Yuria Celidwen, PhD, I was born into an Indigenous Nahua and Maya family of mystics, healers, poets, and explorers from the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. I grew up with one foot in the wilderness and another in magical realism. My Elders’ songs and stories enthralled my childhood. They enhanced my mythic imagination and emotional intuition, which became the fertile soil where the seeds of kindness, play, and wonder dig their roots. In my PhD and subsequent scholarly research, I focus on the intersection of Indigenous studies, cultural psychology, and contemplative science. I am interested in interdisciplinary approaches to how the experience of self-transcendence is embodied, and enhances prosocial behavior (ethics and compassion) across ecstatic traditions. From this work I am uncovering Indigenous contemplative practices from Tibet to Mexico, and finding their place in contemplative studies.
From my work on Indigenous contemplative science, I developed my thesis on the earth-based experience of the Ethics of Belonging. This ethos engenders conscious social responsibility for self, community, and environment. It implies a renewed sense of order (cosmos) through a system of integration of ecological and ethical awareness of individual and collective, material and subtle, adaptive and interactive, and meaningful relational purpose within a community. Within this work, I examine how our personal stories relate to cultural accounts can transform our identities and the social and racial injustices of our times. My work at the United Nations supports international humanitarian efforts for the implementation of the Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals. My concentration is the advancement of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the rights of the Earth. The materials we create are distributed globally and reach vast audiences, from Heads of State, academic institutions, and the general public. I also established the first long-term mindfulness and compassion training workshop for UN staff in 2016, which was disseminated to all UN stations worldwide.
I teach and lead workshops on prosocial contemplative practices (rewilding, nature immersion, mindfulness, compassion, kindness, gratitude, awe, etc.) from an Indigenous perspective. I emphasize cultivating a sense of reverence and ecological belonging, raising awareness of social and environmental justice and community-engaged practices. I promote revitalizing Indigenous languages and traditional medicine and conservation. I am affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley, in the Department of Psychology and the Institute of Personality and Social Research, where I am conducting research into how Indigenous Peoples psychologies are expressed through self-transcendent practices of contemplation, and developing my talents for laboratory science, including experimental design, physiological measurement, and the concepts and tools of social and cultural psychology. I am a joyful Senior Fellow at the Other & Belonging Institute (OBI) of the University of California, Berkeley, where I am engaging in bridging and belonging work to reclaim the voices and rights of Indigenous Peoples and our Mother Earth.
As an Indigenous woman and as a scholar, I have taken the quest to bring the voices of Indigenous peoples of the world as equal holders of sophisticated systems of contemplative insight. I am committed to the reclamation, revitalization, and transmission of our Indigenous wisdom, and the advancement of our Indigenous rights and the rights of the Earth for social and environmental justice. I co-chair the Indigenous Religious Traditions Unit of the American Academy of Religion, and I am part of the steering committee of the Contemplative Studies Unit.