UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Soul Work

The invitation: Incorporate physical activity into your spiritual life

By Mardi Tindal

Having hunkered down for more hours than I wish to admit last winter, watching rather than emulating Olympians and Paralympians, I know it’s time to get off the couch.

As the weather grows warmer, I find myself thinking about the connection between body and soul and about the relationship between physical activity and spiritual health.

Michael J. Klassen, a runner, weightlifter, pastor and author, notes that running is the most prominent sport in the Bible. He speculates that Epistle-writing Paul must have been enamoured with it, given his references to running the race.

In a blog post titled “The Spirituality of Running,” Klassen describes his own experience when he took a break from regular exercise after years of running marathons. “I discovered a side-effect from my work stoppage: my heart felt a bit harder. I’m not referring to my physical heart, although I’m sure my cardiovascular system needed a tune up. My heart — the center of my emotions, self-awareness, and hidden place with God — seemed a little stiff.” Klassen’s heart got retuned as his body regained strength.

In her book SQ 21: The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence, Cindy Wigglesworth suggests that when our physical body is in good order and getting what it needs to function well, our attention is freed up for other kinds of intelligence, including spiritual intelligence. She defines the latter as “the ability to behave with wisdom and compassion, while maintaining inner and outer peace, regardless of the circumstances.”

Wigglesworth’s link between health and compassion reminds me of Jim McKibbin’s response to my January Soul Work column. McKibbin is an active United Church lay leader in Toronto. He says, “My spiritual practice is a daily prayer and regular yoga. The prayer has been developed over many years and resonates with me as I repeat the oft-said phrases. While I pray for everyone, the prayer has rules about who to pray for when.”

Whether it’s prayer with yoga or with swimming, running or walking, many of you have developed ways of connecting spiritual with physical discipline.

Very Rev. Marion Pardy, a former United Church moderator, recently mentioned her own body-and-soul connections: “Contemplative by nature, I seem to meditate frequently and in diverse places, even while walking the track at the recreational centre at Memorial University.”

United Church minister Rev. Dawn Vaneyk told me about her remarkable experience of following Zen Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh in a walking meditation. “He says that mindful walking awakens us (as Christians) to the knowledge that the Kingdom of God is within us and around us; and the peace that arises brings us to awareness that this experience of God is possible in the here and in the now, in every moment, with every step.”

For me, a comparable exercise is tai chi, at the end of which I simply say the Aramaic invocation maranatha (“Come, Lord Jesus.”) When I become more open physically, I become more open spiritually. I can better understand what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 6, speaking of how our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. American pastor and author Eugene Peterson paraphrases Paul’s words this way: “Didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit?”

What physical activity most opens you up spiritually?

Mardi Tindal is a facilitator and mentor with the Center for Courage & Renewal and a former United Church moderator.

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image

Society

July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots

World

June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.

Justice

June 2017

Undocumented

by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.

World

June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.

Society

April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image