I start my day with a loving kindness meditation. “May you be safe. May you be strong. May you live with joy. May you be peaceful and it at ease.” I wish these things for myself, my loved ones, strangers, enemies, and all beings. I learned this meditation technique from Jan lundy, who encouraged her students to picture each person living a safe, strong, joyful, peaceful life. Never did I picture anyone lifting weights. My vision of strength is almost always a matter of spiritual fortitude.

Physical strength is only one option, often not available to those of us who live with chronic health challenges. How can we think about the varieties of strength in useful ways?

I turn first to my outdated view of the universe, inherited from the Great Enlightenment era, which divides experience into body, mind, and spirit. It makes sense to me to think about physical, mental, and spiritual strengths.

Opening the lens, I considered Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences. His theory, explained in the 1970s 80s, was a reaction to the idea that there is one human intelligence, measurable by IQ tests. He proposed eight intelligences, explained in this graphic (courtesy of make it.) You can see that each intelligence is associated with different strengths. While I may be good at introspection and self-reflection, I am not so good at ordering groceries online because I have no sense of the difference between 4 ounces and 40.

There are a wonderful variety of strengths in the world. As you go through your day, I invite you to be on the lookout for them. As if you are a birdwatcher looking for exotic species, see if you can spot and celebrate strengths in yourself and those around you.

In your journal:

  • list your strengths. If you look at the multiple intelligences graphic, do you get additional ideas?
  • What might physical, mental, and spiritual strengths be?
  • What other categories might help you identify more strengths?
  • How might each strength on your list be used carelessly or compassionately?
  • Do you notice strengths as you go through your day?
  • How can you “celebrate” a strength? (Why would you want to do that?)