Loosening knots of stress

Other than being in a forest or in the mountains, walking on a beach is my gateway to feeling soul-level peace ~ especially on a quiet, uncrowded beach where I happen to have lots of access to on the beautiful central coast of California. Although I frequent many of my favorite same beaches for my walks, I always know it’s going to be a different experience each time. I often think of Maya Angelou’s quote ‘This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before.’ How true that is because the tide, the winds and weather, the seasons all have a role in what the beach will look like each time. I feel like a child with wild curiosity and anticipation of what will be awaiting discovery and welcome it all. Some days many sand dollars may have washed up, another day lots of stones are exposed, and another day moon jellies, or even the contour of the beach can be significantly changed.

Also quite notable is the varying amounts of beach wrack from day to day. Beach wrack is the scientific term for the seaweed and seagrasses that the ocean waves wash up onto the beach.

Some days there are just a few uncomplicated strands gracing the sandy shore…

…while other days, the beach wrack looks like a catastrophe –  a giant, tangled, twisty, heavy mess wound tightly into unbreakable knots. 

Expectations vs Acceptance

When I first moved to the central coast I remember the initial feeling of judging the “ugliness” of the beach wrack and wondered why “they” didn’t clean the beaches here. On the next breath, catching myself in this judgmental attitude and tendency, like many of us, to have expectations of how things “should be”. I suppose I had the image of a tropical beach with its white sandy shores. But I moved to the central coact of California and this coast has its own way of showing up in the world apart from my expectations. Living with an attitude of expectations is certain to disappoint. Expectations add tension… and knots within. Acceptance of “what is” allows us to see life for what it is and be open to infinite possibilities and gifts. Of course these thoughts and insight were all within a minute and I dropped those expectations. Afterall, nature has a way of softening the heart!

I returned to my curious nature and became inquisitive – why is there so much sea wrack here? Why is there more some days than others? My curiosity helped me to learn that the beach wrack has an important place and role in the cycle of life as it creates a unique coastal ecosystem. It creates shelter and a food source for the kelp flies and other organisms on the sandy beach. In turn some sea birds feed on the organisms. As the wrack decomposes, it provides nutrients which decomposes which becomes beneficial to the kelp and other plants that grow offshore. Furthermore it has an important role acting as a natural barrier to storm surges and large waves- by holding sand that would otherwise be taken away with the wind and surf. It helps create dunes that can act as a structural support for other plants being established on the beach. For these reasons, beach wrack can be considered an important player in protecting coastal communities. Of course the kelp forests in the ocean provide so many benefits as well. 

Appreciation

It didn’t take long to begin to appreciate the different patterns temporarily left like art, Nature’s art, whenever I visited! We can be mere observers of these delightful patterns, shapes, and colors which are present in this moment only and will be erased and re-arranged the next time by the tides and the weather. Being in awe and gratitude is a lovely and healthier way to counter an attitude of expectations and trying to control things which can’t be controlled. 

Stress knots

On one of my beach walks a few weeks ago, when I saw some massive tangled, knotted heaps of beach wrack it brought to mind some similarities when it comes to stress. Stress comes in all sizes and shapes that come and go in our lives like the waves washing up the beach wrack! It may be a singular strand of a stressor that shows up, or it can be a complex tangle of stressors from your day, your week, or your life. Sometimes we use the term “nerve-wracking” to describe how stressful something is/was — those things that are struggles or challenges causing stress, anxiety; irritation, anger, annoyances or even unhelpful ways of thinking. And quite often when we feel “wound up” or stressed we get tension headaches or our muscles get tight in our neck and shoulders and become knots. 

Make an offering of your “package”

We can connect our experiences to this metaphor of the beach wrack and ask ourselves, What are the tangled knots in my  life? What is that “thing” or things that keep returning like the beach wrack washed up on shore? Sometimes it’s one thing, and other times it’s a big tangled mess, wound tightly with a pile of other stressors that seems to go on and on and weigh us down. Sometimes we go on with our day or week or lives without stopping to notice the knots winding around and around one another until something happens… impacting moods, attitudes, relationships, sleep, and even creating physical pain or health issues. Living mindfully helps us notice these things so we can take care of the knots as we begin to notice them tightening or growing massively! 

When we come to the “end of our rope”….when we are at the point of “I can’t do this” or “I don’t know what to do”, we can put “it” down, trusting the guidance of someone or something else to guide our next steps and help loosen the knots.

Let nature be your guide. If you are open, if you are truly present with the experience of being out in nature you can open all your senses one by one to facilitate a deeper connection with nature and all it has to reveal. Receptiveness allows for spaciousness within and this spaciousness allows for wisdom and creativity to take shape. This is when you may receive a message, an idea, an answer, or an inspiration and become a participant in creatively connecting with nature and your own heart in a deeper way and loosening the grip of the constricting knots.

The slow reveal ~ a package in it’s new form

One of my favorite “activities” to share at our nature retreats, is creating the opportunity for our participants to tap into this creative space, to open up to this spaciousness, to loosen the knots, and to tell a story through their symbolic art of what came up for them in the “slow reveal.” 

Reminders from the sea

By pausing, connecting, and paying attention, we find healthy ways to take care of ourselves. Nature and mindfulness are a powerful combination to show us how to let go of worries or other strong emotions, our piles of “to-do’s” and expectations. Welcome nature as your guide in revealing how to let go and loosen those knots and take to heart some of these reminders from the sea:

Take time to relax and coast

Let cares drift away

Sea life’s beauty

Adapt to changing tides

Hang loose

Sea treasure in simple things

I found this “tangle” just as you see it – a rather lovely message that will mean something different to each one of us. May your heart be nourished by Nature’s whispers!

 

“Discovering this idyllic place,

we find ourselves filled with a yearning to linger here,

where time stands still and beauty overwhelms.”

~ Vincent Van Gogh

Join our mini-retreats, including our nature retreats for a few hours of dropping anchor and allowing nature to hold and nourish you. We meet at various locations by the sea,  or into the forest on the central Coast of California, San Luis Obispo County  ~ LEARN MORE

Dee DiGioia, founder of Mindful Kindful YOUniversity, offers Mindfulness-based Social-Emotional Learning Programs across San Luis Obispo County (and virtual) for youth and adults to learn and engage in practices of mindfulness and movement grounded in science and backed by research to support mental and physical health and well-being. Respond more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

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Teach children compassion towards birds

It is such a blessing to live near the coast and I never, ever take it for granted. The natural beauty of the coastline nourishes my heart and soul and fills me with awe and deeply felt gratitude. Taking walks on the beach and connecting to nature is my go-to practice for de-stressing. I always come home refreshed and uplifted. One of the blessings and highlights of walking is observing all the coastal birds that live here on the Central Coast of California (or visit here on their migratory paths). It is a privilege and a joy to witness them in flight, feeding, foraging, singing, building nests, and feeding their babies… Sometimes I take videos or photos as a way to savor the moment a bit longer.

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Living on the coast means sharing the coast with the birds who depend on nature’s resources for survival. Living on the coast also means sharing with others who come here: visitors, tourists, vacationers, or people coming from the hotter interior of our state to enjoy a refreshing day at the beach. Although my beach walks help me to de-stress, this can be interrupted with stressful things to navigate such as finding less busy stretches of beach so it’s quieter and less hectic – fortunately I know some areas which are much less crowded. It’s nice to know that most people who come to visit are also enjoying and appreciating the beautiful coastline and wildlife experience. 

photo by Dee DiGioia ~ great blue heron

 

When I saw an article headline this morning “How To Approach Birds Without Scaring Them” I thought of the one thing that always “zings” my stress meter and hurts my heart: when I see a child, or group of children, chasing birds who are foraging and feeding on the beaches… and no one saying anything to help the child learn that it’s not okay.  I know many of you belileve this is “harmless” and “good fun” and many of you will argue and present justification why it’s “no big deal”. I disagree whole heartedly and would like to suggest using this as an opportunity to teach kindness and compassion AND to teach an alternative approach that fosters respect and awe. Help cultivate a sense of stewardship rather than domination.

Chasing birds is not okay and should never be acceptable. It is unkind, disrespectful, and can be distressing and traumatizing for the birds. It can cause parents to abandon their nesting areas and babies, or fall prey to other predators due to exhaustion. By allowing children to chase birds we are sending the message that it’s acceptable to frighten them – they get a surge in the brain of “pleasure” from this cause and effect. When they get bored of this, what will they do next time to feel that “pleasure”? Sometimes chasing turns into throwing things at them.  It turns to laughter and sometimes shared laughter further ingraining the “okayness” of this activity. What other animals will they chase or taunt? By practicing empathy and compassion in our relationship with animals, we are also instilling these values and relationships with people!

I am NOT saying every child who chases birds has mal-intent. They just may unaware of the impact it has. Model empathy and concern for the bird. Help your child imagine how many times a day birds are having to be alert for other birds trying to take their food, or take them out as food. Why would we want to add one more stressor to their day? Multiply that one chase by all the people walking by them, and worse, chasing them, throughout the day. According to the National PTA Congress, “Children trained to extend justice, kindness, and mercy to animals become more just, kind, and considerate in their relations to each other. Character training along these lines will result in men and women of broader sympathies; more humane, more lawabiding, in every respect more valuable citizens.”

In another blog I wrote a few years ago about kids taunting a seagull I shared this important quote:

Studies have shown that children learn cruel and violent behavior from those around them, and that animal abuse often precedes violence toward other people. Indeed, in almost every major act of violence, from the Columbine massacre to serial killings, authorities have found animal abuse in the perpetrator’s background. This common origin of violence perpetrated against animals and against people makes it imperative that we teach compassion and demonstrate concern for all living things. By the time young people exhibit cruel behavior toward animals it is often very difficult to change that behavior, making it essential that adults in every part of the community help children learn to treat animals with kindness. While not every child who is cruel to a pet grows up to be a criminal, there is a strong correlation between cruel behavior toward animals and lack of empathy for human beings. *

*From Be Kind to Animals: Encouraging Compassion through Humane Education
photo by Dee DiGioia ~ even birds rest and take in the serenity of their surroundings!

 

It is our adult responsibility to help impart this wisdom on our children, beginning with the first time they chase a bird. Even a baby in diapers crawling towards a bird we can lovingly scoop them in our arms and whisper “Oooo! Pretty bird. Let’s watch! Look at those beautiful white feathers.”  Model a gentle and respectful way to engage with, and share space and time with these diverse creatures through observation, appreciation, and awe. Look, listen, and feel connected. We can let nature be our teacher. You can be the bridge and help guide children on a lifelong journey of compassionate engagement with all of life, from feathered beings, to furry beings, to human beings. Let us be kind and be loving.

Model Mindful, Kindful, Peaceful Engagement with Birds:

  • Cultivate curiosity, focus, and appreciation while observing birds. What do they look like, sound like, and behave like from a safe and respectful distance? Do we always have to approach or can we just watch?
  • Cultivate appreciation, attention to detail, and connectedness by sketching/drawing or taking photos. Or simply observe.
  • Cultivate awareness and sensitivity by observing their behaviors when they are relaxed vs stressed and backing off if they are showing signs of stress. Learn tips for getting closer for observation, photography, or sketching (learn more: https://nature-mentor.com/how-to-approach-birds/)
  • Cultivate curiosity and love of learning ~ learn identification and interesting facts via books/apps.
  • Cultivate awareness, stewardship, and wisdom – notice posted signs about staying out of fragile nesting areas or about refraining from feeding birds human food (such as bread) for your own amusement. There’s reasons we may nothing about.
  • Cultivate compassion, caring, and stewardship by encouraging birds to come to your backyard with bird feeders, bird baths, trees, flowers or other ways you have learned.
  • Learn about Wildlife Rehab Centers in your own area such as the Pacific Wildlife Care Center in Morro Bay, CA

 

photo by Dee DiGioia – black bellied plover

ADDITIONAL READING:

“Am I Being too Sensitive?” A few summers ago I wrote…

“Am I being too sensitive?” The thought crossed my mind the other day following an upsetting incident near the end of my walk on the beach. I dug deep within and listened for my answer. What came up was a mighty voice roaring within — “I would rather be ‘too sensitive’ than not have any, or enough, sensitivity!” I was fighting through some tears and trying to calm my agitated mind and distraught heart. I had just encountered three children, likely siblings, ranging from about 5 years to 12 years, who were taunting a very sick seagull. > READ MORE <

‘Let’Em Rest, Let’Em Nest’ Set to Save Shorebirds

“When the birds are on our beaches it’s like a layover when traveling on an airplane — they haven’t reached their destination yet and they are tired, hungry and desperate to rest and refuel. Any disturbance to migrating birds during their time spent on the S.C. coast can be life-threatening. Extra strength used to escape or fend off intruders, being chased by dogs or children, or even scarcity of food and habitat can derail a bird’s migration and nesting. The best thing we can do is simply to let ‘em rest, and let ‘em nest and give the birds plenty of space so they don’t feel threatened,” Schillerstrom adds. “For these birds, it’s the difference between life and death.” > READ MORE <

Nine Ways To Share The Beach With Shorebirds This Summer

Birds on the Beach

Learn about our outdoor Summer 2021 series

“Nourished by Nature”

Retreat style meet-ups for adults and fun family “field trips”

on the Central Coast of California in San Luis Obispo County

and our virtual self-paced “Mindful Explorers” nature-based mindfulness program for families and classrooms

 

Dee DiGioia, founder of Mindful Kindful YOUniversity, offers Mindfulness-based Social-Emotional Learning Programs across San Luis Obispo County (and virtual) for youth and adults to learn and engage in practices of mindfulness and movement grounded in science and backed by research to support mental and physical health and well-being. Respond more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

Stay up to date on announcements of classes and events:

Why a little black boy joined the Peanuts gang

Why and how a little black boy joined the Peanuts gang

…and helped change the world

I saw this and had to re-share! This morning a friend posted this on Facebook, who got it from a friend, who got it from The Jon S. Randal Peace Page on Facebook, and maybe got it from someone else… let’s keep sharing!!!

Do you know how and why the little black boy, Franklin, came to join the Peanuts comic strip? I have so much gratitude for the inspiration of  Harriet Glickman, a school teacher and the courage of Charles Schultz, an influential cartoonist, for bringing Franklin to life and being one of Charlie Brown’s friends and a part of the Peanuts gang. Schultz had to buck the system. Peanuts is among the most popular and influential in the history of comic strips.  The story demonstrates how each of us can change the world in simple, yet powerful ways, one caring and courageous choice at a time. ~Dee DiGioia

On July 31, 1968, a young, black man was reading the newspaper when he saw something that he had never seen before. With tears in his eyes, he started running and screaming throughout the house, calling for his mom. He would show his mom, and, she would gasp, seeing something she thought she would never see in her lifetime. Throughout the nation, there were similar reactions.

What they saw was Franklin Armstrong’s first appearance on the iconic comic strip “Peanuts.” Franklin would be 50 years old this year. (2018)

Franklin was “born” after a school teacher, Harriet Glickman, had written a letter to creator Charles M. Schulz after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot to death outside his Memphis hotel room.

Glickman, who had kids of her own and having worked with kids, was especially aware of the power of comics among the young. “And my feeling at the time was that I realized that black kids and white kids never saw themselves [depicted] together in the classroom,” she would say.

She would write, “Since the death of Martin Luther King, ‘I’ve been asking myself what I can do to help change those conditions in our society which led to the assassination and which contribute to the vast sea of misunderstanding, hate, fear and violence.’”

Glickman asked Schulz if he could consider adding a black character to his popular comic strip, which she hoped would bring the country together and show people of color that they are not excluded from American society.

She had written to others as well, but the others feared it was too soon, that it may be costly to their careers, that the syndicate would drop them if they dared do something like that.

Charles Schulz did not have to respond to her letter, he could have just completely ignored it, and everyone would have forgotten about it. But, Schulz did take the time to respond, saying he was intrigued with the idea, but wasn’t sure whether it would be right, coming from him, he didn’t want to make matters worse, he felt that it may sound condescending to people of color.

Glickman did not give up, and continued communicating with Schulz, with Schulz surprisingly responding each time. She would even have black friends write to Schulz and explain to him what it would mean to them and gave him some suggestions on how to introduce such a character without offending anyone. This conversation would continue until one day, Schulz would tell Glickman to check her newspaper on July 31, 1968.

On that date, the cartoon, as created by Schulz, shows Charlie Brown meeting a new character, named Franklin. Other than his color, Franklin was just an ordinary kid who befriends and helps Charlie Brown. Franklin also mentions that his father was “over at Vietnam.” At the end of the series, which lasted three strips, Charlie invites Franklin to spend the night one day so they can continue their friendship. I just thought this was a good re-introduction of Franklin to the rest of the world – “I’m very glad to know you.”

There was no big announcement, there was no big deal, it was just a natural conversation between two kids, whose obvious differences did not matter to them. And, the fact that Franklin’s father was fighting for this country was also a very strong statement by Schulz.

Although Schulz never made a big deal over the inclusion of Franklin, there were many fans, especially in the South, who were very upset by it and that made national news. One Southern editor even said, “I don’t mind you having a black character, but please don’t show them in school together.”

It would eventually lead to a conversation between Schulz and the president of the comic’s distribution company, who was concerned about the introduction of Franklin and how it might affect Schulz’ popularity. Many newspapers during that time had threatened to cut the strip.

Schulz’ response: “I remember telling Larry at the time about Franklin — he wanted me to change it, and we talked about it for a long while on the phone, and I finally sighed and said, “Well, Larry, let’s put it this way: Either you print it just the way I draw it or I quit. How’s that?”

Eventually, Franklin became a regular character in the comic strips, and, despite complaints, Franklin would be shown sitting in front of Peppermint Patty at school and playing center field on her baseball team.

More recently, Franklin is brought up on social media around Thanksgiving time, when the animated 1973 special “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” appears. Some people have blamed Schulz for showing Franklin sitting alone on the Thanksgiving table, while the other characters sit across him. But, Schulz did not have the same control over the animated cartoon on a television network that he did on his own comic strip in the newspapers.

But, he did have control over his own comic strip, and, he courageously decided to make a statement because of one brave school teacher who decided to ask a simple question.

Glickman would explain later that her parents were “concerned about others, and the values that they instilled in us about caring for and appreciating everyone of all colors and backgrounds — this is what we knew when we were growing up, that you cared about other people . . . And so, during the years, we were very aware of the issues of racism and civil rights in this country [when] black people had to sit at the back of the bus, black people couldn’t sit in the same seats in the restaurants that you could sit . . . Every day I would see, or read, about black children trying to get into school and seeing crowds of white people standing around spitting at them or yelling at them . . . and the beatings and the dogs and the hosings and the courage of so many people in that time.”

Because of Glickman, because of Schulz, people around the world were introduced to a little boy named Franklin.

Peanuts is a syndicated daily and Sunday American comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz that ran from October 2, 1950, to February 13, 2000, continuing in reruns afterward. Peanuts is among the most popular and influential in the history of comic strips, with 17,897 strips published in all,[1] making it “arguably the longest story ever told by one human being”.[2][3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peanuts

Join our Mindful Explorers

Membership Program

To inspire children to develop healthy habits of mind by guiding them on a journey of self-discovery

to become leaders for a more mindful, kindful, peaceful world. 

Dee DiGioia, founder of Mindful Kindful YOUniversity, offers Mindfulness-based Social-Emotional Learning Programs across San Luis Obispo County for youth and adults to learn and engage in practices of mindfulness and movement grounded in science and backed by research  to support mental and physical health and well-being. Respond more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

Stay up to date on announcements of classes and events:

Invitation to a Magic Tea Party (for kids)

Magic Tea Party (for kids!)

Online party on Zoom

Friday   *   March 20   *  10:00 – 10:20ish

This live event will be recorded and available for viewing at a later time if you are unable to attend. The link will be posted on this page.

Additional sessions to come. Stay up to date on announcements:

This is the first in our online series of live mindfulness and movement mini-sessions for children offering a you-nique mind-body-heart experience for nervous system regulation, resiliency, and well-being through the art and science of mindfulness, movement, and music during our “Shelter at Home” period. San Luis Obispo County has issued an executive order to “Shelter at Home” to slow the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). For those of you in San Luis Obispo County (like me), you can stay updated and informed on the evolving COVID-19 situation with resources from the SLO County Department of Health at the link HERE.

Parents! Let’s meet online with your child(ren) for our magic “tea party”! The targeted audience is elementary school-aged children but siblings of all ages are welcome to join in ~ grownups are encouraged to participate as well.

During this time of “shelter-in-place”, children (and their grownups) are going to feel a heightened sense of worry, anxiety, fear, or other difficult emotions. As adults we can provide a sense of safety to calm the nervous system through relationships and having fun to help ease those emotions. The magic is in the movement and refocusing attention on the the things that ground us. So get ready to play with me!

The only thing you need to bring is your imagination and curiosity! (Tea cup not required!)

Mindful Kindful YOUniversity offers mindful, kindful, peaceful programs for the well-being of individuals and the community as a whole, for anyone living in or visiting our community in San Luis Obispo County. Using the online platform, we can connect with others around the world!

Please invite your friends! Share our Facebook Event!

Join our scheduled Zoom meeting

LINK: https://zoom.us/j/614378822

Be sure to download Zoom ahead of time on your computer, tablet, or phone.

Computer will provide the best visibility for participation.

Magic Tea Party for Kids ~ Mindfulness, Movement, Music
March 20, 2020          10:00 – 10:20ish  AM (Pacific Time)

Meeting ID: 614 378 822

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This Zoom meeting is FREE OF CHARGE, however, DONATIONS IN ANY AMOUNT ARE WELCOME! Please consider supporting local small business solopreneurs, like myself, if you are in a position to do so. There are many of us small business entrepreneurs in your community that will be struggling financially due to our current national pandemic and the cancellation of our community programs and services – we are pouring our heart, time, and love into our new online offerings because we love our work and we want a healthy, happy future for generations to come. Many of us have lost 100% of our revenue stream “overnight”.  So I’m learning how to move to online classes to continue sharing my love of mindfulness and movement because I know how essential it is, now more than ever. So please consider a donation – no amount is too small! I still have to pay monthly fees for the large companies like Constant Contact to send out emails, to Zoom so I can record these new videos for you and your children, and I desperately need toilet paper (laughing but true!). If your finances are scary right now, no worries. Come enjoy the session for free! 

If you would like to send a DONATION:

 Venmohttps://venmo.com/Dee-DiGioia   or   Paypal https://www.paypal.me/deedigioia

Dee DiGioia, founder of Mindful Kindful YOUniversity, offers Mindfulness-based Social-Emotional Learning Programs across San Luis Obispo County for youth and adults to learn and engage in practices of mindfulness and movement grounded in science and backed by research  to support mental and physical health and well-being. Respond more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

Stay up to date on announcements of classes and events:

When Things Fall Apart

When Things Fall Apart

One day, in January of this year, my “sweetheart’s” life changed abruptly ~ life as he knew it, life as we knew it. His body began a chaotic fight within. Symptom after symptom began showing up and he made various trips to Urgent Care centers. He doesn’t have a primary care doctor because he is normally so healthy and fit. The doctors kept sending him home with “it’s just a virus” and “there is nothing” they can do. I have a love-hate relationship with doctors. Maybe it’s more accurate to say I don’t always trust in them. It’s complex, and some of that is from layers of complex trauma – my mother died from a sepsis infection in the hospital, a podiatrist screwed up my foot surgery, and on and on.

I have been so scared that the doctors were missing looking deeper because this is so out of the ordinary for him: rashes, intermittent fever day in day out for weeks and months, debilitating joint pain, swelling moving throughout his body like an alien within. A week ago he had some symptoms that I insisted he go back again to get checked — that voice within that knew it was serious, and long story short, it WAS serious and he was admitted to the hospital.

Trust that inner voice. Trust that gut feeling. Go with it. Sometimes it is difficult to discern between what is over-worrying or what is a genuine concern. It’s important to really go deep within. Listen.

He was released from the hospital with no real answers yet, other than ruling some things out. It looks like he may be experiencing autoimmune challenges, and the ER doctor told him to see a specialist. (August is the soonest he can get an appointment – argh!) At least we have some ideas of what this could be: an auto immune disorder. An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body. The immune system normally guards against germs like bacteria and viruses. When it senses these foreign invaders, it sends out an army of fighter cells to attack them. Normally, the immune system can tell the difference between foreign cells and your own cells. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes part of your body, like your joints or skin, as foreign. It releases proteins called autoantibodies that attack healthy cells. Doctors don’t know exactly what causes the immune-system misfire. (Source Autoimmune)

It’s been quite the emotional ordeal for me to see my beloved suffering and my feeling so helpless in providing any ease. As an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), and with my trauma being activated, and the normal worries of “what if’s” about his situation, my nervous system has been in chaos! I’d like to say my mindfulness practices have helped, and they have to some degree, however, mindfulness also teaches us to be with whatever is arising, and the fact is, sometimes it feels like things are falling apart, and we fall for a while. It feels like this sometimes. He has had some things under control and seems a bit more himself in the last few days so I am also feeling relieved and better able to re-focus on my work and my own self-care. I’ve had to let go of some planned things, and I may have to let go of some more, and hopefully people will understand. Some won’t – I’ve already disappointed some people with cancellations, and that hurts too, but I know I am doing my best and have to let go of the judgments of others, too.

What I’ve been REminded of in these past very long months is that things are impermanent, and no matter how hard we fight to keep things the same, the fight is what creates the tension and struggle in our lives. Whether we are talking about the weather, or our feelings, or our health, or our relationships, things change. They just do. And to fight this reality is to create our own suffering. And so I realized I can still share a sunset with my beloved and if he is unable to open his eyes because he is in pain, I can take it in for him and send him my warm wishes. I can still pour a cup of tea for both of us and we can feel the warmth of the mug on our hands, and sip the healing ingredients. I can still laugh with children at school, and I can cry my tears as I go out the door in the morning hoping he will be ok on his own while I am away at work.

It’s important to REmember that gratitude is an essential elixir – in fact he was the one to say “you know, I can’t complain – I have had a very good, active life and I just may need to make some adjustments but I’ll be alright.” He has even been asking me for help with mindfulness and meditation, something he hasn’t done in the past, so I get to share my passion with him and feel like I can be helpful after all. I am currently training in Subtle® Yoga — Subtle Yoga is a sustainable yoga practice that adapts to varying needs depending on your health, lifestyle, age and energy. It’s therapeutic and balancing with postures that are accessible and adaptable. I also recently finished my Restorative Yoga training ~  the timing couldn’t be any more serendipitous. These will be so perfect for him. And for me.

Learn more >>> Slow Yoga for Resilience

In a book I read years ago, “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times”, Pema Chödrön writes:

“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. When we think that something is going to bring us pleasure, we don’t know what’s really going to happen. When we think something is going to give us misery, we don’t know. Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. We try to do what we think is going to help. But we don’t know. We never know if we’re going to fall flat or sit up tall. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may be just the beginning of a great adventure.”

And in another book I have, “Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness”, Jon Kabat-Zinn writes:

“Catastrophe here does not mean disaster. Rather it means the poignant enormity of our life experience. It includes crises and disaster but also all the little things that go wrong and that add up. The phrase reminds us that life is always in flux, that everything we think is permanent is actually only temporary and constantly changing. This includes our ideas, our opinions, our relationships, our jobs, our possessions, our creations, our bodies, everything.”

He also tells us

“We all have limitations. They are worth befriending. They teach us a lot. They can show us what we most need to pay attention to and honor. They become our cutting edge for learning and growing and gentling ourselves into the present moment as it is.”

If it feels like your life is falling apart, may your day be blessed with many mindful moments of joy and full catastrophe living! Don’t hesitate to reach out for help! That’s what I train to do, even as I journey through my own challenges.

UPDATE April 6 ~ I wanted to share an update on how my beloved is doing. He has a strong will and an indomitable spirit and is taking charge by doing things to promote his well-being. Many of his symptoms have subsided, while many symptoms continue but he is resilient and has found ways to manage these symptoms. He is much stronger, more clear-headed, more “himself”, and is able to get out on longer and longer walks with me. I also wanted to introduce him to “Earthing” so we watched the documentary and he spends time off and on throughout the day and stands in the sand in our backyard with bare feet to get grounded. He feels it is helping him reduce the inflammation + swelling and is very optimistic! I am so grateful that this turn-around has happened during this COVID-19 pandemic period so we can luxuriate in gratitude for our health and all the things that support us, in spite of the challenges this pandemic and “shelter-at-home” brings.

Dee DiGioia, founder of Mindful Kindful YOUniversity, offers Mindfulness-based Social-Emotional Learning Programs across San Luis Obispo County for youth and adults to learn and engage in practices of mindfulness and movement grounded in science and backed by research  to support mental and physical health and well-being. Respond more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

Stay up to date on announcements of classes and events:

It’s Storytime!

Educating the Heart and Mind

~ Storybooks for Elementary School-aged Children ~

“For listening to the stories of others … is a kind of water that breaks the fever of our isolation. If we listen closely enough, we are soothed into remembering our common name.” ~Mark Nepo

If you would like to help our library grow, click on image above to see our wishlist!

Reading aloud may be one of the most important contributions that we can make toward developing good character in children. Why? For several reasons.

  1. First, because stories can create emotional attachment to goodness, a desire to do the right thing.
  2. Second, because stories provide a wealth of good examples – the kind of examples that are often missing from a child’s day to day environment.
  3. Third, because stories familiarize youngsters with the codes of conduct they need to know.
  4. Finally, because stories help to make sense out of life. Stories, because of their hold on the imagination, can create an attachment to goodness. The nature of stories enables us to “rehearse” moral decisions, strengthening our solidarity with the good.
(Excerpts from “Books That Build Character” by William Kilpatrick and Gregory and Suzanee Wolfe)

Storybooks are super important in my work with children in my school and community programs and in my personal coaching. Stories open the door to rich conversation by helping us relate to what’s happening in the story to our own lives and creating a buffer space between what is happening to the characters and ourselves – only revealing the similarities if we feel safe to say so.  I am continually adding books to my shelves and trying to keep track of what I have. And people often ask for recommendations so I began indexing what I have. The books below are the ones currently on my bookshelf in the areas of Mindfulness, Kindfulness, Emotions, Sensory, Peace, Bullying Awareness, Special Needs Awareness and more.  I listed the books under these categories to help me in my planning and maybe it will help you, too! Some books are in multiple sections and some sections may be incomplete as some books can go in multiple sections but I may not have put it in that section. I am always adding more books and it’s possible I haven’t included some of my newer ones yet so keep checking back.  I may eventually add video resources to this page as well. ~Dee DiGioia

Last updated 12/16/19

BRAIN / NEUROSCIENCE

Hey Warrior (Karen Young)

How Does Your Brain Work? (Don L. Curry)

Some Days I Flip My Lid – Learning to be a calm, cool kid (Kellie Doyle Bailey)

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain (JoAnn Deak)

EMOTIONS: ANGER

Angry Octopus (Lori Lite)

Anh’s Anger (Gail Silver)

Cool Down and Work Through Anger

How I feel ANGRY (Marcia Leonard)

My Many Colored Days (Dr Seuss)

Shubert Rants & Raves (Dr. Becky A. Bailey)

Some Days I Flip My Lid – Learning to be a calm, cool kid (Kellie Doyle Bailey)

Steps and Stones: Anh’s Anger Story (Gail Silver)

When Sophie Gets Angry- Really Really Angry (Molly Bang)

EMOTIONS: ANXIETY, FEAR, COURAGE

A Little Spot of Anxiety (Diane Alber)

*All Too Much for Oliver

Feeling Afraid – Let’s Talk About (Joy Berry) 

*Help Your Dragon Deal With Anxiety (Steve Herman)

*Hey Warrior (Karen Young)

How I feel SCARED (Marcia Leonard)

The Invisible String (Patrice Karst)

There’s a Nightmare in My Closet (Mercer Mayer)

They Call Me Chicken: A Story of Courage

We’re Going On a Lion Hunt (David Atell) -sensory, emotions, listening, impulse control

What to Do When You Worry Too Much (Dawn Huebner)

When My Worries Get Too Big: A Relaxation Book for Children Who Live With Anxiety 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Practice Being Brave – Owning My OCD (Molly Gambrel)

EMOTIONS: GENERAL

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Judith Viorst)

How I feel FRUSTRATED (Marcia Leonard)

How I feel HAPPY (Marcia Leonard)

How I feel JEALOUS (Marcia Leonard)

How I feel PROUD (Marcia Leonard)

How I feel SAD (Marcia Leonard)

How I feel SILLY (Marcia Leonard)

If You Plant a Seed (Kadir Neslon)

In My Heart: A Book of Feelings (Jo Witek)

Listening to My Body (Gabi Garcia)

Today I Feel Silly

Visiting Feelings (Laura Rubenstein)

EMPATHY, UNDERSTANDING OTHERS, ONENESS

Am I a Color Too? (Heidi Cole)

Captain Tommy (Abby Ward Messner) – autism

The Crayon Box that Talked

How Do I Stand in Your Shoes? (Susan DeBell)

Those Shoes (Maribeth Boelts)

Why Does Lizzy Cover Her Ears? Dealing with Sensory Overload

Zero (Otoshi)

EMPOWERMENT, BELIEFS, THOUGHTS, AFFIRMATIONS, beYOUtiful

Finding the Green Stone (Alice Walker)

Hooray for You (Marianne Richmond)

Howard B Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart (Howard Binkow)

I Am Enough (Grace Byers)

I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness (Susan Verde)

I Believe in Me- A Book of Affirmations (Connie Bowen)

I Think, I Am! (Louise L. Hay)

I Wish I Were a Butterfly

Know Who You Are – Katy Finds the Confidence to Be Her True Self (Katrina Welch)

No One But You (Douglas Wood)

Oliver Button is a Sissy

On My Way to a Happy Life (Deepak Chopra)

Spaghetti on a Hot Dog Bun

Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon

Thanks for the Feedback, I Think

The Invisible String (Patrice Karst)

You Are Not Your Thoughts (Brian Despard) (Jennifer Veenendall)

FRIENDSHIP, SIBLINGS

ALSO SEE SOCIAL CHALLENGES: BULLYING, DISCRIMINATION, RACISM

Enemy Pie  (Derek Munson)

Little Squarehead (Peggy O’Neil)

Maybe Tomorrow? (Charlotte Agell)

My Secret Bully (Judy Ludwig)

No Girls Allowed (Berenstain)

One of Us (Peggy Moss)

Our Friendship Rules (Peggy Moss)

Peace, Bugs, and Understanding: an Adventure in Sibling Harmony (Gail Silver)

Pink Tiara Cookies for Three

Secret of the Peaceful Warrior (Dan Millman)- bullying, compassion, empowerment

Shubert’s New Friend (Dr Becky Bailey)

The Invisible Boy (Trudy Ludwig)

The Other Side (Jacqueline Woodson)

Too Perfect (Judy Ludwig)

Trouble Talk (Trudy Ludwig)

GRATITUDE

Thank You Body, Thank You Heart – A Gratitude and Self-compassion Practice (Jennifer Cohen Harper)

The Want Monsters and How They Stopped Ruling My World (Chelo Manchego)

IMPULSES, SELF REGULATION, DISTRACTIBILITY

Don’t Push the Button (Bill Cotter)

I Can’t Believe I Said That (Julia Cook)

If You Give a Cat a Cupcake

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (Laura Joffe Numeroff) -to discuss distractability!

If You Plant a Seed (Kadir Neslon)

My Mouth is a Volcano (Julia Cook)

No Jumping on the Bed (Ted Arnold)

Press Here (Herve Tullet) -great for impulsivity

Puppy Mind (Andrew Jordan Nance)

Simon’s Hook

Squirmy Wormy -How I Learned to Help Myself (Lynda Farrington Wilson)

The Want Monsters and How They Stopped Ruling My World (Chelo Manchego)

Waiting is Not Easy

KINDNESS, COMPASSION, HEARTFULNESS, HEARTPRINTS

Because Brian Hugged His Mother (David L Rice)

Each Kindness (Jacqueline Woodson)

Good People Everywhere (Lynea Gillan)

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? (McCloud and Messing)

Heartprints  (P.K. Hallinan)

How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids  (Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer)

If Everybody DidIf Everybody Did

If You Plant a Seed (Kadir Neslon)

Kindness is Cooler Mrs Ruler (Margery Cuyler)

Listening to My Body (Gabi Garcia)

Listening With My Heart: a story of kindness and self-compassion  (Gabi Garcia)

Maybe Tomorrow? (Charlotte Agell)

May All Beings and Pigs Be Happy (Micki Fine Pavlicek)

Moody Cow Learns Compassion (Kerry Lee MacLean)

One (Otoshi)

One Smile  (Cindy McKinley) 

Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed (Emily Pearson)

Secret of the Peaceful Warrior (Dan Millman)- bullying, compassion, empowerment

Thank You Body, Thank You Heart – A Gratitude and Self-compassion Practice (Jennifer Cohen Harper)

The Invisible Boy (Trudy Ludwig)

The Village Bully  (Maria Broom)

MINDFULNESS, MEDITATION, MINDFUL AWARENESS, MINDFUL LIVING 

A Little Peaceful Spot – A Story About Mindfulness (Diane Alber)

Happy – A Beginner’s Book of Mindfulness (Nicola Edwards)

I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness (Susan Verde)

Listening to My Body (Gabi Garcia)

Listening With My Heart: a story of kindness and self-compassion

May All Beings and Pigs Be Happy (Micki Fine Pavlicek) and VIDEO (narrated by Dee DiGioia)

Moody Cow Meditates (Kerry Lee MacLean)

Peaceful Piggy Meditation (Kerry Lee MacLean)

Puppy Mind (Andrew Jordan Nance)

See Hear, Feel: Mindfulness for Children, One Moment at a Time

Silence (By Lemniscates)

Six Healing Sounds: Qigong for Children (Lisa Spillane)

Slowly, Slowly, Slowly said the Sloth (Eric Carle)

Take the Time: Mindfulness for Kids (Maud Roegiers)

Thank You Body, Thank You Heart – A Gratitude and Self-compassion Practice (Jennifer Cohen Harper)

The Boy Who Searched for Silence (Andrew Newman)

The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth (Chris Burkard)

The Three Questions (John J Muth based on story by Leo Tolstoy)

The Want Monsters and How They Stopped Ruling My World (Chelo Manchego)

Waiting is Not Easy

When the Wind Stops (Charlotte Zolotow)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buddha at Bedtime: Tales of Love and Wisdom (Dharmachari Nagaraja)

Zen Shorts (John J. Muth)

MOVEMENT, YOGA

Six Healing Sounds: Qigong for Children (Lisa Spillane)

Slowly, Slowly, Slowly said the Sloth (Eric Carle)

You Are a Lion! and Other Fun Yoga Poses (Tae-Eun Yoo)

NATURE, EARTH, EARTH-KIND

Not for Me, Please! I Choose to Act Green (Maria Godsey)

Rainbow Weaver (Tejadora del Arcoiris)

Scribble Stones (Diane Alber)

The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth (Chris Burkard)

The Hugging Tree (Jill Niemark)

The Magic and Mystery of Trees (Jen Green)

What Joe Saw (Anna Grossnickle Hines)

PEACE

A Little Peace (Barbara Kerley)

A Quiet Place (Douglas Wood)

Good People Everywhere (Lynea Gillan)

I Am Peace ~ A Book of Mindfulness (Susan Verde)

Old Turtle and the Broken Truth (Douglas Wood)

Seeds and Tree: A children’s book about the power of words (Branden Walden)

Peace Begins With You (Katharine Scholes)

Peace, Bugs, and Understanding: an Adventure in Sibling Harmony (Gail Silver)

Peace Tales – World Folktales to Talk About (Margaret Read Macdonald)

Peace Week in Miss Fox’s Class (Eileen Spinelli)

Peaceful Piggy Meditation (Kerry Lee MacLean)

The Peace Book (Todd Parr)

Somewhere Today A Book of Peace (Shelley Moore Thomas)  

The Invisible String (Patrice Karst)

The Other Side (Jacqueline Woodson)

RESILIENCE

Maybe Tomorrow? (Charlotte Agell)

The Hugging Tree (Jill Niemark)

SENSES – Listening, Seeing, Hearing, Silence, Feeling

A Quiet Place (Douglas Wood)

Can You Hear a Rainbow? The Story of a Deaf Boy Named Chris (Jamee Riggio Heelan)

Can You Listen With Your Eyes? (Nita Everly)

Ian’s Walk: A Story About Autism

Listening to My Body (Gabi Garcia)

Love is the Color of a Rainbow (Kathy Parra)

No One But You (Douglas Wood)

Silence (By Lemniscates)

See Hear, Feel: Mindfulness for Children, One Moment at a Time

Six Healing Sounds: Qigong for Children (Lisa Spillane)

Slowly, Slowly, Slowly said the Sloth (Eric Carle)

Some Kids Are Blind

Some Kids Are Deaf

Squirmy Wormy -How I Learned to Help Myself (Lynda Farrington Wilson)

We’re Going On a Lion Hunt (David Atell) -sensory, emotions, listening, impulse control

Waiting is Not Easy

What Joe Saw (Anna Grossnickle Hines)

Why Does Lizzy Cover Her Ears? Dealing with Sensory Overload

 

SOCIAL CHALLENGES: BULLYING, DISCRIMINATION, RACISM

(+ STANDING UP)

VIDEO: Which Team Will You Choose? (45 min) by Dee DiGioia – inspired by the story “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” 

Alley Oops (Janice Levy)

Becoming Someone’s Hero: A Book for Bystanders of Bullying

Being Bullied (Kate Petty)

Benjamin and the Word

Better Than You (Judy Ludwig)

Bird Child (Nan Forler)

Brand New Kid, The (Katie Couric)

The Bully Blockers: Standing Up for kids with Autism

Desmond and the Very Mean Word (Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams)

Enemy Pie  (Derek Munson)

Howard B Wigglebottom Learns About Bullies (Howard Binkow)

Howard B Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart (Howard Binkow)

I Didn’t Know I Was a Bully

If the World Were Blind

Just Kidding (Judy Ludwig)

Kindness is Cooler Mrs Ruler (Margery Cuyler)

Little Squarehead (Peggy O’Neil)

My Secret Bully (Judy Ludwig)

No Girls Allowed (Berenstain)

Nobody Knew What to Do: A Story About Bullying

Oliver Button is a Sissy

One (Otoshi)

One of Us (Peggy Moss)

Our Friendship Rules (Peggy Moss)

Peace Week in Miss Fox’s Class (Eileen Spinelli)

Pink Tiara Cookies for Three

Roses are Pink, Your Feet Stink

Say Something (Peggy Moss

Secret of the Peaceful Warrior (Dan Millman)- bullying, compassion, empowerment

Simon’s Hook

Spaghetti on a Hot Dog Bun

Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon

Sticks, Stones, and Stumped

Stop Picking on Me

The Boy Who Searched for Silence (Andrew Newman)

The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth (Chris Burkard)

The Bully Blockers Club

The Bully Blockers: Standing Up for kids with Autism

The Invisible Boy (Trudy Ludwig)

The Juice Box Bully

The Lunch Thief (Ann C Bromley)

The Other Side (Jacqueline Woodson)

The Recess Queen

The Village Bully  (Maria Broom)

The Other Side (Jacqueline Woodson)

They Call Me Chicken: A Story of Courage

Those Shoes (Maribeth Boelts)

Too Perfect (Judy Ludwig)

Trouble Talk (Trudy Ludwig)

SPECIAL NEEDS, DIFFERENT ABILITIES

Captain Tommy (Abby Ward Messner)

I Can’t Believe I Said That (Julia Cook)

Ian’s Walk: A Story About Autism

My Mouth is a Volcano (Julia Cook)

Practice Being Brave – Owning My OCD (Molly Gambrel)

Some Kids Are Blind

Some Kids Are Deaf

Some Kids Have Autism

Some Kids Use Wheelchairs

Some Kids Wear Leg Braces

Rolling Along, The Story of Taylor and His Wheelchair

The Bully Blockers: Standing Up for kids with Autism

The Don’t-Give-up Kid and Learning Disabilities

The Wrongway Rabbit

Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome (Clarabelle vanNiekerk & Liezl Venter)

What Joe Saw (Anna Grossnickle Hines)

Why Does Lizzy Cover Her Ears? Dealing with Sensory Overload

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Questions? Email Dee DiGioia

or text/call 805-270-5523

Learn more about Dee DiGioiaCertified Mindfulness,Yoga Calm, & Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & Life Skills Coach +

San Luis Obispo County, CA

RESOURCES:

 

Planting Peace

If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in our communities.

If there is to be peace in our communities, there must be peace in our schools.

If there is to be peace in our schools, there must be peace in our homes.

If there is to be peace in our homes, there must be peace in our hearts.

If there is to be peace in our hearts, there must be seeds of peace planted there.

~Dee DiGioia ~ adapted from Lao Tse’s “Peace in the Nations”

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “If we are to have real peace, we must begin with the children” which I wholeheartedly agree with AND the responsibility of adults is to provide this type of education beginning with their own embodiment of the practices in their daily lives. We cannot expect children to learn and live a peaceful life when it is not being modelled by adults in their lives and in the world. For a peaceful world, we begin within. In so doing, each ONE of us, together, can transform the world, one mindful, kindful, peaceful choice at a time.

Student from our Peace Pals class.
Mindful Kindful YOUniversity (MK YOU) offers mindful, kindful, peaceful community and school programs for the well-being of individuals and the community as a whole, for anyone living in or visiting our community. Learn about all of our programs and services for youth and for adults at Mindful Kindful YOUniversity and consider how we can collaborate and work together to bring the vision of mental health and well-being to our communities. 

NEW! Online Membership Program for

Youth and their Grownups at Home/School

>>> Mindful Explorers <<<

Dee DiGioia, founder of Mindful Kindful YOUniversity, offers Mindfulness-based Social-Emotional Learning Programs across San Luis Obispo County for youth and adults to learn and engage in practices of mindfulness and movement grounded in science and backed by research  to support mental and physical health and well-being. Respond more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

Stay up to date on announcements of classes and events:

 

Why Mindfulness and Social Emotional Learning is Essential in Your School 

After working with youth for over 35 years, including special education, Dee DiGioia founded Mindful Kindful YOUniversity (MK YOU) to offer Mindfulness-based Social-Emotional Learning Enrichment Programs intentionally designed to address the challenges youth, and adults, face in school, and in life, which interfere with learning/working, relationships, and mental well-being.

Let’s explore the possibilities for a mindfulness program in your school so that all students, and staff, can have access to learning and practicing the essential life skills proven to potentiate well-being, happiness, and success throughout all stages of life. With my training and your leadership, we can create an effective, dynamic program that will positively impact your staff, students, parents, and the community ~ now and for future generations. 

PROBLEM:

Chronic Stress in Our Schools

STUDENT IMPACT: According to the World Health Organization, stress is the health epidemic of the 21st century and youth today are under more pressure and experiencing higher levels of stress than ever before whether from academic pressures, sensory overload, and more. 

  • 30-50% of youth in schools are in a chronic state of stress; 
  • Stress inhibits memory, attention, and the ability to take in learning;
  • Direct correlation to learning readiness and academic underperformance;
  • Stress impairs emotional and behavioral regulation; mental and physical health (including anxiety and depression)

EDUCATOR IMPACT: A recent study showed 93 percent of elementary school teachers report that they are experiencing a high stress level. Researchers linked resulting data to the behavioral and academic outcomes of their students:                                                                    

High teacher stress levels were usually associated with 

  • poorer student results, such as lower grades 
  • and frequent behavior problems; 
  • Similar results in a yet-to-be-completed follow-up study with middle school teachers.
*http://neatoday.org/2018/05/11/study-high-teacher-stress-levels/ 

SOLUTION:

Mindfulness Based Social Emotional Learning

RESEARCH has proliferated on mindfulness in education. It strengthens the important executive functions of the brain which supports social emotional intelligence and academic (or professional) success. Mindfulness is foundational for education because it contributes to optimal conditions for learning and for teaching, providing coping strategies for students and staff. Because the roots of toxic stress lie deep in the nervous system, we need tools that go beyond the conceptual mind to directly target that system.  

MINDFULNESS

IMPROVES COGNITIVE OUTCOMES 

improved // focus/attention // memory  // academic scores 

IMPROVES SOCIAL EMOTIONAL SKILLS 

emotional regulation // reduced reactivity // reduced behaviors // increase in empathy // greater self-compassion // improved perspective taking & social skills 

IMPROVES RESILIENCE & WELL-BEING 

reduced stress & anxiety // reduced post-traumatic symptoms // reduced depression // reduced at-risk behaviors                                                   

(Source-Mindful Schools

Mindful Kindful YOUniversity

LINK to School Programs

Mindful Kindful YOUniversity (MK YOU) programs provide a rich experience for students and staff through learning and engaging in practices of mindfulness and movement grounded in science and and backed by research to support mental and physical health and well-being while developing the essential life skills of emotional intelligence, or “Sm’Heart skills” — the essential education for responding more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!  Equip your students and staff with the life skills for stress management, resilience, and mental health & well-being.

Student programs ~ grades pre-k through 12 

  • School programs // After School programs // Referral based programs
Program is adapted from evidence-based curriculums including Mindful Schools; MBSR-T; Yoga Calm; as well as The Zones of Regulation, GoZen for Anxiety Relief, and more, using trauma informed practices. Bullying intervention can also be a facet of this program.
  • Staff Professional & Personal Development
  • Consulting

About Dee DiGioia, Founder of Mindful Kindful YOUniversity

  • Certified Mindfulness Educator; Certified Yoga Calm Youth Instructor; Trauma Informed 
  • 35+ working with children (special education, preschool director, and more)
  • Pioneered a mindfulness program at an inner city school in Sacramento
  • Bullying Intervention Specialist, Author and Founder of Caring and Courageous Kids

 

Go to SCHOOL PROGRAMS for more info.

 

Leave a Mindful Message

Leave a Mindful Message

In memory of Salty the Seagull
Walking on the beach is my favorite mode of “going inward” by “connecting outward” to the AWE of nature. Any time we are focused on and tuning in to our senses (looking, listening, etc) we are practicing mindfulness ~ it is grounding. Gratefully, I usually am able to find a stretch where few humans are encountered ~ just the way I like it! It’s not that I don’t like humans ~ I just love my alone time for “recharging” and being uninterrupted!
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more. 
~ George Gordon Byron
However, with all the bird life along the beach, my experience was being interrupted with thoughts about “Salty the tormented seagull” on my recent walk the other day on a more human-populated beach (see blog called “Am I too Sensitive?”) So I began collecting broken shells that adorned the shoreline with a mission to create a “mindful message” in the sand in memory of “Salty” and to invite any human that saw my message (on the beach or social media) to pause and contemplate what this message might mean in their day or life.
The broken shells, for me, represent the brokenness in our lives (some of us with more pieces than others). Yet, if we put all the broken pieces together, we can still be beautiful (inside and out), and we can still be kind no matter what has happened before. Kind and compassionate within as we heal… kind, compassionate, and respectful to others ~ do no harm.
The feathers, for me, represent Salty, and any one of us, who had difficulty taking flight from the pain and ugliness in life. Salty was unable to fly away from the children who tormented him. How many people are unable, or unaware of how to escape the things that hold them down or torment them in life – their own thoughts, or the actions of others.  And on the flip side, feathers can also represent the ability or new-found freedom in being able to fly/rise above it all, or to be the wings to lift others up. 

The message “be kind” is a REminder (bringing back to mind and heart) which represents a message each one of us needs to hear over and over. Being kind in words, in actions, both inward to self and outward to others. Be kind and when you forget, repair any brokenness or pain it caused. It’s a message we need to look at each and every day – it reminds me of a quote by Henry James:  

Three things in human life are important:
the first is to be kind;
the second is to be kind;
and the third is to be kind.
Although this beach-made mindful message or reminder may be washed away by the tides (although it was still there the following day), I chose to capture it in a photo to share with you. I invite you to leave a mindful message as you go about your day so that it may enter the hearts of people you come in touch with. 
Don’t write your name on the sand, waves will wash it away.
Don’t write your name in sky, the wind may blow it away.
Write your name inside the hearts of people you come in touch with.
That’s where it will stay.

Dee DiGioia, founder of Mindful Kindful YOUniversity, offers Mindfulness-based Social-Emotional Learning Programs across San Luis Obispo County for youth and adults to learn and engage in practices of mindfulness and movement grounded in science and backed by research  to support mental and physical health and well-being. Respond more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

Stay up to date on announcements of classes and events:

Am I being too sensitive?

Am I being too sensitive?

“Am I being too sensitive?” The thought crossed my mind the other day following an upsetting incident near the end of my walk on the beach. I dug deep within and listened for my answer. What came up was a mighty voice roaring within — “I would rather be ‘too sensitive’ than not have any, or enough, sensitivity!” I was fighting through some tears and trying to calm my agitated mind and distraught heart.

I had just encountered three children, likely siblings, ranging from about 5 years to 12 years, who were taunting a very sick seagull. I had seen the seagull earlier when I first started my walk – I named him “Salty” because he reminded me of an old sailor who had a rough life at sea. He was discolored and looked like he may be blind on one side. And now I could see that he couldn’t fly because he was trying to escape from the taunting but all he could do was waddle and then he clumsily stumbled as the children approached closer and closer with youngest child repeatedly throwing fists full of sand at him. All 3 children laughed in unison at him as he fell head first into the dune and was desperately trying to upright himself. That laughter sent chills down my spine and I am tearing up as I write this. They continued to approach him and taunt him. When I first saw this I was a distance away and ran to catch up to them shouting “HEY!! STOP!!!” in hopes my voice would stop them. By the time I got close enough, they were just a few feet from Salty.

My adrenaline was running high and I was trying my best to remain calm, but firm and “be the teacher” – at this point just trying to get them to stop from throwing sand and terrifying Salty any further. Inside my mind I’m screaming “Stop being so mean!” but when I spoke, I blurted out things like “that’s unkind — he’s sick– how would you like it” … They looked a little startled but then seemed to ignore me, moving away a bit but simply changing their route and circling around the mound where Salty was still trying to upright himself. OMG- if only I could scoop him up and take him to a safe place! I could see that their parents were a distance away, out of range of being able to talk to them, but they had their eye on me. “Why were they not getting up?” I wondered. Conflicted whether to continue protecting Salty from the children with my “I’m watching you” stares or leaving to talk to the parents, finally the father got up and came to me. I explained to him what I was saying to the children, thinking that he might thank me. He told me I “didn’t need to do that” and it’s “just kids being kids chasing birds”!!!! I’m pretty sure he wanted to tell me “Don’t be so sensitive…” I argued that I did need to say something because it hurt my heart and I wanted to help the sick bird who was unable to fly away. I could see we weren’t going to agree on this matter — he just didn’t seem to care that his children were doing this — so I finally walked away after arguing my point. It looked like the kids had stopped approaching Salty… I’m not sure – I had to leave because my heart was bursting with a flurry of pain, frustration, anger and I just wanted to scream to the world “BE NICE!!!!”

This situation brought up lots of pain for me. The children taunting Salty reminded me of my younger days of being bullied. It reminded me of my students I have worked with who have been bullied. It reminded me of my two ex’s who were unkind and taunted my dogs and treated me with disregard. It reminded me of my “ex” stalking me and me running in fear. It reminded me of the insensitivity in the daily news across the world. The father’s callous response reminded me of family members when I was growing up telling me “don’t be so sensitive…” as though being “so sensitive” was a negative trait. That father’s insensitivity reminded me of my own father who told me not to be “so sensitive” and yet he would become enraged and whip me with a belt. It reminded me of the judge who ignored my plea a restraining order against an “ex”. I tried to explain, in my then small voice, that he often taunted my dog, which was one of many reasons for leaving. Any judge should understand the patterns of abusive behavior:

Studies have shown that children learn cruel and violent behavior from those around them, and that animal abuse often precedes violence toward other people. Indeed, in almost every major act of violence, from the Columbine massacre to serial killings, authorities have found animal abuse in the perpetrator’s background. This common origin of violence perpetrated against animals and against people makes it imperative that we teach compassion and demonstrate concern for all living things. By the time young people exhibit cruel behavior toward animals it is often very difficult to change that behavior, making it essential that adults in every part of the community help children learn to treat animals with kindness. While not every child who is cruel to a pet grows up to be a criminal, there is a strong correlation between cruel behavior toward animals and lack of empathy for human beings. *

*From Be Kind to Animals: Encouraging Compassion through Humane Education

I have healed many layers of trauma over the years, but every now and then, a situation like this triggers trauma stored deeply within and I have to take some time to gently navigate through the waterfall of emotions. I have grown to embrace my sensitivity and have learned that I actually am considered a “Highly Sensitive Person” (see resources below to learn more). This gift, yes, gift, has helped me attune to others, especially in the work that I do as a life coach. And this sensitivity seems particularly heightened with animals. I am no longer ashamed of it. I still cry if I let myself think about the Bambi story or the Dumbo story. I can’t go to a circus or a zoo. I can’t watch any commercials, shows, movies about animals suffering. When my two now grown-up sons were little, and also when caring for my daycare children, I always modeled and taught kindness, compassion and respect for animals. I never allowed them to taunt animals or even to chase birds — I know — some of you are thinking “don’t be so sensitive” or “it’s normal and what kids do” – but I didn’t allow or tolerate it and I’m not sorry. I always used this as a learning opportunity to help my children, or children in my care, cultivate compassionate hearts. I simply explained that it would be terrifying for the birds and taught them to be curious and to fill themselves with awe and wonder, and to observe rather than chase. My two sons, now adults, are the most compassionate and kind human beings. MK YOU’s youth programs provide a great opportunity to discuss compassion towards people and animals. I am honored to work with many highly sensitive children and teens in my personal coaching program. And I will never hesitate to stand up and educate when opportunities like this arise, especially when others, like Salty, do not have a voice.

As I walked away from this situation I was trying not to cry. But I did. As a salty tear rolled down my cheek I sent some loving wishes and said “This one is for you, Salty – may you be free from suffering! May these children think twice about their actions in the future. May all children and adults be more sensitive.” 

Sensitivity: sensitivity to emotional feelings (of self and others) // sensitivity leading to easy irritation or upset // refined sensitivity to pleasurable or painful impressions // emotional or moral sensitivity (especially in relation to personal principles or dignity) // insight, perceptiveness, perceptivity, a feeling of understanding // the experiencing of affective and emotional states

“If you have men who will exclude any creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”  –Saint Francis of Assisi

Updates:

I have disabled comments on my blogs due to ridiculous amounts of spam. If you would like to share your thoughts or have questions about my services, feel free to email me. ~Dee

After sending out my blog in a newsletter, I received this email response:

No you’re not too sensitive! You’re One of God’s lightworkers who’s here to teach others how to show LOVE. And in that situation you did the best you could. That Dad is lucky I didn’t come across them or he would’ve gotten an earful – some people are so maddening. They see cruelty as children playing. So sad! Think how they must treat those children and deal (or more like not deal) with their emotions. My heart went out to old Salty in that story. Poor old bird being tormented by poor neglected (emotionally at the least) children. Glad you were able to derail their sick “play”. Ugh it’s just so sad people think cruelty is perfectly fine. Stay sensitive Dee. ~VM

See related and follow-up blog:

Leave a Mindful Message

More resources on this topic from others:

This song always touches me deeply:

Nurturing Children’s Love for Animals

Teaching Children Compassion Toward Animals – The Most Important Lesson of All

VIDEO: The incredible story of how leopard Diabolo became Spirit – Anna Breytenbach, “animal communicator”

21 Signs That You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

What It Means to Be a Highly Sensitive Person

Your Highly Sensitive Child Is Normal. No Wait, She’s Extraordinary.

Dee DiGioia, founder of Mindful Kindful YOUniversity, offers Mindfulness-based Social-Emotional Learning Programs across San Luis Obispo County for youth and adults to learn and engage in practices of mindfulness and movement grounded in science and backed by research  to support mental and physical health and well-being. Respond more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

Stay up to date on announcements of classes and events:

Can we fast forward through father’s day please?

Can we fast forward through Father’s Day, please?

It’s Father’s Day. It’s marketed as a day of joy and celebration of fathers and many of you will be celebrating joyfully with loved ones on this day. And yet today may anything but a day of joy and celebration. It may be a day of grieving or a day of haunting memories. Many of you (and myself included) will be struggling today for so many different reasons, whether it’s about your own father and/or the father of your child(ren), or your role as a father. For so many reasons, this day can be a difficult reminder or “trigger” of the passing of a beloved father, or a painful, difficult reminder of divorce, abuse, strained relationships, infertility, absentee fathers, fathers who rejected LGBT+ children, or complicated situations such as step-families, foster families, adoption. Perhaps there are other reasons not even listed here. We cannot know all of one another’s stories, nor do we need to. We can know that today, like all holidays or days of honoring, can be a day many of us wish we could push “fast forward” through. And as “Debbie Downer” as this sounds, it is important to be aware of this because, if not you, or like you, likely someone you know is silently suffering and we can be mindful and compassionate in our interactions. Before we automatically say “Happy Father’s Day” or tomorrow “How was your Father’s Day?”, can we greet someone in a different way? “Hey! How’s it going today?” “What did you do this weekend?”

Fortunately I have been practicing mindfulness and compassion work long enough to help me to cope with the “triggers” of trauma and be with arising difficult emotions. My mindfulness practice and training has helped me immeasurably which is why I love to teach and coach others. Some of the additional ways I personally cope is to stay away from social media around holidays or Father’s Day to avoid seeing all the ways others are celebrating in joy. It can trigger my haunting memories and spin me in a direction I do not wish to go. Instead, I practice being my own inner superhero and partake in the things that bring compassion, love, and peace to my mind and heart today, like every day. I will also practice gratitude for what is present in my life that provides joy.

Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, whom I have mentally adopted or chosen as my father figure, said:

“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.”

“To dwell in the here and now does not mean you never think about the past or responsibly plan for the future. The idea is simply not to allow yourself to get lost in regrets about the past or worries about the future. If you are firmly grounded in the present moment, the past can be an object of inquiry, the object of your mindfulness and concentration. You can attain many insights by looking into the past. But you are still grounded in the present moment.”

“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”

“There is no way to peace – peace is the way.”

You, too, can always return to your own inner resources of love and compassion to be with difficult emotions. You are not alone. May you be happy. May you be peaceful. May you be at ease. May this day, and every day be filled with love, including loving yourself from your own well of well-being. Please let me know if I can help in any way. ~Dee DiGioia

Additional articles from others that you may find helpful:

If Father’s Day feels hard for you this year, read this

How to Cope When Father’s Day Feels Tough

The Individuals We Find Difficult Are Our Greatest Teachers

By practicing mindfulness and kindfulness in our daily living, each one of us is positively contributing to a thriving, resilient, and compassionate world beginning with ourselves, and positively impacting our relationships at home, work, and in our communities. Come learn and grow with us at Mindful Kindful YOUniversity!

Sign up by June 30 for Personal Coaching this summer
and get one bonus session FREE:  For youth // for adults

Dee DiGioia, founder of Mindful Kindful YOUniversity, offers Mindfulness-based Social-Emotional Learning Programs across San Luis Obispo County for youth and adults to learn and engage in practices of mindfulness and movement grounded in science and backed by research  to support mental and physical health and well-being. Respond more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

Stay up to date on announcements of classes and events:

Cool, Calm, and Connected

Cool, Calm, and Connected

Summer Kick-off LOBP Chamber Mixer

Hosted by Dee DiGioia, Mindful Kindful YOUniversity

Networking & Mingling! Enjoy some summer-themed refreshments!

Come chillax with us. Optional mindfulness activities will be available!

Wear your flip-flops for easy removal (we remove shoes in the house).

LOCATION: 1520 4th Street in Los Osos

Mindful Kindful YOUniversity (MK YOU) offers mindful and compassionate community programs for the well-being of individuals and the community as a whole, for anyone living in or visiting our community.

MK YOU invites communities to bring mindfulness and compassion to life in practical, specific ways through compassion-driven actions — in neighborhoods, businesses, schools and colleges, healthcare, the arts, local government, peace groups, environmental advocacy groups, and more.

Consider how can we collaborate and work together to bring the vision of mental health and well-being to our communities. Join, host, or sponsor our Adult and Youth Programs and Services.

By practicing mindfulness and kindfulness in our daily living, each one of us is positively contributing to a thriving, resilient, and compassionate world beginning with ourselves, and positively impacting our relationships at home, work, and in our communities. Come learn and grow with us at Mindful Kindful YOUniversity!

Dee DiGioia, founder of Mindful Kindful YOUniversity, offers Mindfulness-based Social-Emotional Learning Programs across San Luis Obispo County for youth and adults to learn and engage in practices of mindfulness and movement grounded in science and backed by research  to support mental and physical health and well-being. Respond more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

Stay up to date on announcements of classes and events:

My Sm’Heart Filter

My Sm’Heart Filter

A Social Story for Elementary Aged Students & Beyond!

Although I wrote this social story as a learning tool for my elementary aged students, it’s really a story and lesson for all ages, including YOU!!! All across social media we are tweeting and posting our every thought! Media, news, television shows, and movies no longer filter or censor sex and violence. Anyone can view it 24 hours a day.  As an educator, I feel that social-emotional skills, impulse control, and self-regulation are declining rather than improving, despite these skills being developmental in nature. Research has shown that this ability to control impulses and manage strong emotions are predictors of success in school and in life. If the adults and teens-soon-to-be-adults are struggling with this, or not teaching these skills, our younger generation is in trouble!

Mindfulness teaches us how to relate to our thoughts. We don’t have to give every thought that arises our full attention, nor do we have to act on each of these. We can also discern if the thought even needs to be shared aloud. In brief, “My Sm’Heart Filter” story is about mindful communication and making heart-centered decisions when we are communicating and interacting with others at school, at home, at work, in the community, on social media (thinking smart, aligned with the heart = sm’heart!). Not so easy in our culture of sharing every single thought and feeling and opinion on every single issue. Not so easy, but so very necessary! This simple story presents the difference between a thought bubble and a talking bubble and using a heart filter to decide which words would be best to stay in our head, and which words are ok to express aloud. And when is the “right” time to share that thought? Is it as it arises, or can you hold it for a better moment (so it’s not interrupting others, or so it’s not in the middle of math class or a movie). This can be used for many examples of mindful communication and some of the examples in the story below are the examples my elementary-aged students are working on, with a box to add other samples as the need arises. Perhaps you can use the metaphor for yourself, or with your family or classroom! Here is the story:

“My Sm’Heart Filter” is a Social Story written by Dee DiGioia and adapted from the book “I Can’t Believe You Said That” by Julia Cook. I have also blended in some language on the Zones of Regulation that I regularly use with my students.

My Sm’Heart Filter

I am learning about using my heart filter.

I have two bubbles full of words in my head. There’s a thinking bubble and there’s a talking bubble. These are connected by my heart filter.

When thoughts and words form inside my head, they form inside my thinking bubble. The only person who knows what thoughts and words are  in my thinking bubble are just me! They only way someone knows what I am thinking is if I send these thoughts and words to my talking bubble, or if I write it down. (People might be able to guess how I am feeling by my body language – but that’s for another story.)

When words come out of my mouth, they come from my talking bubble. The words that make it to my talking bubble are for others to hear.

My heart filter makes sure that

only some of the words

in my thinking bubble make it to my talking bubble.

When my heart filter is “turned off”…

some of the words in my thinking bubble make it to my talking bubble that are “unexpected” (not ok).

I am learning about which words should stay inside my thought bubble and which words are okay to come out. Grown-ups will help remind me when it is expected to keep these thoughts inside my head until I can remember on my own.

Sometimes I forget to use my heart filter. Sometimes I might say these words on purpose. This is “unexpected” (not ok) and may result in others having feelings in the blue or yellow or red zone.

Here are some examples of “unexpected” words tumbling into my talking bubble:

If I say something off topic >>> then others may feel confused or frustrated.

If I say something unkind >>> then others may feel sad, mad, blue, hurt.

If I say something disrespectful or rude >>> then others may feel hurt, frustrated.

If I say something that interrupts or “steps on someone’s words” >>> then others may feel frustrated, hurt, upset.

If I say something untruthful >>> then others may feel frustrated, confused, untrusting (won’t believe me like the boy who cried wolf).

If I say something that makes others feel unsafe >>> then others may feel worried, scared, stressed.

Can you think of some other examples?

When “unexpected” words come out,

I have an opportunity to “flip it”

by turning on my heart filter

and make it better

so that I can show I care about others.

 

When my heart filter is “turned on”…

it helps me separate words that should stay in my head from words that are okay to come out. This is “expected” (ok) and helps those around me, including myself to be in the green zone.

Here are some examples of “expected” words that went through my heart filter:

If I say something on topic >>> then others may feel happy, good, calm, grateful.

If I say something kind >>> then others may feel happy, good, calm, grateful, awesome.

If I say something respectful >>> then others may feel happy, good, calm, grateful, valued.

If I wait for my turn to talk or save it for a better time >>> then others may feel happy, good, calm, grateful, delighted.

If I say something truthful >>> then others may feel happy, good, calm, grateful, trusting.

If I say something that helps others to feel safe >>> then others may feel happy, good, calm, grateful, safe.

Can you think of some other examples?

IMAGINE:

Imagine that I have a bucket filled with sand and stones in it and a sifter. The sifter is like my heart filter. My thought bubble is above the sifter and what comes out of the sifter is like my talking bubble for others to hear

  

If I pour some some sand and stones into the sifter, the stones will stay on top inside the sifter. That’s like it’s keeping the words that are “unexpected” inside my head for just me to know about.

The sand that goes through the filter are the like words that are “expected” to say out loud in my talking bubble. That’s what is expected – from me – and from everybody!

I can’t put back the stones or words that come out that are unexpected, but I can try to “flip it” to help everyone, including myself, to be in the green zone.

I am ready to start sifting through which words stay inside my thinking bubble and which words can come out the other side of my heart filter – words that help grow my heart skills so that everyone can feel good, including me! 

IMAGE ABOVE: I asked my students to make a poster of an example of an “unexpected” situation and then how to repair it or, as we say, “flip it” (from yellow/red zone to the green zone). One of my students drew this amazing image (above) to depict what he thinks the process looks like. I absolutely love the detail! He started with the drawing of the pair on the right to demonstrate “unexpected” behavior showing one person talking and not letting the other person talk (because this student works a lot on “not stepping on words” when someone else is speaking). The circles swirling up to the character’s left are his thought bubbles > above him are the “stones” (unexpected behavior or dominating the conversation) pouring out of the tipped filter and spilling into his talking bubble (“blah blah blah blah”). Then the drawing of the pair on the left shows how to repair this ~ now two people are engaged in conversation – note one talking bubble higher than the other to show taking turns. Again their thought bubbles going up their sides, each one considering the other’s feelings, and their sifters are level and only the “sand” is coming out for the expected social skills of conversational turn-taking. So clever! The idea is we don’t have to blurt out every thought that comes to mind ~ self control is managing those impulses – instead of shouting out “you’re a $%&*”, for example, I can keep that in my thought bubble and filter out words that align with how I want to show up in the world. I know a few adults who need this lesson!!!! Don’t you?

By practicing mindfulness and kindfulness in our daily living, each one of us is positively contributing to a thriving, resilient, and compassionate world beginning with ourselves, and positively impacting our relationships at home, work, and in our communities. Come learn and grow with us at Mindful Kindful YOUniversity!

Dee DiGioia, founder of Mindful Kindful YOUniversity, offers Mindfulness-based Social-Emotional Learning Programs across San Luis Obispo County for youth and adults to learn and engage in practices of mindfulness and movement grounded in science and backed by research  to support mental and physical health and well-being. Respond more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

Stay up to date on announcements of classes and events:

Remembering Joy!

Remembering Joy!

What happens when we get disconnected from joy in our daily lives? How can we ensure that our kids never lose their connection with their inner joy? I invite you to watch the video “Alike” below and reflect on these questions, as well as your own, and then continue reading below! 

Mindful awareness shines a spotlight on what is important in life, if we are paying attention, revealing micro-moments of joy and gratitude. But we can often spend time stuck in routines or complaining about what’s wrong while suppressing moments of pleasure and joy or having thoughts that there is no joy in life. Where did the joy go? Why did it go? What covered it up?
What if, instead, when there was a micro-moment of present-moment-awareness of something that warms or excites your heart, that you stayed fully present in that moment and allowed it to soak in. Could you give it the space to deepen? Joy is ever-present. It’s already there. If you are fortunate enough to live with or work with children, they are here to remind you! Allow them to remind you, before, they, too, begin to lose their sense of joy and wonder.
The photo above was taken while I was on a meditation retreat in British Columbia. I was walking through a forest of dense trees and came upon this spot where there was a hole in the canopy and the sun shone through brilliantly like a spotlight. This micro-moment of joy took my breath away!

I hope you enJOYed this! I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

  • What brings you joy? Take a moment to stop and look around you – is there something in this moment? or in life- what is your default joy setting?
  • What happens when you get disconnected from what brings color and joy into your life? How can you bring it back (at work or home)?
  • How do you ensure that your kids (at home/in the classroom) never lose their connection with their inner joy? Or how have they reminded you to “stop and smell the roses?”

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We have lots of joy-filled moments in our current community program

“Dragonfly Circles”

and YOUnique Fitness for Special Needs

Now in Atascadero, Arroyo Grande, and San Luis Obispo!!!

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Dee DiGioia, Certified Mindfulness & Life Skills Coach and Consultant
MK YOU offers mindfulness programs for youth, educators, parents, and community members using evidence-based practices of mindfulness, movement, and social-emotional learning to help reduce stress while cultivating the inner resources needed for well-being in San Luis Obispo & Northern Santa Barbara Counties via community programs/classes/workshops, personal coaching, professional development, mini-retreats, and more. After pioneering a successful mindfulness program for K-5 classrooms at an inner city charter school in Sacramento, CA, Dee hopes to develop programs in our local schools here on the Central Coast of CA.  Contact Dee to learn more.

Subscribe to MK YOU News!

Sm’Heart Skills: The essential education for responding

more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

Mindful ~ Kindful ~ Peaceful

I have served youth for 30+ years, including those with social, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and communication challenges in my roles as a Speech-Language Therapist, Autism Movement Therapist, Preschool Director, Bullying Intervention Specialist, Author, and more. Founded “Caring and Courageous Kids” in 2009 (bullying intervention), and founded “Mindful Kindful YOUniversity” in 2017. Pioneered a mindfulness program for K-5 classrooms at an inner city charter school in Sacramento, CA, and am developing youth and adult programs where I now live on the Central Coast of CA. Made a decision to follow my own advice for well-being by leaving the stresses and challenges of working in special education in the public school setting. Following my heart and calling to share mindfulness and well-being programs to address the challenges youth (and adults) face in school and in life, which interfere with learning, relationships, and mental well-being. I believe mindfulness is the missing piece (and peace) in education and am bringing my vision to fruition! I am grateful to have the experiences and resources to share the wisdom, science, and evidence-based practices of mindfulness and more, which have proven over and over to lead to greater resilience, more joy, and peace in life.

Resources: Mindfulness for Adults

Resources: Mindfulness for Adults

~ at home, work, and in the community ~

While I am creating programs throughout San Luis Obispo County, I am compiling a list of important, informational articles and video resources for myself, as well as to share with others, all in one place, right here on this page. There are so many reasons why mindfulness is beneficial to us at home, at work, and in our communities. See our similar list of resources for youth.

I will continue to add to these lists over time so be sure to check back!  I have tons more to add to this list but it’s time for a mindful break! (Last edited 5/27/19)

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Why Mindfulness is a Superpower

“Mindfulness is the ability to know what’s happening in your head

at any given moment without getting carried away by it.”

~Dan Harris, “Why Mindfulness is a Superpower”

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Research and Benefits of

Mindfulness and Self-Care

5 Essentials of Mindful Self-Care: Promoting Mind-Body Resilience

7 Damaging Myths About Self-Care

Neuroscience Tips for Taking Charge of Your Mind, Body & Heart ~Daniel Goleman on Wellbeing

Different Types Of Meditation Change Different Areas Of The Brain, Study Finds

Eight Meditation Brain Benefits

Emotional reactivity lessens with mindfulness, brain study shows

Empirically Derived Profiles of Teacher Stress, Burnout, Self-Efficacy, and Coping and Associated Student Outcomes (Study)

From OM To OMG: Science, Your Brain, And The Productive Powers Of Meditation

Harvard neuroscientist: Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your brain

How Many Teachers Are Highly Stressed? Maybe More Than People Think.

Intensive meditation practice reveals itself in the breath

MBSR and exercise both reduce cold and flu frequency, severity

Meditation appears to produce enduring changes in emotional processing in the brain

Meditation can Change your Brain Structure

Meditation Health Benefits: What The Practice Does To Your Body

Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence ~ upgrade your internal operating system

Mindful people transition more frequently between brain states

Mindfulness helps to restore self-control over aggressive behavior

Not Talking About Mental Health Is Literally Killing Men

Science Confirms: Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation Are Legit

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Scientific Benefits of Meditation – 76 Things You Might be Missing Out On

Self-care and Mindfulness: You Are Enough

The Disease of Being Busy

The Skeptic’s Guide To Meditation

Vagus Nerve Is the Key to Well-being

Video game addiction is officially a mental health disorder

What Happens to the Brain When You Meditate (And How it Benefits You)

What Meditation Can Do For Your Mind, Body And Spirit

When science meets mindfulness ~ Researchers study how it seems to change the brain in depressed patients

Why Silence Is So Good For Your Brain

~~~~ At Work ~~~~

4 Ways Mindfulness and Meditation Can Help You at Work

A Guide To Mindfulness At Work

From nonstop stress to workplace success: Mindfulness tips that transform

Three Simple Ways to Recover from Work-Related Stress

Want To Practice Mindfulness? Start At Work

Watch Your Brain at Work  (webcast)

Workplace Mindfulness Can Cut On-The-Job Stress

Workplace Stress: The Health Epidemic of the 21st Century

~~~~ For Educators ~~~~

Can Mindfulness Make Us Better Teachers?

CURRY STUDY: REDUCING TEACHERS’ STRESS LEADS TO HIGHER-QUALITY CLASSROOMS

Don’t Quit: 5 Strategies for Recovering After Your Worst Day Teaching

Do We Care for Our Teachers?

Edutopia: Burnout Isn’t Inevitable ~ Teachers are stressed—but schools can help

Four Things Schools Can Do to Keep Teachers Happy

Mindfulness for Teachers

Seven Ways Mindfulness Can Help Teachers

Science Says Silence is Vital for Our Brains

Stopping Teacher Burnout

Study shows mindfulness training can help reduce teacher stress and burnout

Teacher Stress and Health”

Teachers Tuning In

When Teachers Take A Breath, Students Can Bloom

~~~~ For Parents ~~~~

4 Self-Care Strategies to Avoid Parental Burnout

5 Mantras for Mindful Parenting

15 positive ways to help your child learn to manage their anger (on emotional regulation – yours and theirs)

How Mindful Parenting Differs From Just Being Mindful

‘Self-care’ is not enough to fix how much moms are burnt out

The 5 Main Tenets of Mindful Parenting

The Train Analogy That Will Completely Change How You See Your Crying Child

~~~~ For Relationships ~~~~

Happy Couples Focus on Each Other’s Strengths

How Mindfulness Can Help Couples Cool Down

Learn how to reduce the risks of stress in your personal and professional life.

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MORE FROM MINDFUL KINDFUL YOUNIVERSITY:

>>> Research and Benefits <<<

>>> What is Mindfulness? <<<

>>> Well-being for Parents <<<

>>> Well-being for Educators <<<

>>> Discover Our Adult Programs and Services <<<

You may also be interested in 

>>> Resources: Mindfulness/SEL for Youth <<<

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Dee DiGioia, Certified Mindfulness & Life Skills Coach and Consultant
MK YOU offers mindfulness programs for youth, educators, parents, and community members using evidence-based practices of mindfulness, movement, and social-emotional learning to help reduce stress while cultivating the inner resources needed for well-being in San Luis Obispo County via community programs/classes/workshops, personal coaching, professional development, mini-retreats, and more. After pioneering a successful mindfulness program for K-5 classrooms at an inner city charter school in Sacramento, CA, Dee is developing programs in our local schools and communities here on the Central Coast of CA.  Contact Dee to learn more.

Stay up to date on announcements of classes and events:

Birthday Invitation

Birthday Invitation

~Dreams and Wishes~

It’s my birthday this week. The big 6-0! When I look back at old photos (like the one above when I was 2 years old) I have so many memories flood in. Some good, some not so good. But the best part is, I look at how far I have come in my persistent, quiet will to survive and rise above all the ugly tough stuff. I’m celebrating this journey this year, by stepping out of my comfort zone with 3 birthday wishes to ask of you. Yes, YOU!

Wish #1:

You are invited to take out a minute or two to read the following:

According to the World Health Organization, chronic stress/anxiety is the health epidemic of the 21st century. Adults. Teens. Children. No one is immune. It shows up in different ways and for different reasons with different people. If you aren’t impacted personally, you likely know someone who is. After working with children for 30+ years, I was inspired to launch Mindful Kindful YOUniversity  (MK YOU) which was founded to address the challenges youth face in school and in life, which interfere with learning, relationships, and mental well-being.

MK YOU helps youth learn HOW to cultivate the inner resources, or “superpowers” for reducing stress and experiencing more balance, resilience, and over-all well-being by integrating evidence-based strategies and practices of mindfulness, movement & yoga, and social emotional learning.  In so doing we develop the essential life skills of emotional intelligence, or “Sm’Heart skills” — the essential education for responding more skillfully to life in the 21st Century! These positive experiences will transform, not only inner peace and happiness, but also social dynamics at school, at home, and in the community! These are skills for life!

I have experienced and seen first-hand how impactful mindfulness training can be in my work with youth and adults, as well as in my own life. I am grateful to have the training, experiences, and resources to share the wisdom and evidence-based practices of mindfulness and movement which have proven over and over to lead to greater resilience, more joy, and peace in life, or what I like to summarize as more Mindful-Kindful-Skillful.

“The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do.” –Unknown

Wish #2: 

You are invited to contribute to a very special fundraiser I have created to benefit youth in our local communities,

which also supports my dreams and vision of MK YOU: mindfulness education programs flourishing across each of our communities, with every community member having access to learning and practicing the essential life skills proven to potentiate well-being, happiness, and success throughout all stages of life!

With the prohibitive cost of effective advertising and marketing, your contribution of funds will help me begin to reach families in our communities that might not otherwise know about Mindful Kindful YOUniversity programs. My outreach has been minimal due to lack of personal funds.

With “back-to-school” around the corner, I would like to do an advertising blast as soon as possible — in the local papers and on social media to help parents know about some ongoing and new programs to support youth, including those with special needs. Programs include community classes, workshops, private coaching, film screenings, as well as classes & retreats for parents, educators, and community members.

$5, $10? No amount is too small, nor too great!

GoFundMe link to Mindful Kindful Communities Vision

By practicing mindfulness and compassion in our daily living, each one of us is positively contributing to a thriving, resilient, and compassionate world beginning with ourselves, and positively impacting our relationships at home, school, and in our communities.

Your thoughtful donations, in any amount, will be graciously welcomed and will make a ripple here on the Central Coast of California towards my vision for more compassionate communities. Thank you for truly making a difference, or what call leaving “heartprints”! May your generosity return to you in unexpected ways!

Wish #3:

Smile. Breathe. Love. Be happy, be kind, be well!

Our “Dragonfly Circles” kiddos!

$5, $10? No amount is too small, nor too great!

YES! I will DONATE NOW!

THANK YOU! A very special thank you goes out to Anne Baumgarten for our very first donation of $200!!!!

In deepest gratitude, Dee DiGioia

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” –C.S. Lewis

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Dee DiGioia, Certified Mindfulness & Life Skills Coach and Consultant
MK YOU offers mindfulness programs for youth, educators, parents, and community members using evidence-based practices of mindfulness, movement, and social-emotional learning to help reduce stress while cultivating the inner resources needed for well-being in San Luis Obispo & Northern Santa Barbara Counties via community programs/classes/workshops, personal coaching, professional development, mini-retreats, and more. After pioneering a successful mindfulness program for K-5 classrooms at an inner city charter school in Sacramento, CA, Dee hopes to develop programs in our local schools here on the Central Coast of CA.  Contact Dee to learn more.

Subscribe to MK YOU News!

Sm’Heart Skills: The essential education for responding

more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

Mindful ~ Kindful ~ Peaceful

The Gentle Giant

Mr. Rogers, The Gentle Giant

I never realized how much of an influence Fred Rogers had on my life. Over the years I hadn’t given it much thought. It honestly wasn’t until recent years, when interest in Mr. Rogers seemed to resurge (or was it that I noticed more?), that I became more aware of what an extraordinary human being he was. There have been many great posts of his quotes floating around on social media that I, too, passed along to remind or ripple out to others. That’s when I began to really miss him. A few nights ago, after watching the documentary about his life, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” I left the theatre sobbing, and mourning his departure from this planet even though he passed away 15 years ago.

Image result for fred rogers

I’m quite certain I am not alone in feeling that the world today needs some positive leaders and role models, including the gentle, loving, comforting Mr. Rogers, who ensured that anyone watching the show felt loved and seen. “Whether we’re a preschooler or a young teen, a graduating college senior or a retired person, we human beings all want to know that we’re acceptable, that our being alive somehow makes a difference in the lives of others.”  He had an unwavering and recurring message that touched generations of children “You are a very special person. There is only one like you in the whole world. There’s never been anyone exactly like you before, and there will never be again. Only you. And people can like you exactly as you are.” Although his program was for children, I’m willing to bet that the messages he shared were also for the grownups who might be listening and watching as well. He wanted each one of us to know how impactful our words and actions are. “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”  I love the hopeful, magical feeling this fills me with. May my words and actions impact and enrich your life in some way!

I feel a kindred spirit with Fred Roger’s beliefs on children’s programming. He was appalled by what he saw in children’s programming and was inspired to begin his own children’s program to be a force for good. “I got into television because I saw people throwing pies at each other’s faces and that, to me, was such demeaning behavior. And if there’s anything that bothers me, it’s one person demeaning another. That really makes me mad.” He purposely chose a slow pace and mindfully paused in silence to counter the fast paced lives we are all caught up in or to show a different way of living and because “we don’t need to bop someone on the head to make drama.” One time he even asked the question, have you ever wondered how long a minute is? He set up a large timer to go for one minute and simply watched in silence! He said, “I always felt I didn’t need to put on a funny hat or jump through the hoop to have a relationship with the child.” I completely agree. Several years ago, as part of my bullying prevention campaign for “Caring and Courageous Kids” I wrote, directed, and produced a children’s movie, “Which Team Will You Choose?” I often laughed to myself that the style was very “Mr. Rogers-like”. I didn’t want lots of bells and whistles, just a simple story with a simple message to inspire standing up to bullying through peaceful and compassionate action, or as Mr. Rogers would say, to “make goodness attractive.”

Mr. Rogers was one of the few children’s programming shows I would let my boys and my home day care children watch 25 years ago! Mr. Rogers kindled a sense of belonging and community for his audience – inviting curiosity and awareness to everything and everyone on the show. And instead of distracting children from the tough headline news of the time, he would include it, knowing very well that children’s fear and confusion needed to be addressed and supported. He once said, “The world is not always a kind place. That’s something all children learn for themselves, whether we want them to or not, but it’s something they really need our help to understand.” His values of nonviolence, racial diversity, and equality were among the values I admired in him. “Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered . . . just one kind word to another person.” He confronted tough questions such as “what is assassination” following Bobby Kennedy’s assassination. When inner city riots erupted following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mr. Rogers added “Officer Clemmons”, a black police officer, to the cast, in the role of keeping everyone safe in the Neighborhood. They even both put their feet in the same wading pool to “cool off” on a hot day – this following a civil rights protest when blacks went in a pool and the white owner poured acid in the water. In my bullying prevention/intervention work, I encourage children to “keep going until you do find an adult who will help you!” If one teacher (for example) is too busy, then find another, and another. There is always someone that will want to help you, and that can be very comforting to know!

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” 

Image result for fred rogers pool

When I was growing up, the kinds of issues Mr. Rogers drew awareness to were the very ones my parents pushed under the rug. It was confusing and the world felt like a big mystery to me. And although he had a show when I was young, I was not aware of him until my children began watching the show in the 80’s. I particularly loved how he embraced learning about emotions, knowing full well of the significance of emotional intelligence which is the ability to understand and relate to one’s emotions skillfully, as well as to understand and respond effectively to the emotions of others. This impacts our relationships with others at home, at school, in the workplace, in our communities, and in the world! Many of us grew up with the messages like “don’t cry” or were not allowed to show our feelings. Here are some important messages from Fred Rogers which are fundamental to “Mindful Kindful YOUniversity”:

“Feelings are mentionable and manageable.”

“There’s no ‘should’ or ‘should not’ when it comes to having feelings. They’re part of who we are and their origins are beyond our control. When we can believe that, we may find it easier to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings.”

 “When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.” 

“Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expression always takes strength, not weakness. It takes strength to acknowledge our anger, and sometimes more strength yet to curb the aggressive urges anger may bring and to channel them into nonviolent outlets. It takes strength to face our sadness and to grieve and to let our grief and our anger flow in tears when they need to. It takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when we need it.”

“People have said “Don’t cry” to other people for years and years, and all it has ever meant is “I’m too uncomfortable when you show your feelings: Don’t cry.” I’d rather have them say, “Go ahead and cry. I’m here to be with you.” 

“At many times throughout their lives, children will feel the world has turned topsy-turvy. It’s not the ever-present smile that will help them feel secure. It’s knowing that love can hold many feelings, including sadness, and that they can count on the people they love to be with them until the world turns right side up again.”

For these reasons, and many more, I consider Fred Rogers, a “gentle giant” who left an enduring legacy of goodness and kindness that is woven into the hearts of each of us who were fortunate enough to share some time in his “neighborhood”. If you remember nothing else, remember this message from Fred Rogers:

“Love is at the root of everything. All learning, all relationships. Love or the lack of it.”

So practice love and kindness towards yourself. Practice love and kindness towards others. That’s the kind of community I want to help create for you and for children. Mindful, Kindful, Peaceful… and Skillful. 

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All italicized quotes are by Fred Rogers.

Don’t miss his documentary out now at select theatres! “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”

More resources:

  1. Mr. Rogers Had a Simple Set of Rules for Talking to Children
  2. Seven Lessons from Mister Rogers That Can Help Americans Be Neighbors Again
  3. About the video below: Fred Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications to challenge the cuts for public broadcasting proposed in 1969.

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Dee DiGioia, Certified Mindfulness & Life Skills Coach and Consultant
MK YOU offers mindfulness programs for youth, educators, parents, and community members using evidence-based practices of mindfulness, movement, and social-emotional learning to help reduce stress while cultivating the inner resources needed for well-being in San Luis Obispo County via community programs/classes/workshops, personal coaching, professional development, mini-retreats, and more. After pioneering a successful mindfulness program for K-5 classrooms at an inner city charter school in Sacramento, CA, Dee is now developing programs in our local schools here on the Central Coast of CA.  Contact Dee to learn more.

Subscribe to MK YOU News!

Sm’Heart Skills: The essential education for responding

more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

Mindful ~ Kindful ~ Peaceful

 

 

 

I see you

I see you

Hey, little girl, I see you! I see you trying to be small, unnoticed in class. I see you cringe ever so slightly when the teacher looks your way, hoping she won’t call on you. I see your slink down in your seat a bit when she does, and then, with all the courage you can summon, you either shrug your shoulders to indicate “I don’t know” or you respond in a teeny tiny voice and then sigh with relief when the teacher moves on to another student. You look around to see if anyone noticed but you didn’t see me. I see you observing all the chatting, laughing children around you, unsure of how to be a part of it. I see you awkwardly trying to join in with others, and when it is unsuccessful, I see walk away and eat or play alone because it so much easier! I see you when you have a puzzled look on your face because you don’t know how to move forward with a class assignment, and everyone else is busy at work but you are frozen in your seat, debating with yourself whether or not to let the teacher know you don’t understand the directions. Sometimes you don’t and you just wait for the bell to ring. No one else notices. But I do. I see you. I know you. I was you. 

Once upon a time…

I was a self-described “painfully shy” little girl. Growing up I spoke comfortably at home but outside the home it was agonizing to do so with most people, except my close friends. Just a few years ago, in my work as a Speech-Language Therapist, while assessing a student at my school, I ended up researching about “selective mutism” because the student spoke to no one at school and it was “not cute” anymore in 3rd grade where it was expected to speak in class. In my research, it suddenly dawned on me, that I, too, had selective mutism as a child!  It all makes so much sense to me because Selective Mutism (SM) is an anxiety disorder, which may include social anxiety. That was undeniably me!!! The “letter” I wrote above is based on observations of children I see in school.

There are different degrees and levels, but in general, a child who is Selectively Mute may talk in one social setting or with only certain people, such as home or with just mom but not dad, and not speak in other social settings or with other people, such as at school or even extended family outings. If the child does speak in these other settings or with certain people, it may come out as a whisper. It is an actual fear/anxiety and is not willful refusal or “being shy”.

“The majority of children with Selective Mutism have a genetic predisposition to anxiety. In other words, they have inherited a tendency to be anxious from one or more family members. Very often, these children show signs of severe anxiety, such as separation anxiety, frequent tantrums and crying, moodiness, inflexibility, sleep problems, and extreme shyness from infancy on.” (1)

Perhaps you know someone who may have Selective Mutism in your classroom or home!

“It is important to realize that the majority of children with Selective Mutism are as normal and as socially appropriate as any other child when in a comfortable environment. Parents will often comment how boisterous, social, funny, inquisitive, extremely verbal, and even bossy and stubborn these children are at home! What differentiates most children with Selective Mutism is their severe behavioral inhibition and inability to speak and communicate comfortably in most social settings. Often, these children show signs of anxiety before and during most social events. Physical symptoms and negative behaviors are common before school or social outings.” (1)

Just the other day I saw someone on tv who said she didn’t speak to her dance teacher for 8 years!!! She is now a vibrant young adult dancer who speaks openly about this ~ music and dance was her way of communicating!! For me, I was very boisterous in my family but outside of that, such as extended family, or going to church, it was terrifying for me. I can even remember crying when people said “hi” to me because it provoked that much anxiety in me!

“It is common for many children with Selective Mutism to have a blank facial expression and never seem to smile. Many have stiff or awkward body language when in a social setting and seem very uncomfortable or unhappy. Some will turn their heads, chew or twirl their hair, avoid eye contact, or withdraw into a corner or away from the group seemingly more interested in playing alone.” (1)

As a child, going to my best friend’s house next door was tortuous. She had 4 big, older brothers who seemed to have a mission to get a reaction out of me. They would hang me upside down by my feet or squeeze me inside their armpit, all in good fun, but for me it was hell. I wouldn’t say a dang thing! I froze (which is like what animals do to feign death so the predator will leave them alone) and I wished my friend would hurry up and put her shoes on so we could get out of there! In high school I loved “theatre” but only worked behind the scenes in the props department. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago when I got into community theatre acting. Me! Onstage! It was life transformed!

I always thought of myself as “weird” and wondered what was “wrong” with me while growing up. I knew my reactions to people and life were unlike those around me. I felt different and alone in my challenges. What I didn’t know as a child, is that there are ways to deal with an anxiety disorder. I know that now and it is my passion to work with youth who are suffering with anxiety using the skills and techniques I have accessed and learned over the years. Although the incidence of Selective Mutism is quite low – only about 8 in 10,000, the incidence of anxiety is far greater – as much as 33% of teens (ages 13-18) have an anxiety disorder.

“Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses among children and adolescents. Our main objective is to diagnose children early, so they can receive proper treatment at an early age, develop proper coping skills, and overcome their anxiety. Because Selective Mutism is an anxiety disorder, if left untreated, it can have negative consequences throughout the child’s life and, unfortunately, pave the way for an array of academic, social and emotional repercussions such as:

  • Worsening anxiety
  • Depression and manifestations of other anxiety disorders
  • Social isolation and withdrawal
  • Poor self-esteem and self-confidence
  • School refusal, poor academic performance, and the possibility of quitting school
  • Underachievement academically and in the work place
  • Self-medication with drugs and/or alcohol
  • Suicidal thoughts and possible suicide” (1)

If you suspect your child has anxiety, or even possibly Selective Mutism, it is important that your child learn skills and techniques to cope with the anxiety. Intervention can be a life raft for your child. I nearly drowned and struggled for years with some of the “bullet points” above in my youth, teens, and young adulthood. “Anxiety disorders can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships.” (2) Fortunately, through sheer determination and my love of learning, I was able to overcome and learn how to cope with many issues that cause anxiety.  Mindfulness has really been the great missing piece, and peace, that came much later in my life, and is the reason I am so passionate about sharing it, especially with children. I truly wish someone had taught me about mindfulness way back then, however I am grateful that my experiences also allow me to work compassionately with youth who experience anxiety. Mindfulness, movement, yoga, and the Cognitive Behavior Therapy techniques I teach are all grounded in science which research has demonstrated again and again to lessen anxiety and improve self-regulation.  Your child can come to learn that experiences don’t have to overwhelm her/him and she/he can learn to remain calm and centered through life’s ups and downs. It also important for you to learn how you may be negatively reinforcing the anxiety through “rescuing” your child. Give your child an edge to be ready for the new school year with a whole new set of life skills because “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

Hey little girl… I see you growing stronger. Strong mind. Strong heart. Strong body. 

I will send you heartful wishes so you can learn to send them to yourself:

May you be happy.

May you be healthy and strong.

May you be safe.

May you be filled with loving kindness.

That’s me, Dee, and my best friend, Maureen. We are safe in my house away from her big scary brothers!!!

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Mindful Kindful YOUniversity Services you may want to consider:

*If you decide to seek my services through Personal Coaching or Community programs, please do not “ask” your child if they want to go. Your child will say “no”. It’s not because they don’t like going, but because there will be anxiety in the transition to get there, and in settling in to the class. Don’t worry, I create a safe, supportive, and accepting environment to help each student feel confident to try new things, discovering his/her gifts, reaching new heights in physical, mental and emotional well-being, by adding choices and supportive tools! Make this very important adult decision for your child so that she or he can benefit from these essential life skills for well-being! 

People have a hard time letting go of their suffering.

Out of a fear of the unknown,

they prefer suffering that is familiar.

~Thich Nhat Hanh

You may also be interested in blog “Am I too Sensitive?”
Resources:
(1) WHAT IS SELECTIVE MUTISM?  A Comprehensive Overview
(2) National Institutes of Health: Any Anxiety Disorder

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Dee DiGioia, founder of Mindful Kindful YOUniversity, offers Personal Coaching and Mindfulness-based Social-Emotional Learning Programs across San Luis Obispo County for youth and adults to learn and engage in practices of mindfulness and movement grounded in science and backed by research to support mental and physical health and well-being. Respond more skillfully to life in the 21st Century! Contact Dee to learn more.

Stay up to date on announcements of classes and events:

Listen to Stress

I ignored my friend, my body, my being. I ignored the stress lurking in the shadows and chipping away at my well-being. My body, inner voice, kept trying to tell me “slow down” and “take some time out for yourself”. But I ignored the messages. I ignored the redflags of exhaustion yesterday, and the day before, and the day before…

I tend to rationalize ~ “well I am trying to get a new business off the ground so when else am I going to get things done if not after my day at school or on weekends?”  That’s because every entrepreneur knows that you have to keep going if you’re going to get anywhere!  So I get on the hamster wheel and have endless tasks to take care of. And then one more thing. And another.

And then I get the message. The plug is pulled and my “battery” is drained. Regardless of my intentions to keep going, a drained battery is a drained battery. Like when my computer shut off on me last night. Also like when I got to school today only to realize, this isn’t sleepy-exhaustion that I’m feeling, it’s I’m-sick-exhaustion. Oops. I did it again. The funny thing is, I was aware of the symptoms about a week ago. I had been pushing myself but I tried to bargain with my body: “just get me through this next event and then I’ll slow down!” Hmmm… stress won again. The very thing I teach others about, I ignored the signs. So today I dragged myself home to do the only thing I can do. Rest. Nurture. Slow down.

Well, dear friend, my body, my being, I have a new message for you: “Thank you for the reminder. I’m sorry I didn’t listen. And I’m sorry that I didn’t take better care of you. Can we start over?”

Do you know what my body responded? “Thank you. I love you.” 

Sometimes, we all need reminders to slow down and listen to the messages our emotions and bodies and telling us. Mindful~Kindful~Skillful!

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Dee DiGioia, Certified Mindfulness & Life Skills Coach and Consultant
MK YOU offers mindfulness programs for youth, educators, parents, and community members using evidence-based practices of mindfulness, movement, and social-emotional learning to help reduce stress while cultivating the inner resources needed for well-being in San Luis Obispo & Northern Santa Barbara Counties via community programs/classes/workshops, personal coaching, professional development, mini-retreats, and more. After pioneering a successful mindfulness program for K-5 classrooms at an inner city charter school in Sacramento, CA, Dee hopes to develop programs in our local schools here on the Central Coast of CA.  Contact Dee to learn more.

Subscribe to MK YOU News!

Sm’Heart Skills: The essential education for responding

more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

Mindful ~ Kindful ~ Peaceful

 

Makes Sense

Makes Sense!

Today, as I was working one-to-one with a student at school for math time, she was particularly fidgety and unfocused. Math is certainly not her favorite subject and I was trying to push through some review questions for a pre-test. Our time together was short today and I thought we would whiz right through the few problems we had since she had done fairly well with this chapter. However, today this little one had a different plan and tried every “work-avoidance trick” in the book!

After some time, I was noticing that I was feeling frustrated and getting a little grouchy and impatient.  I became aware I was meeting resistance with resistance and so I dropped everything and told her we were going for a walk around the building. She was a bit surprised but happily bounced out the door, feeling victorious in escaping the work. As we walked, I asked her questions related to using her senses which is a “grounding” strategy in mindfulness practices. I began to ask her questions such as “What colors do you see?” …”What do you hear?” …”What else?” …”What does the air feel like?”… “Can you smell anything?”  We did this “game” as we walked around the building which took us just a few minutes. We then went back into the room, resumed working on the math problem we had abandoned, and within 30 seconds she finished the problem! It’s moments like this that I wish I had an ongoing video recording of our sessions together, or that some researcher sat behind a double mirror and had documented what just took place.  It’s jaw dropping to see the difference! It’s micro-moments like this that remind me why I love to learn about and practice mindfulness. It’s simple, yet not always easy to remember to do! It’s grounded in science and has been proven over and over to make a difference. Using the senses, a quick little brain break in school, really makes sense!

May this be a REminder to YOU how we can easily integrate mindfulness throughout our day!

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my sense put in order.”   ~John Burroughs

Check out our upcoming Film Screening of

MAY I BE HAPPY: Mindfulness in the Classroom & Beyond

at Shell Beach Elementary school on May 14

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Dee DiGioia, Certified Mindfulness & Life Skills Coach and Consultant
MK YOU offers mindfulness programs for youth, educators, parents, and community members using evidence-based practices of mindfulness, movement, and social-emotional learning to help reduce stress while cultivating the inner resources needed for well-being in San Luis Obispo & Northern Santa Barbara Counties via community programs/classes/workshops, personal coaching, professional development, mini-retreats, and more. After pioneering a successful mindfulness program for K-5 classrooms at an inner city charter school in Sacramento, CA, Dee hopes to develop programs in our local schools here on the Central Coast of CA.  Contact Dee to learn more.

Subscribe to MK YOU News!

Sm’Heart Skills: The essential education for responding

more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

Mindful ~ Kindful ~ Peaceful