Founder and Executive Director of SOUL WATER RISING
Internationally recognized professional speaker
Has addressed over a quarter of a million youth and adults
Author, Lyric of Silence, a poetic telling of the human soul journey
Author, adoption memoirBlack Baby White Hands: A View from the Crib
Author, Reflection Pond, a meditation on identity, culture, and healing in children separated from original family
Author, Beautiful, poetry celebrating children and youth separated from original family
Author, Legendary, a poetic tribute to those who honorably serve devalued children
Doctor of social psychology with a focus on identity and intergroup relations
Two decades as a speaker, author, poet, and youth mentor and advocate
Consultant to child welfare, social service, and educational organizations worldwide
Professor of social psychology at Howard University 1995-1998
Jaiya John was born into foster care in the high mountain desert of New Mexico. It was the beginning of a life of Amazing Grace. Latino and Native American essence imprinted his soul like ancient Anasazi rock paintings. As an African American and Native American, his struggle with cultural isolation was a forging fire. Jaiya slowly grew from childhood muteness and private self-destruction into a realization of purpose. As a college teenager, an encounter with the poet Nikki Giovanni broke through his shell and silence. Jaiya beheld in Giovanni a powerful example of what it meant to Love yourself and to make your life like poetry: a free, unbridled expression of beauty and Truth. That night, he wrote his first poem, staining the pages in tears of long desired emotional release.
Soon after, Jaiya’s spirit led him to the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal, where he found a sacred spirit of land, people, and heritage. He discovered the fiercely devoted lives of Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Leper colonies, street children, and resilient parents humbled him. Living with a local Lama family and trekking for seven weeks from the jungle of Nepal’s southern border at India to the icy heights of Mount Everest, he glimpsed a vision for human existence. Even in dire material poverty, the people of Nepal exuded warmth, kindness, openness, and vital light. Seeking to understand, Jaiya studied Tibetan holistic medicine through private conversation with Nepal’s healers. Their message: “The souls you serve are your teacher. Be their student. Learn their life. Healing has nothing to do with treating symptoms, and everything to do with honoring every single grain of a human life. This is the root. Once you arrive at the root, you may bless the tree.”
Jaiya returned to Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and then earned his doctorate degree in social psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Even as a professor at Howard University from 1995 to 1998, the flower of Jaiya’s life purpose was continuing to open. His heart and spirit had always been drawn to human suffering: the reflection of profound human beauty. In a step of faith, filled with an astounding Peace, Jaiya founded his ministry and reason for being: Soul Water Rising, a global human mission. He sits in sacred circle with youth, and as a speaker has shared soulful time with over a quarter of a million people. Thousands of his books on our human journey have been donated to youth programs and schools worldwide. His life is like poetry.
Ph.D. University of California, Santa Cruz; 1994; social psychology. M.S. University of California, Santa Cruz; 1992; social psychology. B.A. Lewis & Clark College, Portland, OR; 1989; psychology.
International Study: Kathmandu, Nepal. 1988. Comprehensive study of the nation (language, history, education, medicine, ethnic groups, etc.), including qualitative, interview survey study of Tibetan medicine philosophy and Tibetan doctors.
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