Elder Kaia Svien
Elder Kaia (she/her) -meditation instructor, ceremonialist, mentor, spiritual guide and community activist- blends ancient wisdom ways with a passion for cultural healing through experiential exploration, symbol, story, deep listening and loving-kindness. Her passion lies in manifesting the essence of the Divine Feminine in daily practice and as a guide for our psychological and spiritual passage through the environmental changes ahead.
Elder Kaia delights in assisting people in developing lovingkindness and compassion towards themselves and others. She is especially interested in working with people who have a passion for community service. As she’s moved into her Elder years, Kaia finds herself witnessing closely the journey the spirit makes after death and honoring that passage in ancient ceremony. Kaia brings unique skills as a creative thinker and idea generator, risk-taker, gentle trickster, and compassionate affirmer of people’s current essence and potential for growth.
As a cultural teacher, Elder Kaia co-lead the first public ritual at the Take Back the Night March in Minneapolis in 1980, and since then has participated in national and local peace marches, with some arrests, sometimes as media spokesperson. She designed and implemented the Iraq Photo Project, a community response of photos and messages to the people of Iraq on the torture of Iraqis by US military. She has continued to work with the subsequent Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project. Kaia facilitates courses on the work of Joanna Macy and the Great Turning.
As a ceremonialist, Elder Kaia has developed and taught cultural wisdom classes, and facilitated many ceremonies for individuals and groups seeking multi-dimensional ways to mark life’s transitions, honor Earth and find life-meaning. She has been honored for her ability to create sacred space though the making the altars and has written a series for a metro newspapers on creating ritual. In 1999 she published her first novel, To Follow the Moon, a story drawn from the Wisdom Ways of European Americans. Elder Kaia has been invited into and embraced the role of elder in her community.
Elder Kaia began her studies of European-American Ancient Wisdom with Selena Fox in Mt Horeb, WI, in the 1980s and has continued them with Starhawk, Antiga, Spiderwimmin, colleagues at the Powderhorn/Phillips Cultural Wellness Center, and other regional and national teachers. She has also studied hypnosis, guided imagery, Reiki, and Mindell’s Process Therapy.
In the mindfulness realm, Elder Kaia has trained with Jon Kabat-Zinn, Thich Nhat Hanh as well as many regional teachers, and follows the teachings of Pema Chodron and Jack Kornfield. She co-designed and facilitated A Year of Living Mindfully at the University of MN’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, a course combining mindfulness meditation and seasonal wisdom. Kaia designed and taught for many years a mindfulness course in the Master’s of Holistic Health Studies program at the University of St Catherine. She offers advanced mindfulness courses on working with difficult emotions and peacemaking.
Elder Kaia’s original profession was a Learning Disabilities Specialist for adolescents and adults. In her thirty four years of teaching she worked in a range of settings including the University of Minnesota, the LDA Reading and Math Clinic, private practice, two women’s prisons, and various hospitals and corporate settings. Her most thrilling work as an educator was supporting those who learn differently, focusing on finding their gifts and strengths rather than on their failings in the traditional learning system.
She co-founded and co-directed a non-profit clinic for people with learning disabilities as well as HECLD (Higher Education Consortium on Learning Disabilities, a model now used in several states), designed study skills seminars and assessment tools for college and secondary students who learn differently, and taught on various topics related to whole-brain learning, self-esteem building, and study skills. Kaia has published papers in two academic journals, and co-founded and co-edited the Consortium for Whole Brain Learning, an international newsletter.