Donald Whitney, in his book, Simplify Your Spiritual Life, reminds us to “Remember the Physicality of Spirituality.” He writes,
Our bodies are not merely disposable containers for our eternal souls. God could have made us to be disembodied souls, living forever in a condition like the souls in Heaven live while waiting for resurrected bodies…But He created us to be complete as a unity of body and soul…
The relationship between our bodies and our souls, Whitney contends, is significant. He continues,
One of the ways the body can have a positive effect upon the soul is through recreational physical activity. Because most spiritual practices [disciplines: reading, writing, study, meditation, etc.] are by definition spiritual and not very physical, if our daily work is mostly mental and sedentary then there’s little diversity in the kind of stimuli we experience. And the monotony of that can lessen the impact of our spiritual practices. The variety that recreational physical activity provides to the brain cells and muscle fibers of a body may help to refresh the soul that dwells in it.
Whitney quotes Winston Churchill to underscore his point:
But reading and book love in all their forms [as hobbies] suffer from one serious defect: they are too nearly akin to the ordinary daily round of the brain-worker to give that element of change and contrast essential to real relief. To restore psychic equilibrium we should call into use those parts of the mind which direct both eye and hand. Many men have found great advantage in practicing a handicraft for pleasure…if one were interested in them and skillful at them–would give a real relief to the over-tired brain.
Personally, I have experienced the benefits of adding physical exercise such as walking, running, biking, basketball and weight lifting to the disciplines of reading, writing, studying and meditation. Almost without exception I am able to think more clearly and efficiently after having taken an extended run or playing some good games of basketball at the church. I have also experienced the muddled thinking and spiritual dryness that tends to follow long times of little or no physical recreational activity.
So are you experiencing cloudy thinking? Are you weighed down by your spiritual disciplines? Are you finding them unfruitful of late? Maybe you need to go on a run.