20. November 2023

Engaged Spirituality and Practical Meaning: A Workshop About You and For You

Engaged Spirituality and Practical Meaning: A Workshop About You and For You


This multi-dimensional, experiential workshop will offer you opportunities for inner transformation, deep connections, and new personal understandings and insights. At the largest, global positive psychology conference of 2023, these leaders offered an experiential workshop that was a standing-room only and led multiple participants to describe it as the most meaningful and in-depth experience of the 4-day conference. We aim to advance and expand that work into this workshop for ECPP. These leaders are all closely involved with the Spirituality/Meaning Division of the International Positive Psychology Association.

You’ll hear from multiple voices who are steeped in the science and/or practice of spirituality/meaning, you’ll directly engage in experiential activities throughout, and you’ll learn the results of highly applicable scientific studies that are “hot off the press” released. You’ll learn the latest science on nature connection and well-being, synchronicity experiences, character strength pathways to moving out of your “comfort zone,” character strengths pathways to each domain of meaning in life, and new ways to think about peace, harmony, interbeing, and wholeness. These inputs and more will be interspersed with practices and discussions designed to support you in “waking up” to yourself and to life.

Our approach starts with the science and then connects it with practices and novel, personal experiences. The scientific definition of spirituality – agreed upon by a majority of scientists – is that spirituality is the search for or communing with the sacred in life (Kapuscinsky & Masters, 2010; Pargament et al., 2013). This speaks to spirituality not only as universal to the human experience but as applicable to our inner life, our relationships, and the larger world. Concurrently, the science of meaning continues to evolve and has delineated three core areas of meaning (George & Park, 2016; Martela & Steger, 2016) – coherence or sense-making (how do we make sense of our life and the universe?), significance or mattering (to whom do we matter?), and purpose (what is our purposeful action?). The research and practices in this workshop build from these frameworks.

This inclusive workshop aims to be meaningfully fun, enlightening, engaging, and of course, spiritual. The experiences will culminate to a wide-ranging discussion that emphasizes how each person can bring the insights from the workshop forward into their daily life. While there is great value in having a powerful workshop experience, we see higher value in participants “walking the talk” in their daily life by aspiring to apply the material and “live” in authentic, ethically-based, caring ways. Said another way, the emphasis of this event will be placed on engaging spirituality and building practical meaning.

This workshop is open to anyone. Practitioners, educators, and researchers interested or engaging in the preceding areas – or open and curious about them – will not only enjoy but benefit from this workshop. Individuals that tend to gravitate toward mindfulness, yoga, character strengths, life meaning, savoring, applied practices, and related topics will likely be a good fit. There is no prerequisite other than having an openness to learning and engaging with life in new ways.

You won’t want to miss this one-of-a-kind experience!

Learning Objectives:

  • Participants will describe the three core areas of meaning and their personal experiences of each.
  • Participants will define what spirituality is from a scientific lens and a personal lens.
  • Participants will list at least two new ways they can improve their relationship with nature.
  • Participants will explain at least three ways they can apply spirituality in their daily life.
  • Participants will define “interbeing” and describe how it relates to them personally.

Ryan M. Niemiec

Pninit Russo-Netzer

Dan Tomasulo

Ozum Demirel

Holli-Anne Passmore

Elke Paul

Maya Rajah

About Ryan M. Niemiec

Ryan M. Niemiec, Psy.D. is a leading scientist, educator, and practitioner, with the title of Chief Science & Education Officer at the renown VIA Institute on Character, a nonprofit organization in Cincinnati, Ohio, that leads the global advancement of the science of character strengths. Ryan has been at the center of this work, positively impacting many millions of people.
Ryan is a four-time, award-winning psychologist, annual instructor at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of 14 books, over 100 academic papers, and several-hundred user-friendly articles. His books include the bestselling consumer book, The Power of Character Strengths (2019), The Mindfulness and Character Strengths Workbook (2023), the two leading practitioner-focused books in positive psychology – Character Strengths Interventions (2018) and Mindfulness and Character Strengths (2023) – and books on strengths for handling stress/adversity, teens/parents, people with disabilities/abilities, and positive movies. He’s creator of the evidenced-based program, Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP), used by practitioners and researchers across the globe, and created the world’s first character strengths certification program, on MBSP, in 2021. He co-created Blooming Strengths Sangha, a mindfulness and character strengths community open to all.
He collaborates with multiple research groups across the globe, spanning hundreds of thousands of participants each year. His research and practice areas include character strengths, MBSP, positive interventions, peace psychology, nature/environment connection, spirituality, interbeing, life meaning, intellectual/developmental disability, and positive health.
Ryan has been interviewed by a number of luminaries including the legendary Larry King in 2020. He’s given over 1,000 presentations on positive psychology topics, including a character strengths world tour in 2009-2010, a TEDx talk in 2017, a speaking tour of Australia, keynotes at Harvard, and presentations across the globe. He was one of the invited scientists for the grand opening of the Thich Nhat Hanh Center for Mindfulness in Public Health, at Harvard University in 2023. He has been involved in projects with Oprah Winfrey/Harpo Studies, the Stephen Covey family, United Nations agencies, and in the creation of the first Holocaust & Humanities Museum (in Cincinnati). He is Fellow of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA), serves on their Council of Advisors, and in 2023 received the prestigious Raymond D. Fowler Service Award. He is co-founder and president of the Spirituality/Meaning Division of IPPA.
Peer-reviewed journal articles have been written about Ryan and his work (e.g., MacFarland, 2022 here; and Jarden, 2012 here).
Ryan lives in Cincinnati with his wife and three young, zestful children. His highest strengths are hope, love, honesty, fairness, spirituality, social intelligence, and appreciation of beauty. Ryan’s hobbies include creative writing, playing tai chi, chess, basketball, tennis, and guitar; traveling; watching Michigan State athletics; and collecting vintage and rare Pez dispensers.

About Pninit Russo-Netzer

Pninit Russo-Netzer, Ph.D. is a senior lecturer, researcher and the head of the Education Department at Achva Academic College, and Research Fellow at the University of Haifa. Her main research and practice interests focus on meaning in life, positive psychology, existential psychology, spirituality, character strengths, positive change and growth. Dr. Russo-Netzer is the founder and head of the ‘Compass’ Institute for the Study and Application of Meaning in life, and the head of the Academic Training Program for Logotherapy (meaning-oriented psychotherapy) at Tel-Aviv University. She develops training and intervention programs on these topics, serves as academic advisor and consultant to academic and non-academic institutions, and the co-developer and co-instructor of the Mindfulness-Based Meaning Program (MBMP). She has published scholarly journal articles on these topics, and is the co-editor of the books Meaning in Positive and Existential Psychology, Clinical Perspectives of Meaning and Search for Meaning in the Israeli Scene.

About Dan Tomasulo

Dr. Tomasulo is the Academic Director / core faculty at the Spirituality Mind Body Institute (SMBI), Teachers College, Columbia University, and is on the teaching staff at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a Ph.D. in psychology, an MFA in writing, and a Master of Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a Review Editor for Frontiers in Psychology, special section on Positive Psychology, and has been honored by Teachers College, Columbia University, with their 2021 Teaching Award. Most recently, he co-authored with Dr. Ryan Niemiec Character Strengths and Abilities Within Disabilities: Advances in Science and Practice.
His bestselling book, Learned Hopefulness, The Power of Positivity To Overcome Depression, Is hailed as: “…the perfect recipe for fulfillment, joy, peace, and expansion of awareness” by Deepak Chopra, MD.
Martin Seligman, Ph.D., adds: “This is the best go-to book on how to use hope to relieve your depression.” Medical News Today, identified it as the 2021 #1 book for coping, and in 2023 the best for positivity about depression. VeryWellMind .com ranked it one of the top 3 for depression in 2022—and in 2023 identified it as the best positive psychology based.
Sharecare honors Dr. Tomasulo as a top-ten online influencer on the issue of depression.
His new book, The Positivity Effect, was recently the #1 new release on Amazon for anxiety.

About Holli-Anne Passmore

Dr. Holli-Anne Passmore is an Associate Professor and Department Chair of Psychology at Concordia University of Edmonton (CUE). She is also Director of the multi-university Nature-Meaning in Life (NMIL) Research Lab, an Editor of the International Journal of Wellbeing, Science Chair of the Spirituality and Meaning Division of the International Positive Psychology Association, and an invited academic with the Global Wellbeing Initiative (a partnership between the Gallup World Poll and the Wellbeing for Planet Earth Foundation). She collaborates with researchers around the globe primarily focusing on the development and validation of practical interventions to enhance well-being through noticing and engaging with everyday nature close to home. Within the meaning stream of her research, she examines pathways that lead to greater meaning in life, particularly among university students. Of course, these two research streams often overlap. Holli-Anne’s academic research articles and book chapters have been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and publications. and featured in various media and podcasts. She regularly presents her research findings at national and international conferences, as well delivering keynote talks and workshops at local community-based organizations events. She is passionate about both her research and her teaching, and has developed upper-level undergraduate courses such as Nature and Wellbeing, and the Psychology of Meaning in Life.

About Elke Paul

Elke Paul (PhD). is an accomplished professional with a unique blend of knowledge and expertise; a PhD in Comparative Education, Business, and Cultural Studies, a degree in Social Work and a Certificate in Positive Psychology.  She has gained valuable intercultural well-being education experience, living and working in various regions, including the US, Europe, Asia, and Australia. As a senior Yoga and Meditation instructor and previous studio owner Dr. Paul additionally developed a deep understanding of the positive impact of non religious spirituality and the body-mind connection on well-being to both adults and teenagers.
Throughout her career, Elke has worked on making impact as intern or extern School Transformation Consultant, Senior Professional Development Trainer (facilitating over 250 workshops), Coach, Content Creator, and Retreat Facilitator. She is also a co-founder of CreatePositive, an online well-being education organization, and has developed professional development courses, including the esteemed UK Government-approved Senior Mental Health Leadership training for UK schools. Driven by her passion for spiritual well-being and positive education, Elke is dedicated to promoting holistic well-being literacy. She encourages communities to lead and live from a place of well-being, fostering self awareness, joy, purpose and interconnection.

About Maya Rajah

Maya is a mindfulness meditation and yoga teacher, currently pursuing a Masters degree in psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her work specifically focuses on exploring the intersection of positive psychology, spirituality, and flourishing through a scientific lens, and translating research findings into engaging, embodied interventions with a strong empirical foundation.
This work has been largely inspired by Maya’s lifelong quest to understand and harness the foundational elements of wellbeing at a personal level, through an integrative and multi-faceted approach. Though born and raised in Singapore, Maya has spent the last decade of her life traveling extensively and studying a vast range of contemplative practices from various wisdom traditions. Pursuing the academic study of psychology in concert with the applied study of spiritual traditions has awakened a depth of purpose within Maya that drives all her endeavors.
The growth that she has experienced through her invigorating journey of scientific inquiry, daily contemplative practice, and mindful movement has inspired many soulful connections. It has imbued Maya’s experiences of life with profound meaning and fueled a dedication to lifelong
learning and authentic sharing that is anchored in her heartfelt intention to lovingly serve others.

About Ozum Demirel 

Ozum Demirel is a psychotherapist, who supports individuals through their psycho-spiritual development and individuation process, integrating Jungian analytical perspective with somatic experiencing. She completed her BA degrees in Psychology and Film Studies as a Phi-Beta Kappa member with a full-tuition academic scholarship at Wesleyan University, CT, and she was awarded with Thorndike Prize for excellence in Psychology. After working as a filmmaker with global companies and traveling internationally, she has decided to incorporate her knowledge of creative process and experience with a diverse group of people from different cultural and personal backgrounds into the field of Psychology. She received a MA degree in Clinical Psychology with concentration in Spirit-Mind-Body practices from Columbia University, NY where she also worked as a researcher in Spirituality and Wellness Lab under Dr. Lisa Miller’s supervision. Ozum is interested in exploration and actualization of human potential through spiritual and creative connection, concentrating on guided visual meditations and active imaginations. Right now she is pursuing her PhD degree in Integral and Transpersonal Psychology at California Institute of Integral Studies, CA and continues her research in consciousness studies.