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Planning for the Spiritual but not Religious Resident

Activity Directors have traditionally planned and understood the importance of continuing their resident’s religion within the facility. Often multiple religious activities are planned weekly in order to meet the needs of those they serve. Things they are changing, though. According to a study conducted by the PEW Research Center from 2012 to 2017, approximately 27% of U.S. adults identify as ‘Spiritual but Not Religious’, with 75% identifying as both. This may seem like a vague identification and it certainly leaves the Activity Director in uncharted waters when it comes to planning activities for it.

First, we must understand what ‘Spiritual but Not Religious’ means. It is defined as a life stance that does not believe that organized religion is the best or only path to personal spiritual development. In other words, spiritual people prefer a more customized approach, which can add another layer of complication while trying to plan for multiple people. The spiritual quest is ever evolving and the direction it goes in comes from the resident’s internal ques within. One week they may wish to work on past regrets, while the next week finds them guided towards meditation or mindfulness. Spirituality is not a one size fits all in the same way uniform religion is. For this reason, the Activity Director will need to stay in close communication with their residents and take their inspiration from their needs. In order to make your job a bit easier we have provided a list of suggested spiritual activities that may help guide you and your resident as you take on this noble quest.

Spiritual Activity Starters

Meditation and Yoga- There are numerous guided meditations available for purchase or free on YouTube. Jason Stephenson is a good place to start. Research a guided yoga program that suits your residents. There is such a thing as chair yoga, which might be ideal.

Mindfulness- Practicing being in the present moment during daily activities. Create activities that keep the resident tuned into what they are doing. This would include activities that require concentration such as painting, crafting, puzzles, playing an instrument, or learning to do familiar things in a new way (i.e. writing an entire letter using their non-dominant hand). Slant these activities towards the spiritual side of things and make it known that the overall goal is to remain mindful and alert.

Shadow Work- According to Lonerwolf (a respected site that specializes in soul work), “shadow work is the attempt to uncover everything that we have disowned and rejected within our Shadow Selves”. These are all of the things we dislike about ourselves or were taught to dislike, perhaps even impulses that would be considered vile if carried out. This is deep work and Lonerwolf recommends that you attempt shadow work only after establishing a strong degree of self-love.

Spirituality Book Club- Spiritualists love a good “self-help” book. There are so many fascinating books on the topic and many can be found directly through the publisher or on Amazon. Some of my favorite spiritual publishers and authors are Hay House, Sounds True, Eckhart Tolle, Michael Singer, Brene Brown and Wayne Dyer. A book by any of these authors is sure to generate much reflection and communication for the book club.

Conscious Dancing- This basically involves free style dancing. Turn on some tunes and encourage your residents to move freely to the music. They may feel embarrassed to do this, as most of our lives are dictated by socially acceptable behavior, however you can make the difference in their comfort level by displaying your own. This could also be undertaken in smaller groups until participants feel more free and confident. Another option is to begin by having the resident remain seated, close their eyes and move their arms freely. Overtime you will have a room full of free birds!

Chanting- Chanting is another one of those activities that can feel silly to do at first and this makes it a bit off putting to many. However, it is believed that as you are chanting something is slowly transforming within you. I would recommend beginning by having residents listen to a chanting video or audio on YouTube to warm to the idea of chanting themselves. Set the tone by dimming the lights and having residents close their eyes and focusing on the chant. Chants are generally in another language so make sure you select the right one for your residents and inform them of the translation.

In Closing…

These are just a few of the possible spiritual activities you could plan for. The most important thing is that you allow for flexibility and modifications to suit your residents. The ‘Spiritual but Not Religion’ mindset is one of fluidity and honoring oneself. The very fact that you are attempting to modernize your program to encompass all belief systems is admirable and so beneficial. You can be certain that as spirituality gains broader acceptance and becomes more mainstream you will be called upon to adapt your calendar. Some of these practices will benefit many of your residents, spiritual or not, therefor beginning to incorporate these ideas now will surely serve you and your department now and in the very near future. Namaste (I bow to you).

Resources:
https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/06/more-americans-now-say-theyre-spiritual-but-not-religious/
https://lonerwolf.com/shadow-work-demons/
https://www.spiritualawakeningprocess.com/2014/11/10-fun-spiritual-things-to-do.html
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