Krzysztof Piekarski, PhD
Krzysztof Piekarski, PhD
PhD University of Texas Austin
BA Williams College
Teach For America Alumni
Teacher/Mentor/Professor: University of Texas, Austin (TX); The Putney School (VT); Whitman College (WA); Washington State Penitentiary (WA); St. Edwards University (TX)
Zen Student and Council Member at Appamada
Distance Runner and Coach
Co-Founder and Director of The Wisdom Smithy
“IT SO OFTEN HAPPENS THAT SOMEBODY SAYS ‘CHANGE YOUR LIFE’ AND YOU REPAINT YOUR CAR RATHER THAN RE-WIRE THE ENGINE.” ~PICO IYER
Email from a former Whitman College student:
"I quit tennis this year, possibly forever. I was playing tennis for reasons that were causing a lot of suffering in my life. I thought becoming a great tennis player would fill an inner void by making me a more worthy person and that by accomplishing a lot through it, I would feel worthwhile, happy and loved. This would be achieved through getting a lot of attention from admirers, building a strong identity through impressive wins and that this whole self-improvement process of mastering tennis would lead to happiness and contentment.
However, I've become very disillusioned with that whole mentality. I think that having a lot of external attention and gratification leads to short-term highs and then an underlying feeling of discontent. Also, basing a life around self-improvement seems like a stupid goal because when you die you lose everything you've worked for.
I've become really interested in meditation this last summer and it has been really transformation. It's given me perspective on the craziness and insanity that goes on in my head thousands of times on a daily basis and it seems that this is something I need to explore more. I keep having this sensation of deep relaxation and "energy" that exists in my body, as well as a desire to "disidentify" from all the thoughts in my head. I never knew that these kinds of experiences were real and not fantasy stories people told. I've been going to a bunch of meditation sessions and I'm looking for some guidance as to how to get better at meditating.
In terms of education after I left Whitman, I went to a community college in Santa Rosa where I earned an associates in Social and Behavioral Sciences. I am now a senior at Sonoma State majoring in psychology. I have honestly felt like both places have been quite a waste of my time, as I have trouble taking them seriously because few people are actually there to learn and it seems like a very uninspired learning environment - at least for me.
I am totally done with traditional schooling, but I definitely need to continue my education. My primary goal in life is to be at ease in my own skin/have inner peace/self-assurance and trust. I think that meditation and Buddhist teachings have something to offer in that regard. My dream for a school would be something like showing up for maybe a couple of hours a few times a week and discussing how meditation is going, bringing important life questions up to talk about and being around really smart and exciting people who motivate each other to become the strongest versions of themselves.
What kind of vision do you have for this school? Would it be full-time or part-time? How many students? What would the format be like?
So this has turned into a bit of a novel, but I hope you made it through it okay...
P.S. Nothing Special was a really good book!"
Message from a former University of Texas student:
Mr. P., You likely do not remember me among the thousands of students you taught, but my name is B*** M*** and I took your Rhetoric of Vietnam class in the spring of 2008. I am reaching out to you with a simple Thank You. What sparked me writing this email was a simple discussion with my wife this morning about the education system, classes that we liked/disliked (we went to graduate school together), and specific teaching styles. I was telling her about your class and your dynamic teaching style, especially the excellent interactive discussion (which you often pried out of us) and the integrative blog that you incorporated into our education. Nearly ten years later, your class remains one of my favorites that I learned the most from in my combined undergraduate and graduate educational experience.
Additionally, I was going through a dark time when I took your class as there was a recent death in my family and among other internal struggles that I was having. Your class was a ray of light for me and, without trying to sound overly dramatic, gave me something to wake up and look forward to. There are many of your teachings that I still reflect upon to this day. On a more positive note, all is quite well in my life. I got married two weeks ago (to a woman who loves the Big Lebowski as much as I do) and am about to embark on my honeymoon. I completed my MBA this past year and was able to travel to Vietnam among other countries. It was an incredible experience that made me once again reflect upon your class. I remembered many of the books that we read and recommended them to my colleagues who were travelling with me and spouted off more information than anyone wanted to hear. The American War Museum (it's the "American War" to them, as I'm sure you're aware) was tremendously impactful and something I will remember for the rest of my life. The people there were amazingly friendly, resilient, and welcoming to us, which was pretty amazing considering how fresh the American War still is to them (although we were in Ho Chi Minh and I hear Hanoi is not quite as welcoming to Americans). All in all, it was an amazing trip and I cannot wait to go back and see more of the country.
I hope all is well with you and you still possess the same energy and passion that you had when you were teaching obnoxious 19 year-olds such as myself. Thank you for being such an incredible professor and for going the extra mile to show all of us how much you cared. It is efforts such as yours that make the world a special place and are especially needed to people in their transformative years, and I personally wanted to say thank you - you made a huge impact in my life.
Message from a former University of Texas student:
What you did with the rhetoric courses I took with you added heart and care, the very thing most classes overlook. It made me think deeply and problem solve in a way I've not yet been challenged; skills I've been able to grow and use up til the ripe ole age of 28, and they've shown no signs of stifling. Life had fallen into a formulaic equation that was easily solvable and seemed like the spark was lost, as if going through the motions were all I had left. Though your course material outlined particular subjects, the way you taught encompassed everything; and it made me care again, both for myself and others in a way I've not yet felt. I think that's the point of me writing this, and I argue I'm not the only one who has come to understand this: The reason The Wisdom Smithy will succeed and thrive is not only because it is needed, but because it will be led by you; the only fool who can take any recipe of life and add the necessary ingredient of heart to it that makes it relevant to life, with a pinch of presence, and community that is otherwise shunned in a what has become a competitive-natured environment.
As a friend, you've been there for me through the peaks and pitfalls of what has become a more pleasing and adventurous life in your company. A reason myself, and so many others were the first to fall in line the moment you expressed interest in embarking on the inception of a school whose goal is to do more than provide fact. It's clear everything in life, if done right, has its complications, and takes time to do correctly. The important thing to remember, a thing you once taught me that I'll never forget, is that though some processes may be slow, it's the present journey and culmination of all of these moments that make the final product a new moment, that is as treasured and delectable as a finely-aged bottle of Walla Walla red. Here's to the toast we'll raise for the rest of our lives, because there's no shortage of miraculous moments to follow in your company, and the present is always a gift worth raising a White Russian to.