Engaged spirituality refers to religious or spiritual people who actively engage in the world in order to transform it in positive ways while finding nurturance, inspiration and guidance in their spiritual beliefs and practices. The term was inspired by engaged Buddhism, a concept and set of values developed by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Engaged spirituality encompasses people committed to social change from all the major faith traditions as well as people who refer to themselves as "spiritual but not religious". It has numerous iterations in practice yet common themes unite the many forms it takes. For some in the Catholic tradition, liberation theology guides their form of engaged spirituality.
Individuals who practice this mode of spirituality tend to hold progressive values that supported by their spiritual practices galvanize their efforts for social change. They see a deep connection between personal and social transformation such that they feel compelled to engage in organized causes or service activities. Their activities are infused with their spiritual sensibilities regarding how matters of ultimate concern—the overarching context delineated by their faith tradition—are related to daily living, habits and practices. Examples of activities are peace activism, civil rights and human rights activism for minority groups, environmental activism and service on behalf of the poor and homeless.
Unlike much of the pop spirituality that is promoted in countless books, audio programs and internet sites, engaged spirituality maintains a focus on societal transformation. Despite its politically liberal leanings, pop spirituality tends to concern itself primarily with personal psychological betterment that lacks a deep commitment to social change and activism.
Engaged spirituality involves a synthesis of individual subjective experiences and outer collective activities. The individual and the collective mutually support, shape and transform each other. For example, prayer or meditation may serve as a way for an individual to gather strength and gain insight that will guide and enhance the efficacy of their social change efforts. Their experiences gathered in their outer activities which involve relating to and learning from others may influence the texture of their prayer or meditation experiences. Thus, there is a continual interwoven process of spiritual growth and reaffirmation to improving one’s local/global community.