Elaine Yuen

Elaine Yuen

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

Associate Professor | Chair, Department of Wisdom Traditions
Core Faculty


BA in Religious Studies
Contemplative Religions
Indo-Tibetan Buddhism
Master of Divinity


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

Research activity

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 150 - Buddhist Journey of Transformation
  • REL 658 - Homiletics and Ritual Arts
  • REL 603 - Contemplative Communication
  • REL 160 - Meditation Practicum I: Freeing the Mind
  • REL 714 - Introduction to Pastoral Care
  • REL 804 - Applied Ethics and Service Learning

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.