Mindful Healing Through Storytelling

In the Native American tradition, stories are medicine. "In a mindfulness setting, storytelling helps people connect with their intuition," says Renda Dionne, clinical psychologist and mindfulness curriculum developer.

Renda Dionne, clinical psychologist and mindfulness curriculum developer. Photographs by Blake Farrington.

“For American Indians stories are medicine…being present with yourself and the audience and speaking from the heart.”

Renda Dionne grew up in southern California as a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. She married a Cahuilla traditional bird singer, and they now have two daughters. Family is a big focus of her life, and so is mindfulness—and bringing the two together. While studying at UCLA she discovered the practice and eventually became certified as a teacher through UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, where she was strongly influenced by long-time mindfulness teacher Diana Winston.

She went on to be mentored by Bonnie Duran—researcher, author, and professor from the University of Washington—who is dedicated to bringing mindfulness to Indian Country. These influences led to her decision to combine mindfulness practices with her own tradition of Native American spirituality in working with the trauma within Native American families.

After graduate school at the California School of Professional Psychology, Dionne began working with two tribal consortiums. She developed culturally tailored, evidence-based parenting programs for Native American families at Riverside San Bernardino Indian Health, served…