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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Roots of Resilience Resources

Resilience is adapting to, and coping with, the inevitable challenges that arise in your lifetime whether it’s day-to-day challenges or major life-changing events. Resilience helps you to bounce back and even come back stronger. Resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.

(McDonald et al., 2012)
“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”
Carl Jung
When we have the skills to handle things that come our way, we can help ourselves, and our loved ones, thrive and flourish. While confronted with the unsettling, emotional challenges of life during the pandemic, the greatest gift we can give our loved ones is our presence – our well-nourished, balanced and healthy presence, like a well-rooted tree that can withstand the storm! Learn simple practices to transform stress into resilience in each moment of life as it unfolds. This is how each of us can contribute to a legacy of healthy, thriving families ~ beginning within ourselves ~ and modeling these essential life skills for our loved ones. Mindful, Kindful, Peaceful.

Behind every resilient person is some ONE that is there for them,

whether it is a parent, teacher, coach, mentor, friend. If you feel overwhelmed or like you are drowning, you don’t need to go it alone. Who is your light, your one, that helps you through difficult times? Who do you light the way for?
If you are not feeling like you are making progress, it’s important to reach out for help from a trained professional.
Twenty years ago, for several years, I was drowning in deep depression and felt intensely alone. That was before internet (OMG). Family relations were strained and no close friends. It was tough! Thank goodness I made it through – I could say that I was the “one” for myself but the journey is so much better having support from those who understand or those who can provide effective tools and techniques that are more effective than ill-advised family or friends who do not understand the psychology and root of your challenges.

Finding freedom from my own trauma are the reasons why I am so passionate about the programs and services I offer through Mindful Kindful YOUniversity.

My experiences have shaped who I am today and I now stand “on the shoulders of the giants before me” – passing along their teachings and wisdom that supported me, and now I can share to support you! Mindful Kindful YOUniversity is here to help inspire and support you whether it’s through TLC Personal Coaching, our Mindful Explorers membership program for kids and their grownups, School programs, Personal and Professional Development, or simply from an inspiration or meme shared on social media. Explore the resources below, explore this website, or reach out to me. You are not alone. I want you to know, that I am here for you, and your children.
May you and your loved ones be healthy.
May you and your loved ones be strong.
May you and your loved ones feel the power of love and peace.
~Dee DiGioia, Your Mindfulness Coach

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Let Nature Be Your Teacher ~

On a recent walk I discovered an amazing tree family on the edge of a cliff along the shore in Cambria that took my breath away. I might have missed the discovery if I had not taken a mindul moment to pause and “look, listen, and feel,” my go-to grounding practice in daily life. Trees often inspire me and this family did not disappoint. It had a story to tell and became my introduction to my “Roots of Resilience” webinar.

“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.”

– Elizabeth Edwards

“Roots of Resilience” Webinar Recording ~

“The Roots of Resilience” live webinar took place on December 2, 2020. Counselors Jill Lewis and Melissa Chitwood, Lucia Mar Unified School District, hosted this Wellness Webinar for parents and educators, with Presenter Dee DiGioia, Mindful Kindful YOUniversity. Below is my edited version of the webinar with extras (including extra notes and images, an updated version of the guided practice “The Willow Weathering the Storm”*, and an extra story about John Lewis “Walking in the Wind” which we did not have time for during the live webinar). In the webinar I cover 5 “seeds of resilience.”  When working with children I refer to these as “superpowers” that we are growing – to become mindful, kindful, peaceful (the skills for becoming resilient).
While confronted with the unsettling, emotional challenges of life during the pandemic, the greatest gift we can give our loved ones is our presence – our well-nourished, balanced and healthy presence, like a well-rooted tree that can withstand the storm! Learn simple practices to transform stress into resilience in each moment of life as it unfolds. This is how each of us can contribute to a legacy of healthy, thriving families ~ beginning within ourselves ~ and modeling these essential life skills for our loved ones. Mindful, Kindful, Peaceful. (Video ~54 min)

Guided Grounding Practice ~

SUBSCRIBE to “Mindful Kindful Peaceful Times” and receive a link to a guided grounding practice “The Willow Weathering the Storm” to help you withstand the storms in your life today. It was inspired by something I read in the book Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm, by Thich Nhat Hanh and another guided practice I have done called “Eye of the Hurricane” which I have found to be very helpful when things feel overwhelming.

Walking in the Wind ~ an inspirational story of resilience

This true story is from the late, great Rep. John Lewis. May his legacy live on through his example of how to live life ~ in our homes, and in our world ~ walking together, hand in hand, you and I, walking with the wind. Together, we can get through the storms and inevitable challenges in our lives, coming out stronger and wiser.

Well-being is a skill and all skills require practice ~

Your well-being is the most important education you will ever receive! Learn, practice, and grow skillfully with us! Let me be your guide. MK YOU equips and teaches children, teens, and adults HOW to cultivate the inner resources, or “superpowers,” for coping with life’s challenges. By setting the intention to practice mindfulness and kindfulness in our daily living, we plant the seeds for transforming unskillful responses to life’s challenges into healthy habits for inner peace and happiness. As a result, each one of us is positively contributing to a thriving, resilient, compassionate and peaceful world beginning within ourselves, and positively impacting our relationships at home, school, and in our communities.

EXPLORE Programs and Services

for YOUTH and ADULTS

including our virtual Mindful Explorers Membership

for kids and their grown-ups at home or school.

Learn, practice and grow skillfully with us!

Skills for resilience and well-being

Additional Resources ~

I will be adding to this over time. Come back and check!

RELATIONSHIPS:

Behind every resilient person – research findings: the number one common variable – is some ONE that was there for them, coaching them, believing in them to move through the challenge. If you are interested, I provide Personal Coaching for youth and for adults. You do not have to go through this alone.

“During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, you may experience anxiety, fear, frustration, sadness and loneliness — to the point that those feelings become constant and overwhelming. Existing mental health conditions, including severe anxiety and major depression, may worsen. If you’re feeling hopeless and having thoughts about suicide, or you’re concerned about someone else, learn how to find help and restore hope. Most often, suicidal thoughts are the result of feeling like you can’t cope or recover when you’re faced with what seems to be an overwhelming life situation. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 any time of day.” Read more: COVID-19 and the risk of suicide

BOOKS / ARTICLES:

Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm, by Thich Nhat Hanh ~ Book or free audio link (youtube)

We recently finished reading this in our Book Club. Fear is destructive, a pervasive problem we all face. Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master, poet, scholar,  peace activist, and one of the foremost spiritual leaders in the world—a gifted teacher who was once nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr.—Thich Nhat Hanh has written a powerful and practical strategic guide to overcoming our debilitating uncertainties and personal terrors. The New York Times said Hanh, “ranks second only to the Dalai Lama” as the Buddhist leader with the most influence in the West. In Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting through the Storm, Hanh explores the origins of our fears, illuminating a path to finding peace and freedom from anxiety and offering powerful tools to help us eradicate it from our lives. “Written in words so intimate, calm, kind, and immediate, this extraordinary book feels like a message from our very own heart….Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most important voices of our time, and we have never needed to listen to him more than now.” ~Sogyal Rinpoche

11 Ways to Cultivate Resilience

How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times (this may not be what you think!)

How Mindfulness Boosts Resilience

Is Your Child Resilient?

Listen to Stress ~ Dee DiGioia

Mindfulness Is Essential to Wise Choices, Compassion Is Essential to Wise Action, Community Is Essential to Wise Coping, Our Practice Is Essential to Dealing Skillfully with Disappointments, Difficulties, even Disasters

Remembering Wellness ~ Dee DiGioia

Right Now it’s Like This ~ Dee DiGioia

The Most Difficult Year Ever as an Educator ~ Dee DiGioia

What Nature Can Teach Us About Resiliency

When Things Fall Apart ~ Dee DiGioia

 

VIDEO:

Dropping Anchor ~ Guided Mindfulness Practice ~Dee DiGioia

Heartfulness Practice ~Guided Mindfulness Practice to feel connected ~ Dee DiGioia

My Special Journey – Guided Mindfulness Practice ~ Dee DiGioia

R.A.I.N. ~ Guided Mindfulness Practice – Dee DiGioia

 

A Steady Heart in Times of Crisis | Guided Meditation – Jack Kornfield & Tara Brach

Insight and Resilience in Times of Change – Oren Jay Sofer

The Opportunity to Build the Circuits of Kindness and Resilience – Dan Siegel  – Opportunities for parents to help shape the minds of their children – so good!

 

MUSIC:

“Resilient” ~ Rising Appalachia

“The Keep Going On Song” ~ performed by Goeke/Staton-Marrero // and The Bensons original version

“Together” ~ King & Country

for kids: “Bounce Back

EXPLORE Programs and Services

for YOUTH and ADULTS

including our virtual Mindful Explorers Membership

for kids and their grown-ups at home or school.

Learn, practice and grow skillfully with us!

Skills for resilience and well-being

Resources supporting “Why Mindfulness in Education” and Resources – Mindfulness for Adults

 

Stay up to date on all of our announcements:

SUBSCRIBE TO MK YOU NEWS

Dee DiGioia, founder of Mindful Kindful YOUniversity, offers Mindfulness-based Social-Emotional Learning Programs online and 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!

 

Activate Your Personal GPS

A few years ago, I moved to where I am now living on the beautiful Central Coast of California. I seem to have a “gypsy soul” because I have actually have moved a lot in the last 15 years (at least 10 times)! Each time I move I love to look at a map of the surrounding area and study where everything is, such as stores and restaurants, as well as nature areas for exploring (the green areas on the map)! Surely that comes from the days of growing up traveling to various places for summer vacations as I leaned over the front seat of the car (no seatbelts back then – yikes!) while my mom read the map and provided instructions on where to turn next — the “old fashioned GPS”! I still feel a vibrant energy thinking back to those days of going on a new adventure!

These days I rely heavily on my technological “GPS” navigation device to find my way around, especially after a move, until I am confident I can get from “point A” to “point B” without assistance. After a while I try going without the GPS to get to my new favorite hike, for example. At first there is an awkwardness and lack of confidence, but determination, in getting there on my own. Sometimes I make a wrong turn and am on the wrong course, but after many trials it becomes easier and eventually effortless because the pathway on the road is now mapped out in my brain. That’s called creating a “neuronal pathway”. 

Mapping and the GPS makes a perfect metaphor for our journey to experience a happier, healthier, and more balanced life. GPS = Generating Positive Steps for Well-being:

  • moving from stressful living towards balanced living;
  • from being unwell towards vibrant health;
  • from difficult relationships towards peaceful ones;
  • from negative attitudes towards “gr’attitude”;
  • from distracted towards focused, and so on.

Each of us has something in our lives that we would like to move away from, and move towards, to enjoy a better “place” of being. When we get “off course”, when we’re feeling lost, or finding ourselves making a “u-turn” towards old habits, we can use our map to head back in the direction we are going. 

Just like the GPS is a tool, so, too, there are mindfulness “tools” available for us to use that have been proven over and over to improve our well-being. The practice of mindfulness in daily living strengthens our brain and balances our bodies and minds. Some of you are still unclear on how mindfulness can help you, while others of you still feel “awkward” at integrating it into your life. I love to help guide people to move from your point A to your point B, whatever that may be. The paper maps we used on our traveling trips when I was growing up were marked with highlighters by the people at the AAA Auto Club to help us find our way. Let me highlight the way for you! It’s okay to ask for help when we need it as we journey along along!

If you have some experience with mindfulness, you understand that you continually need to keep charging up that “GPS tool” or it won’t “work” for you. Simply knowing mindfulness tools are available is not enough just like having a GPS in our car won’t do us any good if we don’t get in the car and turn it on and GO! When we take action to get to point B, that is what creates the changes in our lives that we desire or want. That’s our personal inner GPS resource or tool to Generate Positive Steps on your journey to well-being.

Here’s an example of a GPS~ 

How do you want to live, be, show up in the world today, tomorrow, the next day or week or year?

Mapping out Intentions:

      • I would like to experience more peace in my life (in myself, in my relationships, in my surroundings). 

Action Tools:

There are many, many ways to practice mindfulness and to increase resilience:

        1. Deepen my learning about mindfulness; 
        2. Develop greater self awareness ~ for example ~ notice when tension arises (awareness improves with mindfulness practice); 
        3. Practice reducing stress through grounding and activating the parasympathetic nervous system (Take a break; deep calming breaths; meditate; mindful movement; etc);
        4. Cultivate positivity through positive mindset, practicing gratitude, compassion;
        5. Connection to others (choose those who will help you spiral UP).
        6. and more!!!!

Result:

    • Feel more positive & balanced; overall happier; sleep better; and more! (See benefits)

When we respond more skillfully to life’s challenges by turning on our inner GPS, we are activating well-being that would have otherwise remained stuck in low gear! 

Relating the GPS to children:

Let’s go one last step further with this metaphor (it’s so much fun)! It is important for parents and educators to understand that WE are the child’s navigational system, helping them while their brains develop, while they learn about their emotions, and how to respond to life’s challenges because their brains are not fully developed until their mid-20’s. Our role is to help guide children until they have mapped out their own way (then we can be the backseat driver, with occasional directions)! Be like the GPS. The GPS doesn’t yell when we make a wrong turn – it simply restates the direction in a neutral voice. We too, as parents/educators, can be there to support our children as they navigate through difficult terrain and maybe pull over when the road feels bumpy and let someone else have a turn at “driving”.  

Are you ready?

If you ( or your family, your classroom) are ready to experience life in a whole new way, I will support you in setting your intentions to Generate Positive Steps towards activating your well-being. Discover your inner and outer resources to help you navigate from where you are currently, to where you want to be.

I invite you to check out my upcoming programs and services for children and for adults to help you highlight your map for planning your journey. Join Mindful Explorers virtual self-paced, nature-based mindfulness program for kids (elementary school ages) and their grown-ups at home or in school.

But remember, it’s YOU who holds the keys. It’s you in the driver’s seat!

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

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 ~ online and throughout San Luis Obispo County via Mindful Explorers (online), 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 currently launching programs in our local schools here on the Central Coast of CA.  Contact Dee to learn more.

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Sm’Heart Skills: The essential education for responding

more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!