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:

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 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:

Are YOU a Peaceful Warrior?

Are YOU a Peaceful Warrior?

Calling all warriors to our upcoming retreat.

Recently I attended a workshop on “Breaking Down Resistance”, based on the book “War of Art – Winning the Inner Creative Battle” by Steven Pressfield. The speaker started out saying that we are at war every single day. War? C’mon! Isn’t that a bit negative?  I found myself cringing as I consider myself a practitioner of nonviolence. No! I’m not at war! Couldn’t there be better way to say that?  But I realized that I was battling the presentation and let go so I could be more present with the talk. She went on to share from the author, “The enemy is RESISTANCE. Resistance is ANYTHING that is keeping you from doing your work.” (1) Oh ~ I see where this is going! And, yes, I admit I have resistance that I am… uh, fighting, or trying to win over in my daily life. Don’t we all?

The foundation of what I teach in all my beginning classes and workshops is about the “stress response” because, for me, it helped me to understand what I am trying to conquer in my life (stressors). “The body has a built-in automatic emergency response that uses the nervous system and endocrine system to enhance the body’s performance when danger is perceived. Think of it as an emergency mechanism that the body mobilizes to give us an extra edge or “super-strength” when dangerous situations occur.” (2) For millions of years, there is a part of our brain that has helped us survive as a species. In a very simplistic description, we could say that if a saber-toothed tiger is attacking the caveman, his stress response kicks into fight or flight for survival. He either goes into fight mode to “kill or be killed” or into flight mode to escape ~ either way this increases the likelihood of his survival. This primitive part of the brain is still very much a part of our modern day brain and although there may be no more saber-toothed tigers, our brain responds to any “threat” – whether it’s from the piles of bills on our desk, to trying to fit in all our to-do’s, to handling our children’s arguments and tantrums, etc. The sympathetic nervous system is activated to immediately provide the resources to the parts of our body needed to fight danger (or to retreat to safety). Ready for battle! So, yes, it could be said, we are at war every day. 

Stress shows up in many guises ~  angry outbursts at the very people we love, tossing and turning in bed, irritability and impatience with the car in front of us, or the person taking up space in the grocery aisle with their cart, worrying about how to cover next month’s rent, lack of focus or motivation, and more.

For me, and for so many others, emotional pain and resistance are what show up on our mental battlefields daily. These are the contributors to the stress in our lives. When emotional pain, such as shame, anger, loneliness, fear, despair, confusion, shows up, we may resist (causing tension in body and mind) or allow ourselves to be conquered. We may become self-critical and end up in battle with ourselves. “Why can’t I cope?” ”Why me?” “What’s wrong with me?” We are often kinder and more compassionate to others than to ourselves. We’re often harsher and more unforgiving to ourselves than anyone else in our lives. So we tend to avert our attention away from our difficult emotions. We push them away, yell them away, even drown them away with business so we don’t have to face them. W. B. Yeats once wrote:

“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.”

Is it any wonder that, at times, we feel like retreating from life?

Emotional pain can be our daily landmines. And then there are the stressors of all of our “to-do’s” to keep up with ~ personally, professionally, and in our families or relationships. Is it any wonder that at times, we feel like retreating from life?

To retreat:

~withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power or after a defeat

~an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable

In article “The Disease of Being Busy” (3), Omid Safi writes, “How exactly are we supposed to examine the dark corners of our soul when we are so busy? How are we supposed to live the examined life? This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is… destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.”

Peaceful Warrior ~ Mindfulness + Kindfulness

Mindfulness teaches us a different way of relating to emotions in a healthier way. Put down the fists, drop the self-judgment, and instead of fighting emotions, we can be a witness to any difficult emotions arising, and to our own pain. We can then learn to respond with kindness, compassion, and understanding. This is an approach-state, moving toward a challenge, rather than away from it will help us to get through difficult emotions. 

“Respond to your pain with the same type of kindness you would show to a friend you cared about… we’re often harsher and more unforgiving to ourselves than anyone else in our lives.” ~ Kristin Neff

YOU are INvited ~ Retreat for Well-being

Join me for our upcoming mini-retreat (see link for date/info) for learning and practicing together the essentials of mindfulness and self-compassion to re-nourish YOU!  Enlist to become a peaceful warrior to free yourself from unhealthy, unhelpful, or destructive thoughts, emotions, and habits! 

A Retreat:

a quiet, private place that you go to in order to get away from your usual life;

a period of time when someone stops their usual activities and goes to a quiet, peaceful, safe place;

refuge ~ something to which one has recourse in difficulty

“All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.” ~ Herman Melville

The seeds of self-compassion already lie within you — learn how you can uncover this powerful inner resource and transform your life. Cutting-edge research shows that self-compassion is not only a skill anyone can strengthen through practice but also one of the strongest predictors of mental health and wellness.

Mindful habits and attitudes can positively impact and support you in responding to life as it is — the good stuff, the tough stuff, all of it– with grace and skill. Get your questions answered, receive guidance on challenges you may have, and get immediate feedback that you won’t get from an app or a book! You don’t need to do this alone! I will guide you along the way. 

This content is based upon the work from Kristen Neff, leading researcher on Self-Compassion, Tim Desmond, Christopher Germer, and more!

>>> Learn about our next Retreat <<<

“I don’t have time!” says Resistance.

Is your resistance telling you that you don’t have time? Carve out the time. You’re right – you don’t have time. You make time. For you, as well as for those in your life. 

“Resistance is ANY act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity – or expressed in another way – ANY act that derives from our higher nature than our lower.” (4) 

“If we do not know how to take care of ourselves and to love ourselves,

we cannot take care of the people we love.

Loving oneself is the foundation for loving another person.” 

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Benefits of Practicing Self-Compassion~

  • feel less stressed
  • improve ability to regulate and defuse intense emotions and depression
  • suffer from less maladaptive perfectionism
  • feel less shame
  • have less performance anxiety
  • have less body dissatisfaction
  • have less eating disorders
  • generates positive emotions and reduces negative emotions at the same time
  • increases happiness
  • increases coping and resilience
  • increases motivation
  • increases concern with others, more present and compassionate with others
  • increases health behaviors
  • increases immune function

In the few randomized control trials of the program, we’ve found that participation in the program increase self-compassion quite a lot, actually – by 43 percent. One thing we are really excited about is none of the gains we made in the program were lost after a year. Once you learned how to practice these skills, once you build that muscle, you can still continue to use the skill later on.

*Source of benefits above: Finding the Friend Within: The Science and Art of Self-Compassion  

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! 

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


1, 4 – “War of Art – Winning the Inner Creative Battle” by Steven Pressfield

2- What is the Stress Response?

3- The Disease of Being Busy

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:

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. 


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.


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.

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