Thursday, September 20, 2012

Letter to Milwaukee

Milwaukee friends, this is a letter I wrote to the Riverwest Yogashala community explaining what is coming up for me.  I hope you will engage in upcoming conversations about what is next. This is not farewell yet--you all come over for a party before I leave! p

Dear Riverwest Yogashala Community,

With an ache in my heart and a catch in my throat, I write to let you all know I will move to Detroit, MI in February 2013.

This is a move I have been contemplating for some time, and am finally committing to now. As an empty-nester, I am at a stage in my life where a major change is quite possible, and I have decided to take the leap.

As Riverwest Yogashala was preparing with Eight Limbs Housing Co-op to purchase a building this past summer, I committed to at least 3 more years in Milwaukee, which has been my home since 1987. During those 3 years, my plan was to transition Riverwest Yogashala from being founder-driven to more cooperatively run, and for 8LHC to become established.

However, when the seller withdrew, our purchase plans were cut short, and a door opened for a new plan to emerge. At first I was devastated. We had put so much time, energy, and resources into finding a building and funding it. But as I recovered from my disappointment, I began to see new possibilities.

First, I had to admit that I really needed a sabbatical. I have been teaching 10-14 classes/week since 2001, as well as raising 3 children, running a household, organizing for various activist causes, writing, serving as Milwaukee Poet Laureate in 2006-2007, running racial justice workshops, performing in theatre and vocal groups, giving poetry readings and workshops, and more.

Next, I had to be quiet and listen inwardly to what my soul and spirit were asking for. As I approach my 49th birthday (my 7th 7 year cycle!) I realize I am longing to nurture my own studentship. I need to step back from the many leadership roles I have taken on in Milwaukee, and vastly simplfiy my life. I long, as Mother Teresa urges us, to “do small things with great love.”

I have chosen Detroit because one of the people I admire most in the world, 97 year-old legendary activist Grace Lee Boggs, lives there. I plan to volunteer at the Boggs Center and learn anything I can from her as I offer whatever services may be needed in caregiving, cooking, organizing, etc. She is still quite sharp and vital and I would love to avail myself in any way.

Aside from Grace, Detroit overflows with visionaries, activists, social reformers, artists, and grassroots Do-It-Yourselfers. I have so much to learn there! Also, my eldest daughter, 26 year-old Meiko Krishok makes her home in Detroit. We are quite close and I look forward to spending more time with her.

One of my favorite Iyengar Yoga Senior Teachers lives in Ann Arbor, 50 miles from Detroit, Laurie Blakeney, whom many of you have met. I have never had weekly access to a Senior Teacher, and I’m thrilled at the prospect of studying with her regularly. Laurie’s depth of knowledge and experience over 30+ years of teaching will nourish my dedication to Iyengar Yoga and enrich my practice and teaching.

I am leaving Milwaukee and Riverwest Yogashala for a year or so of service, while learning at the feet of Grace, Laurie, and other wise Detroit elders. I will probably teach a little yoga, perhaps 2-3 classes/week. Housing plans are not set yet, but I have some prospects for living in intentional community on a barter basis.

I will stay in Detroit as long as I can be of use to Grace. The next stage of my life involves a 4-6 month stay in South Korea, where I lived until age 5, and where many family members live. In Korea, I plan to regain my fluency in the language, research my family history, especially regarding Japanese occupation and the Korean War, interview elders, and do a lot of writing.

When I return from Korea, I plan to make my next home in Oakland, CA. I have chosen Oakland because I have Iyengar Yoga friends there, access to Iyengar Senior Teacher Manouso Manos, a huge and diverse Asian American community, many like-minded radicals living outside the mainstream as in Detroit, plus avocado and lemon trees!

So, beloved Milwaukee community, I will bid farewell in December. I will complete the Fall Term. I will leave 30 December for a month’s study in Pune, India, with the Iyengar family. I will return 1 February, take a week or so to pack up and organize, and drive off to Detroit.

Let us make the most of our time together. I will pour my heart and soul into the best teaching I am capable of this fall. I will give everything I have to my mentees, who will serve you exceedingly well as they step up in responsibility. I am willling to come back on a regular basis to conduct teachers’ study groups, teach yoga workshops, and teach writing/movement (Embodied Voice) workshops as long as there is interest.

Meanwhile, I have full confidence in Lynn Celek, who, as you know, is an awesome teacher! Along with Lynn, other strong teachers will continue to teach at RY, and more are in the pipeline. However, exactly what RY will look like in 2013 is up to you. Please come to a community meeting on Sunday, 30 September, 4-6pm to discuss what is possible. We will provide snacks and you can too. RY’s future is in the hands of the community.

What I have received from all of you, over almost 10 years at Riverwest Yogashala, is immeasurable. You all have taught me how to be a teacher, and challenged me to be a better person. I am so richly blessed by all of you, and I will miss you.

Growing, learning, shifting, moving, with (G)race, and so so so much love,
peggy kwisuk hong

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