About Manitou Wellness

Unity | Diversity | Harmony

Manitou Center began some years ago as the result of a recurring dream that Paul Kisho Stern and Trish Johnson continued to have, as individuals and as partners, over the course of several years. Sometimes 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 one of them was having alone. Although their 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. They knew from their 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, their idea was (and still is!) 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. Their 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.

In 2010, they began, with baby steps. At that time, the primary training grounds were on a beautiful piece of land where Trish and Paul were living in Piepers Valley, near Winona, MN.  They offered most of the courses outdoors, surrounded by natural beauty throughout the four seasons. It was an excellent study space in many ways, but not very practical as temperatures dropped. Not everyone wanted to brave the snowy luge trails that were the twisting blue highways leading back to that valley. It became apparent that it was time to look for a building space in town.

In January 2011, the doors to Manitou (Martial Arts and Wellness Center, at that time) opened on 3rd Street in downtown Winona. One of the most difficult parts in this stage of development was trying to find a name for the center; one that that could represent their (then present) identity while remaining an inspiration to them and others in the future. They considered a lot of names over the course of many months. Then, one day, a good friend suggested the name “Manitou”. There was something about that name that really hit home, especially for Paul. The word “manitou” comes from the Algonquin language family and refers to the spiritual and fundamental life source that runs through everything. It was a term used by First Nations Indigenous people in the bluff country for as long as time can be remembered. Also important to Paul was that the name had a connection to his personal family background; having roots in Ojibwe culture. He felt this name could honor an important part of his personal and family identity, while honoring as well the other First Nations upon whose land we all currently live. Finally, there was an essence in the term “manitou,” similar to the meaning of “qi” from Chinese culture or “prana” from eastern Indian culture, both integrate components of the studies and work at Manitou.

After several years on 3rd Street, Manitou’s work expanded wider into the Winona area community. Their secular mindfulness and resilience programs broadened, offering classes, workshops and courses in local area schools, as well as businesses, organizations and universities. Holistic youth and family programming developed, indoors and out, and through community partnerships. The local Zen community, which began inside the walls of Manitou, expanded and joined forces with Zen Garland in Cornville, AZ. During this time, it’s as if Manitou grew from infancy to adolescence. Trish and Paul remain incredibly grateful to the local, regional, and online community for trusting them and opening up to the work that was beginning to organically unfold.

In 2015, Trish and Paul were approached by the fine folks at the Winona Yoga Center on Winona’s 5th Street. At that time, the Yoga Center had been open for nearly 2 decades and after all those years, they found themselves interested in merging with Manitou Center and the work that Manitou was doing. After many heartfelt conversations between the 2 businesses, Manitou decided to take the next step and move into the beautiful, larger space as a way to support the growth that they were experiencing. One of the beautiful stories that Trish and Paul love to share about Manitou’s current space (686 W. 5th St.) is that it was once home to a very important community mercantile. The shelves that currently hold yoga and kung fu props, along with meditation cushions and other supplies, once held important items like food and daily supplies for the Winona community. Incredible stories have been shared with them about how the shop owners supported the local community, especially during the World Wars, when money was tight for a lot of families. The owners were extremely generous, making sure that the community had what they needed to stay healthy and nourished, whether they had the money or not. These stories have been extremely inspiring for Trish and Paul, and they believe that they are continuing this compassionate action forward; giving back to the community, in different, but important and healthy ways.

In 2017, Manitou (Martial Arts and Wellness Center) formed a board of directors, drafted bylaws and became an official 501C3 non-profit organization. The name shifted (and simplified) to better fit their growing organization’s work and participants; Manitou Center became their new name.

Over the last several years, Manitou Center has continued to grow and strengthen partnerships throughout the community.  Today, they work with children, adolescents and adults throughout the lifespan. They work with individuals and families, students and teachers, workplaces and community groups. They lead (and host) holistic workshops and retreats, all that support, in diverse ways, the cultivation of a healthy mind, body and spirit. They have helped to form the Compassionate Winona group and are involved and supporting partnerships working with trauma, youth, diversity and compassionate action. Throughout these years, Manitou Center has grown from adolescents into adulthood.  The individuals working with and contributing to Manitou Center are professional and well-seasoned in their fields, and still after years of study and practice, they remain inspired and committed to the knowledge that much work and collaboration is yet to be done.  They are hopeful for the future and open and available to meeting the needs of individuals as well as local and global communities as life unfolds.

Paul Stern – Founder, Teacher

Paul sees his work at Manitou 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 our own humanity, we are enabled to more fully engage in life practices that allow deeper connection and compassion with ourselves, our communities, and our world.

Paul’s Story

Trish 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 Manitou Center.

Trish’s Story

Trish 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 Manitou Center.

Trish’s Story

Board of Directors

Manitou Center board is made up of people from our local community. We meet a couple times each year to discuss center management, events, and other business.

Pam Eyden

Board member since 2017

About Pam

Pam is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher who has taught for many years at Winona State University and the Winona Yoga Center. She loves sharing her love of yoga with others, from adults and adolescents to elderly and children. She is a long-time meditator, now learning from the Tibetan Buddhist Mahamudra tradition, and has found yoga asanas and pranayama to be very helpful in clearing her mind and satisfying her fidgety body. She works as a writer and editor for Big River Magazine.

Trish Johnson

Board member since 2017

About Trish

Trish began her work with meditation, mindfulness and embodiment practices almost 20 years ago. She has been a mindfulness and meditation instructor for 5 years and works with children and adults throughout the community. Trish teaches secular mindfulness practices in the schools and believes that offering these skills to youth supports their social, emotional, and academic abilities as well as their overall health and happiness. Trish studies with Mindful Schools in Oakland, California. In addition, Trish leads mindfulness workshops in public and private sectors throughout the community. She also teaches mindfulness to families, leads youth camps (movement, mindfulness, social engagement and service) and adult wellness retreats at Manitou.

Trish has been studying and practice Zen since 2000. She began her formal studies with Steve Hagen from the Dharma Field Meditation and Learning Center. Trish now studies with and is a Dharma Holder with Roshi Genmitsu Kahn and Roshi Genki Kahn from Zen Garland Community and Order in Airmont, NY.

She is also committed to the important service of being a hospice volunteer.

Trish loves being a mom to her children Nico and Willow. She also loves learning new things, exploring and adventuring, moving her body in creative and healthy ways, traveling, cooking, dancing and spending time with her family and friends. Trish is a Director and an Instructor at Manitou Center.

Dr. Liberty Kohn

Board member since 2017

About Liberty

Liberty is a professor of English with spiritual and scholarly practices in meditation and Buddhism. His work as a professor and scholar focuses on social activism in the public sphere. Liberty has published scholarship on Buddhism’s language of non-conflict based communication and Buddhist reflection as a teaching tool. Liberty has been a practitioner of yoga and meditation for a decade. His study of Buddhism and meditation includes short-term practice and study with Tibetan masters such as Mingyur Rinpoche and Matthieu Ricard. Liberty has continuing study with Zen master Roshi Genki Kahn. He is also interested in the contemplative sciences and has undergone training in Zen focusing, a form of guided meditation merging embodied psychoanalysis with Zen practice.

Lew Overhaug

Board member since 2017

About Lew

Lew is a Land Use Planner working for Winona County since 2006. He works on a variety of rural and small community land use issues and enjoys working with people to improve places where they live, work, and play. Lew holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Geography from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. A native Winonan, Lew enjoys outdoor activities including paddling local waters, skiing in the bluffs, and biking as much as possible. He and his wife Trina Barrett are the parents of two children who have enjoyed being a part of the Manitou community for almost as long as either of them can remember.

Paul Kisho Stern

Board member since 2017

About Paul

Paul sees his work at Manitou and in life in general as being focused largely on developing contexts within which individuals are able to engage in life practices that allow them to connect more completely with themselves, their communities, and their world. This work is central to the Zen education and practice, mindfulness programming and martial arts/movement arts practices offered through Manitou. All of these areas of study are pathways that foster this type of holistic personal development and help connect people more fully to their communities and their world.

Paul began his journey with martial arts in 1989. He has studied martial arts consistently from that time forward with an emphasis on Choy li Fut Kung fu and Chen 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 and Sifu Eric Muchowski in North America.

Paul 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, Paul 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 novice priest in the tradition of Roshi Paul Genki Kahn and Roshi Monika Genmitu Kahn from Zen Garland Community and Order in New York, where he continues his study and growth in this area of meditation and Zen practice.

Currently, Kisho lives with his family in Winona where he works at WSU and is a Director & Instructor at Manitou Center.

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Our newsletters and updates will keep you informed of local and regional classes, workshops, and retreats as well as online study opportunities, blogs, information, and inspiration to continue nurturing, healing, and caring for yourself and the world. (We do not share your information with anyone else.) See you soon!

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686 W. 5th St., Winona, Minnesota

(507) 450-7339    |    info@manitouwellness.org

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