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Mindful : February 2018
Preparing for a Mindful Families group session, Renda gathers with her husband Luke Madrigal (above), a Cahuilla Bird Singer; their daughter Sophia; American Indian Council members; and past participants of Mindful Families. During their session, sage is used for smudging; the drum, like a bell, signals time during mindfulness prac- tice. The turtle shell reflects a Chippewa traditional story. Karin Evans: Tell me how you first became aware of mindfulness, and how it fits into the Native American tradition. Renda Dionne: I remember growing up in the Orange County area being surrounded mostly by concrete, until I found the perfect climbing tree, where I spent a lot of time, sitting and swinging from branch to branch. That required a lot of present-moment awareness and connection to nature. As a child you are in the present moment anyway, but when you are jumping from limb to limb, you really have to pay attention. Nature is very good at offering opportunities to prac- tice mindfulness. I spent a lot of time in that tree! Later, the idea of mindfulness really resonated for me when I was in graduate school and first went to hear Thich Nhat Hanh. I was so struck with his way of teaching, and how it was rooted in nature and interrelated- ness. He would use aspects of nature in his teaching, and it was so deep and yet so simple: “Breathing in, I am a mountain....” He concentrated on the spirit of the mountain in a meditative way and really connected to nature through the practice. He said that when you are drinking a cup of tea, be aware that you are drinking a cloud, and that the tea has sunshine in it. He talked about interconnectedness. Most tribes understand that we are all connected and even have a word for that concept in their language, which means “All My Relations.” In Chip- pewa, it’s Indinawaymainganug. Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching really resonated with me as a Native American. That was when I really started practicing. What issues for the Native American community concern you most? Native Americans have a long history of trauma, and even Western science has shown that trauma can be passed down through generations. According to Michael Yellow Bird, a sociologist, researcher, and writer, if we are to undo the effects of colonialism, each → February 2018 mindful 55