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!

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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


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:

Courage ~ The Season for Nonviolence

Courage ~ The Season for Nonviolence

The Season for Nonviolence began last week. Co-founded by Gandhi’s grandson, Arun, and the Association for Global New Thought (AGNT), the annual 64-day Season for Nonviolence was launched at the United Nations in 1998 and has been at the heart of the work I have done for “Caring and Courageous Kids” back in 2009, and for what is now “Mindful Kindful YOUniversity”. The season spans these two memorial anniversaries: Mahatma Gandhi (January 30th) and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 4th). It’s the first time in years I forgot to start on January 31st. In actuality, it doesn’t matter when I start posting “Reminders” because, afterall, Thanksgiving isn’t the only time we practice gratitude, or Valentine’s Day isn’t the only time we practice kindness and love! Likewise practicing non-violence is a life-long commitment, and like any virtues, value, or habits, it takes a life-time of reminders and practices to keep coming back to the heart, and back to peaceful intentions. The Season for Nonviolence offers a “thought for today” for 64 days. Today’s thought for the day is COURAGE.

AGNT shares: “When you discover that everyone is contained in you and you are contained in everyone, you have realized the unity of life, which is the divine ground of existence. Then you are not just a person; you have become a beneficial force. Wherever you go, wherever you live, those around you will benefit from your life. Even one unassuming man or woman in a community has the courage to lead a nonviolent life, she will make her contribution, and she will slowly inspire others to make the same contribution, because human nature responds to such an example. When we can say, “Whatever comes, we will not be afraid because the divine Self is within us,” then this resoluteness and faith will enable us to work free from tension, agitation, and fear of defeat. The person who works in this way is at peace, because he or she is not anxious about results.” (1)

In our daily lives, we can inwardly reflect about our own thoughts and actions and reflect on whether our thoughts, words, and actions align with how we want to show up in life. Sometimes it takes a great deal of courage to be honest about ourselves, and it takes courage to try again.  Anne Frank once said “I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

This week Mindful Kindful YOUniversity launched our Mindful Teen Program and the students were asked to journal their thoughts about the following two questions:

  • What would you like different in your life?
  • What is going on in your life right now that isn’t working for you and is possibly a problem?

When they finished writing I told them that since they already have to deal with this/these problems in their day- to- day life, they don’t need to hold on to this/these problems – the problem they wrote about can stay in this class/in the journal. Then they were to journal a response to these questions:

  • What do you think of the idea of letting go of your problems and leaving them here?
  • Is this something you can try? If so, how?

After finishing this part, this being our first class, some were reluctant to share to the group, however the most reserved person said, “that feels really good – I didn’t know I could do that.” Another added, “I realized some of the stress I have I put it on myself and I can maybe try to let go.” They are on their way to learning how to let go of harmful thoughts and to begin developing the habits which will contribute to their well-being and positively impacting those around them.

In our Dragonfly Circles class this week (for younger students) we also had a journaling activity:

  • #1- Draw or write about a time when something didn’t go as expected and you got upset with yourself. How did you feel? What message did you think or say to yourself that was not being a friend to yourself ? Write the message in a talking bubble.
  • #2- After you finish #1 cross out the old message with an “x” and write a new message in a new talking bubble. Say something that feels like you are talking to a good friend. What could you say that would create good feelings in your heart? Use words that are kind and caring. Does that change how you feel about yourself? When we create good feelings inside our hearts we call that “heartprints”. You can make a heartprint next to your new message!

To teach and practice non-violence and world peace with youth, and with ourselves, we begin within, by paying attention to the very thoughts that come up in our own minds.  We can learn how to notice judging and harmful thoughts and meet each one with compassion. We can let go of thoughts that do not support our well-being, and open our hearts to peace.

Today you can light a candle to symbolize a commitment to accept the COURAGE

to practice 64 Ways of living nonviolently.

I’ll be posting on Instagram & Facebook with daily REminders throughout the Season for Nonviolence! Join me!

(1) Season for Nonviolence, 64 Ways in 64 Days http://www.agnt.org/64-days

Dee DiGioia, founder of Mindful Kindful YOUniversity, offers a Mindfulness-based Social-Emotional Learning Program 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:

ABC’s of Mindfulness

The ABC’s of Mindfulness

for all ages!

The rewards of practicing mindfulness have the potential to transform your attitudes, values, behaviors, and physical & emotional well-being in a very positive and powerful way, which you may hardly notice, that is… until you notice them! Research is proving this over and over again! Here at the “YOUniversity”, we are learning and practicing our ABC’s of mindfulness, from kids to grownups. Join us! Decide how you want to “be” or show up in life.

Is there a mindful quality you would like to strengthen or empower in yourself? Why not select a mindful quality from the list below that you would like to notice and practice just for today, or for this week, or month!

What is your superpower?

“I am…” “My practice in this moment is to be…”

Aware, Attentive, Accepting, Appreciative, Attuned, Authentic, Adaptable, Alert, Accountable, Awesome

Balanced, Breathing, Beautiful, Brave, Being (Not Doing)

Compassionate, “Compassionfit”, Caring, Courageous, Calm, Connected, Centered, Curious, Creative, Content, Capable, Committed, Considerate, Cooperative, Confident, Contemplative

Dynamic, Disciplined, Deep, Deliberate, Discerning, Determined, Dependable

Empowered, Energized, Embodied, Emotionally Intelligent (EQ), Enriched, Empathetic, Effective, Ethical, Extraordinary

Focused, Flexible, Forgiving, Flourishing, Friendly, Fortitude

Grateful, Gracious, Generous, Growing, Guiding, Gentle

Heartful, Happy, Healthy, Holistic, Honorable, Helpful, Honest, Harmonious

Intentional, Inspired, Inspiring, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Inquiring, Insightful, Intuition

Joyful, Judicious

Kind, Kindful, Knowledgeable

Loving, Lovable, Leader, Listener, Letting go, Limitless

Mindful, Magnanimous, Modest

Non-judgmental, Non-violent, Non-harming, Nurturing, Noticer, Non-striving

Optimistic, Open, Open-hearted, Open-minded, Observant, Objective

Positive, Peaceful, Passionate, Patient, Present, Playful, Powerful, Principled

Quiet, Questioning

Resilient, Relaxed, Response-able, Reflective, Risk-taker, Reliable, Resourceful, Respectful

Skillful, Sm’Heart, Self-compassionate, Self-aware, Socially-aware, Self-disciplined, Strong, Silent, Still, Sage, Safe

Thoughtful, Transforming, Trusting, Trustworthy, Truthful, Thankful

Understanding, Upstanding, Unfolding

Virtuous, Versatile, Vibrant, Venturesome

Wise, Welcoming, Well, Warm, Willing

Xenodochial (friendly to strangers)

YOU, Yes(!), Youthful, Yogic

Zestful, Zealous

Are there any you would add? Let us know! Post in comments below!

This list will be updated from time to time and was last updated 1/18/19.



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 hopes to develop programs in our local schools here on the Central Coast of CA.  Contact Dee to learn more.

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Right now, it’s like this

Several years ago I began learning about mindfulness so I could teach it as a calming strategy for my students with challenging behaviors. As it turns out, we were learning together because the more I studied about mindfulness, I also became the student and began deepening my own practice. Learning about the neuroscience behind human behavior became the most important piece (and peace) in my own life by having a positive impact on my own challenging behaviors (or reactions) to life! The practice of mindfulness involves cultivating awareness of our experiences from moment to moment with curiosity and with non-judgment, leading to a greater understanding of ourselves and of others. It is the noticing of what is happening at this moment as it really is and not trying to change it. I have loved this description by James Baraz: 
“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”
Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to see young children taking these life skills into their own lives: practicing taking a pause before responding to challenging situations, deep breaths for calming, living in gratitude, sharing kindful compassionate wishes to others, and so on. These are the skills which will be needed throughout life and actually become traits of living mindfully. Learning and practicing never, ever ends. Each moment, each experience, each interaction with others, each thought, each choice of words and actions is a learning experience. How we feel about it is how we feel. It is what it is. We feel sad, happy, upset, stressed, grateful, angry, terrified. It’s what we do next that can be cultivated or not. We can allow our brains to be on auto-pilot and simply react to everything, or we can learn to notice and pay attention to how we are feeling, what is happening in our bodies, and create the space to observe with curiosity and then proceed with creativity.
I work in a school setting as a speech-language therapist with a very high caseload and enormous heaps of responsibilities and expectations for one person to carry. It is what it is. Some moments of the day I am feeling joy-filled (usually when I am working with the students) and some moments I am feeling overwhelmed and stressed to the max! I had to laugh when I saw this description by Richard Siken: 
“Eventually something… is going to be taken away. And then you will fall to the floor crying. And then, however much later, it is finally happening to you: you’re falling to the floor crying thinking, “I am falling to the floor crying,” but there’s an element of the ridiculous to it — you knew it would happen and, even worse, while you’re on the floor crying you look at the place where the wall meets the floor and you realize you didn’t paint it very well.”
In that moment of awareness of the feelings as they are, and the situation as it is, we have made a conscious shift. Each time we shift to the present moment as it is, we are creating new habits of the mind. We let go of trying to control an experience. It’s not supposed to be anything. Right now, it’s like this.  David Beach explains:
“It is not that way. It is this way. It is like this. Nothing more and nothing less. It’s just this. Just this. Understand, we are not allowing it to be like this – it already is. It does not need our approval to be any certain way. Our practice is to open up. To wake up into the now. The vast empty now. And see it for how it actually is. To see that, it’s like this.
And like this…
And this…”
Throughout my day, no matter what I am feeling, I have cultivated “awe” in my life. I love that moment of shifting and awakening to a grateful moment ( #gratefulmoment ) when, no matter how I am feeling, I become aware of something awe-inspiring. The photo at the top of the page is an example of this. As I walked to my car feeling exhausted after a very stress-filled week I noticed the sun shining brightly on this wall, casting shadows of the delicate flowers. And yes, that wall could use a fresh coat of paint. Smiling. 


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:

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