Arlington, MA 02474
Arthur Kilmurray is one of the most innovative and unique yoga instructors in the United States. His classes are explorations in somatic and self enquiry that use meditation and yoga postures as entry points for awakening to the timeless flow of aliveness. Drawing upon his years of study with yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar and Ramanand Patel, and somatic pioneers Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, founder of Body Mind Centering and Emilie Conrad, creator of Continuum, Arthur helps students discover the relationships among energy flow, structure and light that are the foundations of awakened, embodied presence and provides them with skillful means to continue their own on-going enquiries into the mysteries of existence and their role in the planetary unfolding.
In addition to the somatic component to the awakening, Arthur's classes are seeded with pearls of wisdom from the worlds of anatomy and physiology, neuroscience and cosmology, the Yoga Sutras, Vedanta and Buddhist practices, and the natural world in all her glory and wonder. New students will be introduced to the relationship between structure and energy flow known as alignment and explore moving in and out of poses fluidly and effortlessly. Intermediate students will be able to refine the poses they practice regularly and explore new possibilities by discovering ways of integrating organ and cellular support. Seasoned somanauts and cosmic explorers will deepen their capacity to rest in the ever abiding silence of the Self and will continuously find new clues to play with and avenues to explore in their own unfolding.
Other major influences on his current teaching include Swami Dayananda, Adyshanti, Krishnamurti, Eckhart Tolle, The Dalai Lama, Dan Siegel, Mukesh Desai, Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, Ken Wilber, Don Beck, Itzak Bentov, Judith Lasater, Caryn McHose, Kevin Frank, Tom Myers, and Hubert Goddard.
Arthur's story: extra-extra long version
(stuff you probably don't need to know,
but I enjoy talking about !)
The Early Days
When I was I kid, I wanted to be a baseball player. Baseball was my overrideing passion. I played all the other sports, but baseball was number 1. Although I was an altar boy (a Catholic thing ), I knew I did not want to become a priest. The idea of being hand chosen by God to be single and celibate for the rest of my life was too freaky to contemplate. When I finally realized that baseball was not my ticket to adulthood, I figured I'd be a scientist, maybe a nuclear physicist (seriously!) Thus I found myself on the way to MIT in the fall of 1968.
MIT is an extraordinary place. For one thing I was drafted by MIT because of baseball. They were in a 'jock recruiting phase' and I ended up in a jock fraternity, Beta Theta Pi. (There is another whole set of stories there!) Also, MIT oozes creativity, in every department, in every course, in every member of the community. To be comfortably immersed in an environment where everyone was intelligent, self confident, and uniquely interesting allowed my own curiosity and self confidence to be nurtured and to this day these roots continues to feed my practice and teaching. This was also the time of the Viet Nam War protests and serious social unrest so there was a lot of enquiry and exploration and questioning of beliefs and philosophies.
In addition to math, physics and chemistry, MIT also introduced me to to Eastern Spirituality. I was drawn to a class taught by Huston Smith on Eastern Religions and was immediately hooked. The class had a chance to meet Chogyam Trungpa and Roshii Philip Kapleau, author of Three Pillars of Zen and founder of the Rochester, NY, Zen Center, and hear occasional letters from India written by Huston's friend Ram Dass. We were introduced to Vedanta, Buddhism and other Eastern Philosophies and Religions and some seed or old memory was activated.
I was lucky enough to live a few doors down from the Vedanta Society of Boston and began to spend time there, learning abut the Gita and meditation from the delightful Swami Sarvagatananda. I also flirted with Zazen, using Roshi Kapleau's "Three Pillars of Zen"as a guide. Although I was pretty clueless and never really gained any traction in practice, Zen would keep returning to my life in different ways. At MIT, I was also first exposed to neuroscience, taking classes in the Psychology department founded by pioneering brain researcher Hans Lukas Teuber. (It would take almost 35 years for me to rediscover 'Hebb's Axiom and delve back into the Brain and nervous system.)
No longer interested in being a nuclear engineer and with my mind turned inside out and upside down, I left MIT, started "Spark of Life Painting" with my friend Arte to support myself, and began to explore consciousness in non-traditional ways as well. There was lots of creative exploration but not much discipline. In 1978 I discovered the dynamic and disciplined yoga of BKS Iyengar and his seminal book, "Light on Yoga", was taken to it immediately, and in 1979 moved to San Francisco to enter a yoga teacher training program offered by the Institute for Yoga Teacher Education, (IYTE).
1979 - 1992: Bay Area Awakening
This was a wild and crazy time for spiritual practice in the Bay Area for many reasons and I was able to take full advantage of the bounty. Firstly, it was the main center in the country for the rapidly growing and highly popular approach to yoga of B.K.S. Iyengar and I was blessed with being able to study with two of his top teachers in the country, Judith Lasater and Ramanand Patel. Secondly, the Yoga Journal Magazine, located in Berkeley, was in its infancy and needed writers to help promote yoga to the country. And finally, Richard Baker Roshii, abbot of the economically thriving San Francisco Zen Center, ( the newly opened Green's Restaurant, Tassajara bakery, Green Gulch Farm, and a clothing boutique), decided he wanted the Zen students to study yoga.
After 18 months of study and some apprenticing with Judith Lasater, I began teaching, and amazingly enough, in January of 1982, I found myself in Pune under the direct gaze and guidance of the 'Lion of Pune' himself, BKS Iyengar. There was an immediate connection although it was definitely a 'trial by fire!' The seeds planted in those first three weeks are still very much alive in my practice.
Also, in the early 1980's, Baker Roshii's wife was taking classes with Judith and the Zen Center asked Judith to teach yoga to the Zen Community. Judith very graciously suggested they use me and, for a few years, I was the yoga teacher for the SF Zen Center. It was a very San Francisco experience as an American (me) was presenting teaching from India, to students of Japanese Buddhism, at a convent for retired Catholic nuns that happened to be around the corner from the Zen Center. I was very inspired by the dedication and depth of these students commitment to the dharma and was blessed to meet many wonderful people during my tenure there. There is something about Zen energy that feeds me, and as a baby yogi, the SFZC was very nurturing and supportive to me. I will always deeply appreciate this opportunity.
In 1984, BKS came to San Francisco for the first (and only!) International Iyengar Yoga Convention and watched me teach for the first time (that was big fun...). With his seal of approval I became a member of the teacher training faculty and began to work with baby teachers, although still a bit raw myself. I remained on the faculty until 1993 when living in Boston made it impractical.
Upon my arrival In 1979 there were many Iyengar teachers, but no Iyengar yoga centers. There were also two political organizations, the California Yoga Teachers Association (CYTA) and BKS Iyengar Yoga Association of Northern California (IYANC) and two yoga businesses, Yoga Journal Magazine and the Institute for Yoga Teacher Education. The CYTA board of directors oversaw both YJ and IYTE and operated both as non denominational. The IYANC organized trips to India to study with Iyengar. My first yoga teacher, Judith Lasater was involved with all four entities and with her help and guidance I soon joined her on various boards and became involved in the world of yoga politics.
It was obvious that IYTE was essentially an Iyengar Yoga school and Judith, Judy Nichols and myself, the three members serving on the boards of both CYTA and the BKSIYANC, managed to broker a deal whereby the administration of IYTE was transferred from CYTA to the IYANC and the school was reborn as the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Fransisco. (IYISF) I was a bit naive going into this, but learned a lot quickly about egos and territoriality in the 'spiritual community'. It was a good lesson. I did manage to become president of the IYANC and served as such for 7 years, (Reagan and I had con-current terms!). but that completed my political karma
Judith, one of the founders of the YJ, was instrumental in getting my writing career started and in 1982 I wrote my first article for the Yoga Journal Magazine. I soon became a regular contributor and then contributing editor. Because of my writing I was invited to travel throughout the country giving workshops to students who had read my articles and wanted to check me out.
I was blessed to study with many of the top Iyengar teachers during my San Francisco days. I developed a special affinity for the European teachers Dona Holleman, Victor Van Kooten and Angela Farmer. Donald Moyer of the Yoga Room in Berkeley was another inspiration. But my main teachers in those days were Judith Lasater and Ramanand Patel. Judith was my first real teacher and I was lucky to apprentice with her for several years in my own teaching infancy. She was very supportive on many levels (see above) and provided me a model for integrating both science and spirituality in teaching. Ramanand is an engineer and the most innovative teacher I have ever met. His understanding of and ability to present the deepest levels of Iyengar's genius, sometimes with Rube Goldberg like prop creations, was inspiring and I was blessed to apprentice with him until I left for Boston in 1992.
But Iyengar himself was magical. Although not without some deep emotional conflicts, Iyengar demonstrated through his practice and therapeutic approach to yoga a mind boggling level of inner perception and sensitivity to the nuances of energy flow. Fortunately, he took a liking to me and a deep connection was established that lasted for 15 years. He liked guys, and the fact that I wrote for YJ didn't hurt, but we are very sympatico on a cosmic level. His imprint on my practice and teaching is immeasurable.
My interests expanded in other ways as well. In the early 80's I also took a series of classes with cosmologist Brian Swimme, and met Brian's mentor, geologian Father Thomas Berry. This was another life changing experience I got to spend time with Brian and Thomas. Bea Briggs, Thomas and I presented their Cosmic Vision to the yoga world when we co-taught "Yoga and the Cosmic Creation Story", an amazing week at The Feathered Pipe Ranch in Montana. Brian and Thomas resonate with me more than ever as the major transformations of 2012 and beyond are heating up. Thomas passed away a few years ago but Brian is going strong and you will see his influence on my web site.
And one more major influence must be mentioned. Around the time of the big earthquake in fall of 1989, I discovered another earth moving group of people, the structural integration community, the students and followers of the innovative body worker Ida Rolf. (Originally all followers were called Rolfers, but the community has grown and mutated and spun off variations of her teaching which all sit under the umbrella of "Structural Integration.) Andy 'the crow bar" Crow took me through the ten session body intensive developed by Ida and the effect was revolutionary. Structural, emotional and psychological changes rippled through my being and these certainly played a role in the major changes that came in my life. Ida learned a lot from Yoga and I saw a lot of parallels between her work and Iyengars, especially around alignment.
1992 - 2006: Mystic River Yoga
In 1992, I left one relationship and became engaged to Kate, who happened to be one of my students at the time. As you might imagine, that sent a few ripples through the yoga world, but you can't fight karma. We left the Bay Area, got married, moved back to Boston, and in 1993 opened Mystic River Yoga in Medford. We offered classes to the public for over 13 years and completed our 'business owner' karma. In 1996 our son Sean was born, same birthday as BKS, December 14th. Parenting karma is forever and that is a whole other story.
Wanting to follow up with the work with Andy Crow, I found 'Rolfers' Eric Jacobson and Garret Whitney in the Boston area and continued to work with them to unfold deeper layers of holding and confusion in the body. I began to see how many layers of my body were unconscious, in spite of all of the yoga I had been doing. What was that all about? I began to realize that I was working from the outside trying to get into the body, rather than feeling my way from the inside the body and exploring the pathways of releasing outward. Iyengar lived this naturally, but I was not feeling it and did not know how to find the way. Two more phenomenal teachers appeared to guide me through this next phase.
The first was Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. A somatic genius, a saint, an embodied scientist, a truly amazing woman, Bonnie introduced me to a whole new way of envisioning and experiencing the body. She has developed what is called ' Body-Mind-Centering, which, to describe it as simply as possible, is based upon being able to follow subtle nuances of movement; the extrinsic movements as the body moves through space, and the intrinsic movements of the organs, blood vessels and breath, that move through the body. Coming from the dance world, the possibility of moving from any of an infinite number of places is somewhat obvious. But for me this was revelatory. How does it feel to move from your kidneys? your liver?, your cerebro-spinal fluid? How about your mitochondria? Bonnie's senstivity is off the charts and her ability to verbalize and demonstate and evoke in you feelings that were unimaginable moments before is quite extrordinary. I realized that movement (duh!) was crucial in being able to feel. I was doing yoga way to statically.
After finding Bonnie and playing with subtle movements, I began to feel things that Iyengar was talking about and began to see his work from a whole new perspective. Unfortunately, the 'political' wing of the Iyengar community was not happy about my incorporating 'non-officially-approved elements' into my teaching and soon I became persona non grata in most Iyengar circles. Whatever. Bonnie continues to inspire me and currently she is driving my deep curiosity about awakening embryological movements and early cellular consciousness." I look forward to studying with her whenever possible. Unfortunately for me she moved to Berkeley, CA from Amherst, MA, so she is no longer a neighbor, but I do get to see her every year somewhere.
Fortunately Bonnie came first, because if I had met Emilie Conrad first, it might have been too much for me to deal with. Emily is a force of nature, like Iyengar. She is a somatic genius and movement pioneer, an innovator, inspirer, a shaman, and all around wild woman. She nailed me right away: another yoga person-mechanical and controlled. It took a while to enter the shamanic realms of inner space, of vibrations and surprise that she would help create in her classes, but eventually something shifted and I began to find even more inner freedom. Her use of unique breathing practices and sounds, along with her ability to take you through layered explorations through the tissues and cells of the body brought me to unnamed places, sensations and perceptions. And, I was able to discover these spaces in the yoga poses, if I was careful."
In the early 90's I met another key member of my inspirational team, another 'Rolfer', Tom Myers. When Kate and I first opened Mystic River Yoga, we were looking for new voices to bring to the yoga world and a friend recommended Tom. He was a long time student of Ida Rolf and Buckminster Fuller and in addition to being a great body worker, he had an amazing way of teaching anatomy. We began co-teaching, he'd do the anatomy and I would do the yoga and we built a great rapport where we could each play off the other in what we were presenting. These were the pre- 'Anatomy Trains' days as Tom's vision was slowly coming into focus and many years later, I use Tom's work as one of my fundamental teaching tools. Tom has gone on to found his own approach to Structural Integration know as Kinesis Myofascial Integration and his 'Anatomy Trains' book is used world wide by body workers and somatic explorers of all types.
And to continue the somatic story, Tom introduced me to Caryn McHose and Kevin Frank, soon to become two of my closest friends and serious teaching collaborators. Tom, Caryn and I co-taught a two week program in Mexico in 1996 to body workers who wanted to bring more depth and understanding to their work. Tom did the anatomy and body assessment, I taught yoga and Caryn taught the movement section. I had already been exposed to Bonnie, Emilie and subtle movement, but Caryn still blew my mind within the first 3 minutes of the first class. Her absolutely unique approach to somatic awakening still amazes me today. Kevin is a Rolfer and now husband to Caryn. He puts words to the somatic experience that really feed my verbal brain while keeping me embodied simultaneously. Not an easy thing to do. He has endless probing questions that keep you alert and thinking.
All of this richness fed my yoga practice and teaching but probably the most important connection I made in the 90's was with Swami Dayananda. Ramanand's sister lived near Swami's ashram in Saylorsburg Pennsylvania and she introduced Ramanand to him. Ramanand also met Mukesh, they began their 'Yoga and Sound' collaborations at the Ashram, and, as a student of Ramanand, I went to check it out. Swami Dayananda is a unique spiritual teacher. Totally grounded in the Vedanta tradition, he lives in timelessness while having a penetrating and articulate way of presenting the teaching as an intimate aspect of our day to day lives. It took several years of being with him for a week and listening to his audiotapes and reading his writings before I 'popped open', but when it came, it was instant, total revelation. All of the teaching, the words, just melted away into pure knowing, or seeing.
No explanations possible, none necessary. Of course as Adyashanti describes, there is unabiding awakening and abiding awakening. This definitely did not abide! This is why Krishna describes 'stitha prajna' stable wisdom in chapter 2 of the Gita and Patanjali says 'tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam', the Seer rests its own nature with unshaken stability. Practice continues as life unfolds more and more layers of unresolved karma to be processed and transformed.
2006 - Today
With the closing of Mystic River Yoga, a key element in my teaching came into focus, the dedication of my loyal and hard core students. Many have come and gone over the years, but the ones who have stayed with me through my constant permutations are my main source of learning these days. They are all creative, innovative beings who challenge, nurture and inspire me and I wish to express my deepest gratitude to all of them. It is an amazing journey we are all on.
In a strange way, the closing of Mystic River Yoga also was responsible for introducing my to another major influence on my practice and teaching, Dan Siegel. One of my students, Tal, volunteered the use of her home to keep the Wednesday morning class alive. She is an OT and had an interesting collection of books. I picked up "The Developing Mind", Dan's first book, and was flabbergasted. My inner neuroscientist was re-awakened and I now call Dan my 'Rosetta Stone". Through his amazing articulation, (he has quite a few books out) I now had a scientific language for the neural integration I knew intuitively from my practice. This opened up even more possibilities to accelerate the integrating practices of yoga. Dan in person is even more fascinating and I have become a Dan Siegel groupie. Fortunately he comes to Boston frequently, although he lives in LA. "Hebbs Axiom" Rules! He has also inspired my to write a commentary on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras from a neuro-scientific yogi's perspective.
In the summer of 2015 we will be moving to the beautifu Ojai Valley in California. Long time home of Krishnamurthi, filled with orange groves and orchards of all types of fruits and nuts, Ojai has an amazingly alive spiritual community and we are definitely being called there. We've been out there 3 times already this year, have bought a house that we will be renovating, and have made numerous wonderful connections.
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