We Need Strength - For Ourselves, Our Loved Ones, and the World

May 02, 2024

We are not here to play, to dream to drift;

We have hard work to do and loads to lift;

Shun not the struggle, face it, 'tis God's gift.

Be strong, be strong, be strong!

Say not the days are evil--who's to blame?

And fold the hands and acquiesce--O shame!

Stand up, speak out, and bravely, in God's name.

Be strong, be strong, be strong!*



This isn’t the blog I planned to write this week and it isn’t the blog I promoted a few days ago on Instagram and Linked In.  But that blog will simply have to wait. The learning I have done this week is something I feel I should share now.

It’s about our need for strength.  It’s about why our investment in health matters so much.  It’s about how we  endure challenge and overwhelm and are able not simply to stand up again, but to do so with energy, with enthusiasm, and with a well-sculpted plan for action.

But let me provide you with some more context around the 'learning.' Some of you will already know that my daughter, a freshman at Barnard College, the women’s school of Columbia University, has been an active participant in the pro-Palestinian protests that have roiled not simply Columbia but universities across the US over the past few months.  It seems that the tensions there have now come to a head.  Some thirty-six (36) hours ago, the leadership of Columbia called upon the New York City Police to end the protests by force.  Literally hundreds of police agents were recruited for a clean ‘sweep’ that was managed much like a military engagement.  For a mother thousands of miles away, it was unnerving, to say the least, to see photos of hundreds of stormtroopers standing in ranks in the pre-dawn gloom, waiting for the signal to descend upon our children. 

As you can imagine, I was overcome.  For me, yesterday was a day filled with anxious worry, and with enormous frustration with the seeming incompetence of our world’s leaders. How is it that the heads of an Ivy League institution cannot figure out a healthier way for their students to share their worries and their anger?  Is the only response to the students’ upset violence? There are legitimate, important points these students should be able to voice.  And, yes, we must hear from both sides of the conflict; that is only right.  Could we not hear their stories, their pain, their opinions openly?  Could we not learn from them?  And, could we perhaps - maybe - use this learning to create a better world?

It seems not.  The protests were entirely squashed by mid-day yesterday.   Let me add that there was a certain element of brutality and quite a number of students hurt.  But seemingly none were hospitalised. 

So, what again is the learning? 

It’s not about global politics or the ineptitude of world leaders.  It is, as I suggested above, about why we must all build our strength.  For me, the events of yesterday reinforced a truth:  life brings us all enormous challenge.  There are, of course, the everyday challenges -  the stresses of managing time and relationships, and the never-completed to-do list.  But there are also the bigger worries surrounding employment and purpose, and finance, and the needs of our loved ones.   And, then there are still greater happenings and threats that can overwhelm us out of the blue.   These may be personal traumas, or they can be environmental catastrophes like the floods we have seen recently.  They could also be regional conflicts - like the many we have seen here in this region over the past dozen years.  And, they are everything in between . . . like my worry over the well-being of my daughter in the midst of a seeming military engagement.  Happily, this challenge did not end in trauma per se. 

For all of these challenge, big and small, shared or personal, we need strength.  Yes, part of that is strength of mind.  But I’m not talking about strength of mind alone, and I’m not talking about some theoretical strength or the strength of heroes described in poetry.  I’m talking about the strength that is found in taut muscle and a honed metabolism, a strength powered by strong lungs and heart.  I’m talking about real physical strength, the strength that gives us the power and the vitality we need to wake up every morning with a bounce.

Of course, most of us understand the significance of strength in theory, but we only need to look around at the man on the street to know that few people take the necessary steps to cultivate their strength.  Of course, physical strength forms the foundation upon which we navigate the physical demands of everyday life. Whether it's lifting heavy objects, carrying groceries, or simply having the stamina to get through a busy day, being physically strong enables us to tackle tasks with ease. There’s no question that everything we do becomes slightly easier when we have physical strength. 

Very importantly, if we have that physical strength, we will also have mental and emotional strength.  To become physically fit, of course, we need regular exercise.  Exercise not only builds muscle mass and improves cardiovascular health but also enhances our overall sense of well-being. Research has shown us again and again that physical activity releases endorphins, the neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of happiness and euphorias.  By prioritising regular exercise and maintaining an active lifestyle, we not only bolster our physical strength but also fortify our mental resilience, equipping us to better handle life's challenges.

Of course, proper nutrition plays a pivotal role in supporting our physical and mental well-being as well. The food we consume serves as fuel for our bodies, providing the essential nutrients needed for optimal functioning. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains nourishes our bodies from the inside out, promoting overall health and vitality.  But too many of us fill our exquisitely crafted bodies with junk food.  Diets like the Standard American Diet (SAD) that feature largely  processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats lead to sluggishness, fatigue, and a host of health problems. Why don’t more of us know this? 

And why don’t more of us know about the power of mindfulness?  Of course, mental resilience is as vital as physical resilience for navigating life's ups and downs. Just as our bodies require exercise to stay strong, our minds also benefit from regular mental workouts. Practices such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and personal introspection can help each of us cultivate our inner resilience and emotional well-being. By learning to observe our thoughts and emotions without judgment, we gain greater clarity and perspective, enabling us to respond to challenging situations with greater composure and grace. 

I thought of all of this a great deal yesterday.  I felt my self sinking into a despair of sorts and knew that I needed to inject some change.  I had to shift myself onto a new track; I needed to center, reframe, and hold on to the good to ensure I didn’t get lost in the upset.

I think all of us in the Azoki community know this.  But sadly, too many others in the world do not.  They do not know that their health and well-being, their strength and capability, even their resilience is something they choose.  We all choose- or at least influence - the life we will live.  Sometimes we do so unknowingly, but we do create much of our potential and possibility. 

For me, yesterday was an opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to strength and wellness and to this regenerative lifestyle I am trying to hone.  For my daughter, Sophie, for my son and husband, for all of you in the Azoki community, I hope to be always at my best.  I hope to stand strong and resilient, aware of not simply the challenges I face but of all of the hope and beauty and possibility in the world.  I want happiness and a sharp mind, one that can discern not just risk but also possibility and new ways of doing.  Yesterday made me quite certain of one thing.  To survive in this world at this time, to support the families that we love, to be capable of standing up for what is right and good, we need strength.

Let’s go!


Yours in health & happiness,