In Spiritual Connection in Daily Life, Lynn Underwood introduces her Daily Spiritual Experience Scale (DSES), which is comprised of sixteen simple, multiple-choice questions that invite us to become more attuned tothese extraordinary experiences in ordinary life. The DSES is the definitive set of questions for measuring the experience of spiritual connection and has been used in hundreds of studies, translated into over twenty languages, and used around the world by counselors, therapists, nurses, social workers, clergy from multiple faiths, and business leaders.
Spiritual Connection in Daily Life offers a step-by-step guide to using the DSES to improve our abilities to sense the “more than” in the midst of our days. Embraced by people from many different cultures, religious traditions, and professional backgrounds, the DSES doesn’t require any extraordinary experience like hearing divine voices or embarking upon a dramatic religious conversion. Nor does it belabor the exact definition of “spirituality.” Rather, it simply invites us to focus on aspects of our daily lives such as deep peace, sense of inner strength, longing, and compassionate love. The sixteen questions also provide a common, nonpolarizing language for communicating with others about the role of the “more than” in our lives.
Adherents of all faith traditions, as well as people with no religious leanings whatsoever, have experienced profound and lasting benefits from having these experiences, including improved health behaviors, better relationships, decreased stress and burnout, and improvements in daily mood. Now all of us can reap these same long-term benefits with just a little bit of self-reflection and Dr. Underwood’s expert guidance.
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About the Author
Lynn Underwood has published widely in areas such as quality of life, cancer, stress, compassionate love, and the understanding of ordinary experiences in a multicultural context. Originally trained in medicine, she holds a PhD in epidemiology, is an elected member of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine, and was awarded a Kluge Fellowship at the Library of Congress. She has directed foundation programs and developed projects with the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health. Her consulting practice helps organizations with research, strategy and program evaluation. She also lectures and facilitates workshops.
Read an Excerpt
Spiritual Connection in Daily Life
Sixteen Little Questions that can Make a Big Difference
By Lynn Underwood
Templeton PressCopyright © 2013 Lynn Underwood
All rights reserved.
Invitation and Introduction
Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world. —Arthur Schopenhauer
What does the world look like to you? What is the texture of your daily life? Do you find richness, jazz, color, deep satisfaction? Or do you often feel swamped by discouragement, apathy, stress, exhaustion? Where do you look to relieve dullness or distress if and when it plagues you? I often find myself looking for solace and stimulation in food and drink, using the computer, buying things, working obsessively, or looking for entertaining distractions. We have superficial social encounters, in person or electronically, that do not really provide the deep connection we are looking for. At other times we just settle into a lull of complacent boredom. We deal.
There are sources of experience that can add vibrant flavor that doesn't fade, providing a renewable inner resource. These can include being spiritually touched by the beauty of nature, the wow of a sunset. We can give and receive love, or feel thankful for our blessings. We can experience deep peacefulness or find spiritual strength in the midst of stressful times. We can sense the presence of God, or the divine. These ordinary experiences of the "more than," the transcendent, can add punch to our days. They can transform a dull day into one full of light. This book explores ways to draw our attention to these experiences, to cultivate awareness of flavors that are already there in daily life, but that we are somehow missing.
There are times when we feel fully alive. There are other times when life feels flat. It is not always the obviously exciting times that make us feel fully alive. In times of quiet contentment or even times of engaged struggle we can feel awake to the richness of life. We say something kind to someone and see his face light up. A child gives us an exuberant hug. We smell bread baking in our mother's kitchen. We hear the waves on the beach. We experience a tough situation and are not pulled under by it. During moments like these, the rough and the smooth, we can sometimes sense a kind of timelessness. We may also sense that something is happening that has profound significance, significance beyond this moment.
What you bring to your ways of perceiving the events of your days is so important to the color, the flavor, the texture that you find. What do you look for, what do you expect, and what do you find as you go through each day? So often we can become hypnotized by a vision of the mundane details of life as boring, senseless, or pointless. Are your lenses clouded by this hypnotic view? Are your taste buds dulled? If that is the case, you can miss the beauty, joy, and vibrancy that are there not only in the obviously happy times, but also in the midst of suffering and struggle.
In the interests of cultivating this ability to appreciate and sense the "more than" in the midst of your days, and to communicate about this with others if you want to, this book offers a set of sixteen questions. Each question is designed to draw attention to a particular aspect of life, providing both an opportunity for enrichment and flourishing, and a common language to communicate experiences that may otherwise be difficult to share. We can become more alive together. These simple multiple-choice questions form the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale.
The spiritual experiences that these sixteen questions measure are not exotic, like near-death experiences or hearing voices, or dramatic religious conversion, but ordinary experiences that many people of many different beliefs and cultures have. Overall, these are good feelings that lift us up, but they can also challenge us. They provide an internal source of zip, aliveness, jazz, a sustaining buzz that can also nourish us over the long haul. We often think it is the big things in life that are most important, but our lives are actually made up of many small moments that contribute to the rich texture of each day. We sometimes underestimate the contribution this texture and substance make to the big picture, but without them there is no big picture.
Tens of thousands of people have answered the questions in the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale. All kinds of people, from a wide variety of cultures and countries, use the questions for various purposes: doctors, psychologists, ministers, teachers, nurses, managers, social workers, chaplains, and students. Since I developed the scale, they contact me frequently and I read the published articles describing the results of research using the scale. I get involved in the research and the translations. But what I enjoy most is how the individual questions help people to think in a focused way about these experiences of the "more than" in their daily lives—how the questions help people identify underlying things of importance. And how the questions can enhance communication, enabling people to better understand one another. Rather than leading us to quibble over how each of us defines spirituality, these questions focus on the specifics such as awe, gratitude, other-centered love, and sense of connection. This set of questions, which has been useful in research and therapy, can be useful on a personal level, too.
A More Satisfying Life
Many people find that ordinary spiritual experiences are part of a more satisfying life. This is true for those who call themselves religious as well as for those who would say they were not religious. In research using the questions in a variety of settings throughout the world, scores on the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale (DSES) have been linked to many good things in life, such as increased happiness, shorter hospital stays, better health behaviors, weight loss, diminished pain, recovery from addictions, and prevention of burnout. More frequent experiences as reported using the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale tend to predict better outcomes of various kinds. These kinds of experiences can also, in and of themselves, improve life's quality, make life more worth living. They can also act as signals that we are heading in the right direction as we make decisions in our lives.
These spiritual experiences can also help us to stick with activities that enable us to flourish, such as prayer or meditation, taking time in nature, or engaging in activities that nurture others. In the process we may become more fully ourselves and more fully alive. People often find that they have more of these experiences in the midst of dire circumstances, or as they cope with difficult situations. This may be because these kinds of spiritual experiences give us refreshing food that can help to sustain us in difficult times.
In this book I am sharing experiences from my own life and experiences of others as well as scientific exploration. But most of all I am inviting you to engage in a way that hopefully enhances your sense of the real on a daily basis and improves the quality of your life. My hope is that this book will help you to have a more delightful and grounded life. As you enhance your abilities to see spiritual connection in your life, you can get more in touch with what is real in a more complex and accurate way.
Management seminars and books warn against letting the "urgent" drive out the "important." We find ourselves prioritizing what is urgent and forgetting about what is important. We miss the spiritual elements of daily life because we are too busy attending to other things. Measuring our Daily Spiritual Experiences, and learning about those of others, can draw attention to things that we may have moved to the back burner, or even off the stove altogether, in response to the pressing urgencies of life. Meanwhile, we return to the stove and find that we have no sauce and vegetables, just white rice and boiled water.
The editor of Poetry magazine recently wrote,
It is as if each of us were always hearing some strange, complicated music in the background of our lives, music which, so long as it remains in the background, is not simply distracting but manifestly unpleasant, because it demands the attention we are giving to other things. It is not hard to hear this music, but it is very difficult indeed to learn to hear it as music.
Is there music in your life that you are missing?
Answering the DSES Questions Can Change Us
Raising awareness by answering the questions in this book can change the way we see each day, and change us in the process. As we consider our answers, it can help us to be on the lookout for these experiences, savoring them when they occur. The term subconscious lost favor with the decline of Freud's theories, but "implicit" knowledge is a hot term in neuroscience and psychology today. Implicit refers to those things we are not aware of but which can "drive the bus" of our actions and attitudes. Answering questions can powerfully drag things from implicit to explicit—out into the open. In the process, we become more aware of things that were under the surface, unacknowledged. A friend of mine in the marketing field recently said, "Attention is our most valuable resource." Marketers want to grab this valuable resource. But we can take control of our attention instead of letting others control it. We can pay attention to those things that will truly enhance our lives and deserve our attention. Here are some examples of how this can happen as you go through this book:
? Good feelings in life powerfully lift us up, even more than negative things drag us down. So rather than squashing down the negative things, or trying to talk ourselves out of them, increasing our positive feelings is the more effective strategy. Answering the sixteen questions in this book can do just that by calling our attention to these positive experiences and exploring ways to find more of them.
? We filter the world emotionally on a moment-to-moment basis. These filters in turn shape our ultimate moods, feelings, and understandings. Answering the DSES questions can adjust our emotional filters to allow in more light.
? Even if we are not explicitly aware of things, they can have "priming" effects on our lives. Words, touch, smells, and music affect our behaviors in ways that we are not aware of. As we bring attention to the aspects of the "more than" in life by answering the DSES questions, subliminal yet positive effects on life occur over time.
? Even a few minutes of expressive writing has been shown to improve mental and physicalhealth. In this book you have lots of chances to write expressively about your life in response to the questions, and you are challenged to do that repeatedly. Putting feelings into words can also help us to manage negative feelings, a process that works at the level of brain structures. Savoring positive events promotes positive feelings, and telling others about these can increase our overall satisfaction with life. You have the opportunity to do this as you answer the questions yourself, and, as suggested in Chapter 10, you have the opportunity to increase this satisfaction by sharing with others.
There are many reasons why the process of reading this book and answering the questions, and then revisiting them again over time, will be good for you. But I also want this book to be fun, like playing a game. I hope that this book will add both spice and a healing balm to your life.
Enhancing Our Sensitivities Rather Than Stifling Our Feelings
Some of us are more sensitive than others. We feel pain more strongly, we are more aware of loneliness or alienation, we feel the joys of life more intensely. On the one hand, this kind of sensitivity can be something we would rather not have. On the other hand, this same sensitivity might enable us to find spiritual experiences more easily.
We all have the basic capacity to feel all sorts of things in life. We may cut ourselves off from our sensitivities because we are afraid of being hurt. Seeking to numb ourselves from pain, we may also cut ourselves off from the ability to perceive transcendent joys. Because uplifting moments, rather than the downers, are more important in predicting happiness, this is not such a good idea. Negative feelings are part and parcel of life, but we may forget that they are just not as important to the big picture. Of course, we do not seek out painful experiences, but pain is part of life and can be informative. We may need to experience the pain of a person's absence, for example, in order to fully appreciate the person when he or she is with us. Even though suffering is unavoidable, spiritual experiences can mitigate its negative effects.
We can cultivate certain kinds of sensitivities. When I read the reports of wine experts, I know that I do not have these subtle sensations. On the other hand, I respond to certain kinds of music in ways that others miss. Artistic and musical sensibilities, like wine sensibility, can be cultivated. These can really enrich life. What kinds of sensitivities do our particular cultural environments discourage or encourage? Can we also do things to cultivate our sensitivity to spiritual experiences?
Rather than numbing the system with superficial stimuli—alcohol, surfing the Web, shopping, eating, video games—how about giving the sensitive system a chance to be just that—sensitive? Then we can enjoy what is there to be enjoyed, no matter what the circumstances.
Seamus Heaney, the Nobel Prize–winning poet, does a great job of alerting us to all that we might miss if we forget to pay attention to all that is embedded in our daily lives.
Had I not been awake I would have missed it,
A wind that rose and whirled until the roof
Pattered with quick leaves off the sycamore
And got me up, the whole of me a-patter,
Alive and ticking like an electric fence:
Had I not been awake I would have missed it....
By drawing attention to particular things in your day as you answer the questions in this book, you can increase your sensitivity to various aspects of life. The kinds of experiences others describe can also wake up your sensitivities as you read about them. The arts, humor, and other resources can also help to wake up your sensitivity to the "more than" in life, providing you with microscopes and telescopes to enhance your abilities to see more clearly.
Enhancing Communication and Relationships
The more we truly understand each other, the better our relationships. The more we understand about each other, the more we can learn from each other. Each of us is unique, including a particular combination of background, sensitivities, personality, culture, and reaction to religious thought and practice. The Daily Spiritual Experience Scale can provide ways to communicate by offering a structured starting point for discussion. Your descriptions of your particular experiences and your report of how often you have these experiences both reveal something about you and how you function. The fact that there are no "right" answers helps this process. You can also share with others the kinds of resources, environments, and activities that are connected with these experiences in your life. Discussion of the questions and your answers can open understanding, provide mutual enrichment, and enhance the basis of relationships.
How and Why Was the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale Developed? What Does Science Contribute?
Not all real things are obvious. A microscope can make us aware of germs, and therefore be more cautious of them. A scientific study can reveal some pattern that was previously unseen.
I ended up studying spiritual experience as a scientist because I thought it was a very important part of life that was being left out of health and social scientific studies. I tried to measure it, in order to make it part of the mix in health and social science research, where things need to be assigned a number to be included. In a structured way, I composed a "measurement tool," something like a microscope or a telescope, but with words. The wording of the questions provides a lens to bring experiences into focus. I have been surprised at how much this set of sixteen questions is now being used throughout the world. It has already been translated into more than twenty-five languages. By scientific standards it "works," meaning that it predicts some things, is correlated with some things, and has mathematical and statistical validity, using psychometric tools.
Excerpted from Spiritual Connection in Daily Life by Lynn Underwood. Copyright © 2013 Lynn Underwood. Excerpted by permission of Templeton Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 Why Read This Book?
1 Invitation and Introduction 3
Part 2 Exploring Your Experiences
2 Instructions for Answering the Sixteen Questions 21
3 The Daily Spiritual Experience Questions 33
Part 3 Why Numbers?
4 Using the Number Scores 91
5 "Studies Have Shown": Results from Research Using the DSES 97
Part 4 Themes
6 The Flow of Love 115
7 Connection versus Alienation 129
8 Yes! 143
9 Translating "God" 157
Part 5 Springboard for Communication
10 Why and How to Communicate Using Daily Spiritual Experiences 169
11 Organizational, Professional, and Personal Uses 181
Part 6 Awake and Alive
12 What Now? What Next? 199
My hope is that the book will be a magnifying glass for finding the “more than” in readers’ ordinary days and a structured method to remind us to use the magnifying glass more often. As I heard stories and descriptions of moments of renewed strength, love, awe and transcendent connection from those I interviewed, I found that the 16 questions made those experiences more visible, and brought them to awareness. The scientifically validated questions have also been translated into more than 30 languages and are used in so many cultures, religions, ages and secular worldviews, confirming their capacity to help us to communicate with others about an important aspect of life, beyond boundaries.
Those using the book on a personally or professionally can visit www.spiritualconnectionindailylife.com. It contains regularly updated new resources; web-links for musical and visual materials referred to in the book itself; and a study guide for using the book in groups. Related resources can be found at www.lynnunderwood.com.