Stretching a Stiff Spirit

My chiropractor could tell you – as she so often tells me – that every aspect of our lives impacts every other aspect of our lives. Our emotional health impacts our physical health. Our relationships impact our work. Our diet can help or hinder our physical response to stress, as can our willingness to make time for play and rest. My back cinches tightly when I am least rested, most stressed, and minimally mindful of my daily water and calorie intact.

Most of us know these things to be true. I know these things to be true, yet still I resist eating well and stretching regularly … until the muscular stiffness demands a proper response.

Likewise, our spirits can become stiff, impacted by our work, our emotions, our bodies, our relationships. The discipline of writing has taught me – and continues to remind me – of the impact of spiritual stiffness. When I deprioritze those necessary creative moments of listening and reflecting through my pen, when I neglect to stretch my spirit, inevitably I fall into an emotional funk paired with a spiritual rut. Seven days without writing is all it takes for my soul to feel rigid, weary and discouraged.

All writers – bloggers and novelists, preachers and composers – encounter writer’s block. Often I can’t find the suitable word for a sentence (praise God for the thesaurus app!) or the right opening paragraph for a sermon (rereading scripture, then pacing, usually helps). But those momentary blocks are not unsurmountable, as many good books on writing encourage.

What is more common to all of us, writers and non, is the spiritual block: the experience of spiritual stiffness, the soul’s standstill in the midst of life’s unfolding, that place where the air is stale except perhaps for a recurring haunting mirage. The reasons for finding ourselves in such a place are many, but we have in common that spiritual block and the wrestling through it. When we do not engage or contend with our spiritual blocks, stiffness sets in. At that point for me, writing becomes necessary to stretch my spirit, to pull against the paralysis, to feel the burn of easing those tight places.

How do you stretch your spirit against that stiffness? How do you work out the aches of spiritual tightness and immobility? I like to stretch my spirit with Beethoven on full blast or with a good book. I often loosen my spiritual muscles with pen and paper and a hot cup of caffeine to sort through my soul. I stretch by looking at life, sometimes artistically, sometimes quietly, sometimes in community, as honestly as I can muster. Stretching and working out the stiffness can cause brand new aches or satisfying relief, or a burst of inspired creativity, moving me through the spiritual block for more flexible living in body, mind and soul.


Rachel G. Hackenberg is a UCC pastor in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and the author of Writing to God and Writing to God: Kids’ Edition ( She blogs at Read her article, “Finding the Courage to Pray” in the current issue of Weavings.


2 Responses to “Stretching a Stiff Spirit”

  1. I can really relate to the idea of writers’ block as more spiritual than anything else. If I don’t pay attention to maintaining the conditions necessary for me to be my most creative, everything slowly starts to slip. I start to feel uninspired, out of sorts, disconnected. The longer that goes on, the more difficult it is to get back into the rhythm, and to reconnect with what my creative spirit needs.

    As uncomfortable as it is, I trust the process a little bit more each time it happens and am learning to appreciate my own creative ebbs, flows and cycles.

    I really enjoyed the article and will check out your blog!

  2. Betsy says:

    I can also relate to a stiff spirit at times in my life. If I deter from my routine of my time with God; my spiritual life suffers! Being a teacher, I am up very early, and I use the early quietness before work to read scripture, journal and converse with God. In the 2 months I am off in the summer, I tend to relax that schedule; vacations, volunteering activities, visits from our children and out of town guests can get me off kilter. I am busy doing for others and forget that all important quiet time with God! I will try some of your solutions to easing that stiffness as I see summer draw to a close. Thank you for your article!

Leave a Reply

Web Statistics