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Spiritual Connection in Daily Life introduces sixteen simple questions that invite us to become more aware of experiences such as awe, deep peace, joy, a sense of inner strength, and giving and receiving love. The questions are from Underwood’s Daily Spiritual Experience Scale, which has been used in hundreds of studies and projects, translated into forty languages, and used for years by counselors, therapists, nurses, clergy, and social workers. Spiritual Connection in Daily Life offers a step-by-step guide to using these questions to cultivate richer, deeper, and more satisfying lives. People with many different kinds of spiritual beliefs will also find a common language for communicating with others about the role of the “more than” in their lives.

Table of Contents

Part One: Why Read This Book

Chapter 1: Invitation and Introduction      3

A More Satisfying Life      6
Answering the Questions Can Change Us     7
Enhancing our Sensitivities Rather Than Stifling Our Feelings 9
Enhancing Communication and Relationships      11
How and Why Was the DSES Developed:
What Does Science Contribute?     12
A Multicultural Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland      15
Passion and Neutrality     16
What to Expect from the Rest of This Book     17

Part Two: Exploring Your Experiences

Chapter 2: Instructions for Answering the Questions     21

Finding Things in Your Personal Jungle     22
Guidelines Before You Dive into the Questions     24
The Introductory Statements are Important     24
No Judging     24
Divine, Holy, Transcendent     25
The Word Feel     28
Response Categories     28
“Never” is a “Right” Answer     29
Why Not Just Answer the Full Set of Questions Straightaway?     29
Why Write Out Responses to the Questions?     30
Answering the Questions Again and Again     31
Finding Hidden and Not-So-Hidden Treasure in Daily Life     31

Chapter 3: The Daily Spiritual Experience Questions     33

1 Awe     33
2 Presence     36
3 Connection     40
4 Closeness     43
5 Desire     46
6 Love Directly     50
7 Love through Others     53
8 Selfless Caring     56
9 Acceptance and Mercy     59
10 Strength     62
11 Comfort     66
12 Guidance     70
13 Help     73
14 Joy     77
15 Gratitude     80
16 Peace     84

Part Three: Why Numbers?

Chapter 4: Using the Number Scores     91

The Limits of Numbers     91
How to Use the Numbers in Your Life     92
Compare Your Scores with Yourself Rather Than Comparing Your Scores with Others    94

Chapter 5: Research Results Using the DSES (“Studies Have Shown”)     97

Relationships 99
Males and Females 101
Various Cultures and Translations 102
Burnout, Workplace Issues, and Leaderships Styles 103
Health and Healthy Behaviors 104
Pain 105
Addictions: Drug and Alcohol Abuse 106
Happiness and Life Satisfaction 107
Less Stress, Anxiety and Depression 108
Spirituality as an Outcome, an End in Itself 109
Work in Progress 110
What are Some Implications for You? 111

Part Four: Themes

Chapter 6: The Flow of Love 115

Recalling Love: An Exercise in Three Parts 116
Love Sweet and Tough 118
Receiving Love: Can the Love Questions Help? 119
Does Receiving Divine Love Fuel the Love That Flows Out from You? 121
Obstacles to Love Flowing In 123
Mercy 124
Self-Compassion and Self-Acceptance 126
Balance 127

Chapter 7: Connection versus Alienation 129

A Celtic Approach to Spirituality 129
Connected to All of Life? 130
Connections with Those Who Are Different from Us 132
Connections with Those Who Are Like Us 133
Love and Divine Presence As Connection 134
Longing and Desire 137
How Close? 139

Chapter 8: Yes! 143

We Cannot See the Future 144
Yes to the Past 146
Rewind: Scour the Past Day for Blessings 148
Happiness 149
Irritations, Frustrations, and Distress 152
You Are Who You Are 153
Balance between Accepting and Engaging 155

Chapter 9: Translating “God” 157

Your Personal Language 158
If You Are Still Encountering Obstacles with Divine Language 162
Some Creative Descriptions of the Transcendent 163

Part Five: Springboard for Communication

Chapter 10: Why and How to Communicate Using Daily Spiritual Experiences 169

We Cannot Deny the Experiences of Others, and They Cannot Deny Ours 170
Specifics Can Reveal What We Have in Common 170
A Chance to Inspire One Another 171
Deep Communication Is Useful 172
The DSES Can Lead to Deeper Communication 173
Translating Experience 173
Rules of the Game 174
Respect 175
Be Concrete Rather Than Abstract 175
Hold Things Loosely 176
Listen Rather Than Advise 177
No Proselytizing 178
Resist Giving the High Ground to the Dramatic 179

Chapter 11: Organizational, Professional, and Personal Uses 181

Secular Organizations 182
College Students, Adolescents, and the Young at Heart 184
Religious Groups and Faith-Based Organizations 185
Therapeutic Settings 187
Deepening Relationships: Increasing Connection with Family, Partners, Friends 189
Interreligious, Secular-Religious and Intercultural Dialogue 190
Continuing the Conversation 194

Part Six: Awake and Alive

Chapter 12: What Now? What Next? 199

The Quality and Variety of Your Experiences 199
Specific Ways to Fold the Questions into Your Daily Life 201
Attention is Powerful 204
The Role of Community in Awareness and Spiritual Connection 206
Let’s Continue to Be Practical 208
Science As a Tool for Spiritual Growth, Communication, and Personal Insight 210
Continuing to Use This Book 211
Springing Forward 213

Acknowledgements 215
Appendix: The Daily Spiritual Experience Questions 218
Notes 221


Spirituality and Practice Book of the Year Selection 2013

“Drawing on a lifetime of experience, reflection, and research, Lynn Underwood invites the reader to look at daily life with new eyes, to see signs and sources of spiritual growth that might otherwise be missed. She brings her heart to this book, along with her scientific rigor, personal vulnerability, and down-to-earth wisdom. If you want to deepen your sense of the spiritual in your life, and share such experiences with others, this is the book for you.”
Parker J. Palmer, author of Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness, and Let Your Life Speak

“I think this fine book will be invaluable to an awful lot of people! Religious folks have been told what to see instead of how to see, which only calls forth a lot of inner resistance and nonseeing. There is nothing to resist here, but a lot to appreciate, enjoy, and see—for yourself. This is good!”
Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation

“Lynn Underwood has distilled her lifework into a masterpiece. Not only does her book provide the average reader (devout or agnostic alike) a guide to deepen their spirituality in a way that Catholic St. Ignatius and Buddhist Thich Nhat Han would approve: but in a very modest and low key way she provides a moving account of her own spiritual Journey, akin to Karen Armstrong’s Spiral Staircase. Every reading group and Temple and Church adult study group should have Spiritual Connection as required reading. It is a gem.”
Dr. George Valliant, MD, Professor, Harvard Medical School and Director of the Study of Adult Development, Harvard University

“Grounded in science and authentic personal experience, this book is a treasure of profound wisdom. Everyone can benefit from deepening awareness of their own spirituality by reflecting on these questions and learning how others have responded. The book is an inspiring gift of love made visible.”
Frances Vaughn, PhD, psychologist and author, Shadows of the Sacred

“This is the best book available today for anyone of us who feel the need to transform our lives. Over many years, Lynn Underwood quietly developed what is now internationally renowned as the most thoughtful and valid measure of spirituality available today. The reader will find opportunity for deepened self-awareness and spiritual growth in responding to each question, and will find that this spiritual classic and powerful self-assessment tool opens up new horizons of serenity, hope, joy, and vision. Its scientific grounding is impeccable.”
—Stephen G. Post, PhD, professor of preventive medicine, Stony Brook University

“Lynn Underwood’s Spiritual Connection in Daily Life is a welcome and valuable contribution for caregivers, professionals, patients, and ordinary people. She creates a pluralistic approach rich in stories and examples from around the world, yet grounded in research. The author encourages readers to explore their experiences of love and connections to people, the universe, and God (or the holy or divine) and to use her questions as a starting point for discussion and reflection rather than a conclusion.”
—Rabbi Robert Tabak, staff chaplain at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

“I warmly recommend this practical exercise for establishing one’s personal spiritual profile— its strengths, and its, as yet, unfulfilled potential. Particularly valuable are the insights arising as to how one might progress towards an enhanced relationship with God and with other people, as well as have a greater awareness of all that life has to offer.”
—Russell Stannard, emeritus professor of physics, Open University, U.K. Author of the Uncle Albert books on physics

“Through her Daily Spiritual Experience Scale, Lynn Underwood has elegantly bridged a divide between science and spirituality in language and experiences that are accessible to all religions, faith traditions, and cultures. This book is not just for reading; it is for experiencing and savoring. It is rich food for the soul.”
—The Rev. Walter J. Smith, SJ, PhD, president and CEO, HealthCare Chaplaincy

“As a scholar in the field of traumatic stress I always encourage my students to look beyond the impact of stressful events into the realm of human nature resilience. My research has shown me that Underwood’s Daily Spiritual Experience Scale is an important measurement that taps the unique experience of spirituality as it is manifested in day-to- day life. I would recommend this book to managers of stressful work places who are interested in promoting the well-being of their workers.”
—Gadi Zerach, PhD, clinical psychologist, Department of Behavioral Sciences, Ariel University, Israel

“We do the mystics an injustice by putting them on a pedestal. Lynn Underwood knows that the mystic is not a special kind of human being, but every human being is a special kind of mystic. This includes you and me—ordinary people for whom this book is written. Wisely, the author uses the term mystic sparingly. She speaks rather about “experiences of connection with the divine in our lives.” If this is for you what it deserves to be, a topic of prime concern, then the Sixteen Little Questions of this workbook can indeed Make a Big Difference in your life. In fact, you may learn to be—in the midst of Daily Life—the unique mystic you are meant to be.”
—Brother David Steindl-Rast, Benedictine monk, cofounder of

“Spiritual Connection in Daily Life introduces a remarkable concept known as the “Daily Spiritual Experience Scale,” which consists of sixteen multiple-choice questions measuring among other things your daily life connections with others, divine providence, your inner spirit, and nature. This scale helps us find the “spiritual connection” in one’s daily life and one’s sense of compassion, love, joy, and inner peace. An excellent tool.”
—Dr. Alwi Shihab, Islamic scholar, trustee, University of Indonesia, Jakarta, and Hartford Seminary

“Zen Buddhism may best highlight a core feature of Chinese Buddhism—an emphasis on integrating spiritual practice into daily life. In line with this belief, the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale (DSES) was appealing to us. We found all the 16 items relevant and essential in our cultural context in Hong Kong. Our findings supported the transcultural properties of the DSES and it continues to be useful to us and to others in Hong Kong.”
—Dr. Siu-man Ng, Department of Social Work and Social Administration, University of Hong Kong

“Lynn Underwood has very skillfully provided for us a readable, user-friendly, and intimate approach. Far from evading the emotional, spiritual, and existential challenges involved in the search for meaning and wholeness, she has opened for us an exciting and compelling way of coping with the inescapable task of plumbing the depths, and finding the treasures, of life’s inscrutable joys.”
—Kortright Davis, professor of theology, Howard University School of Divinity