KWONYIN is a Korean-American artist,
emotional alchemy guide, & teacher of yin
Called the “gentle warrior,”
she is a new global voice for the
divine feminine awakening.
WHERE I COME FROM
i was born in seoul, korea. my mom was a stay-at-home housewife ex-schoolteacher and my dad an engineer who traveled a lot for work and rarely present until we moved to the States when i was 4, with my older sister.
life got dystopic witnessing my parents struggle to adjust as new immigrants in America, and in their tumultuous marriage that made life at home feel like a warzone. i was deeply bonded to my mom and sister, and childhood felt like a prison, trying not to be dependent yet having to depend on unstable parents.
i was often afraid, protective, and secretive of my homelife. it was easy to keep my emotional reality to myself as an introvert, as that felt like the only real safe space within myself. i naturally gravitated towards observing human behavior and curiosity towards the hidden nature of people around me.
when i was 8, i experienced a very intense reaction to mangos where i was bedridden for weeks. my skin became pocked with open sore puss oozing blisters, my face became totally unrecognizable. at the hospital for my checkups i remember receiving shuddered responses from mothers and children when they saw me.
the recoiling into myself in fear of being Othered, of Ugliness, and of Shame were themes that would continue to haunt me throughout my life. in junior high on a trip back to the motherland, s. korea, i experienced my first depression and bout of body dismorphia. i believe that’s when the cultural imprint of expectations for female bodies, of beauty and worthiness, really started to bloom and activate.
i did all the things a good asian daughter does to get the grades, to do all the extracurriculars to get into the good school. my intention was to get the hell out of the suburbs of sacramento where i felt excluded from, and self-excluded myself from all the typical high school functions. i went to uc berkeley and joined an asian american theatre group that was the first self initiated impulse to crawl out of my shell.
post college i moved to london with 1 suitcase filled with a printer to print my cv’s my architectural design portfolio and an interview outfit. the real unexpected gift of moving here was my first kundalini spiritual experience of total freedom in my body, dancing, going to raves. i would send emails to my friends at home preaching about the power of techno like a born again evangelical christian. when i look back, i know i was experiencing my first spiritual awakening of coming into my power, of thoughts becoming things. i was manifesting everything i wanted left and right. people i met would look at me amazed like “you’re SOOO POSITIVE!” and it was true. i was completely in love and emanating love for everything. which was a contrast to everything before where i felt pretty invisible and mostly negative.
i moved to new york the next year encountering more expansive magical manifestations, but i started to feel fatigue and burn out. i was working at a fancy architectural firm where i felt my real job title was emotional counsel for downtrodden colleagues under fascist enslavement. i felt a pull towards introversion and stepping out of the hamster wheel GOGOGO hyper masculine fast paced lifestyle.
my sister seduced me with a future vision of us living in berlin to make art. i fell in love with that idea. the first night i arrived i dreamed of a giant python blocking me on a stairwell that i needed to get across. this became a metaphor for my experience in berlin. our first short film we made together was about exploring the liminal space between sleep and awakeness. this was a space that fascinated and terrorized me. the space where suppressed aspects of myself play out their fantasies.
in berlin, i entered into an 8 year ‘ego dismantling soul retrieval residency program’ i didn’t know i signed up for. i guess my higher self knew though. where i was continuously faced and troubled with the fundamental question of WHY. WHY CREATE. WHY EXIST. why why why. i had no idea what i should create if not accompanied with external validation. that was calling for in the words of audre lorde “a basic and radical alteration in those assumptions underlying our lives.”
those “assumptions” i found were the deeply embedded painful beliefs i held about myself, the undeserving inferiority of my self, if i wasn’t producing creating out-putting something that was palatable for the external gaze.
i also recognized how unsafe i felt in myself there. yet my feet felt cemented to this place like a bad dream where you can’t run away. i felt unseen and simultaneously targeted in my asian-ness as a female body. how i shrank from the hardness and coldness of emotional and geographic climate.
outside my social cushion of american ex-pats, my otherness felt amplified. the language and cultural barrier amplified my sense of being an outsider. yet it was here that something was germinating. the introversion and rebellious spirit and trauma of the city was a perfect match to my internal landscape. in a place where i felt unseen and there wasn’t really an external gaze to have to prove or matter to, paved a way for myself to question reality on a more fundamental level. and distance from america afforded me space to disentangle energetic tentacles with image-progress-consumption-obsessed american culture.
amidst this i had renaissances thru music making and co-creating a motion graphics design firm that was growing into a textile design and reality tv-show. but the deeper well of untapped soul yearnings was always there, seeking an outlet. it took me years to learn animation as a skill i could live from, to realize that this craft wasn’t really feeding my soul. i felt like i was hiding.
then dark night of the soul came upon me, unexpectedly when my things in my life were stabilizing. i felt my physical self fade into another world where i was completely alone. i was fighting to resist the magnetic pull towards a black hole within me. being a ghost in the liminal while simultaneously trying to be human was difficult. i couldn’t work, create, there was no life force as most of me was siphoned to the underworld.
the darkness in me seemed to spew out over my skin, and it was painfully embarrassing that i couldn’t hide my feelings. every glance in the mirror became a trigger for a self-hatred parade. acne had been a recurrent source of anxiety, but this time my rejection of this condition created such acute pain that created more of a necessity to withdraw from the physical world.
amidst chronic acute emotional pain, i became obsessed with trying to understand the mechanics and the why of suffering. the link between the body, subconscious and conscious mind.
i was terrified that i was becoming a mudang, my mom would speak of growing up. i had heard of mudang as women in korea who became deathly sick, before they were endowed with spiritual gifts (or curse) as how it sounded from how she explained it, that placed them as pariahs, and seers possessed with darkness.
one night, in yet another serious bout of panic downward spiral of self hate, i became possessed with a determination to do something different. to go TOWARDS my most despised self peering from the depth of rejected sadness in my eyes. gazing into the mirror, this was the first time i truly let myself SEE ME. and not run away, hate, push away. gazing into my soul through the mirror, i stayed present to the internal battle. this was me for the first time i understood working with my own primordial dragon energy to tame, allow and ally with the dark terrifying force. i recognized that underneath hate is hurt. and in allowing myself to access the feeling underneath, this experience opened a portal of tenderness and compassion for the part of me that was terrified of being seen. of being ugly.
this newfound emotional intimacy (into-me-see) with myself started to rapidly heal my skin. the poison of my suppressed feelings stopped to erupt through my skin, as i started taking action to express my truth. i started unclenching and letting go of toxic relationships where my expression wasn’t honored. i viscerally experienced the connection between emotions and the body.
this turnaround propelled an ongoing series of CATHARSIS. each cathartic activation was a deeper awakening, excavation and inversion in my relationship to shadow.
i said goodbye to berlin, when i realized my soul was ready to graduate from this 8 year soul activation residency program, and share the gifts of my soul initiated keys back to my former homeland - california.
i re-named myself Kwonyin in honor of my intimate co-creation with Goddess Kuan Yin as my principal spirit guide and devotion to midwifing the exodus from patriarchal programming towards emotional sovereignty.
in 2018 I launched CATHARSIS and in 2019 AZN FEM CATHARSIS my signature program specifically for healing ancestrally inherited burdens within the feminine psyche that incorporate and integrate all of my keys to awakening to your own authority.
I thank my teachers: Teal Swan on shadow work and Completion Process, Lori McCormick on somatic yoga, Pitaka on the art of self-inquiry, Jason Lamberth on meditation, Ana Forrest on fierce medicine of stalking your fear, Arnold Mindell on dreaming while awake, Grinberg bodywork method, Pearl, Grandmother Ayahuasca for shadow transmutation, & Goddess Kuan Yin of compassion.