Spiritual Wellness

Terry Lieb God Finds, Living out your Faith, Total Wellness 3 Comments

If you read last month’s post, you might remember I referred to spirituality as the first element of my Total Wellness model. Over the course of teaching and practicing the model for many years, I eventually came to understand it as foundational and the “Godly glue” that binds our wellness journey together.

If you don’t feel the same, that’s perfectly okay. In fact, some people might not connect to the word “spirituality” at all. One of the most amazing gifts this blog has held for me is the diversity of followers it has attracted, not only in variety of faith journeys and faith traditions but even a number who self-describe as atheist or agnostic. Some of these folks might read my description of spirituality as “Godly glue” and assume it won’t fit into their belief system.

However, it is important to understand and remember that what spiritual means to one person may very well be different than what it might mean for someone else. For some of you like myself, it will revolve around God or a higher power, but there are definitions of spirituality that even the most devout atheist can accept and grab onto.

Some all-embracing definitions of spirituality include: belonging to or connecting with something greater than yourself; that which feeds the human spirit and/or allows its flourishing; or the way in which a person understands and lives life in view of her or his ultimate meaning, beliefs, and values.

Photo by Jared Rice – unsplash.com

There are many spiritual practices that my non-religious wellness clients have adopted over the years. Connecting with nature (hiking, gardening, interacting with animals, etc.) is a major one for many; making a social contribution through volunteering or being part of a meaningful social group or effort is another. Getting in touch with one’s inner voice or “higher Self”—through meditation, dream work, or journaling—can be a powerful path to spirituality, as are yoga, Tai Chi, breathwork, energetic bodywork, healing circles, alternative medicine modalities, ceremonies, rituals, death work, practicing gratitude and forgiveness, collective drumming, chanting or singing, writing poetry, and expressive dancing. Almost anything done with mindfulness and intention can become a spiritual practice!

I also encourage my atheist clients to explore how they arrived at their beliefs and remain open to re-examining them from a new perspective. Often I find these folks are not so much rejecting God as the church, which they see as one in the same. When they became angry and disillusioned with religion—often for good reasons!—they left the church and consequently their God as well (I will get into this much more deeply in my upcoming book on the formation of God image!). Many times working through their unresolved anger and frustration at the church can pave the way toward discovering and nurturing a positive, life-enhancing God relationship.

If this first area of wellness doesn’t have the potential to become the “Godly glue” in your wellness journey that’s certainly okay. This blog is not about evangelizing or converting but rather meeting those folks who follow my blog where they are and appreciating the diversity of perspectives and beliefs. All are welcome and celebrated in my circle of friends and followers!

For those of you who do have a God relationship and may be part of a specific faith tradition, to the list of spiritual practices listed above, you might add more overtly “religious” practices as well, including prayer, daily devotionals, reading sacred texts and other spiritual material, church attendance, spiritual direction, listening to hymns and religious music, spiritual fasting, and observance of religious rituals, like communion or confession. However, don’t let these suggestions box you in! The more creative and individualized the practice, the more powerful it often is. The possibilities are endless!

I will share two examples of clients who crafted their own unique spiritual practices—with exciting and unexpected results.

A woman I’ll call Nancy* entered counseling to address her increasing frustration and disillusionment with her marriage, heightened by the fact that her husband refused to attend counseling with her. Among other interventions, I suggested we incorporate my wellness model into her treatment program.

As we discussed the spiritual aspect of the program, Nancy explained that her faith had been very important to her up until she got married but then she gradually abandoned it since her husband wanted nothing to do with God. I asked if there was a time since her marriage when she experienced God’s presence, she immediately recalled an incident while on vacation in Europe when she came across a labyrinth. She described a sense of God’s presence very different than she had ever experienced in the past.

I suggested she consider building a small labyrinth on their property as a place where she could spend time with her God. At first, she rejected the suggestion, explaining that her husband would never agree to it. Later she did agree to explore the suggestion with him and he responded just as she predicted: “You are not putting a bunch of stones all over our yard!”

Photo by Katie Burkhart – unsplash.com

She then decided—without his permission—to build one by herself on a small piece of their property that was often to damp and soft for him to mow. She bought a bright pair of rubber boots (which she referred to as her “visiting God boots”), got out their weedwhacker, and ordered her first pallet of flat stones!

The hardest part of the project was getting the stones from the pallet in the parking area to her labyrinth site. She also began to realize how out of shape she was and started attending a small local gym. Without even intending to, she had actually begun the physical component of our wellness model! This snowball effect often happens; gains in one aspect of wellness will trigger improvement in another.

It turned out to be a much bigger project than she anticipated. Instead of waiting until it was complete, I challenged her to end each building session by walking the part of the labyrinth she had finished and asking how her God may be responding to her efforts. She reported that she felt strengthened and supported by God and she became even more committed and invested in her project.

The biggest surprise of all, though, came when Nancy returned home from work one day to realize at least a dozen of the stones had been moved from the pallet to the area she was working on! When she asked her husband, who wasn’t in favor of this “crazy” project, he explained he had moved them because he was concerned that she might hurt her back. She was shocked and thanked him with tears running down her cheeks. In session, she described it as the most sensitive and caring thing he had ever done for her. In the days that followed, the stones continued to move from the pallet to where she was working. This turned out to be the first step toward strengthening their relational wellness—a wholly unanticipated outcome!

In another memorable example, Marjorie*, a married educator in her late forties, came in for life coaching to improve her overall happiness and satisfaction. Although her main concern was her weight, she was open to exploring all aspects of the Total Wellness model. When we looked at spiritual wellness, she reported that while she was active in her church, she did not have a significant God relationship.

I shared the two factors that I have found—both in my own personal journey and from those folks who have invited me into their faith journey—are critical to adding depth and breadth to our God relationship. One is committing to spending time nurturing the relationship. All relationships need a significant investment of time in order for them to grow and deepen! Second is becoming increasingly more open to encountering and experiencing God in our daily life, moment to moment, rather than only in certain settings like church or times of prayer.

With that advice in mind, Marjorie decided to start being more intentional in looking for “God Finds”—a term I use for instances where we recognize God’s presence which I explained in a previous post —in her life. When she mentioned using God Finds as part of her wellness program to the three women from her church that she walked with every Monday morning, one of the women suggested they use their walks to share with each other when they had experienced God since they were last together.

Marjorie excitedly related the results, explaining that, “after sharing our God Finds with each other for a few months it clearly deepened our individual God relationships. Each of us began to realize the opportunities to experience God in daily life was endless! Not only that, but it has taken our friendships to a whole new level as well!” Think for a moment how many areas of the wellness model they are addressing in this single activity! First physical and spiritual—now relational to boot!

They eventually found this practice so meaningful they decided to walk Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays!  Another member suggested that when the weather was bad they meet at her home for coffee to “make sure they didn’t miss out on sharing our God Find encounters!”

These are just two examples. Everyone’s journey and preferences will be different. For Rita, Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer have been profound in her faith journey; for me, it’s mindfulness, Listening Prayer, and online devotionals from writers like Richard Rohr and Adam Hamilton. What do you find meaningful and spiritually enriching?


If you decide you would like to take this opportunity to address your spiritual wellness,  I encourage you to revisit the 10 guidelines  and work through the questions below to come up with your own individualized action plan!

*Names and some identifying features have been changed


  • What definition of spirituality resonates with you? Do you have your own definition?
  • Are you satisfied with your current level of spiritual wellness? Why or why not? How often do you engage in a spiritual practice? Are you happy with the amount of time you devote? If not, what are the obstacles?
  • When have you felt the most spiritually connected or fulfilled? What factors do you think created that experience? Are there ways you could replicate those factors to experience that again or increase the chances?
  • What spiritual practices are the most meaningful to you? (Remember, this is what actually feeds your soul, not what “should” make you feel spiritual!)
  • Are there practices you would like to add to your routine? Are there ways to incorporate a spiritual practice in something you already do to increase the chance you will stick to it?
  • Is there anyone in your life you would like to bring into your spiritual journey so you could support one another? What do you think the benefits could be? Are you willing to pursue this?
  • If you have a God relationship, what could you do to nurture it on a daily basis? If you don’t believe in God or don’t have a relationship with a higher power, would you be open to exploring this? Why or why not?
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Anthony Bifulco
Anthony Bifulco
October 2, 2022 7:30 pm

Very encouraging for people who are afraid to go forward with what they want to do because of the Alpha spouse disagreeing. I hope this will encourage others regardless if there is a GOD theme or just fulfilling a dream they had for themselves.
All the best,

Suzanne Barron
Suzanne Barron
October 2, 2022 7:56 pm

My grandson, who just began his freshman year at college knowing no one, shared that other kids all wear earbuds as they walk to class in the mornings on the beautiful campus. He does not because he uses it as a meditation time. He has never gone to church… but he has surprised me and inspired me to take some quiet time each day to grow in my spiritual journey.

October 11, 2022 10:01 am

Sometimes I find myself so involved with the mechanics of serving other people at church that I lose insight to my spiritual being. At a retreat location this past weekend for long term planning, there was a large labyrinth in a secluded field. Walking through the maze and focusing only on the next step brought me back to the important things that nourish my soul. I will return to that field whenever I feel the need for silence and guidance in my journey.