When we are caregivers our spiritual expression can support us in many ways. It can soften and deepen our relationship with our parent and help us to accept their limitations. It offers a way for us to thrive throughout the experience of caregiving, rather than simply to survive it.

Having a sense of the spiritual allows us:

* To refresh and renew ourselves on an ongoing basis.

* To step outside our daily ‘doing’ and go to a quieter place.

Whether we’re taking a few moments for a walk or practicing breathing deeply we’ll sense our spiritual connection. It can also be found when we are formally meditating or attending a religious service.

The idea that we are a synthesis of body, mind and spirit is more readily accepted now in our western culture. We realize we need more than just a body and a mind to take us through our day. Self-help books and magazines often talk about how our spirit requires attention and feeding, but do we really know how to look after our own spiritual well being?

It’s important to remember that spirituality is very individual; what fulfills us spiritually is unique to each of us. We need to take some time to discover what carries us outside of our usual way of being in the world – away from our thinking, our emotions, and our daily concerns – to a place where we feel more at peace.

A satisfying sense of spirituality is one that weaves itself through our days in small ways. When I took a Buddhist workshop last spring, the teacher told us they think westerners are funny because we believe we have to sit for hours meditating formally. (In fact, this is how I was taught to do my Kriya Yoga meditation in 2001). However, the Buddhist instructor says, just take your cup of coffee, go outside, sit down, take a breath and meditate for five minutes. This is better than not doing it at all.

I feel that as individuals we often approach our body, our mind, and our spirit as if they are disconnected from each other. It’s the tendency of our culture to compartmentalize, for example, look at the way our medicine treats various organs and body parts separately when they’re actually interrelated. Therefore, it is natural that we often view our body, mind and spirit as separate rather than as a whole as some cultures do.

 We don’t always recognize that we bring the whole of us to everything we do, whether it be our work, a walk in the woods, or time with our parent.

 We enrich ourselves when we do what nurtures us spiritually, such as meditation, prayer or gardening.

 When we remember that our body, mind and spirit are inseparable we can be mindful about our complete well-being everywhere we go.

What does feeding our spirit mean?

Spiritual expression can take many forms, from the religious and formal to the more informal ‘new age’ practices that can include nature, the body, sexuality, movement, relationships, art and music.

My own definition of spirituality is very broad and embraces a range of beliefs, from the existence of a Higher Power I’m comfortable naming ‘God’ or ‘Goddess’, to a deep appreciation of the mysteries of nature. Ultimately I believe anything that adds positive meaning to our life is spiritual.

Walking in the woods, spending time with a child, gardening or making love with our partner is a spiritual expression for many women. For others, meditation, mountain climbing or a career of service gives meaning.

Some women find a form of strength and comfort through returning to church, synagogue, or some other place that offers religious or spiritual support. A group practice creates a positive, healing energy for many of us. As a young child I was brought up in the Welsh United Church in Toronto, a small church that fit the Welsh stereotype of roof-shaking singing. Several years ago I sang in the choir of the local United Church for about two years, and it suited my spiritual needs at that time.

A broader definition of spirituality can provide sustenance for many women, especially for those of us who choose not to practice formal religion. My eclectic blend of beliefs suits me and is very comforting.

Copyright – Ellen Besso – 2009
This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in any way except by permission of the author, Ellen Besso.


  • Ellen Besso is a Writer and Life Coach for midlife women who are navigating the challenges of their midlife, including elder care.

    Her e-book, "The Caregiver in MidLife: Where their needs end & your begin" is now available through her website. It's combines Ellen's personal story of caregiving for her elderly mother with helpful information and an exercise booklet, to help other women care for themselves.

    Ellen Besso, Writer, Life Coach & Caregiver