Meet Dharma River
Dharma River began some years ago as the result of a recurring dream we, Paul Kisho Stern and Trish Baishin Johnson, continued to have over the course of many years. Sometimes our ideas and inspirations showed up in the middle of a conversation, other times in the middle of the night, and other times in a quiet moment. Although our ideas weren’t crystal clear, the soil from which these ideas were germinating remained the same; to provide a space that supported individuals and groups of people coming together to realize and manifest a more compassionate, intentional, engaged, and inclusive community. We knew from our own experiences (and from research!) that sustaining these kinds of efforts and commitments first requires being committed to learning about and caring for one’s own self. At the core, our ideas were (and still are!) to create a space that provided diverse, holistic practices that supported the development of a healthy mind, body, and spirit, in a setting and manner accessible to as many people as possible. Our ongoing commitment and goal remains to offer programming that fosters individual and group cultivation of contemplative, movement, and healing practices that help folks live better within the spaces of their own lives so that they can both inspire and support a more compassionate, healthy, and safe world.
Dharma River Team
Roshi Paul Kisho Stern
Senior Zen Teacher
Priest & Dharma River Spiritual Director
Coach/Instructor (範士四段) Miao Kong Martial Arts Association (Taiwan, US)
Instructor – Plum Blossom Martial Arts/Golden Leopard Kung fu (US)
“Everything we do matters. Even the smallest of activities play a significant and cumulative role in shaping our individual lives, and further all of these activities weave into the tapestry of this fantastic and wondrous world we move in and through. This manifests in a dance that weaves the fabric of living and being woven as part of that same tapestry.”
~ Paul Kisho Stern – Founder, Teacher
Kisho sees his work at Dharma River and in life in general as being focused on developing dynamic, holistic learning contexts that allow for a deeper engagement with and understanding of our human condition. Through developing compassionate and wise insights into the nature of living, we are enabled to more fully engage in practices that allow deeper connection and compassion with ourselves, our communities, and our world. It is through this pathway that we are able to reclaim our world as sacred.
Kisho’s professional life and academic life has focused on developing educational environments for students from a variety of backgrounds, age groups, and content areas. Over the past three decades, he has served professionally as a classroom instructor, a behavioral specialist and youth counselor, a curriculum designer, a martial arts instructor and an organizational design innovator.
This work is central to the Zen education and practice, mindfulness programming, resilience and compassion programming, and martial arts/movement arts practices offered through Dharma River. All of these areas of study are pathways that foster holistic personal development and help connect and integrate people more fully with their communities and their world. This was a life path began to form to Kisho when he was 6 years old in his first grade class at Northern Elementary School outside of Bemidji, MN. The activity was a simple one-students were asked to select their ideal career. While in line, Kisho selected becoming a hockey player, but while waiting in line he realized this was not really the case. Actually, he wanted to do what Kwai Chang Caine did in the then famous Kung Fu series. The dream was to be a wandering kung fu monk that focused their journey on helping people. Ms. Phelps was quite impressed with this choice at that time with this rather unorthodox life path and years later was impressed that he was actually able to pull it off. Of course, there wasn’t a single program that put it all together in one place, but over the years Kisho’s study of martial arts, of qi gong, and of meditation, mindfulness, Buddhist (Shingon and Nyingma) and Zen practice in particular coalesced into a lived model of that early inspiration from an iteration of Kwai Chang’s characterization.
Kisho began working with movement and combat arts as a wrestler when he was five years of age. This gave him a solid skill set to being his journey with martial arts in 1989. He has studied martial arts consistently from that time forward with an emphasis on Choy li Fut, Baji Quan, and Hung Gar Kung fu as well as Chen Style Taiji Quan. He has studied extensively in the United States,Taiwan, Canada, and Europe. He has taught martial arts since 2000. He continues to cultivate and grow his personal practice of martial arts under the instruction of Masters Lee Chang Ren and Lee Chang Chih in Taiwan as well as Tai Sifu Neil McRitchie, Sifu Nathaniel McIntyre, and Sifu Eric Muchowski in North America.
Over the years, it has become increasingly clear to him that martial arts and qi gong training offers a context that is very much more than training the body to move in specific ways, or even more than integrating body, mind, and breath. It offers a manner to access the more fully our individual and shared human experience as it unfolds. It further provides the practitioner with access to understand more completely the interwoven dimensions of their physical, emotional, energetic, and psychological make up. From this understanding, martial arts affords the individual the opportunity to expand the choices they access as they move through the spaces of their life beyond the dojo.
Kisho began his interest and study of meditation in the early 1990’s. This journey brought him to study with a variety of teachers both in North America and abroad. He deepened his connection and study through during his years in Taiwan, where he studied at Bu Dong Shi in Pingdong Province of southern Taiwan.
Upon returning to Minneapolis, Kisho studied Zen Meditation and Buddhist studies at Dharma Field Meditation and Learning Center in Minneapolis under Steve Hagen and Tibetan Buddhism with the Bodhicitta Sangha under Khenpo Sherab Sangpo. This journey has lead him to becoming a dharma successor in the tradition of Roshi Paul Genki Kahn and Roshi Monika Genmitu Kahn of the Ancient Oaks Temple, where he continues his study and growth in this area of human development and Zen practice and acts as a teacher within this tradition.
Currently, Kisho lives with his family in Winona where he works at Winona State University, provides supportive work in engaged compassion and holistic wellbeing as a consultant with his love and life partner, Trish Baishin Johnson, and provides mentorship and instruction at Dharma River, a member of the Zen Garland Order.
“What I have come to learn on a deeply personal level throughout my life, is that relationships are the foundation of living an intimately present and engaged life; the relationship with myself, with others whom I know and don’t know, with nature and with the dynamic unfolding mystery around me. This relationship, of meeting ourselves and others with compassion and an open mind and heart, begins the process of healing ourselves and the world.”
~ Trish Baishin Johnson – Founder, Teacher
Trish’s life passion and commitment is in supporting others on their journey in self exploration, discovery, care, and authenticity. She has worked as an educator, both overseas and throughout the Midwest, since the mid 1990. She has 10 years of experience developing and implementing holistic mind-body curriculum with children and adults in various settings, individually and in diverse group settings. Trish is a mindfulness meditation teacher, a certified yoga instructor (trauma informed) and is one of the co-founders of Dharma River.
My first personal experience into how the mind-body connection works was the late 1980s, when a guest instructor visited my high school and offered our volleyball team something I had never experienced before; an access point into feeling/experiencing my mind, body and emotions as an interconnected unit. What she led us through that day was a simple body scan, a way of connecting with the different parts of one’s body and emotions for the purposes of recognition, checking-in, awareness, and relaxation. I was immediately fascinated to this day, I have never forgotten that experience because it was so unlike anything I had felt within myself before. Unfortunately (because I was so ready for more), I never saw that woman again, nor did I come into contact with this way of deeply connecting with my whole self until the end of my college career (early 90s) when I took a tai chi class at Winona State University. I was immediately drawn to the integration of mind-body practice and continued to study tai chi until the end of college, and for a brief time in Minneapolis, before moving to France. Tai chi was an entry point for me into meditation.
While living in Paris, I began reading books on meditation and practicing meditation on my own. Over the next many years I lived and traveled overseas from Europe, to Africa, to Asia. I volunteered and worked as a teacher. I spent a lot of time with myself and developed a deep sense of self awareness both through meditation and from the diverse relationships I developed across the world. For me, there couldn’t have been a better and more impacting education than those years throughout my 20s. I began to settle into myself and to understand the reality of the human condition; life is filled with wonderful AND painful experiences (and many others in between) and those realities change all of the time. Once I began to realize that I could be available to myself during the ups AND downs of life, I began to understand how I could be more deeply and fully available for anyone I met along the way. It was both scary and empowering!
During the late 90s, while living and working in Taiwan, I was studying Tai Chi with an inspiring and seasoned Tai Chi teacher in her mid 70s. I signed up for my first silent meditation retreat (in Thailand) in 1998, and eventually ended up in India and Nepal where I spent much time, over the course of a year, studying and practicing meditation with different teachers. In 2001, I returned to India to volunteer at a women’s weaving project and orphanage. It was then that I began my practice in Iyengar yoga. I have a deep amount of gratitude for the multitude of offerings that Asia provided to me throughout those years.
There was so much to learn everywhere I ended up and I am deeply and forever grateful to all of the people who offered up their homes, their teachings (of all sorts), their friendship and their life stories with me. In the early 2000s I returned to Minneapolis and found a meditation and yoga community to maintain practice with and began to really understand how these life experiences and the practices of meditation and yoga were the foundation from which I was, and continue to, living my life. There is no “practice” and “life”. It’s ALL life! Since university, I have spent thousands of hours working with children, adolescents and families in various capacities; in the classroom, individually, in partnership with schools, nonprofits and community organizations.
In 2008, I moved from Minneapolis, with my family to Winona, MN where my husband Paul Stern and I eventually opened Manitou Center in 2010. Since then, I have completed a 300-hour teacher training through Mindful Schools in CA, launched mindfulness in the classroom in 7 schools in the Winona area, developed mind-body trainings for individuals, children, adults, families, workplaces and communities at large throughout the Midwest. In 2018, after nearly 18 years of practice and study, I became a certified yoga teacher and have grown my knowledge of working with trauma by studying with Firefly Yoga International.
Life is a continuous journey, there is no end to our own self discovery and how all of us inter-relates to and with those around us and the world at large. I am dedicated to my own mind-body, breath-based practices. I believe strongly that the more we understand who we are, the more we can understand others. This philosophy naturally builds the foundation for living in the present moment with curiosity, patience, love and compassion; which are at the heart and foundation of how I work. I feel deeply grateful to live in the beautiful bluff country region of SE Minnesota with my wonderful globe-trotting husband of many decades and our 2 children who provide ongoing inspiration and joy.
Trish Baishin Johnson,
MSW, LGSW, Therapist
Co-founder, Zen Teacher, Mindfulness Instructor
Maureen Myosan Jameson
Senior Zen Practitioner & Dharma Holder
Myosan lives with her husband and dog in Winona, MN. She also treasures time with her son and his family living close by. She and her husband support a border collie rescue organization in Minnesota, and often have multiple dogs in their lives. Retired from an interesting and varied professional life, Myosan is involved in several community service commitments. With the Zen Garland order (Dharma River) she regularly practices Qi Gong, Zen focusing and meditation. Walking and snow shoeing are favorite outdoor activities, and she’s an avid reader of all types of fiction.
Myosan pursues Zen practice as a means for personal spiritual development, and to be engaged with a close community of people who share the vision of a compassionate world co-created by individuals’ actions.
Rev. Wes Dojun Miller is a novice priest in the Zen Garland Order. A sociology professor for over 35 years, Dojun taught sociology courses in Social Movements, Environmental Sociology, and Sociology of Religion, and honors courses in Eastern Religion. It was during his research for the honors course that he discovered the Dharma River Sangha and began his Zen practice and studies.
Dojun was ordained as a novice priest in July of 2021.
Wes Dojun Miller
Senior Zen Practitioner & Novice Priest
Anna Myosan Nacher
Senior Zen Practitioner & Novice Priest
Myosen has been practicing with the Zen Garland Order since 2019. She is an Associate professor at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków (Poland) specializing in digital culture, communication studies, and contemporary art. She taught one semester as a visiting professor at Winona State University. It was then that her path crossed with the Dharma River and she happily confluences with it ever since. She likes orchids and clouds. The Mississippi will not let her go. She was ordained as a novice priest in December 2021.
In 2023 Myosen and her husband, Marek Styczynski, established Biotope Lechnica Foundation – to be able to continue community-building and further work in the fields of permaculture, education and creative practices in a more efficient way.
Gloria is a mom of a passionately curious autistic boy who is constantly reminding her the power of patience, understanding, and unconditional love. Gloria has experience as a cantadora del Tarot (Tarot Storyteller Reader) utilizing it as an evolutionary and psychospiritual tool to assist with various areas of life. She is also a trained Reiki practitioner, Zen practitioner student, and currently undertaking training for Shinrin-Yoku, aka Forest Bathing Certified Guide, through ANFT (Association of Nature and Forest Therapy). With her offerings, Gloria wishes to contribute to bring support and brave spaces to anyone in her community, regardless of their background.
“I’m an ever-lasting student of life. I love to learn and always stay updated with my practices while holding the awareness of impermanence with a compassionate and respectful spirit towards myself and all living beings.”
Elle came to yoga in 2001 as a non-athletic nerd with a mediation practice. By then her health was already beginning to suffer with chronic pain and undiagnosed autistic burnout. Looking back, Elle can see how her practice supported her and provided her with the means to take care of her mind, body, and spirit, as well as a valuable way to connect her to community.
Elle first fell in love with asana – breath – and the accessibility of Vinyasa Flow. Later her path brought her to Forrest Yoga and the strength and stability it provided. She brings 15 years of experience leading yoga, as well as a sense of humor and an ability to work with a variety of student’s needs. Her training includes 200 hours of Vinyasa Yoga training and Forrest Yoga Advanced Teacher Training. She also has specialty training in: Yoga for Back Care, Prenatal Yoga, and Yoga for Seniors.
Alanna grew up near Chicago and stayed active with Irish dancing, gymnastics and hanging at the pool. Alanna came to Winona to attend Winona State University. She has since furthered her education with a Master of Education and a Reading Certificate from St. Mary’s University. She currently lives in Winona with her husband, son and two dogs. Alanna began practicing the Iyengar style of yoga at the Winona Yoga Center (now Dharma River) in 2004 with Master Senior teacher Francie Ricks and continues with an online teacher, Amanda Griggs.
Alanna completed her Registered Yoga Teacher Training Certification through YogaFit in March 2018 and has been guiding others in yoga practice since. Yoga helps her balance a busy schedule, and she appreciates the strict alignment cues and mind-steadying she learns in the Iyengar method of yoga.
Alanna Pelowski, M. Ed
200 RYT Yoga Instructor
Johanna is actively engaged in studying the relationship between space design and well-being and provides space therapy consulting to individuals, businesses and organizations through her business, Thistle & Amber. She is trained and certified in mindfulness education, reiki, and kundalini yoga, and is currently studying Health and Wellness Management at Winona State University.
Previously, Johanna studied Apparel Design and Manufacturing at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Johanna discovered intuitive movement therapy and 5 Rhythms dance in 2008 and is pleased to host Anchors in Space, a platform for in-person intuitive dance and movement sessions, whenever she can. She is a grateful mom to three amazing humans and is home-based in Winona, Minnesota.