10 years the tables have turned in psychology. Following a broad popular resurgence of interest in spirituality, psychologists have begun to reconsider the soul in psychology. Researchers and practitioners alike are rediscovering the roots of spirituality in psychological research, theory, and practice. Although modest by comparison to other areas, the research on spirituality and religion demonstrates that spirituality offers a rich potential resource both for healthcare and psychological practice and should, at a minimum, be considered in assessment in order to provide prudent and comprehensive psychological services (Lowenthal, 1995; Schulte et al., 2002; West, 2000). At the optimum, spiritual beliefs and practices may protect against physical and mental disease, promote wellness through helping people cope and develop, and 8 contribute to the healing of ongoing mental and physical conditions. Spirituality has been clearly and convincingly linked to good mental and physical health and to the prevention of a variety of conditions including depression, suicide, addiction, high blood pressure, and mortality (Krebs, 2003; Larson & Larson, 2003; Mueller, Plevak, & Rummans, 2001; Townsend, Kladder, Ayele, & Mulligan, 2002). Spiritual strategies have been used successfully to cope with a wide variety of illnesses and misfortunes, and are linked to positive mental, physical, and psychosocial outcomes for people living with such conditions as cancer, HIV, and MS (Larson & Larson, 2003; Mueller et al., 2001). Emerging psychotherapy research further suggests that spirituality has considerable value in counselling intervention with spiritual interventions such as meditation and religiously-informed versions of cognitive behavioural therapy showing promising outcomes for treating such problems as depression and addiction (Harris, Thoresen, McCullough & Larson, 1999). The research that we do have suggests that spirituality has great potential for facilitating wellness, and contributing to helping people heal or cope with a broad variety of mental and physical diseases and conditions. In addition, counsellors, in particular, have begun to acknowledge the role that spirituality plays or can play in psychological practice. A recent survey showed that 85% of counsellors rated themselves as spiritually oriented as compared to only 65% of other mental health professionals (Young, Cashwell, & Shcherbakova, 2000). Hickson, Housley and Wage's (2000) survey of counsellors in the American Southwest further found that 90% of counsellors felt that spirituality was a powerful resource for change. In a survey of psychotherapists in the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand, 31% of psychologists said religion greatly influenced their work, while another 33% indicated 9 that it moderately influenced their interactions in the consulting room (Smith &'Orlinksy, 2004). Although traditionally unacknowledged in research and teaching, this study points to the fact that religious and spiritual perspectives are having considerable impact on psychological practice for a significant number of practitioners. West's (2000) research further demonstrates that some counsellors view spirituality as an essential resource for personal grounding in psychological practice and others approach the process of counselling itself as a spiritual practice. Counsellors and counselling psychologists are clearly beginning to see, discuss, and reconsider the value and impact of spirituality in clinical practice. Clients are similarly interested in the role of spirituality in counselling and health care. Several studies have found that a majority of people who cope with serious physical and mental health issues and personal crises use spirituality as an important means of coping with their challenges (Larson & Larson, 2003). A recent survey of seven community practice sites found that the majority of counselling clients were comfortable discussing religious and spiritual issues in counselling and felt that it was appropriate to do so (Rose, Westefeld, & Ansley, 2001). Twenty-five percent of clients in this study reported a clear preference for having these issues addressed as part of the counselling process (Rose et al., 2001). Thus, people who seek or could benefit from counselling services are expressing interest in spirituality as a dimension of healing. Rationale for the Study The last 10 years has seen a rise of interest in reconsidering the role of spirituality in counselling practice. Research to date suggests that various forms of spirituality and spiritual practices have potential value as counselling and healing interventions. Counsellors, counselling psychologists and clients alike are interested in exploring its 10 potential in practice. The time has come to begin reintegrating and benefiting from this traditionally marginalized resource. Counselling psychology is in a unique position to facilitate the effective reintegration of spirituality into counselling practice. The American Psychological Association (1999) defines counselling psychology as a: general practice and health service provider specialty in professional psychology. ... Counselling psychologists help people with physical, emotional and mental disorders improve well-being, alleviate distress and maladjustment, and resolve crises, (p. 589) According to this definition, counselling psychology is fundamentally concerned with health, healing, wellness, and development. It is the sector of the discipline that addresses the broadest range of practice issues from facilitating wellness, to increasing coping, to generating healing. The strong humanist tradition in counselling psychology also makes it the sector most open to tools which cross or integrate the art of direct practice with the science of research. Counselling psychology then is in a unique position to lead the way in developing effective, evidence-based approaches to reintegrating this potentially valuable therapeutic tool into counselling practice. My study aims to add to the exploration of spirituality's potential contribution to counselling psychology. The proposed study will add to counselling theory by investigating the conceptual frameworks of people who use spirituality for the purpose of psychological healing and wellness. By considering the diverse understandings and uses of spirituality as an avenue to healing in the postmodern context, this study can contribute to the elaboration of a conceptual framework for spirituality within psychology. A contemporary conceptual 11 framework for understanding people's process of drawing on spirituality for healing provides rich ground for the development of theoretical models explaining the relationship between spirituality and healing which can then be tested. This process spurs the development and integration of existing theory in the field as well as offering the potential for organizing the broad array of facts we've discovered into empirically-based frameworks which can lend them broader meaning and applicability. The proposed study also adds directly to counselling practice by providing information on how people use spirituality to address the range of issues that counselling psychologists deal with on a day to day basis. By focusing on client experiences with drawing on spirituality as a psychological intervention, the current study may offer clinicians practical information that can guide their own creation of spiritually-infused interventions which can then be tested. Information that is drawn from clients' experiences is more likely than theory or expert driven models to contribute to designing interventions that work in the real world of clients' lives. This study will also add to the development and testing of practical and appropriate tools for using spiritual interventions in counselling practice. In summary, the proposed study will contribute to the effective re-integration of spirituality into counselling theory, research and practice. Investigating the way people use spirituality to create wellness and healing promotes the development of theory which can guide and synthesize research findings. Gaining information on the actual practices of former and current clients also offers concrete information on designing interventions that are likely to be easily integrated into counselling practice, contributing to the development and testing of spiritually-infused interventions over time. The proposed 12 study offers an opportunity to add new and important information to the theoretical, empirical, and practical knowledge base of counselling psychology. 13 Chapter Two-Review of the Literature Spirit and Psyche: Friends or Foes Spirituality and psychology have a long, complex and contentious relationship. Shamans, witches, healers and priests were the community leaders originally charged with healing mental, emotional, and physical problems. With the Enlightenment, came new visions of science and reason gradually replacing religious hopes for salvation with the creation of a heaven on earth. Against this back drop of secular optimism, the emerging enterprise of psychology hooked its wagon to the rising star of science in order to establish its legitimacy as an independent discipline in the late 19th century. As part of this process, spiritual and religious questions and conceptualizations were pushed to the margins of the discipline, where they have remained for much of the 20th century. Although, currently defined as the science of mind and behaviour (Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary, 2002), psychology originally denoted the study of spiritual beings. Vande Kemp (2002) locates the first use of the word psychologia in late 15th or early 16th century philosophy, where it was used to delineate a subdivision of penumatologia: "the science or doctrine of spiritual beings and substances" that particularly pertained to organic beings (p. 228). Leahy (1991) traces the etiology of the word psychology to the Greek terms psyche meaning soul and logos meaning word or knowledge. He attributes the modern use of the word psychology to 18th century philosophy where it was defined as "the discipline that knows about the soul" (p. 40). When psychology came into being in the late 19th century it was a multidisciplinary enterprise owing as much to its philosophical and religious roots as to its wholehearted embrace of the scientific method (Jansz, 2004; Vande Kemp, 2002). 14 Early classes in psychology were taught in departments of philosophy and religious studies (Coon, 2000). Reflection and introspection were legitimate adjuncts to measurement and observation within the new discipline. Wilhelm Wundt, who is generally considered the founder of scientific psychology because he opened the first psychological laboratory in 1879 (Jansz, 2004; Leahy, 1991), viewed psychology as the empirical study of consciousness (Jansz, 2004). Even for Wundt, the distinguishing characteristic of the new science was that it brought novel positivist approaches to science to the task of answering traditional philosophical questions concerning consciousness (Jansz, 2004). In this early period, religious and spiritual questions were explored alongside now standard psychological topics such as perception and behaviour. Seminal thinkers such as William James (as cited in Coon, 2000, p. 93) pondered the nature and structure of the soul in Principles of Psychology, the first text introducing the fledgling discipline to American students. Here his reflections led him to the conclude: "I find the notion of some sort of an anima mundi thinking in all of us to be a more promising hypothesis, in spite of all its difficulties, than that of a lot of absolutely individual souls." The nature and treatment of the person revolved around questions of the nature and treatment of the soul or the mystery of the spirit during this early period. Several prominent founders of the discipline including James and Gustav Fechner, who created the first objective system for measuring mental phenomena; a development which made Wundt's laboratory possible, envisioned science as the engine which could bring spiritual truths to light (Coon, 2002; Wilber, 2000). James had a profound interest in spiritualism; a philosophy and movement that suggested that the soul 15 was eternal and promoted seances as a means of communicating beyond the veil of time. James believed that providing "scientific insight into the eternity of the individual" (as quoted in Coon, 2002, p. 213) through proving the existence of communication with spirits beyond the grave, might form the foundation for a new secular faith. In this way, James looked to the new discipline of psychology to provide a basis for the moral regeneration of post-civil war America. Many of James' contemporaries on the other hand looked to science to create progress by replacing the dogma of religion with rational explanations for behaviour that could guide the development of a better society. Thus, while James was still considering questions of the soul, Freud, his European contemporary, was busy separating spirituality from science and therefore from psychology. Freud "conceptualized the psyche as an epiphenomenon of somatic processes," reducing human consciousness itself to "an effect" of the biological organism (Penn & Wilson, 2000, p. 22). Freud regarded religion as a form of mythology, a primitive defense mechanism that man created to deal with the chaotic and challenging forces of nature. In the Future of an Illusion, Freud (1927/1968) argued that religion amounted to the ultimate in wish fulfillment for a father-protector to help provide a sense of justice and hope as a bulwark against the uncertainty of life. Freud believed that science, and by extension, psychoanalysis, offered a means of replacing the "neurotic relics" of religious teachings with "rational grounds for the precepts of civilization" (p. 44). In tune with the tenor of the times, it was Freud's view that would take hold. Penn and Wilson (2000, p. 22) suggest that Freud's writing marked a watershed moment in the history of the discipline heralding the "sacrifice of the unique powers generally associated with the human spirit" to the triumph of a rational-biological view of the !6 human animal and, I would add, a positivist view of science which came to dominate modern psychiatry and psychology. By 1913, John Watson (1913/1994), the father of behaviourism, offered a radical new definition of psychology that set the tone for the remainder of the 20 th century: Psychology as the behaviorist views it is a purely objective natural science. Its theoretical goal is the prediction and control of behaviour. Introspection forms no essential part of its methods, nor is the scientific value of its data dependent upon the readiness with which they lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness. (248) Watson's declaration signaled the victory of a strict positivist paradigm of science in the discipline. From a behaviourist's point of view, even introspection and mental processes are viewed, respectively, as an inappropriate method and an inappropriate topic of inquiry. Questions of the soul and spirit are categorically rejected as religious and therefore unscientific questions within this paradigm of science. Although a consideration of mental processes re-emerged with the cognitive revolution (Leahy, 2002), religious and spiritual questions remained firmly at the margins of research and clinical practice for the majority of the 20th century. Consequences of the Marginalization of Spirituality The traditional marginalization of spirituality and religion in psychology is reflected in both research and teaching. Haque (2001, p. 243) argues that the rise of the positivist conception of psychology generated an attitude of "neglect and ridicule" towards spirituality and religion. As a result there was little funding or support for research in the area. Religion was viewed as "soft" topic inappropriate for study in a "hard" science where scholars were interested in serious inquiry (p. 243). While research 17 on the psychology of religion, an area initiated by James, did continue, this sub-discipline has largely been left to languish unnoticed on the sidelines (Wulff, 2003). In fact, religion and spirituality are most notable by their absence in research and teaching over the course of the century. For example, a review of major psychiatry journals found that only 2.7% of studies published between 1991 and 1995 included religious variables (Weaver et al., 1998). Similarly, Faller (2001) notes few psychology textbooks even mention religion as a variable in human behaviour and functioning. Religion and spirituality have also traditionally been regarded with suspicion among clinical practitioners. Psychoanalysis dominated early models of treatment from the late 19th century to the 1950s (Jansz, 2004). From a traditional psychoanalytic perspective, turning to spiritual and religious practices for help is at best a symptom of immaturity and at worst a form of pathology (Argyle, 2000; Lowenthal, 1995). Professional training has been marked by this dismissive attitude towards spiritual matters. Looking through a positivist and/or psychoanalytic lens, psychologists have frequently and falsely linked religion to psychosis because religious iconography shows up in the content of psychotic delusions and hallucinations for some clients (Argyle, 2000; Lowenthal, 1995). Although the field diversified and different theories of treatment emerged over time, the legacy of psychoanalysis persisted in that spirituality and religion by and large came to be viewed as non-issues within the secular scientific framework of counselling. The marginalization of spiritual and religious issues in practice has had serious implications for clients arid counsellors. West (2000) reviews research that suggests that one third of the population have spiritual experiences and are afraid of disclosing them 18 forrfear of being thought crazy. Both British and American studies suggest that some clients do bring spiritual issues and concerns to counselling despite their apprehension (West, 2000). Few counsellors have received training in spirituality and may have difficulty in distinguishing between psychosis with spiritual features and a spiritual crisis with psychotic features (West, 2000). The literature is rife with stories of clients who have been treated inappropriately, first, as a result of counsellors perceiving religious and cultural customs as pathology, or second, as a result of counsellors overlooking religious or spiritual factors that are contributing to the client's problem (Lowenthal, 1995). The rational-positivist model of psychology has led to an over-emphasis on the rational and biological elements of the human experience while often overlooking the emotional, creative, and existential dimensions that give life most of its meaning. The marginalization of spirituality within the discipline has thus led many counsellors to overlook an important part of human experience that has direct relevance for the helping relationship. The New Discourse on Spirituality Popular culture, on the other hand, has seen a huge resurgence of interest in religion and spirituality in North America over the last 20 years (Ellingson, 2001; Doyle Driedger, McClelland & Kar, 2001; McDonald, 1994). Immigration and globalization has sparked an interest in Eastern religions in a North American context (Chandler, 2001; Hunt, 2002). The ever quickening pace of change, the progressive decline of economic security that resulted from the recessions of the 1980s and early 1990s, the increasing concentration of wealth, competition for opportunities, and ever expanding work week is causing people to look for security and satisfaction outside of the work-a-day context (Clayton, 1996; Chandler, 2001; Savickas, 2000; Storey, 2000). Ever increasing national 19 and global mobility means that people are often separated from family, friendship, and community ties that traditionally functioned to create personal meaning and connection (Conlin, 1999). People are increasingly turning to spirituality to fill the void and keep them afloat on a sea of uncertainty. In addition, secularization, immigration, globalization, and socio-economic changes have also impacted spirituality and religion. A distinctly new form of spiritual practice that reflects the context of a post-modern, post-industrial and global society has emerged on a large scale since the 1960s (Hanegraaff, 2001; Hunt, 2002; Sutcliffe, 2003). What Sutcliffe (2003, p. 223) terms this "new discourse on spirituality" has developed a much broader conceptualization of spirituality as "vivid, vital" personal experience of the transcendent, which may be variously conceptualized as a divine being, as nature, as a higher self or greater force within the self and/or the world, depending on the individual (p. 214). This discourse challenges the traditional notion of spirituality as being contained within religion, and suggests instead that the experience of spirituality may or may not be expressed in religion (Zinnbauer et al., 1997; Sperry & Shafranske, 2005). People may adhere to a given creed without experiencing spirituality within that context, or people's outward adherence to religious rituals and precepts may reflect or be undertaken tp experience their sense of spiritual communion. The new discourse on spirituality then posits spirituality as the broader rubric under which both spiritual "and religious beliefs and activities can be subsumed. Understanding religion within the context of spirituality is a fundamentally new way of thinking about spirituality which has lead to completely new approaches to spiritual and religious practice. 20 Within the context of this new discourse, spirituality is an experience, an expression, and a practical tool for healing and self-development. While mystical experiences may be an important part of spirituality, the emphasis in this discourse is on its function. Spirituality is grounded in daily practices that serve to facilitate healing and development. The practitioner applies specific spiritual strategies to "make things work", achieve goals, and "create meaning in everyday life" (Sutcliffe, 2003, p. 221). This stands in sharp contrast to a traditional religious framework where spiritual practices take place to relate oneself to the divine first and foremost. If healings happen they are a by-product of faith and a blessing, not a central goal or proof of spiritual development. Unity and holism is another central theme in this discourse (Hanegraaff, 2001). There is an emphasis on seeing the unity amidst diversity, whether that is appreciating the common threads of humanity across culture, or the common truths in religious writings from various traditions. In contrast to Cartesian dualism, body-mind-spirit holism is emphasized. Problems with the body are conceptualized as also being problems of the mind and spirit. Similarly, personal challenges are viewed as reflecting larger social and global problems. The tools used for healing within this context thus reflect a combination or synthesis of physical, mental, emotional, and social strategies as well as those that are traditionally considered spiritual. Treatment and healing for the individual and society centres around regaining a sense of unity and balance between aspects of the individual, between individuals, between nations, and between human society and the environment (Hanegraaff, 2001). Syncretism is another feature of this discourse. Hammer (2001) traces the way in which popular authors identify similar concepts across traditions and "disembed" them 21 from their context, ignoring significant differences (p. 45). This allows them to reconstitute diverse ancient practices in new settings or tp synthesize completely new practices under the rubric of ancient spiritual wisdom. Hence practices from traditions as disparate as Gnostic Christianity, Neo-Paganism, Hinduism, and Native North American Shamanism are practiced in combination with one another or synthesized outside of the traditional initiation that would normally take place in each school. McGuire (quoted in Sutcliffe, 2003, p. 204-205) provides the example of a healing group member who combined "rebirthing, crystal healing, colonics, meditation journals, Shiatsu and dance therapy" to epitomize the way people weave "complex, eclectic, and continually changing strands" together to create "personal beliefs and practices" within this discourse. In true North American fashion individualism is prized in this discourse. Although people may join groups, and participate in traditional or novel religious activities, the individual is the ultimate authority on his or her own spiritual practice and relationship to the divine. Each individual is viewed as containing a "God-spark, or central infusion of divinity" that can be developed (York, 2001, p. 364). Great emphasis is placed on intuition and subjective emotional experience in this process, with "our passions, enthusiasms, and feelings" viewed as clues to the practices and activities that will enhance our "innate" connection with spirit (Sutcliffe, 2003, p. 218). While teachers, healers, ministers, and guides may be sought for support, each person is regarded as the ultimate authority on determining the unique combination of spiritual practices that will be most helpful and fulfilling to him or her. 22 Psychology is also fundamental to the new discourse on spirituality. Reid (quoted in Hunt, 2003, p. 136) notes the "conflation of psychological and religious language" and concepts that intertwine new spiritual solutions with traditional psychological knowledge in this discourse. For example, the Church of Scientology is based on offering a system for clearing painful past experiences stored in our unconscious that keep us from developing our full potential; clearly a Freudian take on spiritual progress (Hunt, 2003). Psychological practices including dream work, Gestalt therapy, re-birthing, and dance therapy are considered spiritual practices within this framework (Sutcliffe, 2003). One mediates or prays not simply as an act of devotion but rather to transform one's consciousness. Self-realization and self-development are the engines which drive the new spirituality (Heelas, 1996; Hunt, 2003). Hunt (2003) notes that "while religious healing systems in the past were principally involved with physical healing, the primary concern now is with emotional and psychological restoration or improvement" (p. 184). The new discourse on spirituality is having a broad-based impact on Western society. Its presence can be seen in everything from Telus ads espousing the pan-religious theme "we're all connected" to the proliferation of yoga and meditation classes and the advent of mainstream television shows about witches, angels, and personal healing. Within a religious context, the impact of this discourse can be seen in the rise of Pentecostal, charismatic, and fundamentalist churches. These churches emphasize: a) a personal emotional experience of god; b) democratic access to divine as reflected in the common display of mystical experiences such as speaking in tongues, or in minimal institutional structure and a reliance on lay leadership; and, c) the use of spirituality for healing and self-development with a rise in faith healing services being one example of 23 this trend (Hunt, 2003). While the congregations of traditional mainline churches have been declining in the West, these denominations have been growing by leaps and bounds and are particularly popular among the young and affluent (Hunt, 2003). The new discourse on spirituality is also reflected in a plethora of new religious movements such as the Unification church or the Rajneesh movement, and in the assorted array of individual writers, practitioners or practices reflecting these common themes which are generally collected under the label of the "New Age" movement (Hunt, 2003; Sutcliffe, 2003). Inspirational or "New Age" literature is one of the fastest growing segments of the publishing market ("The New New Age", 2002). The influence of Eastern religious traditions is felt in the popularity of Buddhist and Hindu practices and Eastern culture. Spiritual leaders who represent themes of unity and social justice such as Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama have become world-wide celebrities on the order of pop stars. Bainbridge (1997) calls the New Age the "most formidable thorough-going religious culture that currently exists in modern society" (p. 371). Hunt (2003) notes the impact of New Age themes in "medicine, sport, leisure, education, dying and grieving, self-help, animal welfare" and "management training" (p. 145). Further, he argues that: holistic consciousness has already made incisive roads into public thinking about such issues as ecology, peace, gender, and health. ... Success can also be measured by the growth of green politics and green products-taking the movement from the alienated fringes of public life to its centre, (p. 145) The New Discourse on Spirituality and the Discipline of Psychology The new discourse on spirituality both supports and challenges the discipline of psychology. On the one hand, psychological practices have been transformed into spiritual practices within this dialogue. This discourse supports a new openness towards 24 psychological therapy as an acceptable part of a healing journey. In addition, the large scale utilization of psychological concepts and strategies promotes self-awareness, self-care, and effective coping in popular culture. On the other hand, this discourse poses spirituality as a new solution to psychological problems. Psychological tools and techniques are being adapted and repackaged to contribute to new forms of "spiritual" healing (Heelas & Kohn, 1986). A whole new class of healers, shamans, and spiritual counsellors are emerging who offer largely untested therapies in place of or mixed with traditional psychological treatment. As Needleman (as quoted in Heelas & Kohn, 1986, p. 296) observes: "The shrinks are beginning to sound like gurus, and the gurus are beginning to sound like shrinks." "Spiritual change has become a major mental health growth industry" (Lambert, Garfield & Bergin, 2004, p. 817), appealing to the same group of white, educated, middle-class men, and particularly women, who have traditionally been prominent consumers of private psychological services and who are similarly drawn to charismatic churches (Hunt, 2003). Heelas (1996) suggests that the new spirituality has arisen to fill the gaps left by the bureaucratization of modern institutions including the discipline of psychology. It offers a focus on emotional expression and creative or holistic therapies in contrast to the emphasis on cognitive-behavioural treatment and the increasing integration of psychoactive medication. It offers direct and informal interpersonal relationships between spiritual teachers or healers and their clients in contrast to the formal, rule-bound relationships implied in obtaining professional psychological services. It offers an array of practices set within a psychological framework that the seeker can mix and match to 25, suit him or herself and access at any time as opposed to relying on the help of an expert who may provide fewer options and is only accessible at certain times. The new spirituality challenges the rationalism, scientism, and objectivity of mainstream psychological practice. The new discourse on spirituality represents a fundamental shift in spiritual or religious practice that has implications for the discipline of psychology. Within this context psychology and spirituality have melded together. Psychological techniques have become spiritual healing tools and spirituality itself is being used for physical and psychological healing purposes. The discourse both supports and challenges the discipline of psychology. Despite its widespread implications for psychological practice, there are almost no studies enquiring into this new popular conceptualization of spirituality from a psychological perspective (Granqvist & Hagekull, 2001). The New Discourse Impacts the Discipline of Psychology The new discourse on spirituality has also had a significant impact on developments in the discipline of psychology itself over the last 10 years. The growing interest in spirituality in psychological circles, and the postmodern turn in social sciences in general, is reflected in psychological discourse. For example, there has been a rise in interest in emotionally-focused treatments, expressive therapies, integrative body-mind interventions, narrative therapies focused on storytelling and the re-construction of the self, and solution-focused approaches emphasizing minimal functional interventions and clients' own healing resources. There has also been an explosion of interest in Eastern religions and in integrating Eastern religious concepts and techniques such as mindfulness, Zen, and meditation into counselling interventions. This has given rise to new forms of treatment including 26 Linehan's (1993) Dialectical Behaviour Therapy which incorporates Zen concepts (Worthington & Sandage, 2002), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (Teasdale et al., 2000) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (Kabat-Zin et.al., 1998), which incorporates mindfulness concepts and meditation. All of these treatments show promising outcomes in research with particular populations (Proulx, 2003; Teasdale et al., 2000; Worthington & Sandage, 2002). As yet untested models of Buddhist therapy have emerged as a new theoretical framework (e.g., Brazier, 2003; Epstein, 1995), and the development of energy psychology also comes from the influence of Eastern healing traditions including yoga and acupuncture (Hover-Kramer, 2002). Significant steps have been made to integrate spirituality into the fabric of psychology. Although largely in response to cultural and diversity concerns, the A.P.A. (1993, as cited in Schulte et al., 2002) published a guideline on responding to clients religious and spiritual needs to prevent discrimination on the basis of religious affiliation. There are widespread calls for training on spiritual and religious issues in counselling and clinical programs (e.g., Brawer et al., 2002; Schulte et al., 2002; West, 2000). There are a growing number of theoretical offerings on integrating spirituality and religion into clinical practice (e.g., Hinterkopf, 1998; Kelly, 1995; Richards & Bergin, 2000; 2005; Shafranske, 1996; Sperry & Shafranske, 2005). There is new funding to support research on spirituality and religion (Clay, 2003; Lambert et al., 2004). Psychology as a discipline is experiencing a resurgence of interest in spirituality and is once again returning to considering questions of the spirit and the soul as well as the mind and behaviour. Roots of Spirituality in Psychological Research and Practice If we look back into the history of psychology with the lens of spirit, it becomes clear that despite its early rejection, spirituality and religion have remained intricately 27 woven into the fabric of the discipline. Even as the mainstream turned away from spiritual issues, work on spirituality and religion continued at the fringes of the discipline. Psychologists who remained inspired either to prove or disprove the value of religious experience set out to apply the positivist method to studying the psychological impact and effects of religious practices. Called the "sleeping beauty" of the discipline (Roelofsma, Corveleyn, & van Saane, 2003, p. 7), the psychology of religion has quietly continued accumulating data on the physical and psychological effects of religious faith, church attendance, and membership in religious organizations as the years have passed. Spirituality and religion have been particularly influential in applied psychology and counselling practice. Before the rise of the psychology and psychiatry as separate disciplines, severe mental and emotional problems-ranging from psychosis to depression-were defined and "treated" as spiritual and religious issues. Medicine men, shamans, and witches addressed the spiritual ills of local villagers (Argyle, 2000; West, 2000). Even with the advent of the church, "magical-religious remedies" were the norm where medical solutions failed in the medieval period (Peeters, 1996, p. 205). The church provided respite care, religious guidance and treatment, and a variety of saints to which one could pray to obtain a cure (Peeters, 1996). Exorcisms of the evil spirits believed to cause mental illness were still being performed to affect a cure well into the 18th century (Peeters, 1996). As psychology was being founded in the modern period, pastoral settings provided an early home for the development of counselling and psychotherapy in the United States. The Emmanuel movement of Reverend Worcester combined religious and psychological ideas in treating alcoholism, depression, and anxiety. Worcester's 28 bestseller: Religion and medicine: the moral control of nervous disorders, and the psychotherapy training courses he initiated, sparked a "veritable psychotherapy movement" that endured until the end of World War I (Abma, 2004, p. 102). The development of counselling and psychotherapy in a pastoral setting remained the other sub-stream of psychology where religion and spirituality flourished over the 20 t h century. This sub-discipline is rapidly being rediscovered as interest in religious forms of therapy grows and as clinicians look for inspiration regarding how to develop and implement spiritual interventions in counselling practice. Despite their extended marginalization within psychology, religion and spirituality have played a central historical role in the treatment of mental illness and in the development of counselling and psychotherapy in North America. Theoretical Roots of Spirituality in Counselling Spirituality has also played an important role in counselling theory and practice. Spirituality has been a particularly strong and consistent theme within humanist and existential streams of counselling theory. For example, Abraham Maslow (1970), a leading figure in the humanist and transpersonal movement, was profoundly critical of what he saw as psychology's "exclusion of the sacred and transcendent from the jurisdiction of science" (p. 16). He argued that "religious questions ... are valid questions, that these questions are almost the same as the deep, profound, and serious ultimate concerns of the sort ... by which I would define humanistic psychology" (p. 47). Maslow argued that the core-religious experience was one of spiritual transcendence. He saw these experiences as essentially therapeutic, leading people to self-actualize and develop a consciousness of unity and a concern with ultimate values that he believed to be definitive of the "fully human person" (p. 95). For Maslow, ultimate values "are and 29 should be the far goals of psychotherapy" (p. 57), and facilitating the transcendent experiences that aid in their realization is central to the business of psychology. Carl Rogers, who is widely considered the father of contemporary non-directive counselling and psychotherapy (Abma, 2004), came to see counselling itself as a spiritual process towards the end of his life. In 1986 he described how his own experience of spirituality during the counselling relationship—a characteristic he called presence-was facilitative of healing. He said: I find that when I am closest to my inner, intuitive self, when I am somehow in touch with the unknown in me, when perhaps I am in a slightly altered state of consciousness in the relationship, then whatever I do seems to be full of healing. (Rogers, 1986/1989, p. 137) At this point of contacting the "transcendental core" of himself, Rogers (1986/1989, p.137) dropped all sense of technique sometimes behaving in strange ways that he could not explain logically but which appeared nevertheless to be appropriate and to contribute to psychotherapeutic healing. "At those moments" he says: it seems that my inner spirit has reached out and touched the inner spirit of the other. Our relationship transcends itself and becomes a part of something larger. Profound growth and healing and energy are present, (p. 137) Rogers in his exquisite mastery of the core conditions, which focus on creating something akin to a meditative awareness of the essence of the other person, discovered a spiritual centre to the process of counselling. Similarly, Victor Frankl differentiates his form of psychotherapy from others by its integration of the spiritual dimension of existence. He introduced logotherapy in his 30 1972 book the Doctor and the Soul by saying: "A psychotherapy which not only recognizes man's spirit, but actually starts from it may be termed logotherapy" (p. xi). By this definition, he acknowledges the spiritual realm as fundamental to human existence and to any therapy that seeks to address human problems. He also recognizes "spiritual distress" as a legitimate means of conceptualizing some of the issues that clients bring. Frankl's aim is not to completely overhaul psychotherapy theory but rather to realize it more fully. He explains: "It is not the aim of logotherapy to take the place of existing psychotherapy but to complement it, thus forming a picture of man in his wholeness-which includes the spiritual dimension" (p.xi). While Rogers recognizes the importance of spirituality in the process of counselling, and Frankl recognizes the spiritual dimension as central to conceptualizing clients' issues and experiences, Ken Wilber turns the whole enterprise on its head. Rather than integrating spirituality into counselling or psychological theory, Wilber integrates psychology into the wider world of spirituality or "integral studies" as he terms it. In sharp contrast to Watson's focus on behaviour, Wilber's definition of the discipline returns to an earlier focus on consciousness that encompasses both spirit and behaviour. Psychology, he says, "is the study of human consciousness and its manifestations in behaviour" (2000, p. i). His integral psychology expressly includes the study of "body, mind, soul, and spirit" as part of the structures of consciousness. For Wilber, psychology is useful in so far as it is fundamentally concerned with helping people develop their consciousness to greater and more profound levels of awareness. The task of the integral therapist is no less than facilitating the unfolding of spirit itself. 31 Wilber argues that the common thread between various forms of therapy is the quest to develop the client's awareness. For Wilber, "awareness in and of itself is curative" (2000, p. 99). Psychopathology consists of blocks in development where aspects of consciousness have not been integrated and transcended so that new levels of awareness and development can be fully attained. Wilber believes that Western psychotherapies are useful at basic levels of human development but have a limited capacity to contribute to developing awareness at higher levels of evolution. He integrates Western psychotherapies with Eastern spiritual techniques such as meditation, yoga, and tantra to make up the difference, providing the integral therapist a broad range of tools to address the blocks that can arise throughout the developmental process. Wilber encapsulates the considerable challenge of integral therapy in saying: A full-spectrum therapist works with the body, the shadow, the persona, the ego, the existential self, the soul and the spirit, attempting to bring awareness to all of them, so that they may all join consciousness in the extraordinary return voyage to the Self and the Spirit that grounds and moves the entire display, (p. 109) By Wilber's definition, integral therapy is essentially a process of facilitating spiritual development that is reflected in concrete gains in all areas of functioning including physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual health. Spirituality, Health and Healing As interest in spirituality resurfaced in the discipline of psychology, researchers and practitioners ventured back into the psychological literature looking for information only to discover and awaken the "sleeping beauty" of the psychology of religion. Although historically sidelined, this sub-discipline has steadily accumulated a wealth of information on religion, and spirituality as it was expressed in a religious context over the 32 years. Owing to the positivist focus of mainstream research and the quest to legitimate its choice of subject, this sub-discipline has virtually dedicated itself to doing quantitative research that proves the positive impact of religion on mental and emotional health (Wulff, 2003). Although diverse forms of spirituality including non-religious spirituality are beginning to be added into its focus, the vast majority of information in the area reflects a Judeo-Christian expression of spirituality and religious behaviour (Wulff, 2003). The psychology of religion offers a considerable body of empirical evidence that suggests that religion is positively related to good physical and mental health. In terms of physical health, research reviews and meta-analyses of correlational and experimental studies have concluded that religious activity and/or involvement is variously associated with: lower blood pressure (Townsend, Kladder, Ayele, & Mulligan, 2002), increased longevity (Larson & Larson, 2003; McCullough, Hoyt, Larson, Koenig, & Thoresen, 2000; Townsend et al., 2002), increased immune function (Townsend et al., 2002), increased functional ability among the elderly (Kilpatrick & McCullough, 1999), quicker and less complicated surgical recovery (Larson & Larson, 2003; Townsend et al., 2002), decreased pain in cancer patients (Krebs, 2003), increased post-surgery survival (Krebs, 2003; Larson & Larson, 2003), lower rates of cardiovascular disease and associated mortality (Mueller et al., 2001), and positive health practices including more frequent exercise, healthier eating, and less use of alcohol and tobacco among adults and teens (Larson & Larson, 2003).' This body of research as a whole has been criticized for its preponderance of correlational data, which can't provide causal information. With correlational studies it is 33 hard to know on the face of things whether, for example, those who attend religious services frequently function better or those who function better attend religious services more frequently. Social support and positive health behaviours have been identified as variables which mediate the relationship between religion and health outcomes in a number of regression studies (Argyle, 2000; McCullough et al., 2000). While these factors are important and more variables may await discovery, they don't fully explain the effects of religion on health. A distinct religious factor, which some argue reflects the positive attitudes and emotions associated with religious involvement itself, is an irreducible part of the positive relationship between religious involvement and physical health (Argyle, 2000; Larson & Larson, 2003). Despite the fact that there are a very limited number of experimental studies in the area, longitudinal studies provide support for numerous consistent cross-sectional findings, adding up to strong and striking results in some domains. For example, McCullough et al. (2000) conducted a meta-analysis of 42 correlational studies on religion and all cause mortality using statistical controls for 15 critical variables. They found that those who scored high in religious involvement were 29% more likely to be alive at follow-up then those who scored low. Although their results revealed only a small effect size of .10, it was a robust effect, holding true regardless of the length of the follow-up period. Larson & Larson (2003) reviewed longitudinal studies that followed large population samples over long periods using numerous controls for differences in factors impacting longevity and found a similar effect. They highlight one such study in particular that tracked a sample of 21,000 U.S. adults for nine years and found that attending religious services more than once per week increased longevity by seven years 34 for Caucasians and 14 years for African Americans. Although the causal links have yet to be defined, Larson & Larson conclude that when variables as possibly complex and multi-determined as church attendance produce significant associations with health in large representative samples across many studies, a significant and stable relationship has been uncovered. Religion, Spirituality and Mental Health Numerous research reviews and meta-analyses have similarly identified a strong positive relationship between religion and mental health. Studies from twenty-six countries reveal a strong association between religious involvement and a lowered risk for suicide in older Judeo-Christian adults (Townsend et al., 2002). A recent U.S. study found that those who didn't participate in religious services committed suicide at four times the rate of those who participated frequently in religious services (Larson & Larson, 2003). Religious involvement also seems to have a prophylactic effect against anxiety and addiction. Religious involvement has been linked to lower incidences of anxiety and fear in a recent analysis of data from almost 70 cross-sectional and prospective reports (Mueller et al., 2001). Studies consistently find, that religious involvement predicts lower rates of alcohol and drug use and abuse among both teens and adults (Larson & Larson, 2003; Mueller). Allport made a seminal contribution to the psychology of religion in distinguishing between intrinsic and extrinsic expressions of religiosity (Argyle, 2000). According to Argyle, "Intrinsics are real believers and take their religion seriously. Extrinsics see it more as a means to other ends" (p. 31). Intrinsic religiosity is marked by such variables as valuing time spent in private prayer and basing one's approach to life on one's religious philosophy (Argyle). In this way, intrinsic religiosity reflects a 35 religious expression of spirituality (Smith & Orlinksy, 2004). It measures an outlook where religious activities are being undertaken to experience or express a sense of spiritual connection which may or may not be the case for religious involvement as measured by church attendance alone. In addition to church attendance on its own, the research highlights the role of intrinsic religiosity in particular in mental health. For example, studies from around the world demonstrate that people who highly value their faith and who participate in religious services and groups have a lower incidence of depression (Larson & Larson, 2003; Mueller et al., 2001; Townsend et al., 2002). Religious faith also appears to play a role in depression recovery, with subjects who ranked their religious faith as very important recovering faster than those who did not (Larson & Larson). For example, in one study of depression among the seriously ill elderly, every 10 point increase on an intrinsic religiosity scale was related to a 70% increase in the speed of recovery (Larson & Larson, 2003). Belief in god and self-identified religiosity has also been associated with a reduced risk for suicide (Mueller). Findings extend across the age spectrum with teens who attend religious services and have high levels of spiritual support being least at risk for depression .(Larson & Larson). The positive relationship between religious attendance, personal religiosity and a. reduced risk of depression and suicide is a significant, generalized, and well-established finding. Bergin (1991) and colleagues have conducted a number of studies comparing college students.with intrinsic and extrinsic religious orientations at Brigham Young University. Those who were intrinsically religious had fewer mental health problems and more positive traits. Those who were extrinsically religious had more problems and less 36 positive traits. The intrinsically religious also had depression scores that were substantially lower than means from other collages and well within the normal range. These findings are supported by a meta-analysis of 115 U.S. studies that found that intrinsic religiosity is positively correlated and extrinsic is negatively correlated with a variety of measures of mental health (Argyle, 2000). These findings strongly suggest that the religious factor that is associated with positive mental and physical health may be spirituality. Although we've seen that religious attendance alone has a substantial relationship to physical health, we know that this relationship is moderated by social support and positive health behaviours. When it comes to the more sensitive variable of mental health, findings have further demonstrated that intrinsic religiosity— which amounts to spirituality expressed and experienced in a religious context —is an important factor. Bergin and colleagues suggest that intrinsic religiosity is associated with mental health while extrinsic is associated with problems. One potential interpretation that makes sense of these discrepant findings may be that it is spirituality expressed in part in church attendance that is the religious factor related to both positive physical and mental health that research in the psychology of religion captures. This interpretation is further supported by the fact that non-religious measures of spirituality correlate as strongly or even more strongly than religious measures with indicators of positive mental health in several recent studies (MacDonald & Holland, 2003; Laubmeier et al., 2004; Piedmont, 2004; Simoni, Martone & Kefwin, 2002; Somlai & Heckman, 2000; Young et al., 2000). Research on the psychology of religion has recently begun to expand to include non-Judeo-Christian and non-religious conceptualizations of spirituality. The most 37 common approach to dealing with the broader conceptualization of spirituality represented by the new discourse on spirituality has been to integrate non-religious conceptualizations with religious conceptualizations. The Spiritual Well-Being Scale (Ellison, 1983; Paloutzian & Ellison, 1982) provides one example of a measure that represents this trend. Although the scale has been critiqued for a Judeo-Christian bias in its use of the word god in the religious scale (Wulff, 2003), it has nevertheless been widely used in recent research (Genia, 2001). The Spiritual Well-being Scale is composed of two central subscales; one labeled religious well-being which measures religious forms of spiritual expression, and one labeled existential well-being which measures non-religious forms of spiritual expression. These two major scales have been found to be independent factors measuring different constructions of spirituality (Genia, 2001). High scores on the Spiritual Weil-Being Scale have been negatively correlated with measures of mental illness (MacDonald & Holland, 2003). The existential scale in particular has been related to mental health perhaps because it captures a broader interpretation of spirituality that both religious and non-religious, or theistic and non-theistic people may endorse (MacDonald & Holland, 2003; Laubmeier et al., 2004). Various other measures of non-religious spirituality have similarly been related to mental and even physical health in recent studies (see for example, Laubmeier et al., 2004; Piedmont, 2004; Simoni et al., 2002; Somlai & Heckman, 2000; Young et al., 2000). In summary, research on the psychology of religion has provided us with a considerable amount of data suggesting that spirituality in both a religious and non-religious form may have a significant role to play in maintaining wellness and preventing 38 physical and mental health problems. Despite the need for more experimental studies and the importance of beginning to tease apart the mechanisms underlying how spirituality is related to health (McCullough et al., 2000; Mueller et al., 2001; Harris et al., 1999), there is clear evidence that this relationship is strong, positive, and robust. It is clear that spirituality is related to the prevention of depression, anxiety, suicide, and addiction; to the adoption and maintenance of positive health behaviours; and to indicators of positive mental health and social functioning. It is also clear that spirituality is related to increased longevity, decreased incidence of illnesses such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease and speedier and less complicated recovery from physical and mental diseases. Overall, this body of research indicates that spirituality has great potential for maintaining wellness, promoting health, and contributing to the healing of various physical and mental diseases. Spirituality as a Psychological Resource ' Research on the psychology of religion also provides evidence to suggest that spirituality may be particularly useful in counselling practice. People to whom a counselling psychologist might regularly be expected to provide services: people with mental and physical health problems, and people facing serious life crises report using spirituality to cope with their difficulties. Many studies suggest that spiritual and religious strategies have been effective in helping people respond to a variety of challenging situations. For example,'86% of patients who are in hospital or in long-term care facilities report using religion to cope (Pargament, Koenig, Tarakeshwar, & Hahn, 2004). The elderly, in particular, have been found to turn to religion for help, comfort, and healing. Five separate studies reported that between 73.4-95 % of their population of older adults 39 used religious coping strategies (Emery & Pargament, 2004). Another recent study reported that 80% of the 400 psychiatric patients surveyed used religious coping strategies (Larson & Larson, 2003). Commonly used coping strategies in order of importance include: prayer, attending religious services, worshipping god, meditation, reading scriptures, and meeting with a spiritual leader (Larson & Larson, 2003). A number of recent reviews and meta-analyses have found that spiritual and religious coping is related to better physical and mental health and improved psycho-social outcomes across a variety of conditions. For example, using religious or spiritual coping strategies has been linked to better social support and less depression among the acutely ill (Larson & Larson, 2003); less depression, anxiety and better social and family i functioning among cancer patients (Laubmeier et al., 2004; Schnoll, Harlow & Brower, 2000) ; more hope and better psycho-social adjustment for those with MS (McNulty, Livneh, & Wilson, 2004); reduced anxiety among those diagnosed with HIV; less depression and more functional mobility for elderly women recovering from surgery for hip fractures (Larson & Larson, 2003); and better immune function (more t and helper cells) for women with breast cancer (Sephton, Koopman, Schaal, Thoresen, & Spiegel, 2001) . Spiritual and religious coping has also been linked to better outcomes for those coping with stressful life events such as the death of a child (Argyle, 2000), the death of a spouse, or divorce (Mueller et al., 2001). For example, people who attended religious services and used their faith to find meaning and work through the loss of a child reported lower levels of distress than those who didn't use these coping strategies 18 months after the loss (Argyle, 2000). In psychiatric populations, religious coping has been related to 40 shorter hospital stays, less alcohol use, less depression, increased life satisfaction and less overall symptoms of disorder (Larson & Larson, 2003). One of the major contributions of coping research has been that it has drawn a distinction between effective and ineffective or harmful religious and spiritual coping strategies. Pargament's work (Emery & Pargament, 2004; Pargament et al., 2004), in particular, has focused on understanding the effects of spiritual coping strategies that draw on the Judeo-Christian tradition. Strategies which emphasize a supportive and collaborative relationship with the divine such as benevolent religious reappraisals of problems, partnership with god, and drawing on spiritual or religious groups for support are related to better quality of life and lower levels of depression, anxiety, and anger (Makros & McCabe, 2003). Strategies which emphasis a distant or punitive relationship with the divine such as appraising problems as punishment, focusing on anger with god, doubting the help or support available through spiritual and religious avenues, and feeling that one is being left to cope alone, are strategies related to higher levels of depression and anxiety, and lower mood and self-esteem scores (Makros & McCabe, 2003). Both positive and negative spiritual coping strategies have significant but opposite effects on behaviour and functioning. For example, a recent study found that while positive coping strategies combined with religious attendance to predict a reduced risk of mortality among elderly patients who were seriously ill, those with negative coping strategies had a significantly increased risk of mortality, and negative coping predicted declines in independence in those that survived (Larson & Larson, 2003). Negative coping strategies may reflect spiritual distress that contributes to a client's presenting 41 issues or that can undermine the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions, signaling a need for the clinical assessment of spiritual and religious issues. Altogether the literature provides clear evidence that many people who may receive or could benefit from counselling services use spiritual and religious strategies to cope with mental, emotional, physical and social problems. Although this research reflects some of the same limitations as the rest of the research on spirituality and health in terms of an over-reliance on correlational data, it provides evidence to suggest that spiritual interventions help people respond effectively to illness and life crises. By beginning to tease apart the types of spiritual strategies which are and which are not helpful, this research also highlights the critical importance of exploring religious and spiritual issues in clinical assessment. Negative spiritual coping may reflect spiritual distress that needs to be addressed for counselling and medical interventions to be optimally effective, while positive spiritual coping may provide the client with a powerful resource for healing. Spirituality as a Counselling Intervention As interest in spirituality has grown within psychology, researchers and clinicians alike have begun to consider the use of spiritual interventions within the consulting room itself. However, research in this area is only in its infancy. For example, in-reviewing the evidence on spirituality in psychotherapy outcome research, Lambert et al. (2004, p.817) express both surprise and dismay that "psychotherapy research has hardly touched this potential source of therapeutic effects." Nevertheless, several specific interventions and approaches to spiritually-infused therapy have shown promise in experimental conditions. Integration therapies that blend standard cognitive-behavioural approaches to dealing with depression with religious concepts have been shown to be as effective as 42 secular treatments for depression for religious clients (Lambert et al., 2004; Harris et al., 1999). One study which randomly assigned religious clients to an integration of cognitive behavioural therapy with religious content, standard cognitive behavioural therapy, or a wait list control group found that clients in the integration group achieved the lowest post-treatment depression scores (Propst, Ostrom,Watkins, & Dean, 1992). A particularly interesting aspect of this research was that clients receiving the religious therapy from non-religious counsellors had the best outcomes, suggesting that secular clinicians may be just as effective in using spiritual and.even religious interventions as pastoral counsellors (Larson & Larson, 2003). Other studies have found similarly positive results for cognitive behavioural therapy that integrates Koranic concepts for Islamic clients with anxiety and depression (Mueller et al., 2001; Townsend et al., 2002). In addition, Linehan's Dialectical Behaviour Therapy which integrates cognitive behavioural therapy and Zen concepts may be the first significantly successful treatment for borderline personality disorder (Worthington & Sandage, 2002). Meditation is one of the most commonly researched interventions in the area. As an intervention in its own right, meditation has been found to reduce anxiety, high blood pressure, pain and physical symptoms associated with a variety of health conditions, and increase confidence, self-esteem, self-control, and empathy (Murphy& Donovan, 1998). Meditation has been successfully used as an adjunct to addiction treatment reducing. withdrawal symptoms, increasing well-being and self-esteem (Harris et al., 1999) and reducing alcohol and drug use in a range of settings (Murphy & Donovan, 1998). Meditation has also recently been integrated into a variety of therapy protocols based on cognitive-behavioural approaches and aimed at facilitating psycho-social coping 43 for people with various health problems and treating depression and anxiety associated with health problems. Studies initially show that Kabat-Zin's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is effective in reducing anxiety and psychological distress and increasing a sense of control and empathy (Baer, 2003; Proulx, 2003). In one study, cancer patients achieved a 65% reduction in mood disturbance and a 30.7% reduction in stress by attending this group treatment (Proulx, 2003). Similarly, Teasdale's (et al., 2000) Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is showing success in preventing relapse in depressed clients, and Ornish's integrative intervention for heart disease which includes meditation has been shown to improve health and reduce heart disease in coronary patients (Harris et al., 1999). Alcoholics Anonymous is another spiritually-infused intervention that reflects an integration of spiritual and psychological concepts with social support. Although some formal treatment programs are based on the Minnesota Model which integrates a 12-step framework or are based on other religiously-infused therapy protocols, the 12-step program is most often used as an adjunct to treatment. Several correlational studies suggest that those attending a religious or spiritually based program are more successful at maintaining abstinence (Krebs, 2003; Larson & Larson, 2003; Mueller et al., 2001). While the 12-step program has not been experimentally tested against other approaches to alcohol and drug treatment, research has demonstrated that 60-68% of alcoholics who become actively involved in 12-step programs drink less for up to a year, and 40-50% achieve sobriety for many years (Harris et al., 1999). Prayer and forgiveness are other commonly used interventions. Harris et al. (1999) suggest that forgiveness is the most popular spiritual therapy used in a secular 44 context..They found several recent studies that demonstrate that it is effective in reducing hurt, anger, and perceived offense, and improving mood and emotional state, and that there is no difference in the effectiveness of religious and secularly oriented forgiveness interventions (Harris et al., 1999). Despite the fact that prayer is the most common coping strategy cited across populations, there are almost no current studies investigating its effect as a counselling intervention or as an adjunct to counselling (Harris et al., 1999). There have, however, been at least two powerful experimental studies on intercessory prayer and health. Byrd (1988) randomly assigned cardiac patients to a prayer or no-prayer group. The prayer group had three to seven people praying for their recovery. The experiment was a double-blind design: patients didn't know they were being prayed for and researchers didn't know which patients were receiving prayers. Prayers had only the first name, diagnosis, and periodic information about the condition of the prayer recipient. Patients in the prayer group did substantially better than the non-prayer group. They used significantly less medication, had less complications, and when they had complications they were less serious than those in the non-prayer group. A double-blind experimental study with Aids patients found a similarly positive and significant effect for intercessory prayer on health status and outcome (Harris et al., 1999). Although the experimental testing of spiritually-infused interventions is in its infancy, current results dovetail with the results of studies linking spirituality to health, mental health and coping. Altogether these findings provide powerful evidence to suggest that spirituality is intrinsically linked to good physical and mental health and to positive . psychosocial coping. Spiritual strategies are widely used to address a range of mental and 45 physical problems and to cope effectively with major life challenges. The advent and early testing of spiritually-infused interventions have produced some promising new treatments in the areas of borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, addiction, and physical health. The area of spiritually-infused interventions thus holds great promise for counselling psychology and health care alike. Gaps in the Quantitative Literature Despite the positive potential of spiritually-infused interventions, there are numerous gaps in the literature in this recently rediscovered area. The most important one from a quantitative perspective is the need for an increase in the use of experimental designs to identify causal relationships between spirituality and physical and mental health (Harris et al., 1999). We also need more information on the variables that mediate the effects of spirituality and that moderate its impact as an intervention (Harris et al., 1999; McCullough et al., 2000). Identifying the active or salient ingredients in successful spiritually-infused interventions is also important, particularly given that many interventions blend traditional therapies with spiritual concepts and techniques (Harris et al., 1999). Aside from an increase in the absolute number of well-designed studies testing new interventions, it's also important to further investigate exactly what constitutes Judeo-Christian religious therapy (Worthington & Sandage, 2002). Further areas that have been highlighted for investigation include: non Judeo-Christian forms of religious therapy, the use of shamans and healers, and other non-religious forms of spiritually-infused therapy (Harris et al., 1999; Worthington & Sandage, 2002). In addition, research on the psychology of religion has been dominated by positivist, quantitative approaches. As a result, the focus of the literature has been on measuring objective and often multi-determined variables such as religious attendance or 46 quantifiable behaviours such as prayer. The belief and experience scales that have been used to measure spirituality have traditionally reflected a religious and usually a Judeo-Christian perspective, seriously limiting the scope of the findings (Wulff, 2003). This is particularly important for populations such as Canada and British Columbia, in particular, where there may be broad disparities between one's personal spirituality and one's religious affiliation, attendance or expression (Bibby, 2003; Todd, 2004). Although theories have begun to emerge regarding the possible relationships between positive health outcomes and spirituality, quantitative research reflects an understanding of spirituality as it appears through researcher determined variables. Many of the emerging theories and interventions build on existing empirically-validated models in other areas by adding spirituality into the framework for understanding people's coping behaviour. One of the more popular approaches is reflected in Pargament's work which extends stress and coping theory to demonstrate that people use spirituality as part of a general orienting system which can facilitate positive reappraisals and coping in the face of trauma, illness and loss (Pargament & Brant, 1998). Researchers from different disciplines use different frameworks and have different approaches to explaining similar findings (Koenig, 1998). In addition, researchers often propose unique models to explain their particular data without contributing to developing a broader theoretical framework in the area (i.e. Schnoll, Harlow & Brower, 2000). While this research provides valuable information, it is limited in capturing only a particular slice of people's experiences of drawing on spirituality for healing and most often reflects a traditional perspective on spirituality. 47 Qualitative Research An emerging body of qualitative research is beginning to broaden our perspective and offer new information on people's experiences of drawing on spirituality for healing as they describe and conceptualize them. This research demonstrates that people struggling with a variety of physical and mental health challenges use spirituality as a vehicle for transforming their experience and enhancing their quality of life in response to illness, trauma and mental health problems. For example, Faull et al. (2004) found that his participants believed that facing disability due to musculoskeletal injury actually helped them develop more resilient identities, a more profound connection with themselves, and a deeper awareness of their spirituality. The enhanced connection with their spirituality in turn helped them further accept themselves, appreciate their lives, build meaningful relationships and give back to the community. Similarly, Albaugh (2003) and Gall and Cornblat (2002), found that people confronted by life threatening illnesses such as breast cancer and heart disease reprioritized their lives to be more congruent with their values, spent more time on activities they found pleasurable, addressed long-standing personal and relational problems, and reaffirmed their commitment to living life at its fullest. Participants came to express gratitude for their illness and view it as a doorway to increased happiness. They described themselves as becoming better people: more empathic, more compassionate, more peaceful, more connected to others, and more spiritual in response to drawing on their spirituality to cope with the challenges they faced (Gall & Cornblat, 2002, p. 533). Studies of participants who were coping with various forms of trauma (Parappully, Rosenbaum, Van Den Daele, & Nzewi, 2002), abuse (Hall, 2003), and 48 mental illness (Chiu, Ganesan, Clark & Morrow, 2005) reflect many similar themes. Participants across diverse studies identified their relationship with "god" or a divine force as they understood, expressed and experienced it as the primary resource that helped,them cope and transform their lives in the face of the challenges they experienced. Study participants reported that they developed their personal relationships with spirit through a variety of practices including: prayer, scriptural reading, meditation, and for some, service attendance. Spiritual beliefs, practices, and experiences helped them find emotional comfort in the face of overwhelming grief, anxiety and depression; accept the challenges they faced; heal past wounds; create positive meanings and act on opportunities for transformation, increasing their quality of life and the quality of their -relationships with the divine, themselves, their intimates and with people in the community at large (Hall, 2003; Chiu et al., 2005; Parappully, et al., 2002; Richards & Folkman, 1997). In addition, many participants across studies reported that they "actualized" in response to these challenges (Albaugh, 2003, p. 596). They associated spirituality with helping them thrive and develop in the midst of trauma and with becoming generative in reaching out to others and creating mechanisms to address important social issues in their communities (Gall & Cornblat, 2002; Hall, 2003; Parappully et al., 2002). In this sense, participants found that facing trauma and illness was a "blessing" or a "gift" in that it spurred them to a new level of self-realization, openness, connection and appreciation for life (Gall & Cornblat, 2002, p. 529). Qualitative studies reflect and further extend quantitative findings. For example, they add to our understanding of the existence and effects of different types of prayer 49 from active prayers that involve pleading, adoration, thanksgiving and confession to receptive prayers that involve listening to or communing with the divine (Baesler, Delerga, Winstead, & Barbee, 2003). Qualitative studies further reveal that spiritual experiences such as feeling the presence of deceased relatives, experiencing visitations, and continuing and transforming one's relationship to a deceased or spiritually perceived other is normative and serves as a positive means of spiritual coping and adaptation in the face of grief and trauma (Parappully et al., 2002; Richards & Folkman, 2003; Watts, 2003). Although most studies have focused on Caucasian and Judeo-Christian populations, there are an increasing number of qualitative studies that affirm similar experiences of drawing on spirituality for healing across African American, South and North Asian populations and for Muslim Americans (Chiu et al., 2005; Hassouneh-Phillips, 2003; Hall, 2004). In addition, qualitative research has demonstrated that spirituality is particularly helpful in resisting oppression and facilitating positive coping and identity development for marginalized groups. For example, Watts (2003) and Mattis (2002) found that spirituality acted as resource to help African American women learn to trust themselves, strive towards goals, define strong identities, accept and cope with problems and defend themselves from oppression. Emerging studies are beginning to lay the groundwork for understanding the unique positive and negative effects of spiritual beliefs and practices across diverse spiritual traditions and communities (Chiu et al., 2005; Hassouneh-Phillips, 2003). Gaps in the Qualitative Literature Although there have been increasing calls for qualitative research on spirituality either to verify quantitative findings (Harris et al., 1999), or to further develop existing 50 frameworks to make sense of people's experiences of drawing on spirituality for healing (Mattis, 2002), the qualitative research in the field is limited both in quantity and scope. Some existing qualitative reports evolved out of larger quantitative projects that limited their exploration to specific areas or concepts adding largely to a description of people's general experiences of drawing on spirituality for healing (i.e. Gall & Cornblat, 2002). In addition, the quantitative focus of the field has resulted in an emphasis on positivist or post-positivist methodologies such as content analysis, grounded theory and phenomenology. Although these studies document important themes in people's experiences of spirituality and healing, they do not necessarily investigate the conceptualization of and relationships among those themes from participant perspectives. Finally, many studies employ a theoretical framework that limits the study to capturing or adding onto traditional religious understandings of spirituality. One of the central reasons for the lack of unifying theories regarding spirituality and healing may be an over-reliance on traditional conceptual and scientific frameworks. Psychological research has lagged behind the development of spirituality in popular culture, and behind people's experience of drawing upon spirituality for healing. The existing conceptual confusion and proliferation of domain specific models points to the need to return to the field to re-vision our understanding of spirituality and healing from the ground up. By exploring how participants themselves conceptualize and bring together various aspects of spirituality to create healing, we may begin to create a framework that is broad enough to unify disparate findings and build theoretical models that describe the role of spirituality in healing. 51 Despite the calls for integrating spirituality into counselling practice, the literature offers little empirically-based information regarding how participants use spirituality to create healing. Spiritually or religiously infused interventions are often poorly described (Worthington and Sandage, 2002), or represent a distinct treatment approach for a specific population (i.e. dialectical behaviour therapy for borderline personality disorder). Aside from studies that document clients' interest in addressing spiritual issues as part of counselling and health care practices (Larsen & Larsen, 2003; Rose et al., 2001), or counsellors' acknowledgement that their spiritual orientation does play a role in the treatment room (Smith & Orlinksy, 2004; West, 2000), little is known about how counsellors may integrate spirituality into their existing counselling practice in ways that enhance clients' treatment experiences. The Current Study The current study responds to these gaps in the literature in a number of ways. As one of the first psychological studies to use the new discourse on spirituality as a theoretical framework, the study employs a wide-angle lens that is open to capturing people's experiences of spirituality as they describe them within and outside O f traditional religious contexts. A narrative methodology fits with the postmodern framework of the new discourse and is uniquely suited to investigating how people conceptualize and draw upon spirituality to create healing and wellness in their lives. In this way, the study adds to both the theoretical and empirical literature by offering the opportunity to build theory based on people's own understandings of their process of drawing on spirituality for healing. In addition, by capturing the experiences of people with a broad range of challenges from physical to mental health problems, the study encompasses the spectrum 52 of concerns and clients that a counsellor or counselling psychologist may be expected to see in community practice. As one of the first studies to examine the experiences of people who are former or current counselling clients, the study at hand offers concrete new information on the role that counselling can and does play in relationship to spirituality in the healing process. As a result, the findings can provide practitioners with new information on how clients use spirituality for healing in their lives and on how they relate their spiritual beliefs and practices to their counselling experiences. Therefore the study not only adds to the development of the empirical literature and the construction of theory in the area of spirituality, health and healing, it also provides practitioners with empirically-based information on how clients experience spirituality in relationship to counselling interventions. 53 Chapter Three-Research Methodology Research Questions This study investigates three critical research questions. The major focus of the study is centred on answering the question: What are the stories of people who draw on spirituality for healing and wellness? The stories we tell ourselves and others are central to our interpretation, experience and creation of reality (Gergen & Gergen, 2000; Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach & Zilber, 1998). They also provide the conceptual basis and rationale for changes in larger cultural narratives which create the container in which individual experiences are formed. Innovations in individual and collective stories lead to major shifts in culture including the development of new technologies, new approaches to healing and new ways of being. This study is one of the first to investigate the stories of people from disparate traditions and with no specific tradition who self-identify as drawing on spirituality to heal a broad variety of conditions and create wellness in their lives. Exploring people's stories of drawing on spirituality for healing contributes to the literature by broadening the conceptual framework for this area of research. The study extends traditional psychological concepts such as coping to investigate the more complex concept of healing, as well as extending the traditional focus on recovering from disease within health care literature to creating wellness. By allowing participants to define their own relationship to spirituality, this study is also one of the few to encompass the experiences of participants who find their spirituality outside of as well as within a major religious tradition. As one of a handful of studies using qualitative methods in general, and fore fronting participants' narratives as a primary source of knowledge in 54 particular, this study provides new information on participants' experiences of spiritual healing as they conceptualize them. By expanding the conceptual framework within which the relationship between spirituality and healing is investigated, this study offers new information which can enlarge our theoretical understanding of the relationship between spirituality, healing and wellness. The second research question focuses more specifically on the process of creating healing and wellness through spirituality. It asks: How do people draw on spirituality to create experiences of healing and wellness in their lives? This question adds to both the theoretical and applied literature by targeting the specific thoughts, feelings and actions that people engaged in to create experiences of healing and wellness. Themes identified in relationship to this question can contribute to building a theoretical model of spiritual healing. They also provide counsellors with practical information on the diversity of approaches and the common themes which emerged from participants' stories regarding the process of translating spiritual knowledge and conviction into personal healing and development. The final research question focuses specifically on the relationship between counselling and spirituality. It asks: What is the role of counselling in the narratives of people who draw on spirituality for healing and wellness? The current study is also unique in being the first to inquire about current and former clients' experiences of drawing on spirituality for healing. This question reverses the standard dynamic of counselling process and outcome studies where counselling is evaluated for its efficacy in healing and other variables are assessed for their impact in that process. In contrast, 55 participants in the study identified primarily as drawing upon spirituality for healing, and explored the impact of their counselling experiences within that context. Themes identified in response to this question contribute to both the theoretical and applied literature. On a theoretical level, responses to this question offer new information on how clients view and experience the relationship between counselling and spirituality. Client perspectives can contribute to understanding the nature, efficacy and limits of spiritually-infused approaches to counselling practice. On a practical level, themes identified in response to this question can provide counsellors in the field with new information on the pivotal areas to consider when integrating spirituality in their practice, enhancing their ability to create spiritually-infused practices which are respectful, effective and relevant for the clients in the field. Research Design Narrative research is an emerging qualitative tradition in health psychology (Campo, 2005). Narrative approaches are being used to investigate personal experiences of illness and coping arid to probe the social, political, and relational dynamics of healthcare (Campo, 2005; Overcash, 2004). Giving patients the opportunity to narrate illness experiences has itself been viewed as part of the healing process (Overcash, 2004). This study builds upon and extends this emerging tradition by choosing a narrative methodology to investigate participants' experiences of healing and wellness. In addition, spiritual knowledge and wisdom has traditionally been communicated through both oral and written narratives. All of the major world religions and many indigenous spiritual traditions use story telling as a means of communicating central beliefs, codes of conduct and spiritual lessons. The narrative approach has also been particularly recommended for investigating the relationship between "social processes 56 and individual experiences in spiritually based communities....particularly where dominant cultural narratives fail to adequately represent the lived experience of individuals" (Mankowski & Rappaport, 2000, p. 479). The use of narrative methodology to investigate spiritual experience is in keeping with our ages old inclination to tell stories to communicate our spiritual experiences and may be a particularly appropriate means of trying to capture new or emerging experiences. Narrative research is based on a postmodern understanding of the world that suggests that reality is socially constructed and language is a fundamental avenue for the construction of the experiences we have (Lieblich et al., 1998; Polkinghorne, 1988). From this perspective, reality emerges from the dynamic interaction between subjects, institutions, and the narratives that shape both (Gergen & Gergen, 2000). The linguistic framework into which we are born reflects popular social narratives regarding every aspect of identity including our understanding of what it means to be a boy or a girl, what it means to have or lose a self, and what defines a self at all, if the concept exists within our culture (Gergen & Gergen, 2000). Individual experience is shaped within the crucible of the narratives we grow into and the way we resist or accept, perform or reshape those narratives through our everyday language and behaviour (Riessman, 2002). The postmodern, social constructivist framework that underwrites the narrative method recognizes reality as dialogical: it emerges uniquely each moment through the linguistic and behavioural choices we make in our interactions with ourselves and each other (Lieblich et al., 1998). Because of its social constructivist framework, narrative methodology not only allows for the investigation of the content of a particular story, but it is also necessarily 57 concerned with its fashioning. Narrative methodology focuses not only on what the story teller is saying about his or her experience, but also considers the choice of words that are used, the characterization of actors in the story, and the narrative framework within which decisions are made and actions are taken to be an intrinsic part of understanding the story and its meaning as a whole (Reissman, 2002). The analysis of the content of a narrative may suggest one interpretation of an experience while the analysis of its structure provides new and sometimes contradictory information (Lieblich et al., 1998). These two dimensions of narrative analysis work together to reveal the meaning and contribution of the story and the reasons for telling it the way it has been told. Rationale for Narrative Methodology There are several reasons that a postmodern qualitative approach in general and the narrative method in particular are most appropriate for answering the questions I have chosen. Research on the psychology of religion has been dominated by a positivist approach to science most commonly reflected in a focus on quantitative studies (Harris et al., 1999; Wulff, 2003). Although quantitative studies have demonstrated significant positive relationships between spirituality, health, healing and wellness, and have begun to isolate the factors that may meditate or moderate these relationships, they offer only a very limited understanding of how these relationships work. Because of the emphasis on quantitative methods in the area, all of the existing information reflects researchers' conceptualizations of relevant variables in the process. There is a dearth of existing theory which can comprehensively unify or explain disparate results in the area. The few theories that do exist to unify or ground existing studies focus on extending established models of health, treatment or coping to include spiritual factors. f -58 The emphasis on a positivist orientation to research is further reflected in the qualitative literature, limiting many existing studies to offering only a broad brush description of the major themes involved in either the experience, or the outcomes of drawing on spirituality to cope with a variety of diseases or life challenges. The current research therefore offers very little information on the process people go through to draw upon spirituality for healing, and on the contribution of their conceptualizations of their experiences to creating those experiences. There is also very little specific information regarding clients' experiences of spirituality in relation to counselling, or regarding people's conceptualizations of the role of counselling in the process of spiritual healing. The current literature is further limited by the frequent use of theoretical frameworks which limit spirituality to a traditional Christian religious context. The general failure of existing research to use an inclusive theoretical framework for spirituality, and to inquire into people's own understanding of their process of drawing upon spirituality for healing is particularly ironic given that the existing research itself suggests that people's spiritual beliefs are intrinsically related to their spiritual experiences, coping behaviours, and health outcomes. The new discourse on spirituality represents a distinctly postmodern take on spiritual practices. Because I am studying a phenomenon that evolved in response to the changes that shaped postmodern culture, it is important, as Howe & Eisenhart (1990) and Lieblich et al. (1998) suggest, to choose a methodology that is consistent with and can therefore capture the range of experiences that reflect that framework. With its emphasis on meaning as constructed through the interaction of individual and social forces, a postmodern epistemology is uniquely suited to the investigation of spiritual experience 59 precisely because spiritual beliefs and experiences are shaped by the individual, historical and collective meanings people assign to spirituality in relation to events in their lives (Mattis, 2003). Within the context of a postmodern epistemology, the narrative method is particularly suited to examining how people create experiences through the stories they tell (Reissman, 2002). By offering participants a broad theoretical framework in which to story their own experiences, I learned about participants' conceptualizations of their experiences (Reissman, 2002). Narrative methodology is built on the premise that the conceptualization and telling of experience is part of its construction (Lieblich et al., 1998; Polkinghorne, 1988). One of its strengths among qualitative methods is providing a viewpoint from which to study the role of language and conceptualization as well as its out-picturing in action and behaviour in shaping the experience that is being studied (Lieblich et al., 1998; Polkinghorne, 1988). In this way, narrative methodology allows for a more complex conceptual view of the topic while still foregrounding concrete individual experiences against the backdrop of the social context in which they are formed and upon which they draw. A narrative methodology then is uniquely suited to capturing people's experiences of drawing on spirituality for healing as they conceptualize them. The narrative method is not only in keeping with the postmodern theoretical framework of the research but its ability to include an examination of the role of conceptual processes in creating experiences within a larger social context makes it uniquely suited to responding to both the conceptual and empirical gaps that the study aims to fill. 60 Role of the Researcher From a social constructivist perspective, reality is not created idiosyncratically through linguistic and conceptual choices alone, but is also dialectical and dialogical. Thus linguistic and conceptual choices shape and are in turn shaped by the immediate interaction of people and contexts and by their historical experiences and location within larger social discourses that shape culture and society (Traynor, 2004; White, 2004). Consequently, meaning is a moving target; continuously shifting according to the way words and behaviours are deployed within particular contexts to construct particular experiences at particular times (Traynor, 2004; White, 2004). Change any of the elements and the outcome changes because the process that creates it has changed. Built on this social constructivist epistemology, the narrative approach to research acknowledges that the research process itself is fundamentally interpretive, highlighting certain interests and questions and shadowing others from the initial formulation of the question through to the analysis generated at the end of the project (Guillemin & Gillam, 2004). Because the narrative method is one of the few to acknowledge that the researcher ultimately has a significant impact in shaping the research process and therefore its outcome, it is important that I locate myself as a researcher and account for my influence on the process and outcome of this research study. This study has emerged from my own experience as a participant in both the new discourse on spirituality and the discourse of professional psychology, as well as from my review of the literature and my clinical experiences over the years. Certainly my interest in the questions I am asking and my choices as a researcher have been influenced by the diverse experiences I have had as an insider/outsider in both discourses, and as a white, middle-class, female clinician trained in philosophy, social work and psychology. My unique location irt both discourses helped 61 me connect with participants at a level of understanding that facilitated the rich descriptions of drawing on spirituality for healing that emerged from the study. At the same time, my own location, which is reflected in the orientation of my questions and the research process, makes it less likely that I'll gather in-depth information on the problems associated with drawing on spirituality for healing. Because I, as the researcher, have a critical role in co-creating the meaning that emerges from each interview, reflexivity is an important part of accounting for the meaning constructed in the research process (Altheide & Johnson, 1998; Guillemin & Gillam, 2004). I took several steps to promote and ensure reflexivity in identifying my contribution to the knowledge created throughout the process of research and analysis. I kept a research journal that included my reflections and ideas about the research questions and the research process. I took notes on my initial contacts with participants and field notes which I recorded promptly after each interview to reflect on major themes, learnings and new questions as they emerged. I engaged participants in reflecting on the research process and questions, and solicited feedback regarding the impact of the process and the way questions were framed on the stories they told. I did multiple readings of the video text and looked at my own impact on the interview process, and on the stories and themes that emerged through the analytic process. Most importantly, I solicited participants' feedback on my interpretation of their stories. Although I initially planned to enlist a sub-set of participants to review the videotape with me (see consent form, Appendix C), I opted instead to ask all participants to review the written summaries of their stories and all participants consented. Reviewing their story summaries allowed participants to have input into the representation as well as 62 the interpretation of the stories they shared. Thus, I provided each participant with a written summary of their story as I understood it, the major themes I drew from their story, and a list of the quotations I used, asking each person for feedback on the accuracy of my representation of the experience that he or she had shared. Although this strategy was important in constructing an understanding of their experiences that resonated with the participants, my representation of their experiences and the conclusions I drew from them reflect a unique and personal reading of the interview text that we created together. Sample Selection I collected a purposive sample of 12 people who were attending or who had been exposed to counselling in the past. Participants self-identified as using spiritual practices to deal with concerns that a counselling psychologist might commonly address such as anxiety, depression, trauma, coping with illness, divorce, grief and loss etc. I chose twelve as a final number because it allowed the best compromise between breadth and. depth in my analysis. Twelve represents a fairly large number for a narrative sample owing to the depth of the analysis of each story. Given that I was targeting a relatively hidden population who shared a specific type of experience, a purposive sample was necessary as a means of identifying potential participants. Since I aimed at finding volunteers who drew on a broad array of religious and spiritual traditions, and who had a broad variety of the concerns typically represented in counselling, I avoided contacting volunteers through particular health or healing centres or via specific spiritual or religious organizations. Instead, I posted my call for participants at non-denominational spiritual bookstores and centres, distributed the flyer through educational networks, and talked about my work wherever I went. In order to qualify for the study volunteers had to respond affirmatively to the general questions on 63 the call for participants (see Appendix B to review the call for participants). These questions were: Do you use spirituality to maintain wellness? Do you draw on your spirituality to face life challenges or promote healing when you are upset or unwell? Have you ever received counselling from a doctor, counsellor, psychologist or other helping professional? These questions were aimed at collecting a sample of people who self-identified as drawing on spirituality for healing and wellness and who had received counselling services. Participants found the study through a broad variety of avenues. Some participants responded to ads posted on the University of British Columbia campus and to emails distributed through list-serves in Department of Education. Gatekeepers were important in helping me connect with other participants. As I talked about the study, people with whom I had casual social contact provided referrals or emailed my ad to people who in turn helped me connect with a potential participant. Most participants found the study as a result of receiving an email version of the call for participants that someone else forwarded to them. Snowball sampling also played an important role in the study. A number of participants passed my flyer along to their network of contacts which drew more interest in the study. Participant Profile Each participant completed a basic demographic questionnaire (Appendix E) detailing vital statistics and asking general questions about his or her spiritual practices. This section summarizes the results of this demographic questionnaire providing the reader with an overview of the participants you will meet in the following chapters as a group. Participants represented a mature adult demographic and were almost equally split between those who were aged 40-55 (6) and those who were over 55 (5). Only 1 64 participant reported her age as between 30-39. The majority of participants were female (10) with only 2 males. The overwhelming majority of participants identified as Caucasian (11), while 1 participant identified as South Asian. Participants represented a broad distribution of family income categories: 3 participants reported a family income in excess of $80,000, 3 reported a family income between $25,000-$80,000, and 4 reported an income under $25,000. Two participants declined to provide information on their income. Participants tended to have achieved a higher than average level of education. Six participants attended university, 2 held graduate degrees, 3 attended college or a vocational school and 1 completed high school. Participants self-identified as working in a range of economic sectors with a concentration in the helping professions. Reported occupational sectors included: Social or Psychological Services (4), Medical or Health Services (3), Education (1), Service Industry/Tourism (1), Retail (1), Performing Arts (1), and Retired (1). Participants also had a range of relationship experiences: 4 were divorced, 4 were single, 2 were married, 1 lived common law, and 1 was separated. In terms of spirituality, the vast majority of participants (11) described themselves as spiritual as opposed to religious, and the remaining participant (1) indicated that he considered himself to be both spiritual and religious. The majority of participants were not members of a formal religious organization (8), however one third of participants did hold religious membership (4). Religious affiliations included: Zen Buddhism, the United Church, Religious Science and Unity. Participants indicated that they used 13 spiritual practices on average to maintain their health and well-being. The most popular practices included: spiritual reading (11), meditation (10), journaling (10), playing or listening to 65 music (10), discussing spiritual issues (10), expressing gratitude (9), being in nature (9), visualization (9), affirmations (8), setting intentions (8), prayer (7), singing (7), doing art (7), and donating money (7). Participants also reported that they had consulted with a broad variety of professionals to enhance their wellness or facilitate healing over the previous 2 years. Participants consulted an average of six professionals with a range of 1 to 11 during this time period. Professionals most commonly consulted included: Energy worker (9), Massage therapist (9), Counsellor (8), Medical doctor (7), and Spiritual Counsellor (6). Eleven of 12 participants indicated that it would be important for them to seek help from professionals who incorporated spirituality into their practice. Many participants stated that they currently experienced few psychological challenges if any. Some responded to the question on psychological challenges experienced over the last 2 years by noting the challenges they had previously experienced over a longer period, some indicated challenges that they experienced over the past 2 years. Given the diversity of responses, I relied on participants' stories to describe the challenges they faced that led them to turn towards spirituality for healing. Data Collection I chose to collect data via individual interviews because they provided ample time and created the private and relaxed setting that was conducive to inviting participants to share stories and engage in a reflective conversation about a very personal topic (Fontana & Frey, 2000). Because the richest data emerges in the context of a warm interpersonal relationship where some basic mutual respect, interest, arid safety has been established, I decided to meet with participants in person where possible to go over study procedures, establish informed consent, and create some degree of interpersonal rapport before the 66 research interview itself. Three of the twelve participants declined this initial meeting due to distance, time concerns, or because they felt it was unnecessary, and I spent more time establishing rapport and going through an explanation of study procedures over the telephone with these participants. Interestingly, I noticed no appreciable difference in the depth or complexity of the stories that resulted from these interviews in comparison to the others. However two out of the three of these participants emailed me with further details they wanted to share that emerged from their reflection on the interview, while none of the other participants felt the need to follow up in this way. The major terms and concepts embedded in the research question, particularly spirituality, became a topic of discussion, exploration and negotiation right from my initial contact with participants. When participants called to enquire about the study, their first question usually was: What do you mean by spirituality? From the initial inquiry call forward, I emphasized that I was interested in their experience and conceptualization of spirituality and the other concepts that I was exploring. Often I started the conversation by reiterating that I was looking for people who self-identified as drawing on spirituality for healing whatever that might means to them, and asked the potential participant what drew them to respond to the flyer as a means of beginning our discussion: During the initial phone contact with participants, I explained the study in general terms and made sure participants met the selection criteria. I followed up on the initial phone contact by emailing interested candidates a copy of the call for participants, the consent form, and the interview guide which provided an outline of the general topics I was interested in exploring, and offered suggestions to help participants start thinking about the story they wanted to share (see Appendix B-E) to review the documents 67 participants received). If participants met the study cr i ter ia and were s t i l l interested i n proceeding after r e c e i v i n g and r e v i e w i n g a l l o f the in format ion, I either arranged a coffee meeting to go over consent and research procedures i n detail or arranged a phone date for participants w h o d i d n ' t feel the need to meet. D u r i n g our i n person or telephone meet ing, I went over the consent f o r m w i t h participants, so l ic i ted and answered questions regarding the study, and w o r k e d to establish an interpersonal rapport that w o u l d help participants feel comfortable sharing their stories and ensure a posi t ive and respectful interview experience. Often, when I i n i t i a l l y met w i t h prospective participants or gatekeepers w h o offered to p r o v i d e access to potential participants, they expressed a desire to k n o w more about m y personal experience o f spir i tual i ty . T h e y sometimes asked questions about w h y I was d o i n g the study and what m y objective was, or they wanted to gain a better understanding o f what I was l o o k i n g for i n their stories. I freely shared details regarding m y o w n spir i tual practices when I was asked. I talked about m y interest i n learning more about the potential and appropriateness o f re-integrating spir i tual i ty into c o u n s e l l i n g practice and about m y hope that the study w o u l d p r o v i d e counsel lors struggl ing w i t h s i m i l a r issues w i t h more in format ion o n the topic. I emphasized that I was interested i n capturing a broad range o f experiences and that in format ion on h o w spir i tual i ty d i d n ' t fit into a counse l l ing frame or d i d n ' t w o r k i n their heal ing was as important as i n f o r m a t i o n on h o w it d i d . D u r i n g this i n i t i a l meeting, I so l ic i ted personal questions as w e l l as questions or concerns regarding the research process and objectives, i n v i t i n g participants into the research process on as col laborat ive and egalitarian a basis as possible to facil itate 68 informed consent, ensure ethical practice, and to foreground their contribution to the research process. We reviewed procedures for confidentiality, the time commitment involved, how I would use, analyze and represent their stories, the fact that the interview would be videotaped and my intention to invite them to reflect upon and clarify the stories that emerged from the interview. Gathering consent is an ongoing process that needs to be renegotiated or confirmed each time the research situation changes or I ask something new of participants (Hadjistavropoulos & Smythe, 2001). I committed to staying in touch with participants regarding the development and representation of the stories they shared and let them know that they could withdraw from the study and refuse to offer new information or participate further at any point in the process. Thinking about their experience of drawing on spirituality for healing as a story was often a new perspective for participants and they sometimes had questions about the kind of information I was seeking. Going over my general topic guide and offering suggestions regarding constructing a time line of major events or making note of significant points they wanted to discuss was helpful in stimulating participants' reflection on their experiences and in helping them consider how they could best convey those experiences. Often times, I got participants talking about their story during our initial meeting and was able to simply affirm that their experience was indeed what I was interested in, which helped them relax into sharing their stories. Several participants later said that reviewing the topic guide or beginning to think about their story in our initial meeting had been helpful in stimulating reflection on and new realizations about their process of drawing on spirituality for healing and wellness. 69 The interview itself was informal and semi-structured in design. My goal in choosing a location was to find a setting that afforded privacy and was comfortable for the participant. Most participants chose to be interviewed in their homes. I interviewed two at their offices and one in the office of a therapist. The interviews lasted from one hour to one hour and thirty minutes and were divided into two segments. During the first portion of the interview, I invited the participant to tell their story of drawing on spirituality for healing in their own words without interruption. Once the participant finished, I used open-ended questions to engage them in reflecting on their story with me. The two segments varied in length, some participants spent the majority of the interview telling their story with only fifteen minutes or so for reflection at the end, other participants preferred more of a question and answer format and solicited my engagement, or spent about half the time on their stories and another half of the time reflecting on what they had shared with me. I encouraged participants to name their own experience by contextualizing my questions and asking about the terms I was using. For example, I talked about my own struggle to language the topic of study in a way that described the phenomenon I was aiming at yet left room to encompass many different experiences. I asked participants about every aspect of the question from their understanding of spirituality to my conceptualization of drawing upon spirituality. Participants often engaged in discussion about the terms chosen and either offered terms that were a better fit for their experiences or critiqued my terms and discussed the struggle to find words that fit. More often than not, the challenge of languaging spiritual experience emerged as a shared struggle throughout the interview process. I also worked to open the conceptual space by asking 70 participants to label the experiences they were describing. For example, when a participant described an experience that I would categorize under my definition of healing, I would ask them what they would call that experience. Although I also asked participants about how they might conceptualize their story as a story, it seemed challenging for them to switch from their engagement with the experience they were sharing to stand outside their story and think about it in a detached manner in the interview. Generally participants responded to these questions by summarizing a major theme they had previously described and adding more about its impacUor significance in representing their overall experience. Participants were so engaged in recounting their experiences that they were often profoundly moved and cried or laughed or were awed all over again in sharing moments of great discovery or profound turmoil. They were often surprised by the intensity of the emotion they felt in sharing their experiences. Many participants thanked me for the interview and talked about the realizations that were sparked by the process of telling their stories, sometimes several months after the interview. Taking time to explore their stories together also allowed me to begin to reflect on and confirm some of the major points I heard and interpreted in their stories. Sometimes this influenced the conceptualization of the results. For example, at one point during the process I reflected back to a participant that it sounded as through counselling had formed a bridge that helped her move from never having explored her experience to exploring her experience through spiritual practices. She replied that she hadn't thought of it this way, but that that was exactly the role that counselling had played. In this way, the 71 concept of counselling as a bridging experience reflects my contribution to understanding her experience which proved to be paradigmatic for about a third of the participants. On the other hand, another, participant challenged my conceptualization of "drawing upon" spirituality, pointing to the essential nature of spirituality as part of her self-identity, which led me to recognize this as a new theme in participants' conceptualizations of spirituality. Thus, the interview text resulted from all of the elements: the private and comfortable setting, the interpersonal relationship I established with each participant, the research process and questions, my own framing of the process and my responses to participants, and participants sharing of their experiences and reaction to my set up and questions. As a further means of understanding and tracking our relative contributions to the findings, I also asked participants about whether they felt that the way I structured the process or outlined the topics led them down a particular path omitting other elements of their story. Sometimes, I audited my contribution simply by asking participants what elements of their story or discussion might have been left out of our discussion or by playing the devil's advocate and asking about their experiences from a traditional psychological perspective. For example, I suggested that the process one participant described could be viewed as a description of positive psychological coping and asked her what made it spiritual or what spirituality added as a means of understanding her experience, if anything. Thus, I endeavored to frame questions and create a research process that was collaborative, reflexive, and that focused on participants' conceptualizations of their own experiences as a means of co-creating a rich and informative research text. 72 I videotaped each interview. Some participants were initially nervous or uncomfortable with the taping but were willing to consent to the process once they knew that segments of the tape would not be used without their permission or review. I offered participants their own copies of the interview. Because the interviews touched on highly personal topics such as problems that participants had experienced, I also had a list of potential referrals on hand should the interview raise issues that participants wanted to pursue further in a therapeutic setting (Hadjistavropoulos & Smythe, 2001). Although the interviews were emotional, participants generally talked about1 enjoying the experience and expressed an appreciation for having engaged in the study. No one asked for a referral or expressed a need for follow-up of any kind and the interviews generally ended on a positive and upbeat note. I also collected basic demographic information describing the participants and providing an overview of their spiritual practices through a brief quantitative survey. I found that providing this survey to participants while I was setting up the video equipment sometimes helped spark their thinking about the array of practices they engaged in with regard to spirituality and healing. Data Management and Analysis The mini-dv tapes I used for recording are stored in a locked file cabinet to which only I have access, and computer files are password protected. Following Ratcliffe (2003), I decided to analyze voice and image information as a whole focusing on the overall meaning of participants' stories and our discussion. I used Atlas-TI software to code the mini-dv tapes without prior transcription. My method of analysis combines two distinct approaches to narrative research. I integrated Arvay's (2002) ideas on reflexivity and doing multiple readings of a text with Lieblich et al.'s (1998) detailed description of holistic content and formal analyses. The 73 focus of the study and the majority of the analysis is devoted to a holistic content analysis of the major common themes emerging within and across participants' narratives (Lieblich et al., 1998). Secondary formal and literary analyses of participants' use of language and narrative choices of plot, character, and metaphors were used to verify and add further depth to the content analysis (Lieblich et al., 1998). My method of analysis involved a six step process. Following Lieblich et al. (1998), I framed general research questions outlining the area of inquiry rather than specific hypotheses and identified themes inductively from viewing video transcripts of the data. 1) The first step of analysis involved viewing and creating summaries of the whole content of each narrative, identifying significant content themes drawn from each narrative. Once initial summaries were completed, I compared accounts and selected themes which represented common categories of experience. 2) The second step of the content analysis involved coding the videos according to the major themes that emerged from the initial readings and comparisons of the video texts with a specific view to responding to each of the research questions. As Lieblich et al. (1998) suggest each step in the analysis involved an iterative process of moving between segments of a narrative and the narrative as a whole, and between individual narratives and the common themes that emerged across narratives to ensure that the themes selected preserved individual differences in experience as well as reflecting common threads among the stories. 3) The third step was to combine major common content themes into a meta-narrative that described participants' experiences of drawing on spirituality for healing and wellness and responded specifically to the three major research questions. 74 Lieblich et al. (1998) suggest that the structural or formal features of a narrative are harder for the narrator to manipulate. A holistic formal analysis can therefore complement a holistic content analysis by revealing "deeper layers" of the narrative and of the narrator's identity serving as a check on the information the narrator shares in the content of the story (p. 13). Thus, I followed my initial readings, coding, and creation of a meta-narrative regarding the overall content of participants' video texts with two readings which considered, and coded for themes in the overall form of participants' video texts. 4) The fourth step in my process of analysis was to examine how participants' choice and use of language contributed to the construction of their narratives and to create codes reflecting these themes in the video texts. 5) The fifth step in my process of analysis was to examine and create codes representing how participants' plot choices, use of metaphors and characterization of the hero helped to shape the meaning of their stories. I compared the results of each subsequent analysis to the identified content themes, and integrated the major formal and literary themes that emerged from cross-analysis into the meta-narrative of participants' experiences. Because the stories we tell reflect and respond to larger common cultural narratives (Lieblich et al., 1998), I juxtaposed common themes reflecting participants' narrative choices in plot, metaphor and characterization with a seminal work in the Western literary and spiritual tradition in order to highlight how participants' stories both reflect and innovate upon common literary and spiritual traditions. Once a draft meta-narrative reflecting all three analyses was constructed, I reviewed and reflected upon the research process. I also provided each participant with a written copy of their individual story, the content themes I drew from it and the 75 quotations I used to describe common themes in the meta-narrative, and I asked for their feedback on and corrections to their story and the themes I drew from their narratives (Arvay, 2002). 6) The sixth step in the process of analysis involved writing a chapter reflecting on the research process and integrating participants' feedback and corrections into their individual stories and into the meta-narrative reflecting the analysis of common themes. This six step analytic process combines Arvay's (2002) emphasis on multiple readings and reflexivity with Lieblich et al.'s (1998) description of an inductive process of holistic content and formal analysis. I referred to the field notes I took after both the initial meeting to explore participants' interest in the study, and the research interview itself in forming my analyses. The notes I kept in my field notebook regarding my own reflections on the process of designing and implementing the study served as a good reference for my reflections on the research process. Atlas-TI provides the ability to attach memos to coded video segments. During the process of data collection and analysis, I found that I used my field notebook and Atlas' memo function to draw relationships between individual stories and themes and to note questions regarding the particular meaning of a word or a segment,, or questions regarding the research process such as my own impact on creating participants' stories. I noted these questions and points of clarification on participants' story summaries during the first phase of analysis. Using video as a means of recording the interviews proved to provide a significant advantage in the process of analysis. Because video captures the gestures and expressions that go along with participants' statements, I found that most of the initial questions I noted in my story summaries were clarified through multiple 76 reviews of relevant segments of the video during subsequent phases of analysis. I either included the remaining questions with the story summaries, themes and quotations participants received or clarified particular questions by email or phone. In addition to drawing themes from the initial story summaries, I found that my analysis continued to develop with each viewing of the videos. Because I also considered participants' formal or structural choices to be an important dimension of analysis, I stayed close to the language they used to describe their experiences in my choice of codes. Initially, I often had a series of distinct codes representing slightly different views of a similar concept for each participant. After enough instances of seeing the same idea described in different ways, I was able to create a code which captured the most significant common elements of an experience while still retaining the individual labels or sub-codes that facilitated moving between individual narratives to check the accuracy of an emerging theme. Reflexivity Revisited The final stage of the research process (step six) involved inviting participants themselves to reflect on the story that emerged from our interview and the process of telling their stories itself. Integrating participants' reflections on emerging themes and on the research process provides a critical means of ensuring accuracy and accountability, as well as developing the richness of meaning possible in narrative research (Arvay, 2002). All twelve participants responded to my request for comments, corrections, clarifications or reflections on their stories and the research process. Some participants simply expressed their support and approval as well as clarifying remaining questions, others requested specific changes, and a few went on to re-write or revise their story and the themes drawn from it. 77 Participants confirmed and often expressed surprise at the degree to which their stories reflected or resonated with their experience. Several participants expressed a sense of gratitude for being involved in.the research, saying that the process of reflection that the study stimulated helped them gain further clarity on their journey, their process of healing and all the changes they had made along the way. Other participants said that reading their stories helped them gain a greater degree of acceptance and understanding for their process and experience as a whole. Some participants found reading their story in the third person to be "weird" or surprisingly emotional, occasionally bringing them back to the pain they experienced as well as to their sense of discovery, and providing a feeling of accomplishment as they reviewed milestones on the journey. Participants' feedback, clarifications and changes are reflected in their own individual stories and in the meta-narrative of their common experiences of the process of drawing on spirituality for healing. Representing the Findings The findings of the study are represented in two forms. I begin the results chapter by presenting abbreviated summaries of participants' individual narratives allowing the reader to get a sense of the uniqueness of each participant's experience. Each participant and every character in their story is represented by a pseudonym. The locations and events in some stories have been changed for the purposes of ensuring confidentiality. The meta-narrative that I constructed from participants' stories comprises sections two to six of the results chapter. This meta-narrative provides a counter-point to participants' individual narratives detailing the major common themes that emerged from the analysis with regard to participants' process of drawing on spirituality for healing and wellness and the role that counselling played in that process. I differentiated between areas where 78 participants are in agreement in their description of a particular concept or experience, and areas where a subset of participants introduce contradictory ideas or offer a different perspective. I made the decision to privilege the voices of participants by placing the research findings directly after the methodology and following them with chapter five which provides a concluding overview of the research process. Readers who are particularly interested in the research process may therefore wish to read chapter five before they continue with chapter four which contains a detailed review of the study's results. Criteria for Assessing the Credibility and Contribution of the Study A range of criteria have been suggested for evaluating qualitative research in general and narrative research in particular. One important area for consideration is the appropriateness of the research process itself. Is the chosen method consistent with the purpose of the research, the structure of the questions and the underlying epistemology of the study? (Howe & Eisenhart, 1990). Does the study provide clearly articulated, step by step procedures that are theoretically and internally consistent, and that reflect a comprehensive consideration of the relevant ethical, conceptual and procedural issues in investigating the topic at hand using a narrative methodology? (Altheide & Johnson, 1998; White, 2004). I would argue that this study demonstrates a consistent fit between its theoretical and epistemological framework, the topic under inquiry, and the method of inquiry. It also demonstrates clearly articulated procedures that account for all of the relevant ethical, conceptual and procedural issues from obtaining informed consent to following a clear, consistent and comprehensive method of analyzing the data and representing the study's findings. 79 Reflexivity is a central concern in narrative research and an important criterion for evaluating the credibility of narrative study (Altheide & Johnson, 1998). I took care to weave a reflexive stance into every step of the research process, from choosing questions that provided a broad conceptual field within which participants could frame their own experiences, to contextualizing the terms I used and inviting participants to engage with, adapt and remake major concepts. Incorporating a reflective period in the research interviews allowed me to check my understanding and interpretation of each story as it was forming and engage with participants about the research and analytic process. I used a research journal which included field and process notes to record my observations, ideas and hypotheses as they emerged. I analyzed the data with a view to examining and accounting for my own impact on the process of its co-creation. Finally, I invited participants to provide feedback on my understanding and representation of their experiences and the themes that emerged from the stories they shared. All twelve participants chose to respond to this request confirming that the summaries and themes that emerged from the research process resonated strongly with their experience of drawing on spirituality for healing and wellness. My process of inquiry thus reflects a conscientious effort to identify and account for my own contributions to the co-creative process of narrative research and ensure that the findings that you are about to review meaningfully represent participants' experiences. Because narrative methodology accepts and acknowledges the co-creative nature of the research process, my reflexivity in making my impact in shaping participants' contributions to the research visible in so far as possible provides confidence that the findings actually reflect 80 important dimensions of participants' experiences of the topic at hand (Altheide & Johnson, 1998). Perhaps the last relevant criterion for evaluating the quality of a study lies in assessing its contribution to the field. The study that I conducted provides new information on how people draw upon spirituality to address, respond to and heal a broad range of psychological and physical health problems. In this way, it contributes significantly to our understanding of the process of drawing on spirituality for healing and lays the ground work for developing a model that may serve to unify the results of existing studies and provide a new basis for future research. In addition, the study offers new information on how people who are or have been counselling clients and who draw upon spirituality for healing view and experience counselling in relationship to their overall process of healing. In this way, the study contributes to the further development of models for integrating spirituality into counselling practice and contributes to enhancing the potential effectiveness of counselling for clients who draw upon or are open to spirituality as a resource for healing. Thus, I believe that the current study has the potential to make a significant theoretical and practical contribution to research and practice in the fields of health care and counselling psychology. 81 Chapter Four-Results This chapter presents the major research findings that emerged from participant interviews. It is divided into five separate sections. Section one responds to the study's first and overarching research question, namely: What are the stories of people who draw on spirituality for healing and wellness? In this section, you will encounter each participant as an individual and get a sense of his or her distinctive voice and experience by reading an annotated version of the story he or she shared with me. Sections two to five represent the meta-narrative that emerged from drawing the major content themes from participants' individual stories. Section two also responds to the study's major research question and details, in particular, participants' conceptualizations of spirituality and participants' collective journey to drawing on spirituality to create healing and wellness. Section three responds to the second research question, namely: How do people draw on spirituality to create experiences of healing and wellness in their lives? This section narrows the focus from common themes in participants' overall journey of drawing on spirituality for healing to outline the specific steps they took to create healing and wellness in their lives on a day to day basis. Participants identified a seven step process that they used to transform illness or disease into wholeness and wellness, which will be detailed in this section. Section four sheds light on participants' understanding and experience of healing and wellness, discussing the transformations they experienced as a result of drawing on spirituality and elaborating on the essential aspects of healing and wellness in their experience. 82 Section five responds to the third and final research question, namely: What is the role of counselling in the narratives of people who draw on spirituality for healing and wellness? In this section, participants reflect on the diverse roles that counselling played in their process of healing and development. A significant minority of participants identify why they left counselling to seek healing through spiritual modalities alone, while the majority of participants explain how counselling played a central role in their larger process of spiritual healing and development. Finally, the results of a secondary formal and literary analysis of participants' stories are contained in Appendix A at the end of the dissertation proper. This section serves to confirm and add richness to themes identified in the content analysis. The formal analysis of participants' use of language to convey their experiences reveals their conscious deployment of language itself as a vehicle for the creation of healing in keeping with the themes identified in the content analysis. The literary analysis of participants' narratives sets their stories in the context of the Western literary tradition, further confirming the novelty of their conceptualization of spirituality and highlighting their stories as stories of spiritual healing and discovery. This chapter is organized according to section divisions which represent the major categories of themes that emerged from the content analysis of participants' stories. The text is laid out so that each major category of themes is reflected in the title of each section. Category markers and section dividers appear centred on the page, bolded in upper and lower case script. The individual themes that provide the building blocks of the experiences that participants described in each category wi l l appear flush left and bolded in upper and lower case script. Sub-themes appear indented in bolded lower case script 83 beginning with a capital and ending in a period. Themes in the formal and literary analyses that comprise Appendix A will similarly appear flush left and bolded in upper and lower case script. As a whole the analysis moves from the individual's unique story to an overview of common themes to an in-depth look at the language, metaphors and narrative choices participants made to create the meaning and message that has emerged from their stories. In moving from unique voices to common themes, and from surface content to formal structure, I believe the reader receives a view of participants' experiences that encompasses both the breadth and depth available in narrative analysis. Section One: Participants' Stories This section of the findings provides an annotated version of the stories of participants' experiences with spirituality, healing and counselling that they shared over their hour to hour and a half interviews. Each participant has reviewed, corrected and provided feedback on the full length version of his or her story that I wrote to reflect the videotape interviews. The stories are presented as 3rd'person accounts in order to remain faithful to the interview context in which the information emerged and to render visible the role of the researcher /writer in the genesis of the stories. Participants' responses to editing their stories varied from general approval and requests for minor changes to major re-writing. The final two stories depart from the general format I've chosen for the presentation of the stories because they reflect annotated versions of participants' own recasting of their stories. My hope is that each story gives you a sense of the unique flavour of the person and his or her journey of drawing on spirituality to create healing and wellness. 84 Bruce's Story Bruce describes himself as being "intense" or "sensitive." He says that he always felt "different" from other people; not quite "normal," or "mainstream," although he can't quite put his finger on why. Bruce was successful at everything he turned his energy to, from athletics to business, but continued to experience a nagging sense of self-doubt, a "lack of confidence," that left him looking outside of himself for answers. He became obsessed with "doing the right thing" to secure love, success and to control the outside world so that he could feel good on the inside. When Bruce used cocaine he experienced some reprieve from being so intensely affected by other people's opinions and reactions and he was able to let go of trying so hard to control how his life was going. Although initially cocaine provided a sense of release, his use spiraled out of control over time. Eventually, Bruce arrived at a place where nothing he did was working anymore: he lost the financial success he had achieved, he felt angry and out of control, his relationships weren't working and he could no longer make decisions for himself. Bruce says that once he was "on his knees," he knew without a doubt that he could not continue to live his life in the same way and get over the addiction he had developed. Letting go of control is a critical aspect of spiritual healing for Bruce. As Bruce became willing to let go of the control he had tried to exert.over his life, "the spiritual well opened." He began to accept help and was led to a drug and alcohol treatment centre where he started to experience the spirituality that he had long been reading about. As he started to look within, he became aware of a greater presence through the uncanny synchronicities he witnessed in his life and in the lives of those around him. Gradually he made the shift from what he calls the "human perspective" of being at the centre of life, 85 driven by his ego to try to control the outcome of events to the "spiritual perspective" of seeing himself as a conduit for a greater energy, playing a role in a benevolent universe, but not being in charge of what was occurring. Since his original surrender, Brace's healing and growth process has unfolded "in a natural way." He has moved from thinking and controlling to experiencing life as it unfolds and is open to the purpose and the lesson he now believes reside in each life experience. Bruce says that the counselling he received at the treatment centre helped him start to identify the life patterns he needed to address, and that he has come to understand and begin to change those patterns through his spiritual journey. Bruce now uses journaling, visualization and spiritual reading to help him identify the roots of any discomfort he is experiencing, dissipate the energy of a pattern, and choose a new response. Bruce believes that physical well-being provides a foundation for spiritual well-being. He takes care of his health by exercising and eating well and he finds a spiritual connection by spending time in nature, through meditation and by continuing to let go and be open to the spiritual messages available in day to day events. Bruce now knows that peace resides in his spirit beneath all the turmoil of the ego. Losing touch with this sense of peace has become Bruce's signal to look for the lesson he needs to learn from the challenge that confronts him. Bruce has learned to trust his feelings to guide him along the way. If it feels right, he does it. If it feels peaceful or moves him towards peace, he knows he is on the right track. His feelings rather than his thoughts have become an internal compass leading him back to spirit when he gets caught up in fear and self-doubt. 86 Bruce says that he has experienced a total transformation; "a complete restructuring of sel f through this process of re-patterning his life from a spiritual perspective. He says that his addiction made it impossible to maintain the "fagade" he was presenting. By "making me face myself," the addiction acted as a doorway for Bruce to connect with his spirit and begin to love and appreciate himself exactly as he is. Bruce says that now he is a lot less concerned with what other people think of him and much more focused on how he feels about himself. Previously concerned with financial success, Bruce now finds a sense of purpose in helping others. His says that his focus has shifted from looking at what he can get to how he can contribute to those he meets. Ironically, Bruce has also found that financial success has come along with contributing to the lives of others. However, Bruce now sees his success in the world as the reflection and not the source of the contentment he feels within. Bruce says that he actively sets intentions for what he wants and uses affirmations to continue to develop the positive beliefs that help him open to the action of spirit. Then he trusts that he'll receive the guidance, support, and resources he needs to take him wherever he wants to go. Bruce has learned that in sharing his spirit through giving to others he receives. His life has become an ongoing adventure of discovery that nurtures both body and soul. Anne's Story Anne was hit by a bicycle while walking on a forest trail in 1992, an accident that left her with a serious head injury. She experienced partial paralysis on one side of her face, found it hard to remember things, and was confused in her thinking. Anne was unable to continue to do her job as a real estate agent and faced the very real possibility of "being an invalid" for the rest of her life. Early oh, Anne made the choice to embark 87 on the "long and traumatic" journey of healing, initially starting to regain strength and mobility in her physical body through exercise. The process of recovering from the accident began a cascade of awakening in Anne's life. Up until that point, Anne says that she "thought she was happy." She enjoyed her job. She says that she knew that there were problems in her marriage, but she didn't realize how deeply rooted they were. The accident helped her to see her life anew and become aware of how unhappy she actually was. Shortly after the accident, she also left her marriage and sought counselling. Anne describes therapy as "a beautiful gift," helping her begin the process of looking within and serving as a bridge to opening to her spirituality. Over time Anne was introduced to energy healing through a spiritual teacher. Anne credits her spiritual exploration with helping her move out of a "victim place," trapped in fear and worry about how she'd survive with her injury. She gradually began to see herself as a "spiritual being having a human experience," and started to understand her life and everything that was happening to her; her accident, her marriage, as serving a purpose; helping her grow and learn about herself. As she got in touch with herself, Anne became aware of all the pain she was carrying. She realized that she wasn't just trying to heal from the accident, but rather that the accident gave her an opportunity to begin to address all of the pain she had been carrying since childhood. Anne explains that positive experiences just flow through our bodies, but negative experiences stick. Anne talks about how we all want to please our parents as children and when we can't, when we feel that we don't measure up, or we feel hurt in ways that we can't understand and process, we experience a block in our energy. Anne realized that she coped with the hurts she had experienced by burying the pain and putting on a happy 88 face. As she looked within, she started to get in touch with the shadow side of herself, the pain she carried, the negative beliefs she had accepted and the havoc they created in her life. Anne believes that when we bury wounds, we begin to build walls around ourselves to protect us from feeling the pain, which often unknowingly attracts more experiences that fit the negative beliefs and feelings that represent the wound. The experiences we attract allow the wound to surface and call us to healing. Over time, Anne came to understand that her head injury called her to realize her greater need for healing. Anne believes that for healing to truly take place, the wounds she acquired had to be acknowledged and addressed on every level: the mental, emotional, physical and the spiritual. Anne formed a support group with other women in the spiritual classes she attended and they started to meet once a week to practice the meditation and energy healing techniques they were learning. At the beginning, Anne wanted desperately to feel energy. She'd take hold of a rock or a stone and try to feel its energy. At first she couldn't feel anything at all. She'd go to bed at night asking for guidance and she continued practicing. After a time, she began to feel energy. As she continued to practice meditation and practice feeling energy around her and within her, Anne's awareness of her needs and issues and her ability to sense energy grew. Now, Anne says that she can feel any problems or imbalances as soon as they arise. Anne says that she usually starts the healing process by feeling into any emotional pain or discomfort she is experiencing. As she feels into the predominant feeling, for example, anger, accepting and loving it, she begins to be aware of and move through the 89 various layers of emotion-fear, loss, pain; whatever is present underneath the surface. Moving through each layer, she gains an understanding of the experiences related to the feelings she is having. Once the emotional layer is cleared, Anne looks at the mental layers surrounding an issue. What beliefs are connected to the feelings? Why is she holding onto a particular experience or set of experiences? Often, Anne finds beliefs about herself, her life and her experiences that need to be cleared so that she can fully accept and love herself. Anne first clears the beliefs that she acquired around an issue and then moves into the physical level. Anne says that often by the time she gets to the physical, any pain she was experiencing in her body is gone, dissolved through the process of clearing the other layers. If pain remains, she goes through the same process of feeling through its layers, coming to understand how it was created and what it means for her, sending it love until it dissolves and all that remains is her increased awareness. Anne has done a variety of things to facilitate her process of healing over time. Her weekly meditation group has become a touch stone in her life. She says that they spent a whole year meditating, journaling, and talking about their experience of divorce alone. Anne has also drawn on a variety of practices using such tools as aromatherapy, crystals, stones, colours, and sound to raise her body's energy to facilitate healing around specific areas or topics. Anne explains that oils, stones, crystals, and other natural substances all carry a unique energy vibration that we can draw on to shift and balance our own energy, helping us to process and move through whatever issue is arising. At this point, Anne considers everything she does to be a spiritual experience. Whether she is walking by the ocean, washing dishes in the kitchen, or reading; by connecting with the 90 spirit inside of her, Anne experiences each of these activities as a spiritual practice that contributes to her ongoing healing and wellness. Anne has experienced a total transformation through her spiritual journey. She describes herself as "90 %" healed with regard to the effects of the accident. Anne is walking, talking and dancing with ease. There is no more paralysis, she is easy to understand and follow in conversation. Anne says that she is a "not the same person" she was when she had the accident. Through opening to her spirituality she has fallen in love with herself. She has become open to all of who she is, acknowledging, loving and accepting her "shadow side" as well as the "good parts." Along the way, Anne has cleared many of the fears, wounds, and blocks she was carrying. Although the journey is always ongoing, a deep sense of peace, connection, and love for herself, others and for life around her has become the mainstay of her daily experience. Eva's Story Eva talks about what it's like to live in fear. Eighty percent of the time, she says, she had a gnawing sense of anxious foreboding, a feeling that something was coming around the corner and that it "was going to be bad." Although when you meet Eva you'd never guess that this positive, fun and optimistic woman felt "disconnected from herself and everything," Eva says that for most of her life, she felt as though people could not see her. That she was at the mercy of the chaos surrounding her. Eva talks about the early part of her life as being oriented towards "getting." Trying to get something on the outside to quell her fear and make her feel better on the inside. She recognizes that she chose to marry her husband in part to try to respond to her own sense of fear and emptiness. When that dream ended with the end of her relationship, Eva was catapulted into a depression. She remembers being in constant 91 phys ica l p a i n , although she had no injuries and getting allergies for the first t ime that year. E v a started to see that her m i n d and b o d y were connected, and she real ized that she was getting a message; something needed to shift. C o u n s e l l i n g proved to be a p i v o t a l experience dur ing this per iod. E v a was stunned to f i n d that someone real ly d i d see her. In ta lk ing about her counsel lor , she says: "he saw some stuff that he c o u l d o n l y see i f you saw me, and so I thought I ' m connected to someone." E v a s t i l l f inds it hard to put the experience into words. She says that it was as i f i n seeing the larger essence o f w h o she was through a l l the t u r m o i l she was experiencing, he "va l idated m y s o u l . " A s a result, E v a began to get i n touch w i t h and focus on the larger part o f her that was connected to the w o r l d and to others. A s she reconnected w i t h herself, E v a started to explore spir i tual i ty to understand what was g o i n g on i n her l i fe? She wondered what had led her to this point o f d ivorce and depression. She started attending the U n i t y church. She says that i t ' s not your typ ica l church; it focuses on h e l p i n g y o u change your l i fe by changing the w a y y o u perceive and respond to events. A s she started to focus w i t h i n and became curious about what was going on for her p s y c h o l o g i c a l l y and spir i tual ly , E v a started to consider her l i fe f r o m the perspective o f soul . She expla ins her shift i n perspective b y saying: " . . . l i k e i t ' s not about what is good for m y ego, i n the sense o f h a v i n g a m a n or a house to m a k e me feel good, but about what is good for the inside o f me and h o w do I let that l e a d ? " E v a says that things started to change s l o w l y over time through shift ing her focus f r o m the outside to the inside. She started to practice surrendering to the greater spir i tual reality that was taking place. She encountered A Course in Miracles and started to l i n k the fear she was exper iencing to being directed by her ego's desire to get things. She says 92 "it's very different when you turn it around to a spiritual perspective and ask what am I here to give?" Now Eva takes thoughts about what she can get as a signal that she has slipped back into her fear and forgotten the greater part of her. Her ability to tune into her thoughts and feelings helps her shift back towards knowing and experiencing herself from the level of soul. For Eva, the spiritual and the psychological go hand in hand. The spiritual path led her to a deeper consideration of her psychological self. As she pondered the purpose of events, she started to identify and examine patterns of belief, feeling and behaviour that fed her fear. As she traced these patterns to experiences in her early life and relationships, forgiveness became an important part of her spiritual healing process. Overtime, Eva has come to realize that true forgiveness comes from experiencing the pain of past events and identifying and accepting their impact, which then allows for a new understanding of oneself and others. As Eva explores the psychological roots of her experiences, she finds that she is led more deeply within, further discovering and honouring the knowledge and wisdom that resides in her soul. Eva believes that wellness encompasses the "physical, emotional and spiritual" working together. Although she has always relied on physical activity to cope with stress, and it worked well to a degree, she says what she was missing was the "deeper level of spirituality." By learning to really surrender to god, "so that I'm really not trying to control anything anymore," Eva has found a sense of freedom from her fear. For Eva, surrendering to spirit, goes hand in hand with doing the "psychological part," taking responsibility for "cleaning up my childhood stuff and family relationships" and changing her reactions to events by unraveling the patterns of thinking, feeling, and 93 behaving that she acquired through her past experiences. Eva emphasizes the need to bring every level together to create healing. Her shift to relating to herself as a soul was an important start, but it wasn't enough on its own. She knows that she needs to do the work to see and clear the patterns that keep her tied to old beliefs and the fears they generate. Eva's spiritual journey has created a radical change in her experience of life. Her fear has. faded and now she says that she is "peaceful and content" most of time. Her constanLworry has lessoned ten fold. She says "Life is so much easier this way." Her allergies and physical symptoms have fallen away and her relationships have changed "360 degrees." She has been able to heal old wounds and create a positive parenting relationship with her ex-husband, she enjoys a relationship built on authenticity and love with her partner, and she is increasingly at home and able to share herself with her family. Eva has created work which allows her to continue to deepen her spiritual life on a daily basis and she feels increasingly at home with and connected to life itself. For Eva spirituality means "believing that I can be more than what I see.. .1 can be more than my past.. .it's remembering who I am." She uses daily meditations to focus on remembering, she practices surrendering when she gets stuck, she takes responsibility for giving her gifts and for choosing to listen to and live from her soul. Eva no longer fears what is coming around the corner, but trusts instead that she is in the right place at the right time and that she'll be guided to all that she needs to learn and to do for her soul to continue to grow in love on the journey. 94 Lila ' s Story Lila doesn't know when she started to use energy, she remembers being able to see fuzzy shapes, auras, around people and animals as a child. It was natural. At that time she thought that everyone could see energy and that everyone communicated with plants and animals. She says that she has always experienced and been aware of the greater life force that she connects with within herself and in the natural world all around her. Although Lila appreciates Christ as a spiritual teacher, she turned away from the beliefs and practices of Catholicism as a youth, finding her own sense of spirituality through metaphysical readings and workshops. Lila describes herself as a seeker and feels that she has always been intuitively guided to the spiritual beliefs and practices that work for her. Lila has been married twice and talks about having experienced a number of challenges in her past relationships. She had severe sciatica in her mid 30's and a herniated disk that the doctors said required an operation. Her pain was so severe that she couldn't walk and was confined to bed rest. She recalls clearly realizing that she could choose to be ill, as her mother had to get the attention of her husband, or she could choose to heal. She did some energy work, starting by visualizing bringing healing light and love down her spine with an intention to heal, and in much less than a month she was up and walking around. Lila says that when you work with a healing intention you start receiving exactly the experiences you need to facilitate your healing. She was using crystals, which she says magnify thoughts to assist with her healing. Her crystal healing teacher referred her to a chiropractor who was also a spiritual healer in turn and within 3 months her back was completely healed and has remained problem free. 95 Lila says that she has come to view pain as a gift. She believes that pain signals the blocking of energy that happens when there is something we don't want to feel or don't want to look at. As she became willing to look at her relationship and examine her choices and beliefs that underlay her behaviour, her energy started to flow again. For Lila the belief systems we acquire through our childhood experiences are critical to making us who we are. When she experiences physical or emotional pain, Lila trusts her inner knowing to reveal the old beliefs and experiences that are blocking her. As she uncovers and clears the experiences, feelings and beliefs that contribute to a particular problem, Lila accepts more of her own power. Lila has found that a gift resides under each problem or fear. As she clears old beliefs, she discovers new skills and abilities and a new level of love for herself. Over time, Lila has come to know and accept the absolute perfection that resides in all of us as spirit. Through her experiences, Lila understands that healing comes from restoring our connection to the perfection within. . Lila is constantly drawing on spirituality for healing and growth. She has channeled her early awareness of energy into a mature ability to understand and work with energy within and all around her. Lila draws on a large variety of spiritual practices. She meditates and chants to connect with the perfection within herself on a daily basis. She connects with nature drawing on the energy of trees or of the ocean to increase her own energy. She uses light, colour and sound to raise her energy vibration to one of joy which she believes is our natural state. At very high vibrations such as joy, anything that is unlike her belief in her absolute perfection is cleared away and she is able to see and release any judgements or limiting beliefs about herself on an ongoing basis. Lila ' 9 6 believes that disease and illness are the result of judgements we make about ourselves and the limiting belief systems we acquire. Lila says that as she clears the judgements or hidden beliefs that she uncovers through looking for the lessons in her life experiences, more and more joy arises spontaneously within her being. She has discovered that the more she accepts her joy, her power and her gifts, the more joy she is given. Lila currently shares energy work with a group of friends who help each other grow, heal and expand. Lila says that as she sets the intention to open and act as a vessel for spirit, she finds that she is more profoundly connected to the vastness, power, and joy of the creative force of life itself moving through her. Healing has been a "slow evolution" for Lila. Through that evolution, she has come to feeling very joyful on a daily basis: "it's phenomenal" she says. Lila now experiences a lot of inner peace, knowing that she can move through whatever presents itself. She says that spiritual growth doesn't mean that you don't have the same emotional challenges that everyone else does. You do continue to have challenges. It just means that every time you step through a challenge, you gain a deeper understanding of the power a limiting belief has over you, a deeper acceptance of your power to overcome, and a more profound awareness of the fact that your own gifts need only to be awakened. Janet's Story Janet recalls the Greek Orthodox Church that her mother took her and her brother to as strange and forbidding. There were many rules she didn't understand, the icons loomed menacingly, and the service was in a different language. Despite the fear inspired by this early experience, Janet prayed frequently as a child making spirituality an important part of her daily life. She experiences god as a "presence;" a sense of all of us 97 "coming together" in spirit, a "connection." Pivotal moments in the development of her faith occurred when she found herself speaking in tongues at an evangelical camp she attended as a child. To this day, she has no idea how this happened, she can't explain it. But she recognizes that this experience ushered in her acceptance of the mystical and unexplainable dimension of spirituality that has remained a comfort and a source of wonder throughout her life. Another pivotal experience was the support, safety and guidance she found in a Protestant girls' group when she was a teen. During this difficult time in her life she struggled with her family's poverty and with the burden of juggling her school work with caring for her single-parent family during her mother's illness. The girls group was the first place Janet remembers feeling as though she belonged. She remembers the group leaders encouraging her to trust her own sense of what she needed as she struggled to decide whether or not to join the church. With their support, Janet learned to trust her own judgement and that she could shape her own spirituality. The group provided Janet with a safe haven to develop her skills and be appreciated for her talents. Janet recognizes her group leaders as one of a series of angels whose arrival has touched her profoundly, changing the course of her life in a positive way. From this experience, she learned that you just need a safe place where people see you and believe in you to tap into your own healing resources. In her adult life, Janet turned to her spirituality most significantly when her son Michael was dying. She can still remember getting the call to tell her that her perfectly fit and healthy young adult son was in hospital with a heart attack. It didn't make any sense, and of course she remembers thinking that he'd be fine. As the family gathered and 98 gradually realized that he was not going to emerge from the coma that had taken him, Janet relied on her faith to find strength and comfort at each step of the journey. She drew on her church community for prayer that first night and used rituals such as lighting a candle to honour his life and the love they held for him to find comfort and hope as she prepared to go to him. Janet drew on scriptural stories of Mary's experience of watching her own son die to comfort her in the process of choosing to let him go and in saying goodbye. Janet knows that it was her faith that sustained her through the incredible pain and devastation of losing Michael. Janet describes her spirituality as the "comforting presence," the foundation that reminds her that it's going to be okay no matter how horrible things seem. Her son Michael's death followed closely on the heels of a series of significant losses in her life, and Janet remembers feeling as though the "whole world was gone;" almost nothing that she relied on as part of her former life remained. She took some time off to take care of herself through exercise, prayer, scriptural and spiritual reading and by seeking counselling. Janet describes counselling as "the joining of one spirit with another as companions on a journey." Like the Protestant girls' group those many years ago, counselling provided her with a safe space where she could be witnessed in her grief and make sense of all of the spiritual experiences and personal questions that she had around Michael's death. Janet believes that the many spiritual "signs" she experienced during her process of grieving contributed to her healing. She found another angel in the comfort and companionship of the mother of a friend of Michael's who had similarly lost her son a few years earlier. She found comfort, reassurance and meaning in such "signs" and 99 synchronicities as a robin who visited outside her window during that spring, and the daffodils that reminded her of a poem she searched for just prior to Michael's birth, the same poem she went through precisely the same process of finding as they prepared to go to his bedside while he lay dying. Janet and her family were further healed and comforted when they were able to share the depth of their empathy with a friend of their daughter who tragically lost her brother while they were visiting. This provided an opportunity to witness and understand what their daughter must have been going through that night as she prepared to join them at Michael's bedside. In this way,~each "sign," each synchronicity provided them with a further piece in the puzzle of understanding, meaning, healing and completion. Janet says that Michael has always been her greatest teacher. She used to think that healing meant resolving or getting over an issue so that it "doesn't hurt so much anymore." Now she knows that healing involves accepting and learning from the pain that remains, allowing it to transform you in positive ways. Janet says that she is "incredibly different" than the person she was before Michael's death. Moving through the experience in the way she has, making meaning of it through her spirituality has liberated her in a way. She says that she takes more risks now and does more things that she enjoys. She finds it easier to "get to the heart of things." She has fewer doubts about herself and is more creative. She has dropped a lot of self-imposed limitations and allows herself to experience more joy in living. Her spirituality continues to deepen and enrich her daily life and her ongoing process of growth and healing. Katherine's Story Katherine's spiritual journey started in earnest in 1983 when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She says that the diagnosis opened her up to a new level of spiritual 100 exploration. Now, Katherine can't imagine having been able to heal without that willingness to open further to her spirituality. Spiritually-infused counselling has been an integral part of Katherine's healing journey. The psychologist she was seeing at the time of her diagnosis helped Katherine learn how to fast and guided her into an altered state as a means of connecting more deeply with spirit in preparation for her cancer surgery. Katherine describes the near death experience that emerged from that session as a turning point in both her healing and her life journey as a whole. She remembers moving towards the most incredible love and light she has ever experienced. She was met by Christ who stopped her and told her it wasn't time for her to come home. She begins to cry at the memory, still feeling how sad she was not to be able to return to that incredible love. She received information about the gifts she had to share and was shown a vision of her son walking with his guides before finding herself back in her body. Katherine says that this vision freed her from an ongoing sense of feeling torn between the world of the living and her attachment to those who have passed on before her. She returned with new hope, clarity and a sense of purpose in being in this world. She credits this session with enabling her to "remain on the planet" by opening the door to her spiritual healing. Quoting Bernie Segal, Katherine believes that healing happens when "the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional" are aligned. After this session, Katherine started on an insatiable quest to investigate every healing strategy that she felt drawn to. Over the last number of years she has worked with a broad range of counsellors and health practitioners such as naturopaths, energy healers and psychics, attended self help groups, studied for the ministry and integrated a broad variety of approaches to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. One of the most significant realizations 101 that .Katherine experienced on her journey was the awareness that healing is really all about "clearing." Katherine believes that it is the patterns that we acquire, repeat and live, usually without our conscious awareness, which create disease in our bodies. She links her development of uterine cancer to her repression of memories of sexual abuse she experienced as a child, a failed marriage, and to the stress that she was experiencing in her daily life. She can see how the cancer she experienced and also a subsequent hepatitis infection helped to make her aware of the need to start living in a different and less stressful way. It also helped her to attend to the memories of abuse that were waiting to surface. Her initial diagnosis of cancer and the healing journey it sparked led Katherine to learn to listen to and honour her feelings, intuition and inner knowing. Katherine says that she lived most of her life "from the neck up," coming from a family that didn't acknowledge or deal directly with the many emotional struggles and undercurrents that Katherine experienced in her. family home. As Katherine listened to the signals she received from her illnesses along the way and was increasingly willing to slow down and spend time mediating in nature, she started to see, feel and identify the patterns of thought and feeling that were creating her experiences. Being willing to feel through her feelings has been a crucial part of her healing. Now Katherine allows her intuition to guide her to the best method of working through a feeling, to identify the pattern, and see the lesson beneath the experience. She uses a range and combination of spiritual practices from meditation, prayer and journaling to art, music, and energy work. She now trusts that the right vehicle for getting in touch will present itself in the moment. For example, when focusing on a feeling, 1 0 2 Katherine will often receive an image that she feels guided to express. As she begins to paint the image, an understanding of the feeling and its message will start to unfold. Channeling paintings has become not only a means of personal healing but is also one of the unique gifts that she now shares with others. Katherine's journey has led her to a relationship of profound connection with and trust of spirit. Over time she has come to rely on the "unmistakable" spiritual "knowing" that she receives in meditation and when asking for guidance. Her ability to trust in and act upon this knowing has led her to take many risks; from quitting a job she loved which was contributing to her ill health, to starting a new business the like of which she had never in her wildest dreams imagined or even desired. Katherine finds that as she continues to hold a healing intention, her inner guidance effortlessly creates everything she needs, putting her in the right place at the right time to enjoy amazing healing and a continued deepening of her joy of life. Katherine describes her spiritual journey as an "amazing awakening." She talks about being grateful for her cancer and all of the other physical and emotional health challenges she has faced from early trauma to recurring health problems to divorce. She says that drawing on her spirituality has helped her get in touch with her soul journey rather than being driven by what she thinks she should do or what her childhood conditioning would have her do. Through her healing she has transformed from a "concrete thinker," someone who always had to be in control, to someone who is comfortable "living in the void." She has been successful at breaking the legacy of abuse and its impact on her family through her own healing, and she enjoys a great deal of peace in her life. As she looks towards her 65th birthday, Katherine can't imagine retiring 103 in the traditional sense. She is passionate and excited not only about her own continually unfolding journey but also about playing her part in making the world around her a more welcoming place. Katherine is active in her community, using art, creativity and intuition to help others connect with that abiding presence within. Robert's Story Robert describes his early life rather matter-of-factly: at 18 months of age he was abandoned by an alcoholic mother, spending his youth shunted from one foster home to another, and experiencing physical and sexual abuse along the way. Fear, anger, and loneliness have always been a part of Robert's experience. His early experiences made it hard to trust,others and form attachments, making relationships an ongoing challenge. As a youth,' Robert says he was headed down the wrong road. He was in a special class at school because of his behavioural problems; he sniffed glue, used IV drugs, and gravitated towards a "very disturbed" crowd, many of whom are currently in jail or in trouble with the law. Looking back Robert can see that even during that desperate time he had a core of compassion within that he has since developed through his spirituality. Robert was exposed to Christianity as a youngster and found solace in prayer during times of trauma. Reading Herman Hesse's Siddhartha was his first exposure to Buddhism and he remembers being quite moved by the book. Siddhartha's pivotal moment of looking in the pool, seeing his own reflection, and realizing that the world was all within him was a realization that stuck with Robert. His success in weightlifting in his teens raised his self-esteem arid gave him his first sense of meaning and purpose. He encountered a book by a sports psychologist that combined Western psychology and Zen, and he started using the visualization and progressive relaxation strategies to improve his weightlifting performance. Looking back Robert realizes that these ideas 104 started him on a process of self-reflection, noticing himself and his thoughts in a way that would be a key to his later development. Over time, Robert was led to a twelve step group through a relationship. He felt welcomed and found the idea of a higher power that one could surrender to helpful in coping with the ongoing fear and panic attacks that were the legacy of the abuse he experienced. During this same period, Robert attended a lecture on Zen at a local temple as part of a course on religion he was taking in college. He couldn't believe how the 15 minute meditation was able to drain away the stress and anxiety he was experiencing. Zen practice seemed to fit naturally with the'techniques he had explored through his weight lifting training and the principles of the twelve steps, helping him surrender in a way that allowed a "creative force of healing" to arise. Robert's visit to the temple was 9. years ago, and he has been meditating everyday since. Robert talks about struggling through his life. He struggled to understand and control the effects of trauma; he struggled with his memories, his fear, his anger, and his reactions. He struggled to control events in order to change what he was experiencing. He struggled to try to be a good person. Robert associates his struggles with suffering. He sees Buddhism as path to finding liberation from suffering, not just for himself but for the interconnected self that we all share. Meditation has been the core practice that has helped Robert stop the struggle. As he meditates, watching his fear, his anger, his thoughts, Robert realizes again and again that they aren't real, they come and they pass away. He has learned that the more he struggles with them, the more he suffers. By accepting his experience and saying yes to the fear, he has discovered that it's not actually a problem. It changes on its own. Robert 105 marvels at the awareness he has come to, saying: "It's very simple, it's a very simple thing to do." Yet at the same time it has taken 9 years of dedicated practice to arrive at this point of being able to become aware of and surrender his struggle. Through surrender he is liberated. Robert talks about Zen as being more about reality than spirituality. It allows him to see clearly what is real and drop the rest in his practice. Robert says that meditation works from the inside out, helping him see, accept, and shift his thoughts, feelings and reactions. Practicing the teachings of Buddhism helps him by working from the outside in, guiding him in taking a non-reactive approach to the situations he encounters in daily life. Robert carries his meditation practice out into his life by doing one thing at a time, practicing a mindful presence. Meditation helps dissolve the automatic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving he has learned through experience; patterns which create suffering. When he is out in the world, the teachings act as a touch stone to prevent him from reacting in ways that reinforce the patterns he has learned while they are in the process of dissolving. As he continues to practice, Robert is finding that the teachings he incorporated in his attitude and behaviour, such as the four wisdoms of empathy, charity, gentleness and benevolence, are beginning to occur naturally of their own accord. Robert describes the transformation that has occurred as a result of his practice as "amazing." A lot of the emotional problems he has experienced have been "lifted." Even his memories of past trauma have shifted and he isn't overwhelmed by his feelings about them anymore. He now experiences a pervasive sense of peace in his life. He has a sense of love for hiniself and a sense of joy, of affection for life, and increasingly of affection 106 for others. Through each step on his path, Robert has developed that seed of compassion that he always had within, becoming a kind and loving person. Robert's practice has also helped him to accept his difficulties as an opportunity to learn about himself. He is not afraid of challenge and he believes that the suffering he experienced has inspired his dedication to meditation practice. He says that coping with the legacy of abuse in his daily life was so difficult that he had to practice. As a result, he experiences a relative sense of joy, liberation, and warmth that he continues to cultivate. He talks about how wonderful it is to accept life as it is. When he encounters a challenge in his day, he can tap into the deeper awareness that he experiences in meditation until the understanding of what he needs to do comes to him. He can't imagine ever stopping his practice. Originally motivated by healing, now motivated by the ongoing unfolding of liberation and joyfulness, he is profoundly grateful and committed to enjoying what each moment has to bring. Michaela's Story Michaela was always drawn to exploring the unseen world, intrigued by magic and stories of fairies and vampires for as long as she can remember. Naturally curious, Michaela was interested in probing the reality beneath the appearance of things. Michaela talks about having always believed in and felt god; she felt god in church as a little girl, and even more profoundly in nature. As a teenager, she stopped attending church, feeling that she didn't need organized religion to continue to explore her connection with god. Michaela continued to deepen her spiritual understanding through her own exploration throughout her youth and adult life. She describes herself as having been open to life, to new understandings, and as having been continuously engaged in her own growth. Then 9 years ago, Michaela's eldest son, Justin, a high school senior, died in a cliff diving accident. Michaela describes the event as having "blown" her family apart. Justin's death "shattered the structure" of her life. In recalling the day Justin died, she remembers being steeped in a sense of the surreal that was punctuated by moments of incredible pain and horror at her growing awareness. The enormity of her loss and her love for him was so profound that she still experiences moments where it is difficult to believe that he is really gone. Justin's death catapulted Michaela to a new level of spiritual exploration and growth. She explains that it was as though the fabric of space and time opened in a new way with Justin's death. She now lives as much in the realm of spirit where she can still connect with his presence as in the human realm of day to day affairs. Michaela describes the initial period of coming to terms with Justin's death as being dominated by her search for connection with Justin. She says that she always experienced a connection with her son's unique energy and personality, even before his birth. She says that she knew he was coming, even as a teen, and felt connected to who he would be. Certainly, her connection with him grew throughout her pregnancy and her life with him, and it felt natural for her to continue to look for him after his death. One of the profound synchronicities that occurred for Michaela in her grieving process was a message she received through a medium. A friend of a friend gave Michaela the.tape of a session where she was amazed to hear a medium describing her and responding to the despair she had been feeling on a recent trip by saying that spirit had heard her prayers and that her son was well. This chain of events led her to visit the medium and begin attending classes. Michaela talks about the sense of understanding and 108 . relief she experienced through this exploration of mediumship. Although the sessions didn't provide answers to all of her questions, she was relieved to hear Justin, sense his unique personality, and experience his presence once again. In her search for a spiritual understanding of his death, Michaela dove broadly into any tradition or teaching that drew her. In reading about diverse spiritual or religious . paths, she found that "they all have answers." In drawing on these answers throughout her grieving process, Michaela used prayer, journaling, reading, spending time alone and in nature, and meditation to help her. She came to a belief that "god was energy," an inestimably huge force of love, "like a loving parent," who was always available and supportive in helping her negotiate the challenges and learn the daily lessons of life. Her understanding of god helped Michaela have the courage to "walk fully into," feel and express the anger, grief and pain that she was experiencing. By drawing on all of these tools and giving herself fully to the experience of her grief, Michaela was able to come to an acceptance of Justin's death. Michaela describes reaching a pivotal point in her process where she needed to decide for herself whether she would give into her despair or rejoin life. Her choice was to live. For Michaela this choice meant using the pain of Justin's death as an opportunity for growth, as an opportunity to become all that she can be. In this way, her pain, becomes a "badge of honour" marking her ability-and the human ability- to continue to embrace life and grow even through the devastation of losing someone so dear. Michaela describes her healing as making the decision to continue to live fully and grow fully even in the face of the pain and grief of her son's death. 109 Counselling played a critical role in Michaela's healing. By embracing her with a spiritual "love" and by providing the guiding structure that she felt had been torn from her life, her counsellor helped Michaela negotiate those painful first days of waking up to a world without Justin in it. Michaela describes her counsellor as "spiritual", "open" and "genuine." Her understanding and companioning of Michaela's spiritual search for Justin provided comfort as well as guidance and support as the healing process began. Michaela feels that there is no end to healing, because we are always growing and evolving. Spirituality is an integral part of Michaela's life, woven through the fabric of each part, from how she understands herself and what happens in her life to her openness to hearing messages and learning from everything in the world around her. She feels that her daily use of prayer and meditation keep her grounded and healthy and she believes that she needs to maintain those practices to continue to progress in a optimum way. Michaela says that although she continues to get "curve balls" thrown at her, she now has the confidence that comes with growing through adversity. No matter what she is thrown, she now knows that she can re-create the balance she needs and continue to fulfill her purpose of becoming all that she can be. Sigr id 's Story Sigrid describes herself as a seeker, "always searching" for something to address the sense of unhappiness and disconnection she experienced in the strictures of WW-II Germany and the insular culture of her family. She left home as soon as she could, marrying after a short time and coming to Canada. She says that her "real searching started" after she left her husband of 5 years and moved into the work world. Sigrid initially took a job as a salesperson to overcome her fear of people. Over many years, she climbed the corporate ladder becoming a retail executive. Although success and 110 achievement were "the thing to do" at the time, she says "my heart wasn't in it" and she gradually turned more and more of her attention to her search for understanding. Sigrid had developed an interest in psychology in her teens and initially began to read in earnest in this area. She started seeing a psychiatrist who helped her gain more understanding of parts of her personality; more insight into herself. However, over time, she found that psychology "didn't get to the bottom of it all" and she discovered a book on spirituality. Since she considered the "occult" a bit flaky, she was surprised to find herself interested in and responding to spiritual.material, finding that it had value. Discovering the The Nature of Personal Reality in the 1970's was a major turning point. It introduced her to new ideas about creating her own reality, including choosing this incarnation and the people in it. This book and the ideas it stimulated became "the basis" for her ongoing search and her beliefs, actions, and values for some time. During this time, she says: "God became an interesting entity again." She had long rejected the image of god as an old, white male authority figure, just a bigger version of her father really, that she was exposed to as a child. The Nature of Personal Reality helped her reconnect with an interest in the invisible world by opening up new visions of god as everywhere, including within. She also discovered A Course in Miracles in the late 1970s which helped her get in touch with a reading of Christianity that she found profoundly moving and meaningful. Sigrid's spirituality developed or perhaps rather she deepened her discovery of it as she read and experimented with new beliefs over time. The majority of her spiritual development came from reading, accepting and implementing new beliefs which then changed her experience and gave her a broader perspective, opening the path for more I l l learning and change as each new understanding built upon the last. As she looks back she now understands that she always set intentions and brought positive experiences into being. What other people would call luck, she recognizes as intention that helped to draw the jobs she wanted and experiences she needed. Ten years ago, Sigrid experienced another significant shift when she connected with a spiritual study group and started learning about energy work. She describes this period as the beginning of "real contact with my inner self, higher self, or with the spiritual aspect of me." Investigating energy, she came to see and experience everything as energy. Sigrid says that she had always pushed her feelings away. She can remember when simply feeling was a painful experience. Through learning about energy, she re-connected with her deeper self and her feelings, coming to understand that she experienced health and wellness as she allowed feelings to flow freely through her body. She learned that if she judged her feelings, or her experiences, she created energy blocks which resulted in unwanted effects in her life. She came to understand that illness results from these energy blocks. She now understands energy as everything that is, as an essential part of us, and believes that understanding how energy works and our relationship to it is essential for healing to take place. She practices accepting everything as it is in her life, letting the unwanted flow through her consciousness without giving it extra energy. Letting go has become an important principle for Sigrid because she understands that giving her attention or energy to something creates more of it in her life. Sigrid describes her life as being perfect in its unfolding. She believes that every single part of it has a purpose and exists because she has chosen it at some level of her 112 being, although she may not immediately understand the message it is bringing to her. Learning about energy has opened the door to discovering self-love. As she opened to understanding energy and to her feelings, she connected more deeply with herself and came to love herself for the first time. She believes that our beliefs create our reality and are the basis for everything in our lives, although we are often mainly unconscious of them. She says that there is no formula, no discrete A + B = C to spirituality, but that it is all an integrated experience. She doesn't know how it works. She just knows that it does. Her journey has been a process where one step has prepared her for the next. Sigrid sees healing as a process, and an ongoing one. Counselling has played a very minor role in Sigrid's healing. She started the process of healing by looking towards psychology to help her understand and heal her personality. Over time she moved from psychology to the vast, unknown territory of spirituality "where all these wonderful things were happening." In spirituality she encountered a set of beliefs and understandings that made sense, which she began to practice, and then gradually to experience in her life. For Sigrid, the healing of her personality has occurred as her spiritual search has continued to unfold. Sigrid describes herself as being "at peace". She is a robustly healthy and active 80-year-old who is excited at the learning, growth and continued expansion to come, experiencing each day as taking her more deeply into a journey of discovery. Si lke 's Story Silke shares a story attributed to a Zen master. She says: spirituality comes knocking and at first it's just a tap, then the tap gets harder, then it becomes a knock, then it gets a little uncomfortable. If you continue to ignore the knock, it grows even more uncomfortable and perhaps even life threatening, until you answer the door. Silke now 113 realizes that the challenges she encountered were spirit's knock on the door, inviting her to further awakening. Silke credits her love of her children with starting her on a journey of self-exploration. She recalls one pivotal moment, where she could see herself yelling at her children at the top of her lungs, while they cowered in a corner, over a glass of spilled milk. At that moment, she flashed back to how she used to shrink from her own father's rages. Shaken by seeing how she was repeating the pattern, she decided to do everything she could to address her anger and ensure that she wouldn't leave her children with the same legacy of fear that she experienced. This decision started Silke on a journey of self-discovery and change. Although Silke successfully pursued this initial seed of self-development, it wasn't until her 30's that she found herself contemplating the possibility of god for the first time since her Anglican upbringing. Initially Silke decided to accept the idea of god intellectually, gradually leading to a continuously unfolding relationship with god, which Silke now recognizes as an "all pervasive, loving presence." During this period, Silke pursued an interest in meditating and began to have spiritual experiences initially of a loving presence, and over time of guidance or information flowing effortlessly to her. Most recently, Silke receives music; spiritual songs of inspiration and of guidance that she experiences as god talking to her. Spiritual experiences have been an important part of Silke's journey, helping her to develop her faith through experiencing the reality of a loving presence in her life. In her late 30's Silke started experiencing panic attacks so severe and ongoing that she wasn't able to sleep for more than two hours a night. She remembers being in a 114 perpetual state of agitation where she was afraid to leave the house because an attack might occur. As the panic took control of more and more of her life, Silke searched desperately for answers. Medical interventions helped only for short periods or actually added to her symptoms. Having grown increasingly desperate to understand what was happening to her, Silke accepted her doctor's referral to counselling. Silke describes counselling as the first time that she felt truly listened to in her life. It gave her an avenue to sort through her confusion and distress and identify patterns in her life experiences. After finishing counselling, a friend introduced her to re-birthing which she credits with taking her to a new level of depth in experiencing her emotions and identifying the source of major life patterns. This experience started her on an 8 year journey of "opening" through reading and attending workshops based on spiritual principles from Buddhism, A Course in Miracles, Shamanism and Eastern Mystics such as Osho. She describes the essential gift of her spiritual explorations as "coming back to myself and opening up and trusting my own heart, that part of god in me." Silke describes the marriage she was in when she started having panic attacks as rocky and volatile. Up until this point, she experienced life as a continual struggle: whatever she tried to get off the ground, it just never seemed to work, no matter how hard she worked. She remembers reaching a turning point when she took care of her father who was ill, and experienced a very peaceful and healing week with him. As the week drew to a close, she found herself unable to return home. She grew more and more agitated at the thought of going home. This turning point ushered in a year of turmoil and reflection while she lived with a friend and tried to sort out a new direction. 115 By this point in her growth, Silke says that she knew that god was at the centre of her life. Through her spiritual studies she learned about and resonated with the idea that there is a spiritual purpose that we are each here to fulfill. Silke says that once she committed to the decision to fulfill that purpose and listened to her intuition and the feelings that were telling her to leave her husband, her sense of struggle transformed and everything came together to support her in moving forward in the most amazing ways. Silke talks about this experience as being in the flow. In short order she had a safe place to stay, the money she needed to survive and she was starting to move towards fulfilling her dreams through returning to school. Today, when she is confused or disturbed, Silke meditates to connect to the loving presence within, listensto guidance she receives, sets a clear intention for what she wants to experience and trusts that she will receive the support she needs to move in that direction. Silke knows from experience that when she is on track with her purpose, and in the flow, things just come together for her. Meditation has become a crucial spiritual practice for Silke. She says that her daily meditation practice connects her with the unconditional loving presence within. In her experience of this most essential part of herself, anxiety, daily worries, imagined grudges and the self-criticism that floats around in the mind simply disappear. Silke describes her spirituality as healing, by "taking me home to myself." Her meditation practice keeps her clear and connected on a daily basis while the other strategies she uses such as acceptance, singing, setting intentions, spiritual reading, and her own technique of vocalizing and feeling through her feelings help her get back on track when she gets 1 1 6 stuck. For Silke, being centred in her spirituality is synonymous with being centred in her heart; feeling connected to god, and being open to all that life has to offer on her journey. In thinking about who she was before she embarked on her spiritual journey and who she is now, Silke says she is a totally different person. She remembers feeling "on the edge" and "crazy" a lot of the time back then. She hated herself, hated the world around her, and hated what was happening in her life. Now, she routinely experiences a lot of peace, hopefulness, feelings of really loving herself, robust health and she enjoys her life on a daily basis. The panic attacks have gone; she sleeps regularly and often feels joyfully in the flow of fulfilling her purpose. Now when symptoms of panic or anxiety pop up, she sees them as sign posts pointing her back towards reconnecting within. Mia's Story (Re-written by the Participant) Origins: Mia remembers always having been interested in the "invisible world" and the unexplained. As a child, she started reading about parapsychology, mythology and. magic in the library to satisfy a yearning to learn about the deeper realities of life, "the hero's journey." As a teen her focus changed to experiencing life and she concentrated on exploring her creativity in university; studying film, screen writing, and media studies. Shortly after settling in Vancouver, she developed a health problem, bleeding cysts on her forehead, which proved a pivotal turning point, drawing her back into an exploration of spirituality in an effort to heal. The journey: Initially, Mia tried the standard Western medical approach to healing, going through a variety of pharmaceutical drug treatments. When nothing worked and she felt that her health was starting to be compromised, she started exploring alternative healing and focused on nutrition and various natural health modalities for a few years. During this time she also tried some traditional counselling as a means of 117 understanding her psychology better. One day she tried an energy healing session, with a practitioner who shared an office with her physiotherapist. The first session was a turning point in her journey. The healer put her hand over Mia's heart charka and she could feel palpable movement of magnetic-like energy. Fascinated, she decided to investigate this phenomenon. This marked a transition from focusing on physical healing to focusing on energetic healing which she also considers spiritual healing. Although still working full-time, she plunged full force into studying energy principles; reading intensely, going to workshops and having sessions with a variety of healers. About depression: Mia describes her first few years of studying as being a dark time, experiencing many challenges. An energy pattern she labeled as depression, for a lack of any other way to identify it, had been with her, recurring regularly since childhood and all through her teens and early 20's. She would periodically feel hopeless, lose all sense of meaning, not want to do anything, be tired or drained. She describes it as entering a state where she stopped feeling anything. She had always felt that the depression just took over, that she didn't have any power over it. At recurring intervals, she had often contemplated suicide. As she studied her past patterns from an energy perspective, she came to the realization that she could choose how she felt. She could choose not to entertain depression and the thinking associated with it and made a commitment to herself not to ever entertain it again. Mia talks about the power of having made a commitment, a vow to herself and following through with it. She thinks of depression and other feelings as guests that visit your "mansion," which comprises all your bodies: mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Through this analogy, she was able to see depression coming to 118 her doorstep and so she learned not to invite it inside. About healing: One of the first maxims she was exposed to was that "you had to stop seeking the cure in order to heal." Her drive to heal her health issues had inspired her search and now she needed to let go of healing as a goal. It felt like a most terrible paradox. However, over time, she became so fascinated with the process of learning and experimenting with energy principles, that she did release "healing" as a goal. As she let go, and as her awareness grew, her condition spontaneously healed in a matter of two weeks, despite being intractable for at least 2 years at that point. This healing was clearly a result of her energetic practices, and as she continued the work after the cysts disappeared, every area of her life was transformed. New perception: Through her studies, Mia came to understand that everything is energy. Energy is always flowing around us, through us and we create our realities. What we experience on the outside is determined by the way we manage our energy (by the thoughts and feelings we entertain). She talks about taking a scientific approach to her study of energy. She had been skeptical through the early stages of the journey. Even cynical and doubtful, wondering if it was all just "new age bullshit" whenever she got discouraged. Nevertheless, as she continued on the path, she saw the spiritual concepts get played out in her life and in the lives of those around her. As she consistently began applying the principles, she started to see tangible effects. She talks about faith being an important part of the process, having faith that as we change the inside, it must show up on the outside. Her passion and commitment to the process kept her going. 119 Mia's process has been to notice a pattern and investigate it, observe it as a non-judgmental third person. Observation would lead to understanding and epiphanies. She realizes that the patterns were simply reflecting her beliefs, and were showing her how she was using her energy. Then she made commitments to stop doing actions, small and large that were perpetuating the pattern. With each small change came a cascade of epiphanies and soon the pattern had been transcended. Change had been achieved with new perception, followed by committed and consistent action. With new awareness, come new choices. With new choices, come new thoughts, feelings and manifestations. Mia has come to understand that thoughts and feelings are the blueprint for what is manifested on the physical plane. About feelings: Mia talks about having learned to let feelings flow through her instead of blocking them. For example, when facing anger, if we are afraid or judgmental about it, we try to stop feeling it. If we allow it, it just flows through and passes very quickly. As a result of allowing feelings to pass through her physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies, she no longer spends a long time in negative feelings. When patterns or feelings she doesn't like come up, she puts her detective hat on, gently observes what is happening, and allows herself to experience her feelings fully. Although she observes herself, Mia is clear that it is not purely a mental process. Although the mind is always analyzing, we need to move out of the mind into the body. Examples of change: Mia was raised in a world of struggle, where everything was "achieved" through hard work. It was also the paradigm of struggle, where one had to overcome many obstacles and work intensely to receive. Now she does "energy work," so instead of focusing on "doing," she focuses on "being." Outer action is still useful but 120 the process is led by inner focus. By aligning her energies (her thoughts, intentions and emotions), she co-creates with cosmic forces. The next stage: Mia's life has changed tremendously as a result of her nearly decade-long spiritual journey. Previously, she would rarely have used the word joy to describe what she experienced, while joy and bliss are now common experiences. At this point, she doesn't feel the need for outside guidance; she receives guidance inside from her own intuition. Her relationships have changed; she has great people in her life. She experiences abundance and freedom. She is doing what she loves and is excited to get out of bed everyday. Miriam's Story (Re-written by the Participant) Miriam identifies her husband's illness as the initial inspiration for her conscious spiritual search. She started searching metaphysical bookstores for something to help him, but quickly realized that she needed to address her own wellness in dealing with the impact of his illness on her family. Initially she found and delved into A Course in Miracles which brought her to a greater awareness of her feelings. Coming from a i ' • Ukrainian Polish home, where no one talked about feelings, this was the first time Miriam had really delved into experiencing and looking at all the various hues of feeling which really resolve into two main feelings: fear and love. Through A Course in Miracles she came to understand that her greatest fear was that of opening to love and to truly accepting herself as part of god. As her studies continued, Miriam became curious about and investigated a range of healing modalities. A woman in a spiritual discussion group she attended told her about an energy worker. Her first session was profound. Not only did Miriam experience a sense that she already knew this woman upon meeting her, she could also feel the 121 energy moving through her body and could actually hear guidance; both powerful new experiences. Never before had she felt her body in this way, and although she had used intuition before, she had never heard guidance on the inside in this way. Miriam remembers the intense period of growth sparked by beginning to take classes with this teacher. As she started to shift to a spiritual way of looking at life, she lost her sense of what was real and what wasn't as her perception of reality shifted. Although she wouldn't change her experience in looking back on it, the sense of having lost her bearing on reality was very frightening until she was able to start to really trust herself, her gifts, and the guidance that was coming to her. During this time, Miriam started to realize that she could access "universal knowing" on the inside; "answers you could never find in a text book." She started a process of looking inside and asking whether something that came to her was a universal truth or a "man made" theory. She says: "To trust that, to absolutely trust that, and to ask questions in myself: Is that a universal truth or a man made law? became a study for me." As Miriam's internal openness grew she discovered some artistic gifts she didn't know she had and got the idea of sculpting an angel for her energy instructor as a means of saying thank you. She recalls sculpting the angel in her kitchen and having her daughter comment that it needed to be balder and fatter and thinking; angels aren't bald or fat. When she took it into the class, the facilitator recognized it as her soul angel, saying that it needed only to be balder and fatter to be exact. Miriam says she was "blown away" by this incident. She was surprised by her ability to tap into and create a reflection of the spiritual realm. People in the class began asking her to sculpt their soul angels and this started her on a 5 year journey of sculpting angels. People would come, all by word 122 of mouth, and she would connect with the soul of the person and with the insights of their journey. This process in turn also connected her more deeply with her own remembering. The energy class also led Miriam to begin doing energy work with others. Again this wasn't in any text book, but was part of the process of remembering her own knowing. She describes it as-"a natural ability that arrived." Miriam found that the clients she attracted mirrored beliefs and concerns of her own. Gradually, she started to understand that we choose our own experiences, and that the people we interact with serve a purpose in our growth. As Miriam struggled to understand and accept the great variety of human choices that involve suffering, she found that the issues that clients came to see her about shifted reflecting her progression in accepting each facet of human experience. By accepting and understanding her clients' choices, Miriam was able to move more deeply into an acceptance of her own life choices. As her learning progressed, Miriam came to live more and more from trusting and attending to the guidance she received within. For example, she felt guided to begin to teach. As she gradually allowed her inner guidance to lead her she received the name and content of a class on the inner child, a part of the self which Miriam experiences as part of our spiritual nature. No one was more surprised than she, she says. She wasn't at all interested in the concept of the inner child at first. Similarly, when Miriam became pregnant at 40 and wanted a means of income that would allow her to be at home with her child, she turned within only to be led to exactly the information and people that she needed to begin a craft business that allowed her to be successful in working at home. Miriam explains: "you know it was just trust, just knowing that something would be 123 provided, I was willing to choose something out of the ordinary, I didn't know what, but it occurred." Healing is present in every aspect of Miriam's life: connecting with her children, healing from her marriage break up, her health, every area. She goes within to learn from and respond to every challenge that occurs. Recently, a specialist said that she had retina damage and wouldn't be able to do anything about it. As she meditated on the issue, she was guided to particular practitioners; an ear acupuncturist, a chiropractor. She began integrating aromatherapy and herbs, started doing Qi Gong and going swimming, attending consciously to her physical self for the first time in her life. Her specialist confirms that her eyes have continued to improve with each appointment, and she keeps working on it. She knows that the condition is related to accepting herself further and accepting that all of her choices; both the beautiful and the traumatic have been just perfect for her. Her eye problems have brought her to further honour and integrate her physical self. For Miriam, healing is defined by acceptance, accepting more and more of her self. Spirituality has very much become a way of life that Miriam now experiences as an intrinsic aspect of herself. She draws on a range of tools to stay in contact with herself so she can "hear, feel and know the deeper spiritual aspect of herself." These include meditation and toning, as well as energy work, and the creativity that she has used with herself and with others. She starts each day with gratitude and with setting an intention for that day. The tools she uses help her remember that she is the "whole of the whole" and give her the ability to stay in the flow and respond in the best possible way to whatever arises in her day. 124 In terms of how her life has changed since the beginning of her journey, she says that she is happier, and has become focused on living in the present moment, embracing what is here now. In order to stay well she balances her food, exercise, and entertainment with friends. However, she says you can have the appearance of a balanced life and still not be well inside. For Miriam, wellness is grounded in an "acceptance of everything in my life." She says: "I can have a physical disability and still be mentally well." Miriam believes that wellness comes from her spirituality, tapping more deeply into herself which allows her to "take the very best of everything that I possibly can in any situation." Section Two: Spirituality and the Path to Healing This section marks the beginning of the meta-narrative of common themes that emerged from an analysis of participant interviews which will unfold over the next four sections of the results. This section, in particular, describes participants' experiences of spirituality and provides an overview of the road they traveled to begin drawing on their spirituality for healing. Although each participant's story is distinctive, a surprising number of similarities emerged in listening to and engaging with each person and the story they told. The majority of participants moved away from the religious traditions they were exposed to as children, integrating the best elements of those early experiences and charting their own non-traditional spiritual course. As children, participants generally shared an early sense of the magic and wonder of life and an innate awareness of the mystery of life that they came to explore more fully as adults. At some point in their lives, some very early and others later on, each storyteller faced an unsolvable problem, most often accompanied by overwhelming anguish, which motivated them to seek the answers in spirituality that they had been unable to find in any other place. Participants were drawn into the extraordinary spiritual adventures they described both by the desire 125 to end their pain and by their awareness that some greater experience of life awaited them. Participants drew on the metaphor of a journey to describe the sense of personal unfolding that their spiritual search engendered. Reading served as the most common doorway into new visions of the world. Almost every participant spoke of encountering a book that sparked their spiritual imagination, calling them to remember a truth about themselves and often introducing ideas or practices that changed their perception and experiences. Participants also explored a broad variety of teachers, practitioners, religions, workshops, courses, and practices, synthesizing the ideas and techniques that best resonated with their own experience. As each participant's journey unfolded through dark times and light, participants invariably found not only healing but transformation. The changes participants experienced through exploring their spirituality were so profound that they began to encounter and eventually enact entirely new ways of living. The excitement and the sense of spiritual unfolding that occurred was so transformative that the journey eventually became a fascination and an end in and of itself. Ultimately, healing became secondary to the greater experience of life that they were living, and participants found that their healing occurred, naturally, spontaneously, and to an extent that was well beyond their wildest imagination. Participants' Definition of Spirituality Spirituality is a Unique and Personal Experience Spirituality lay at the heart of participants' stories and experiences of healing. Participants conceptualized spirituality as a lived experience of connection with the divine: Each participant had their own particular understanding of this lived experience of connection. Participants derived their conceptualizations of spirituality by drawing on 126 reading which resonated with their personal experience of spirituality. Because they conceptualized spirituality as an experience of their relationship with the divine, they expected that each person would have their own particular experience of spirituality and that their experience would change over time as they changed. Hence, Bruce comments on the futility of trying to come up with a universal definition'of an experience as uniquely personal as spirituality. He says: There's millions of us all of whom all have a different definition, and therein lies the beauty of spirituality, like love it's almost indefinable, other than to say that we all have a process in spirituality that's different. Bruce's comments capture participants' appreciation for spirituality as an ineffable experience. Several participants commented that attempting to concretize spirituality into clear definitions was missing the mark. They preferred to focus on learning to open to the experience itself in order to encounter and develop their spirituality. Spirit is All There is and We are Spirit Despite the unique and personal nature of spiritual experience, participants' stories did reflect some common elements that describe the nature of their spiritual experiences. A central theme that emerged in participants' stories of spirituality was the sense of the divine as an all encompassing presence however they chose to conceptualize that presence or their relationship with it. Participants used a broad range of terms interchangeably to talk about the divine. The most commonly used terms included: god, spirit, life force, energy, higher self, and soul. This practice of using a variety of terms communicated their belief in multiple ways of understanding and relating to this presence, inviting the listener to choose their own entry point into the conversation. Drawing on different terms also served to communicate their sense of the vastness and 127 omnipresence of spirit in each and every aspect of existence itself. Participants were united in understanding the divine as a much larger reality that is present, benevolent, and accessible everywhere at all times. By far the most common conceptualization of spirit was a non-traditional one. Fully six out of twelve participants described spirit as an all pervading energy. Sigrid provides the best example of this view in explaining: God is an energy, it is spirit in itself, spirit is what everything is made of. The stars, the planets and every single little bug, it's all the same, it's all spirit. That knowledge now is solid in me .. . energy is flowing constantly everywhere, and it's flowing also through your body. Sigrid's quotation demonstrates the recognition of spirit as an omnipotent presence that pervades the individual as well as the world. According to this view, we as human beings and everything around us actually are in essence spirit or the divine itself. Spirit is a benevolent force flowing through and sustaining us. It never harms but only supports because that is its nature and because we are an essential part of it. Participants believed that spiritual development involved becoming aware of and experiencing this benevolent force and deepening their connection with it. This view of spirituality is representative of the beliefs of the majority of participants. In addition, even participants who expressed differing views of spirit were united in identifying it as a larger benevolent presence and power that could be experienced within the self as well as in the outside world. Spiritual Not Religious Given that they generally held non-traditional views of spirituality, it's not surprising that the majority of participants, 11 out of 12, characterized themselves as spiritual on the study's demographic survey, rather than as religious, both spiritual and 128 religious, or neither spiritual nor religious. Most participants were exposed to Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox forms of Christianity in childhood. Almost all of these participants moved away from the religious teachings of their youth. Some participants actively rejected religion explaining that they found the beliefs or practices they grew up with to be limiting, harmful, or non-spiritual. Participants frequently felt that the beliefs that were espoused in church didn't resonate with their experience of life or they were disappointed in the hypocrisy they saw in the behaviour of religious role models. Other participants acknowledged the potential for making a spiritual connection in church or through religious avenues, but simply didn't feel as though that was the most direct or effective route for them personally. Eva exemplifies a participant whose experience of the dissonance between what she saw and heard at church and her own experience led her to turn away from religion. She explains how her earlier experiences led her to dismiss anything that was associated with religion or spirituality for many years. She says: Part of that is the Catholic thing, growing up Catholic, sitting in church all the time, bored out of my tree and pretending that I was there when I wasn't and yakking on about all of this stuff that was just so fake, you know and going into those confessionals and pretending that you're bad person so that the priest can forgive you, and you're 10 [italics added], that I'm sure, started that whole, I think it's fake, I think all of you are fake, you know I put the blanket on everybody that's religious or spiritual, I think you're all fake, and that is not true at all, so that was my disdain for that whole fake woo-woo stuff. On the other hand, many participants, including Eva, either held onto or returned to build upon elements of early religious practice or training that resonated and had 129 meaning for them, recognizing the value in the spiritual principles if not the organizational manifestations of some religious teachings. Miriam, for example, credits her Catholic upbringing with introducing her to the concept of a guardian angel which continues to be an important part of her faith. Although her current views of spirituality are radically different than and even opposed to many of the church's teachings, she found that she started sculpting individual soul angels for people as part of the process of opening to her own spirituality and the intuitive knowing that she considers fundamental to her spiritual experience. Similarly, 2 participants who left the religious organizations of their youth connected instead with newer religious denominations whose recognition of the pervasiveness of spirit, acceptance of other faiths, and ideas regarding the process of spiritual development resonated with their own views and experiences. Over time, they found a means of translating, interpreting and adding to the Christian teachings of their youth in ways that were personally meaningful and effective. Although non-religious in their own orientations, the vast majority of participants recognized the wisdom to be found in spiritual texts and practices from around the world, frequently incorporating concepts from various traditions in their own practice in one form or another. Religion Also Provides an Avenue for Spiritual Expression Two of the 12 participants found their lived connection with spirit within the context of a religious tradition. One found her spiritual home within a liberal Protestant denomination and the other became a practitioner of Zen Buddhism. Interestingly, both participants described themselves primarily in spiritual as well as well as in religious terms, suggesting that the distinction remained significant to them despite experiencing their spirituality within a religious tradition. Both participants also talked about having 130 connections to and integrating practices they learned from other spiritual traditions and secular approaches to healing including psychology. Janet, who is actively involved in a Protestant church, selected spiritual as the appropriate category to describe her faith. Janet's story exemplifies the most traditional Western religious path among participants in that prayer and drawing on biblical stories for strength, wisdom and modeling were the strategies she used to "connect" in times of great distress. At the same time, Janet's spiritual path has been supported by but not confined within a particular tradition. Her broad exposure and access to native spiritual traditions has also led her to draw on the wisdom of elders and participate in native ceremonies for healing. Janet interprets native ceremonies and traditions in light of her Christian beliefs and acknowledges the significant role that each tradition has played in her healing and spiritual development. Robert who identified himself as religious and spiritual on the initial survey draws primarily on the teachings, practices and community he finds at a local Zen Buddhist temple. However, in talking about his tradition, it's clear that Robert experiences Buddhism in more functional and pragmatic terms as a path of spiritual development. He says that you could think of Zen as a "spiritual practice" or as a "religion for spiritual adults." He explains the distinction between traditional theistic religions and his understanding of Buddhism in saying: It's not something where you have a mystical power outside of yourself that is going to come and save you, it's more that you have to do the work, you have to practice, you have to keep the precepts, be kind to people working from the outside in, and do the meditation working from the inside out to come to a place 131 of non-suffering, where suffering ceases, not just for oneself but for the bigger . sense of self, but I haven't really thought of it in those [religious or spiritual] terms, it's more of a practice. Although 2 participants found their spiritual path within the context of religious organizations, in the main participants' stories generally reflect a non-traditional approach to spirituality whether or not they drew upon religious traditions. Participants each developed a distinctive spiritual practice that integrated a broad variety of ideas, traditions, and experiences that resonated with their own understanding. Participants shared the vital lived experience of a benevolent spiritual presence that they felt within themselves and that they experienced in every aspect of the world around them. A . minority found this experience within the context of religious organizations, a majority did not, Participants' Journeys to Drawing on Spirituality for Healing and Wellness Spirituality is a Journey . Participants conceptualized their experience of spirituality as a journey that has evolved over time. They experienced healing as an ongoing part of this journey and as an experience that similarly continued to evolve and deepen as they changed. For many participants the journey was both joyful and fearful, involving dark times of self-doubt, searching and questioning, particularly near the beginning, significant turning points, continued challenges, and an ever increasing experience of joy, peacefulness, love and expansion along the road. In looking back, participants identified many steps on the path that contributed towards their current beliefs and practices. For example, Robert says that when he encountered Zen, it seemed to be a natural next step because it elaborated on all of the 132 previous learning and practices he had acquired. As a child, Robert found solace in distress by drawing on the Christian tradition of prayer. Then as an adolescent, he discovered visualization, progressive relaxation and a form of "mental training" that brought him a new level of self-awareness, calm and effectiveness in competition. His experience in a twelve step program took him to the next level of connecting with others and learning to surrender to a higher power. Robert's Zen practice builds upon and reflects the further deepening of his previous practices and understanding. He likens meditation to a form of silent prayer through which he has learned to surrender to "what is." The peacefulness and increased awareness he finds through meditation and the additional insights and sense of community he has received from working with the sangha, or group of Buddhist practitioners at his temple, represents a natural deepening of the coping skills and connection he found earlier in his journey. Looking back from his current perspective, Robert can see how each step on his path provided tools and experiences that prepared him for, and that continue to be reflected in, his ongoing practice of Zen. A World of Magic and Wonder: Feeling the Presence of Spirit in Childhood As children, many participants were fascinated with the "invisible world," eager to unravel the mystery of vampires, angels, magic, and fairy tales. Participants talked about experiencing a sense of the wonder and vastness of the infinite, feeling the presence of god or the spiritual realm, sensing energy, and being able to communicate with trees and animals or see auras at an early age. For example, Mia says: For me it started at a very, very young age, when I was able to read. I guess I was about 6-years-old when I started learning to read. I started to go to the library and I started to borrow books about, at the time, I didn't use the word spirituality, it 133 was more like, magic was the word I used, ... but I wasn't interested in magic tricks, it wasn't that, it was about something deeper, I guess it was about the power of the human spirit, is kind of what I was looking at. So, I was also fascinated by legends, myths and fairy tales ... and it was more than just entertainment or the plot of the story, it was something deeper, it was the hero's journey. Participants recognized that the spiritual interest or awareness they later developed in a conscious way in adulthood had always been present in the innocence and openness of childhood. Through the process of growth and development they were invariably drawn away from this spark within to focus their energy on finding their way in the human realm of affairs. It wasn't until participants rediscovered the spiritual realm as adults that they realized that they were returning to explore a connection that had always been available within. The Healing Crisis: Illness and Trauma as a Doorway to Spiritual Exploration Participants re-discovered their spirituality or deepened their connection with spirit through experiences of illness, unhappiness and trauma. Each participant in the study, at some point in their journey, encountered a problem so intractable or an event so catastrophic and painful that they simply could not continue living as they were before. Michaela, who was already consciously pursuing a spiritual journey, talks about the impact of losing her teenage son:, It was like our lives were blown right apart. The whole structure of my belief in my life was absolutely shattered [italics added]. I couldn't have been more devastated. It just never occurred to me that something like that could happen, and my love for my children is so strong that to have that [italics added], to lose 134 Justin, I couldn't believe it and even now I still can't believe it. Even now sometimes suddenly something will unlock in my mind to go, and I'll suddenly be on the rocks or remember when I phoned my mom that night from the back of the police car, and all of the things that would unfold, absolute horror, absolute horror [italics added]. Losing her son was so shattering that Michaela had to step into a new level of spiritual exploration to respond to the experience. She talks about how her son's loss rocketed her from the "shallow" to the "deep end" of the pool, acting as a "major catalyst" sending her "full boar" into a search for answers in the spiritual realm. ' Several participants experienced medical conditions including cancer, panic attacks, a head injury, cluster headaches and skin problems that were either so disabling, so life-threatening, or so persistent that they motivated a search for healing. Most frequently participants with medical issues proceeded through all the standard medical protocols to no avail. They consistently arrived at a point where none of the standard treatments and none of their regular coping strategies were sufficient to address the challenge that confronted them. Participants with medical issues often began to search for healing through alternative medical and spiritual routes because nothing that they knew and nothing that was available within mainstream helping networks worked. Other participants experienced devastating mental and emotional problems. Two participants unexpectedly lost young adult children, others dealt with the effects of physical and sexual abuse, intense panic and anxiety attacks, depression, addiction, and relationship breakdown. In the face of experiences that they could not master with their existing belief systems, participants confronted the necessity of transformation. 135 Although Bruce had been interested in and read a lot about spirituality prior to and during his addiction to cocaine, he describes himself as having had a "pseudo-intellectual" knowledge of spirituality. In reality, he spent a lot of time living in fear, feeling hurt and inadequate and trying to control events around him despite all of the successes he had achieved. The devastation he experienced as a result of his addiction led him to a willingness to become open to an entirely new way of living. Bruce explains: I was on my knees. I had no where else to turn. I couldn't do anything else in my life. . . . I was down and out. So something had to change. Irealized myself that I couldn't be who I was before and live the life I was living before if I ever hoped to get over substance abuse. Recovery for Bruce involved nothing less than spiritual transformation. Bruce talks about having previously tried to change all sorts of things from his job to his living situation to get a handle on his addiction. By confronting an obstacle he could not overcome through his existing mental and emotional coping strategies, Bruce was forced to go to the next level of personal development. Bruce credits his addiction with being the key that opened the "spiritual well" that moved him from thinking and talking about spirituality to actually living his life on a spiritual basis. One of the central experiences participants shared was the experience of discovering a doorway to spiritual exploration and transformation through illness and trauma. Participants talked about reconnecting with their spirituality at a new level or beginning their spiritual journey in a conscious way in response to confronting a personal crisis. 136 A Journey of Many Steps Participants' search for healing typically involved a diverse array of practices, practitioners, workshops, personal study and an intensive commitment of energy over many years. Many participants, especially those with medical conditions, started their search by exploring physical wellness and alternative health and healing strategies, gradually shifting into more obviously spiritually focused strategies over time. Every participant eventually developed an array of mental, physical and emotional practices connected to one another through a spiritual belief system which brought the whole together over the course of their journey. Participants reported using an average of 11 of these practices ranging from more physically to more purely spiritually focused approaches including yoga, a special diet, connecting with nature, affirmations, setting intentions, meditation, journaling, prayer, energy work, music, rituals and ceremonies to maintain their wellness or to stimulate healing. . Reading: the Door to a New Vision of Spirit By far the most common support participants accessed in their journey, particularly in the beginning was reading. Perhaps because they had reached the end of their regular supports and resources when their search started in earnest, participants often described the spiritual journey as a solitary endeavor. Books were usually the first place they encountered new and stimulating ideas or alternative perspectives that reflected or resonated with their own experiences. Like many participants, Sigrid moved from psychology or popular self-help books to find inspiration in the metaphysical or spiritual section of the bookstore. She explains: I consumed books on finding answers. And it was psychology where I thought I foundfhe answers, which was enlightening and it was nice, but they didn't go to 137 the bottom of it all. Until, late in the 70's I found a book that is called The Nature of Personal Reality, channeled by Jane Roberts, ... that gave me an eye opener that the occult is not some kind of a flaky seance type of a thing, and it was a great education for me. ... The beliefs now that we create our own lives ... all this type of stuff came actually from Seth [same book]. It was the basis for my own search, for my behaviour, my beliefs, my value system by that time. ... God, not at that time, but a little bit later, became an interesting entity again. Reading provided participants with entry to a new world of spiritual ideas and perspectives that extended beyond popular secular or traditional religious explanations of life. Participants who had moved away from traditional religious avenues or who felt that no one around them would understand or relate to their spiritual interests often found the first reflections of their beliefs and experiences through reading spiritually-oriented books. A number of participants were aware of prejudice towards spiritual exploration in general, and anything that looked non-traditional in particular, in their social milieu. Some participants talked about their concerns, early on in their journey, that friends and family might consider some of their experiences or beliefs to be "flaky," "woo-woo" or "way out there." Reading provided a safe avenue for developing their knowledge and encountering others whose experiences might reflect their own without risking prejudice or misunderstanding. Learning Through Attraction and Experience Although participants often began their process with spiritual reading, they moved quickly to noticing how ideas that resonated with their experience were actually playing themselves out in their lives and in the lives of others. They then began to consciously experiment with and learn from their experiences with applying new concepts and 138 practices. Participants also drew new ideas, techniques and practices from broad variety of teachers, workshops, classes, groups and health and healing practitioners over the course of their journeys. Participants commonly talked about being attracted to a certain book, teacher, or group, acquiring an idea or having an experience that provided an important piece of learning for them, and then moving on to the next book, teacher, workshop or group. Like most participants, Lila explored a broad range of teachings and describes participants' common experience of feeling drawn to a particular practitioner at a particular time in order to learn a particular skill or integrate a piece of information which then led to the next step in her learning and healing. As part of describing a particular phase of her journey, she says: Prior to that I'd done energy classes and some meditation, I read Louise Hay's books on the power of positive thinking and went to Science of Mind classes, just curious, total curiosity. ... Wherever I heard someone of interest that seemed to have something to offer me with my beliefs, I would continue with that, I would explore it. . . see, when you're in this area, all of a sudden, things come to you: 'When the student is ready the teacher appears.' .. . So it's been through trial and error, I guess just experimentation. Most participants spent long periods of time studying or working with one, two or three central teachers or practices intensively, while learning about a broad array of related ideas from classes, workshops, and reading. Their knowledge of spirituality was both broadly based yet focused as a result. Participants learned about different areas of life from different teachers or traditions. They commonly talked about learning physical practices from one practitioner, emotional practices from another and mental practices 139 through still other exploration. Whether it resulted from surveying a range of religious traditions, or integrating a variety of religious and secular healing practices, participants viewed the holistic array of skills and perspectives they acquired through their exploration as building a strong spiritual foundation. In addition to attending workshops or classes and studying with teachers many participants also learned new practices or benefited from seeking assistance from a variety of traditional and alternative practitioners. Participants reported visiting an average of six practitioners within the last 2 years, with a range'of 2 at the low end of the scale to 11 at the high end of the scale. Participants sought assistance from mainstream professionals including medical doctors and psychologists as well as non-traditional professionals and healers including energy workers, Reiki practitioners, psychics, and spiritual counsellors. An overwhelming majority of participants, 11 out of 12, reported that it was important for them to seek help from practitioners who incorporated spirituality into their practice. Finding a Community of Support Nine of the participants were drawn to connect with an ongoing community of like-minded individuals for spiritual support at some point in their process: Four participants found this support through churches or religious organizations while others joined meditation groups, or created their own circle of support with people they met in workshops, classes or retreats. Because participants frequently experienced their journey as necessarily solitary, for example, Bruce described it as a "journey I take with myself," many found great joy and support in finding like-minded others with whom they could connect. Given participants' awareness that their spiritual views and way of life were increasingly "different" or non-mainstream, finding others who could relate to their 140 experiences helped them feel understood and connected. It also provided an avenue for sharing the exciting experience they were having. What they were discovering was so extraordinary that many participants expressed the need to share what they were learning in some way. Participants connected with like minded others to share ideas and experiences and also to share skills and support one another in healing and exploration. Lila and Miriam talked about the way their group of energy practitioners developed new meditation techniques together and did energy work on one another to facilitate healing when necessary, or simply to facilitate the transition to a new level of development. Similarly, Anne started a meditation circle, gathering together participants she met at workshops with her spiritual teacher into an ongoing support group. For a whole year the group meditated on their experiences of divorce alone, journaling and sharing their stories and realizations. The support of working through her divorce with others who shared similar spiritual beliefs and practices was incredibly healing for Anne. Participants were committed to following their own paths and were highly motivated in their individual exploration and growth, transitioning through a great many teachers, teachings, and communities of belief as they continued to evolve. At the same time, many participants found great support in their own journeys through connecting with others and exploring their own spiritual paths through focused and ongoing group activities. Spiritual Experiences Provide Support and Affirmation Participants also talked about extraordinary experiences of spiritual communication that provided insight, guidance and comfort on their journey. Their experiences ranged from the pre-cognition of the death of close relatives, waking visions, 141 receiving guidance from angels or spirits, communicating with relatives that had died, and receiving significant messages through dreams, signs, and inexplicable feelings. Although occasionally frightening or disorienting, at least initially, these experiences served largely to provide comfort and a sense of connection to the divine in times of doubt or distress. Spiritual experiences also provided insights regarding issues participants were struggling with, guidance in creative endeavors, and practical information that helped them prepare for an upcoming reality, such as the death of a loved one. Silke's experience of beginning to receive songs while sitting in meditation one evening combines and exemplifies several of these ideas. She says: I sat down and I just opened myself; got kind of quiet, closed my eyes and started listening on the inside, something I didn't do very often. That's what I do basically when I'm listening to my intuition. But, I was just listening, and all of a sudden I heard a melody, and I thought, well that's interesting, and I heard words. It was an actual song and there were lyrics to it, and I was kind of puzzled, but it was so pretty, and I started to write it down, and then I'd find my mind going and thinking; oh, it should rhyme, oh, it should be this word, and I thought; wait a minute, wait a minute; back up, and I'd start all over again. So I'd get real quiet again and then just open up and hear it. ... It took me about two hours between keep [sic] flicking into my mind and coming back out. ... When I looked at it later ... I realized I was so shocked by that because I don't know where it came from ... and then when I started listening to the songs, it was like god was talking to me, like the first one is called 'To be open,' and it goes: 'To be open is the only 142 way.' The first verse goes [singing]: 'It feels so good to share myself, to love with all my heart. To know no need of boundaries for this love I would impart. And there's no need to tell myself, guard yourself, keep safe. Because now it's only love I find, and to be open is the only way,' ... and I heard this, and then I realized that is exactly what I've been trying to do is to be open. Like Silke, part