The occasional WestVirginiaVille series “Characters” profiles people with some connection to the state and who are one and have some.
By Connie Kinsey | November 2022 | WestVirginiaVille.com
“A life-altering event, for this 11-year-old paper boy, found me in traction and then an extended period with an ‘immobilizing’ body cast (my parents had to take me back twice to have it repaired). However, during this period of relative quiescence I began to discover, almost eerily, the mysteries of consciousness.” – Bill Price
Bill Price is a polymath. He is also a character. He has a Ph.D. in Biomolecular Physics from the University of California, Berkeley, reads Sanskrit (but says he is not fluent), and has six pages of peer-reviewed publications on his Curriculum Vitae. He also plays the harmonium, had an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, was a ski bum, and began yoga at the age of eleven.
Being run over by a car while delivering newspapers as a boy, and subsequently being immobilized in a body cast, left Bill with plenty of time to think.
“The perceived dissonance of a purely ‘subjective’ reality within an ‘objective’ reality has haunted me since — and yet had awakened a deep curiosity concerning the nature of reality. So, at the age of 11, I began a punctuated journey of discovering/concocting a synthesis of the experience of the perceived concrete with the seeming ethereal, via studies in the physical sciences, in the ancient yogic texts, and through direct experience of deep meditative practice.”
Bill grew up in the farming country of South Jersey, in a rural area just 20 minutes from what he describes as “the mysteries of downtown Philadelphia.”
“Four seasons of open farm fields, woods, creeks, ponds, tunnels, lakes, and ample opportunities to explore many and variegated life experiences hallmark the mythology of my youth.”
At 13, Bill was driving a farm truck while working for the first organic farm in New Jersey. He plagued his teachers at school with both questions and corrections. Many, he says, were relieved that he chose to spend time in the library or the woods rather than attend class. Nonetheless, he won nearly every academic award the school offered.
He has a history of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or the right place at the right time, depending on how you look at it.
“During my First summer break from college and following playing war with the US Navy as a midshipman on the coast of North Carolina, I procured employment as a produce clerk in a North Philadelphia supermarket. This was the Summer of 1976, the Nation’s Bicentennial, and Alex Haley’s “Roots” was on TV … the sanitation workers in the Birthplace of the Nation were on strike. Mountains of trash were building up in the streets of non-tourist Philly. A riot outside the supermarket ensued …”
He was eventually escorted out of the supermarket by the National Guard. The store’s owner called the Guard to get him out of the Philadelphia neighborhood where he worked, but did not live. Bill said he felt safe and argued with the owner. In retrospect, he says the owner knew best. It was a volatile situation, and his youthful optimism and ignorance were getting in the way.
After an appointment to the Naval Academy (which he says didn’t fit), he worked as a produce clerk, eventually becoming a produce buyer. Because of his teen years working on the farm, he had learned the business from the inside out and was good at it.
When asked for his curriculm vitae, he provided one, but adds:
“Remember, I was 40 when I got my first adult job (to the extent ‘professor‘ is adult) reflected in that document. There is a lot not reflected there in the CV! There was the “serious period”; the “drifter period”; the “outlaw period”; the “ski bum period”; the “what-do-you-mean-you-missed-your-period period” …
These days, he is a professor at Marshall University, teaching in the Chemistry Department , while also holding a research appointment in physiology at the medical school. He has been nominated several times for the Reynolds Outstanding Teacher Award. He also teaches yoga at Studio Eight in Huntington WV, and performs music with Tara Jeffers, his partner, and Mark Smith, in a group called Cozmic Water.
He can discuss physiology, philosophy, linguistics, and Mexican food with equal ease. Asked if he was an autodidact, he responded: “I think we all are.”
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Despite the accomplishments listed on and off his resume, Price — in his early sixties now — says of himself, “I am terribly lazy.” His goal, he says, is to avoid work. It helps that, at the moment, he is on sabbatical for a year from teaching at Marshall. He revels in the freedom to just research and think.
Yet, doesn’t that sound like work for an allegedly “terribly lazy” fellow? His answer is succinct:
“Oh, but that isn’t work.”
This past summer to kick-off his sabbatical, he and his partner, Tara Jeffers, offered Somatic Yoga in the Park. The class was a pay-it-forward exercise in Huntington’s Ritter Park behind the fountain at the main entrance. Eight weeks of this specialized yoga was plagued by rain which dampened attendance. Bill offered a brief introduction, guided self-compassionate and gentle somatic movements, breathing, visualization and awareness practices, while Tara, provided an accompanying soundscape.
Tara, a respiratory therapist, has a BFA in Voice with Sound Therapy Studies from the Berklee College of Music. She has created soundscapes for many workshops and yoga sessions.
In advertising these sessions, Bill and Tara said:
The ancient yoga teachings of Kasmir accept as absolute truth the harmonious interconnectivity of all that exists. Like a web of perfectly reflecting crystals, an act anywhere is rippled and reflected and felt everywhere. The modern parlance for this recognition (aka “wokeness”) is called the ripple (or butterfly) effect and may manifest as the concept of “paying forward.” An intriguing example of “paying forward” is the Seventh Generation Principle, created by the 11th century Iroquois Indians of the Northeast US: a philosophy that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future.
Somatic Yoga was pioneered by Eleanor Criswell and others in the 1970s. It is a combination of somatics (mind-body integration) and hatha yoga. It involves not only just those, but also the principles of neuroscience, applied psycho-physiology, and psychology. Bill’s method includes micro-movements as well as music ranging from Sanskrit chants to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Bill’s instruction in somatic yoga is not your average yoga class. An expert in physiology, the movements he leads are small, slow, and intentional. Just like the teacher, it is simple to the point of complicated. Increased flexibility is surprising in its immediacy. (I took the class.)
He has ‘E-RYT 500’ certification from the Yoga Alliance, the requirements of which include 2,000 hours of teaching experience following certification. He is not new at this. He has been practicing yoga for more than 50 years.
Also surprising is how Bill teaches the class. Though fluid, but deliberate, he is in constant motion. He moves about the class, often playing a ukulele. People interrupt with questions and comments involving their surprise at the physical sensations a movement produces.
He is quick to sit or lie beside a student to demonstrate a movement they are struggling with. Many students find themselves making a movement more complicated than it is. Some become so relaxed they sleep.
A LITTLE COZMIC WATER | Click To View Video
Cozmic Water is a musical group, but that is far too simplistic of an explanation for what they do. The music, as befits Bill’s beliefs, incorporates performance, sound meditation, kirtan (a form of Sanskrit praise), gong bath, Somatic and Yin Yoga. It has a tantrik-based view infused with yoga philosophy and history.
On September 22, 2022, at precisely 8:58 p.m. EST, they released a music video, titled “SunShine Gāyatrī.” The release was keyed to the exact timing of the 2022 autumnal equinox. The music is inspired by and includes the ancient Sāvitrī Gāyatrī Mantra (or Mantra to the Sun). The song “asks us to contemplate on the role of the Sun in all we do and all we are,” says Bill.
As to how much Tara and Bill’s Yoga asked participants to pay for the instruction they offered this past summer, here is what they wrote in promoting the sessions:
“Our only wish and reward is that you would spend just a few moments contemplating a decision that you are making through this 7th Generation lens, no matter how trivial it may seem.”
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