Taha wairua-spiritual wellbeing

Spiritual distress is a common part of the cancer experience. Like physical and emotional wellbeing, taha wairua (spiritual wellbeing) is an important part of the four pillars of hauora (health). Life changes in many ways when you or someone you care about has cancer. You might find that spiritual support can help you cope with these changes.

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Spiritual support

Many of us like a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Spirituality refers to our belief about that meaning, whether we call that God, truth or some other term. Most of us have a spiritual dimension, whether or not we attend organised services. Spiritual moments can happen at any time: when you feel close to nature, look into the face of a loved one, reach out to a person in need, or enter a church, temple, synagogue, mosque or place of worship.



Religions are traditions of spirituality. For some people, traditions help to develop their sense of meaning and purpose in life. Some draw their spiritual beliefs from philosophy, poetry and life experiences. Some of us think deeply about these matters, others simply live their beliefs.


Wairuatanga is the concept of spirituality from a Māori world view. The wairua, sometimes called ‘the two waters’, is a central part of Māori health. For many it is described as the two waters because it allows people to exist fully and fulfil their potential in both Te Ao Kikokiko (the seen world) and Te Ao Wairua (the unseen world).

The wairua is not located in any specific part of the body, but is central to your whole being, leaving the body at death or when you are asleep. During dreaming hours the wairua wanders through the realms of Te Ao Wairua and returns to the body on awakening. This is why dreams are usually very important to Māori.

There are many ways to look after your wairua. Knowing who you are and where you are from, waiata, karakia, te reo, rongoā Māori, and spending time with family/whānau, going into the ngahere, bathing in your awa or moana, seeing a tohunga, or returning to your marae are some of them.

As with most journeys in life, a cancer journey is also a wairua journey. Seek out those who will tautoko your journey. Seek comfort from coincidences. If you feel you should go to your tūrangawaewae, or have an urge to see something or ring someone, listen to your wairua. Your wairua is gently showing you what it is that you need.

E ngā Rangatira o ngā hau e whā, hokia ki ōu maunga kia purea ai e ngā hau o Tāwhirimātea.
To all the great chiefs of the four winds, return to your ancestral mountains to be cleansed by the warm winds of Tāwhirimātea.


 1. Goza, T Ngāti Kauwhata, Ngāti Haua, Ngāti Raukawa (2019) Nā te aroha ki te tangata, ka tuku enei kupu ki ngā tangata katoa kia tau ai te mauri ka ora ai te wairua.

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