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Jul 9, 201911:38 AM Live Well, Work Well

with Debra Lafler

The spiritual workplace 2.0

(page 1 of 2)

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post called “The spiritual workplace: It’s about connection.” I’ve gotten some replies asking if I could expand on the topic, and so for this post, I will review and then provide a continuation of the concepts about fostering the human spirit and a spiritual workplace.

What is it to be spiritual?

In the original post, I defined spiritual by first suggesting a definition or concept that we can consider of the term “spirit.” I provided the idea of each of us as being a body, mind, and spirit, and I suggested that we could view our spirit then as:

  • Witness: The part of us that witnesses ourselves and life.
  • Awe: The part of us that is touched by love, peace, and beauty.
  • Essence: The energy of who we are (that others can sense, feel, and experience).
  • Meaning: The part of us that seeks meaning and purpose.
  • Liveliness: The will to live and desire to thrive.
  • Connection: The part of us that feels connected to each other, life, and nature.

Other spiritual practitioners have also been asked to define spirit or spirituality, and they have done so differently. In an article, “Integrating spirituality at work: An interview with Ken Wilber,” the author asked Wilber how he defined spirituality, and he provided four ways:

  • A transrational state: a state of the “upper reaches” of cognition or consciousness.
  • A peak experience: a moment of feelings of oneness or transcendence.
  • A stage of development: a development process akin to other forms of development.
  • A type of attitude: an attitude of openness, compassion, caring, or loving.

Another author, Brian Luke Seaward, defines spirituality in the book, The road to wellness: finding your path to health & well-being, as: “the maturation of higher consciousness as expressed through three facets: relationships, values, and a meaningful purpose in life.” Again, those components are:

  • Higher consciousness through:
    • Relationships: insightful and nurturing relationship with oneself and others.
    • Values: the development of a strong personal value system.
    • Meaning/purpose: the cultivation and fulfillment of meaning/purpose.

What is the true definition?

There isn’t one. I speculate that if you asked 100 people what spirit or spiritual or spirituality is, you might get 100 different answers. The “spirit” is not something that we can objectively observe and measure. So, in order to put words to this, we have to go with conceptions — even if they are abstract. However, I do encourage each of us to have our own description. We don’t have to believe what others believe, but we do need to figure out how we want to conceive of our own spirit.

What if the spirit is just parts of the mind?

In hearing these spiritual definitions, someone replied to me that they believe “the spirit” is just a part of the mind. They believe that we are only body-mind, and not body-mind-spirit. My response is, “That is OK!” My intention with presenting the concept of “the spirit” or being “spiritual” (especially for the workplace) is not for the conviction of the states of being, but rather that we focus our attention on the concepts we are using to define it, no matter what we call it.

Why don’t you equate spirit with god?

I choose not to for this post because of the diversity of beliefs in the workplace. Our society tends to equate being “spiritual” with believing in a god or higher power, and/or a religious affiliation. The consequence of that association is that when people choose not to believe in those things, then we falsely assume that they are not spiritual. However, we all have a “spirit,” and we are all “spiritual,” no matter our beliefs. My intention is to provide us with a secular definition.

Why have we denied the human spirit at work?

I’m neither a historian nor social anthropologist, but I wonder if we have strayed due to:

  • Separating church (mind/spirit) and state (government and daily operations);
  • Separating medicine (the body) and psychology (the mind);
  • Separating western medicine (the body) and eastern or indigenous medicines (body-mind-spirit);
  • Industrial revolution (and seeing people as means of production);
  • Mass production (focusing on quantity of production);
  • Science (focusing on objective measurement and quantitative data);
  • Technology (focusing on information, communication, machines, and computers); or
  • The shift away from religious practice, and/or religious affiliation.*

[*There has been a shift over the years of those either labeling themselves with a religion, but not practicing, and/or choosing not to affiliate, identifying as: atheist, agnostic, non-religious, non-denominational, trans-religious, or as Facebook has labeled it, “spiritual but not religious.” In 2017, a Gallup report revealed Americans are 37 percent highly religious, 30 percent moderately religious, and 33 percent not religious. Additionally, a Pew Research Center report says that those under 40 are more likely not to affiliate.]

Questions to ponder

With all these shifts, what have been the spiritual consequences? Have we lost “our spirit”? Have we lost a way to cultivate not only our spirit but human values, long associated with religious practices? Human values such as, but not limited to:

  • Faith*
  • Hope
  • Love
  • Trust
  • Kindness
  • Compassion
  • Forgiveness
  • Acts of service

[*Faith often connotes a belief in a higher power or religious order, but for this post, I mean it as having faith in ourselves, in others, in life, and that we can overcome challenges and figure things out together.]

Workplace as possible forum

Other than through religious practice, where can we dedicate ourselves to discussing and developing human values? Many would say school, and yes, that is an ideal start. However, what about after school? With most of us employed for most of our lives, could we use the workplace as a forum for cultivating these things?


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About This Blog

Debra Lafler is a Madison-based wellness consultant, coach, and speaker with over 20 years of experience in the field. She currently works as the employee wellness and employee assistance program manager for the Wisconsin State Department of Health Services, and as an adjunct instructor for the University of Wisconsin’s Health and Wellness Management program. She also is available privately to hire as a business consultant, personal coach, or motivational speaker. Debra has a doctorate degree in Divinity & Spiritual Studies from Emerson Theological Institute; a master’s degree in Health & Behavior Studies specializing in Health Education from Columbia University; a bachelor’s degree in Communication, with certificates in Wellness and Coaching from The University of Wisconsin—Parkside; and certificates in Worksite Wellness, Holistic Stress Management, Grief Support, and Yoga. She can be reached at or



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