Elaine Yuen

eyuen@naropa.edu | (303) 245-4718

Associate Professor


Master of Divinity - Core Faculty
BA in Religious Studies - Core Faculty
MA in Religious Studies: Indo-Tibetan Buddhism - Core Faculty
MA in Religious Studies: Contemplative Religions - Core Faculty


PhD, University of Pennsylvania
MBA, Temple University
BFA, University of Chicago

From the heart

I think everyone that is here at Naropa - the faculty, staff, students, are passionate about the value of contemplative education, and we all work very hard to explore what it is, how it can be of value in a larger societal context, and what barriers (personal, interpersonal and societal) might be there that prevent its expression.  

Recent publications and presentations

Yuen EJ and Byrnes J.  Hearing the Cries of the World: Compassion Training to Meet Contemporary Challenges.  Compassionate Approaches to Living and Dying: Transforming the Paradigm.  Naropa University, Boulder CO, December 7-10, 2018.

Abstract: The profession of improving the health and well-being of others is person-intensive – and demands an interpersonal and human connection to those being cared for, as well as extensive professional knowledge.  Contemplative spiritual caregiving is neither science nor art, but a craft that combines theoretical, technical, and philosophical principles with inner intuition, skillful communication, and a dynamic ability to reside in the present moment.  This workshop will examine the nature of compassion, and how contemporary challenges within healthcare and other settings may be addressed with bravery and resiliency by identifying habitual patterns of listening, speaking, and meaning-making.  For a blog on the conference: https://naropablog.com/2018/02/21/compassionate-approaches-to-living-and-dying-transforming-the-paradigm/

 Yuen EJ.  Clinical Pastoral Education.  Re-Awakening to Our Inter-connected World, Yokohama, Japan.  November 7, 2017.  http://jneb.jp/english/activities/dyingcar/internationalconf-suicideprevention

Yuen EJ.  Mindfulness Practice for Being with Suffering & Grief.  Tokyo Jikei School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan, November 4, 2017. http://jneb.jp/english/japan/rinbutsuken/jikeisymposium2017

Yuen EJ, Gauthier J, Kinst D, Miller, L.  Professional Endorsement for Buddhist Chaplains.  Wisdom NOW, Fall 2017.  http://magazine.naropa.edu/wisdom-traditions-fall-2017/features/upaya-buddhist-ministry.php

Yuen EJ. Self Compassion and Moral Injury.  Caring for the Human Spirit 2017, Chicago, IL, March 14, 2017. 

Abstract: The profession of improving the health and well-being of others by its nature is person‐intensive – and demands an interpersonal and human connection to those being cared for, as well as extensive professional knowledge. Those who choose to work in health care are often inspired by wanting to help others, and have trained extensively in many medical modalities and procedures that serve to lessen the suffering that patients and their families often experience. This workshop will describe domains of self-compassion, explore how these principles may address stress response and moral injury within health care professions; and, will explore how contemplative exercises may help professionals to identify and work with stress, moral injury, and compassion fatigue.

Yuen EJ.  Culture, context and the contemplative classroom.   Diverse Learners Awareness Week, University of Colorado, February 21, 2017.

Abstract: Understanding culture, context, and diversity often demands that students and teachers be responsive to individual and collective dynamics. Within the classroom, contemplative practices (which may include but are not limited to modalities such as mindfulness, yoga, and reflection) have the possibility to support the understanding and embodiment of one’s diversity and culture. In particular, teachers and students can find that the often spacious qualities of contemplative approaches allow more deeply embedded personal and social aspects of context and culture to arise.  This workshop will present a framework for exploring these experiences of classroom space and interaction.  Experiential exercises will demonstrate how the classroom as a learning community can unearth difficult conversations through the felt sense of environment and somatic experience, as well as how mindful inquiry may support joining these emotions with resilience and greater empathy. 

Yuen EJ.  Humility and Humanity : Contemporary Perspectives on Healthcare Chaplaincy.  In : Shadows & Light: Theory, Research, & Practice in Transpersonal Psychology (Vol 1 & 2), edited by FL Kaklauskas et al.  University Professors Press, 2016. 

Yuen EJ.  Creating a Contemplative Classroom.  National Teaching and Learning Forum 25(5):6-7, September 2016. 

Compassion, Contemplative Practice, and Ethics in STEM. Contemplative Mind in Higher Education Conference, Washington DC, October 2015.

Yuen EJ. Shared Community Experiences, Well-Being and Compassion.  International Symposium for Contemplative Studies, San Diego CA, November 11, 2016. 

Yuen EJ.  Methods and Applications for Research in Spiritual Care Settings.  Association of Professional Chaplains Annual Meeting, Louisville, Kentucky, June 3, 2015.

Cultural Humility and Pastoral Care, Association of Professional Chaplains, Santa Monica CA, June 2014

Attending with Body, Speech and Mind: the Practice of Basic Attendance, Association of Professional Chaplains, Orlando FL, 2013.

Buddhist Perspectives on Cultivating Contentment, Chautauqua Institute, Chautauqua NY, 2013 

Research activity

Both Wings of the Bird: Examining More than Mindfulness in Buddhist-informed Psychotherapies.  Naropa colleagues Jordan Quaglia, PhD, Ian Wickramasekera, PhD, MacAndrew Jack, PhD,

Upadhyaya Elaine Yuen, PhD, Francis J. Kaklauskas, PsyD, Deborah Bowman, PhD have been funded for three years by the Bridges Consortium, based at Brigham Young University and supported by the John Templeton Foundation.  The Naropa project will highlight the integration of Buddhist principles in psychotherapy to provide insight on types of spiritual interventions that may be used in-session.

Mindfulness and Compassion in Undergraduate Psychology Students at Naropa, working with Jane Carpenter in a longitudinal study to measure mindfulness utilizing the MAAS mindfulness trait scale and the Neff Short Form Self Compassion and Compassion to Others scales.

Musical Improvisation Fosters Awareness, Creativity and Teamwork in Engineering Students, a collaboration between Naropa and Virginia Tech, 2014-2015. Poster presentation at Contemplative Mind in Higher Education Conference, Washington DC 2015

Courses taught

  • REL 130 - Naropa's Roots and Branches
  • REL 150 - Buddhist Journey of Transformation
  • REL 160 - Meditation Practicum I: Freeing the Mind
  • REL 602 - Contemplative Communication
  • REL 658 - Homiletics and Ritual Arts
  • REL 714 - Introduction to Pastoral Care
  • REL 804 - Applied Ethics and Service Learning
  • CNST 710 - Research and Program Evaluation

What book do you find yourself regularly pressing into the hands of students?

I love the book "Beside Still Waters: Jews, Christians, and the Way of the Buddha" edited by Kasimow, Keenan and Keenan.  It's a series of personal essays on meditation practice written by persons of the Christian and Jewish faiths.  The essays cover a wide range of approaches to, and experiences of, meditation, and writers describe how they have integrated meditation practice into their faith traditions.  

Describe a moment when you helped a student reach an “ah ha” or transformational moment.

In my ritual class we talk about how the forms of ritual, through enactments of body, speech, and mind, point to a sacred space, often beyond reference point.  A few weeks ago one of my students put together a remembrance ceremony for a family friend, bringing objects and stories. But it was only after the ritual, where the class participated with him, that he truly understood the emotional and spiritual power that a simple classroom ceremony might engender.

What does it mean to you when somebody says, “That’s so Naropa?”

There is no place like Naropa - coming from a career of teaching in Shambhala Centers as well as at a more traditional university - there's a blend of very in-depth contemplative practice(s) within an academic setting.  It's both far-out, and also traditional.  Sooo Naropa. 

What's next?

Right now I'm putting together a Front Range Conference entitled "Reimagining Death and Dying: How We Care."  It will explore how contemplative practice enriches and improves end-of-life care for practitioners, professionals, and patients.  It's sponsored by the MDiv Program and the School of Extended Studies - and we're considering a national conference next year, as well as some course offerings through Extended Studies.