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Mindful : February 2018
the heart. We practice both mindful speaking and mindful listening within a story circle, as well as improvisa- tional games. In a mindfulness setting, storytelling helps people connect with their intuition. Speaking truth helps separate our conditioning from our intuitive wisdom. I emphasize the traditional Native A merican wisdom and traditional ways of knowing, and how that relates to present moment awareness—mindfulness. You also work with social workers in the Native American community. What particular issues do they face, and how can mindfulness help? They suffer from compassion fatigue, stress, and burnout. They have high case loads, and it’s easy to take on the stress and trauma of the people they work with. When I began at Riverside County, no one knew about mindful- ness. But I knew that whatever I did in my professional life, I was going to incorporate mindfulness into it. So when we had a staff meeting with Indian Child Welfare and River- side Department of Social Services Regional Managers, I decided to lead everybody in a mindfulness practice. One person said she just couldn’t do it, that the only way she could get into a mindful space was to take a really long hike. I didn’t feel very effective, but later I got a call, and they said they wanted me to come and do a mindfulness program for the social workers. We did a 10-week program and evaluated the program for results. The program reduced both compas- sion fatigue and stress. Productivity increased. And supervisors took up a three-minute breathing space during their workday! Since then interest has increased, and I presented the program with them at the California Social Work Education Center Annual Conference. “Our deep connection to ourselves, to each other, and to the earth and the universe is where our humanity lies.” Can you tell us about your own practice of mindfulness? At times, I’m practicing daily for 45 minutes. Then I get sloppy. When that happens, I go to a retreat or a training, and that helps me get back to practic- ing more rigorously. I also really like yoga and use that as a mindfulness practice. When I work with my cli- ents, I do the practices with them, and I practice through remembering to be kind to people every day—something I learned from Bonnie Duran. What are you working on right now? I’m working with Riverside Univer- sity Health Systems and a council of American Indian professionals on a curriculum to promote wellness through remembering who we are using mindfulness and storytelling. And, as I mentioned, I’m also working on the Mindful Families project with my colleague Betsy Davis, a research scientist at the Oregon Research Insti- tute. Having done this group with Native American families, I’m now interested in developing it for all fam- ilies. If you go back to the beginning, we’re all indigenous people and our deep connection to ourselves, to each other, and to the earth and universe is where our humanity lies. Mindful- ness means to remember, and finding our center requires remembering our interconnectedness. ● February 2018 mindful 57