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Dacher Keltner I’m Dacher Keltner. Welcome to Happiness Break, a new series from The Science of Happiness. Today we’re doing a practice aimed at connecting us to our own selves and to the land we’re standing on. Standing with us today is my dear colleague, Dr. Yuria Celidwen. Yuria is a contemplative studies scholar of Nahua and Maya descent from Chiapas, Mexico. She also works at the United Nations, supporting international efforts for a more sustainable planet.
Today, Yuria is going to guide us in a practice to help us connect to ourselves and whatever land we’re standing on right now. The belief that connecting with the natural world improves our well-being appears repeatedly through recorded human history. It’s at the heart of my own research on awe. Immersing ourselves in nature calms the nervous system. It reduces cortisol. It elevates vagal tone. It is linked to prosocial tendencies like increased generosity, cooperation, kindness, creativity, and even less ideological polarization. It’s a great way to help with anxiety and fear. There’s a host of benefits. Why? Because I think immersing ourselves in nature really quiets down the hard voices of the 21st century, of materialism and consumerism and transactionalism, and us-versus-them thinking. For that reason, I recommend you do this next practice outside, and if you can, and if you’re willing, with your shoes off and no socks, just your bare feet, ideally on grass, dirt, sand, somewhere natural. One cool study from the University of Exeter’s Medical School found that people feel more restored and more of a sense of connectedness when they walk barefoot on the beach compared to people who walk the same path but with shoes on. Here now is Dr. Yuria Celidwen.
Yuria Celidwen My name is Yuria Celidwen, and I honor the occupied territories of the Huichin, one of the many Ohlone bands of the East Bay Area, the Berkeley area, where I am speaking today. [TRANSLATION: Speaking in Indigenous Nahuatl and Tzeltal languages.] Hello, my name is Yuria Celidwen. I am from Ocosingo Coelhá, from the Nahua and Maya peoples of the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. I am very grateful for your attention and presence to my heart and words. I honor the rightful stewards of the Lands Muwekma Ohlone Peoples, from where I speak today; and the abundance and fertility of the Lands of my lineage in Chiapas. May we continue to care for these Lands and honor our relatives all around.
What you just heard are my Indigenous Nahuatl and Tzeltal languages, and speaking my Indigenous languages is a statement towards challenging human othering in creating awareness of the massive cultural extinction that follows global biodiversity loss, and thus generating places of belonging to an ever expansive circle of care and concern for earth systems and communities. This in itself will create the possibility for planetary health.
If you’re wearing shoes or socks or sandals, just take them off and place your feet, the soles of your feet well on the ground. And so, we start by bringing the attention to the Earth. Our container. Our vessel of nourishment. Our space and place of being, acting, and becoming. Allow the earth to open and welcome you, to hold you in that container of safety. Pay attention at how the Earth feels. Grounded. Reliable. Always there for you. You fall, she is there to catch you. Sense that groundedness. Imagine you’re starting to grow roots from the tip of your toes and digging deep into the Earth. Twisting, turning, discovering, until you find a chamber. A chamber in the vastness. A fertile, beautiful blackness. That’s the Earth in all its potentiality. And as you become a seed, you rest in this chamber, in this womb, in this well of possibilities. And you sense yourself safe and belonging, protected. That potential that the seed will look and discover as you bloom into the world. And sense that from all around, the beautiful, caring Earth, nourishing Earth, that healing, nourishing sap of love. And sense that wellness flowing through your roots, turning, twisting, discovering upwards. To the tip of your toes, into the soles of your feet, your thighs and knees, and base of the spine and upwards into your chest, expanding the whole center of your chest, allowing for a full deep breath of openness. Allow that sap of love also go continue upwards into the crown of your head and reaching out into the skies, embracing the whole of the skies around you. And as you’re opening your eyes, you see the horizon, the wellness of beings all around, the subtleness, the playfulness of the light and the shade and the shadows, the colors and the forms, and the beings around. And as they go into a rain from the crown of your head and from the center of your chest, from your heart outwards, reaching all these beings, sharing all this sap of wellness and love and possibilities of belonging and together. And as you look outwards, see all these beings receptive, also turning back at you, smiling as you smile at them, and committing for action for their wellness. As they also share their wellness, they’re nourishing their presence with you. Right here. Right now.
Dacher Keltner I’m Dacher Keltner. Thanks for joining us on this Happiness Break. That was Dr. Yuria Celidwen, an Indigenous scholar of Nahua and Maya descent, who teaches contemplative studies and works at the United Nations to help create a healthier planet. We’ll be back next week with another episode of The Science of Happiness. Until then, we hope you’re well. If you don’t mind my saying, stay grounded. Happiness Break is a production of PRX and UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. You can find us on Amazon Music or wherever you get your podcasts.