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Mindfulness and Multiple Intelligences: 8 Ways to Pay Attention

How are you smart?

Let me count the ways.

Harvard professor Howard Gardner was the first to describe the concept of Multiple Intelligences. According to this widely-accepted theory, we are each born with a certain amount of intelligence in each of eight areas, and we have the potential to harness or develop each of these throughout our lives.

In 1983, Gardner first described seven intelligences: linguistic, logical/mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily/kinesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal. He later added an eighth: naturalistic.

Nothing too earth-shaking about this. We all know gifted writers (using words), engineers (using numbers), artists (manipulating spaces), musicians (inspired by sound), athletes (using physical skills), counselors (understanding others), and biologists (passionate about nature).

But here's the one I find most interesting: intrapersonal. According to Gardner, someone with great intrapersonal intelligence enjoys spending time alone, likes being still in their own space, is especially adept at understanding themselves, and is inspired by contemplation.

Now, remember that each of us has at least a little of all eight kinds of intelligence, with one or two areas being the most dominant. Although we can increase our abilities in all areas, we are naturally attracted to certain activities. A person with dominant or developed intrapersonal intelligence is likely to be innately interested in silent contemplation and naturally drawn to meditation.

So....what about everybody else? If meditation comes easily to only a small percentage of the population, why is it that all approaches to mindfulness require sitting still and focusing inward?

If we use Multiple Intelligences theory as a way to recognize our different learning styles and natural tendencies, we see that there must be a number of ways to develop mindfulness without relying solely upon meditation.

Teachers around the globe are employing Multiple Intelligences theory in the classroom in order to prepare lessons that appeal to the learning styles of all types of students. The ultimate goal of learning specific material is the same no matter what, but this enlightened approach to teaching is inclusive and exhilarating.

If meditation fits only ONE of the eight intelligences (intrapersonal) we are missing out on seven other areas in which we can learn--and teach-- mindfulness! Being attached to a single approach is decidedly limiting and downright archaic.

If you find it difficult to get motivated to meditate, consider this: perhaps your particular combination of multiple intelligences would benefit from a different approach to mindfulness.

In other words, it's not you--it's the teacher! Or, more precisely, the teachings.

If meditation isn't working for you, take heart. There are seven other areas in which mindfulness training can inform, inspire and delight you.

That's what counts.

About the Author

Maya Talisman Frost is a mind masseuse in Portland, Oregon. Through her company, Real-World Mindfulness Training, she offers fun and effective eyes-wide-open alternatives to meditation. To subscribe to her free weekly ezine, the Friday Mind Massage, please visit


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