Alexander Technique Workshop for Teachers
Oakland, CA April 14, 2013
I had been yearning to go deeper in my Alexander teaching yet uncertain how to maneuver that terrain. Tommy’s workshop gave me the needed inspiration and permission to make that transition. My students are reaping the benefit. I am a better teacher/person for having taken a mere weekend workshop.
Denise Dumeyer Kangas, Alexander Teacher AMSTAT, ATI, San Luis Obispo, CA.
The meaning of a workshop changes over time. It’s now three weeks after meeting and working with Tommy. As I go about my life, and catch myself in habitual thoughts and postures, I take out an imaginary mirror and meet myself.
During, and directly after the workshop, my experiences were:
Trust in the simplicity of Alexander’s discoveries “If we look for what’s right, if we assume the primary mechanism is always working, then teaching becomes a much more peaceful process.” — Paraphrasing Tommy Thompson.
For me, the workshop was not about new information, even though I found myself, like everyone else, unable to resist scribbling down poetic phrases, key ideas, and all those great exercises to bring to my actor students at American Conservatory Theater. It would have been better if I had put down my pen and committed to listening.
I didn’t hope that Tommy was going to say something and the entire mystery of the Alexander Technique would crack open. I did hope that by practicing in present time, I would have an experience that might change me. This did happen.
I put on my Tango shoes and walked backwards in high heels. I wobbled without a partner’s support. My low back arched. I was conscious of the crowd of Alexander teachers watching. A colleague began working with me. She did exactly what I would do with my own students, what I do with myself. She talked about releasing the hip joints and finding length in the legs.
Her hands softened my lumber spine as she instructed me on how to distribute weight over my supporting foot…until Tommy stopped all the busy helpfulness. He put his hands on my head. Not much happened. Quietness. And in a few moments a sea change. He asked me to repeat my tango walk.
There were no balance challenges. There was no doubt. There were no stops. It was all smooth and fluid, through my whole body. I heard the room gasp. This sudden grace was achieved by accessing, freeing Alexander’s primary control, freeing the neck and letting the head balance so that the whole body integrates.
So for me, the workshop, Tommy, was a strong reminder of the simplicity and power of the Alexander Technique. And most importantly, Tommy’s own work seems to be about compassion.
After a private lesson with him, I taught one of my own students. We didn’t speak much, but at the end she turned to me and said, “It’s OK to be me.” The essence had transferred through my hands.
Elyse Shafarman, Alexander teacher, MA, AMSAT, San Francisco, California
Post Graduate Workshop with Tommy Thompson – Learning While You Teach, Teaching While You Learn… The Simple Basics of the Alexander Principles Brought to Depth with a Touch of Heart
The 4-day postgraduate workshop with Tommy Thompson was inspirational. Tommy’s principle of working with a student’s potential, rather than their habits of use, has become a wonderful guide for my work over the years. Each time this principle is refreshed during a direct experience of being with Tommy’s teaching, I come away a fuller, deeper person, and a better teacher. My quality of attention, my quality of touch, my ability to stay present to my essential self is heightened. Even a short workshop goes a long way to deepening my own work.
Tommy weaves his own stories, group explorations, touch technicalities (of hands-on Alexander technique) through the workshop in a fluid and integrated way. He is a beautiful example of someone who is connected to being while doing. Tommy’s hands-on work opens one up and brings one back to one’s authentic Self. Hearing about Frank Pierce Jones and his way of teaching was also fascinating, and I enjoyed the short film of his work.
I so enjoyed working with the small group of both new and experienced teachers. Having several students as observers/participants was wonderful: working with real life issues of pain and suffering with Tommy’s guidance was especially helpful.
I highly recommend Tommy’s workshops for an experience of deep being while doing what we most love to do.
Constance Clare-Newman, Alexander Technique Teacher, San Francisco, CA
Here are some thoughts about participating as a student observer at your recent teacher workshop. As a result of the intensive focus on the Alexander technique from a teacher training perspective as well as the significant amount of work I received as a student I felt a shift in how I experience myself especially as I seek to integrate the technique into activities.
Before the workshop – after many years of study… I had viewed the practice of integrating the technique into activities as another discipline I needed to learn . I felt always at a disadvantage because I could never get a kinesthetic sense of what it means to give the Directions. I saw it as a “doing” I could not get the hang of. As a result of the exercises and observations of others’ work during the workshop, I came away with the experience of “doing” an activity differently – that is… in the context of an awareness of the technique.
It had become clear that that “ context of awareness” was a space from which I could perform an activity with ease. And it could be accessed through a shift in attention as well as a kinesthetic feeling.
I was able to feel that space as an awareness – a consciousness , a sense of “being” rather than a requirement for “doing”. The shift was for me an epiphany. Having tasted of how it is to operate from that space I want more of that…. Not only did I experience more ease but more skill, more grace, more creativity, more than I knew I could ever be or do. It is like being plugged into the source always there ready to be accessed in whatever way a student is equipped.
Thank you for offering me this amazing opportunity.
Anita Freeman, Psychotherapist, Alexander Technique Student, Massachusetts
Thank you Tommy for an extraordinary week of learning and growth. I look forward to watching the integration and seeing where this now leads. I particularly appreciate the thought of seeing the beauty in the person and if we all went through life with this thought what a different world we would live in.
I have just seen this quote from Krishnamurti and am struck by its relevance to your view of Alexander work:
Man cannot come to truth through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest or ritual, not through any philosophic knowledge or psychological technique. He has to find it through the mirror of relationship, through the understanding of the contents of his own mind, through observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective dissection. -J. Krishnamurti
Kit Racette, Alexander Technique Teacher, Montreal
I was a private student of yours in 1981/82 after working with you at the Arena Stage Workshop the previous summer. I have thought of you so often, and continue to draw on what I learned from you to this day. I found this website when preparing my file for tenure (and wanting to list training I have received!) I am currently a professor of voice and speech at Ithaca College.
I just wanted to say hello, and let you know that you had a tremendous impact on me and my work as an actress and teacher. I would love to take a workshop at your center.
Sending you warm regards,
Kathleen Mulligan, Professor of Speech and Voice, Ithaca College
Ease of Being – Reflections on Tommy Thompson’s Approach
Reprinted from: NeVLAT-news May 22, 2009 article written by Rebecca Gwynn-Jones after the Amsterdam workshop
What I liked in Lugano was Tommy’s focus on reconnection with the self, and on the ease of being that comes from living in greater harmony with our design as human beings and with our own individuality. Connection and relationship are for him essential aspects of being human and therefore essential to how we practice and teach FM’s technique for reclaiming our ‘supreme inheritance.’ I noticed that when he had his hands on someone they would light up and expand from within, I can only say, as if filled with love! Doing one of his hands on exercises with another teacher, we both felt a deep sense of connection, like we were dancing together, when it was just in and out of the chair as usual!More…
Reprinted from: http://jeremychance.blogspot.com/2009/05/tommys-teaching.html May 11, 2009 by Jeremy Chance after a workshop in Tokyo, Japan
“I will never try to know you, I will always long to see you.”
Writing now after witnessing the final workshop of Tommy Thompson in Japan, and hugely impressed by the way Tommy has given a voice to Alexander’s discoveries in a way that totally accords with the Buddhist view of Self – the lack of anything inherently existing from it’s own side. In my comments below, I may be misrepresenting Tommy’s viewpoint, so please hold the idea that these are my impressions of Tommy’s ideas. More…
More Testimonials from Workshop Participants…
London, October 2010: I did a workshop here in London last weekend with Tommy Thompson which I found very inspiring and related in part to forming of habits. He talked about our habits being closely linked with our identity. What we feel we need to do to be us. Sounds obvious, but it really got me thinking. He also said that what we do with our hands is disperse the thinking in that pupil that says they need to be a certain way to be them. My whole system has benefited so much from the workshop. – Susanna Scouller, Alexander Technique Teacher, UK
Bristol, England 2009 Workshop
(BATTSA) Workshop for Trainees, October 5, 2009
The general feeling was that we had thoroughly enjoyed Tommy’s time with us and loved the slightly less orthodox approach to the Technique.
Caroline Chalk MSTAT UKCP reg Head of Training Bristol Alexander School
The following comments were made by one or more individual trainees:
Absolutely riveted, there probably wasn’t enough time for more activities;
I wish we’d videoed it;
Tommy is a great narrator;
Liked the way he took his time, especially in answering questions, he seemed comfortable with himself; Very clear.
Embodied Alexander-confident and happy for us to know that;
Seemed very wise, having experienced so much and there was a sense of him being self taught;
Incredible charisma- vulnerability without weakness;
Extraordinary to (happily) sit and listen to an AT teacher for so long!
Great intellectual pleasure;
More of a spiritual teacher than an AT teacher;
We loved “use” being determined by what we need to be in the moment; Or by our approach to another person;
Liked the way he wouldn’t nail anything down;
Liked his idea that our name is often “called”.
Japan 2009 Workshop
What I was impressed by in Tommy’s work is finding the deeper level of my heart I have never felt. I could see my bare nature. –Yumi Takahashi, Alexander Technique Teacher, Japan
Amsterdam 2009 Workshop
I found some things very helpful for myself and my teaching, e.g. that he told me to ‘just be with the experience’ even if I or the student was uncomfortable. Also, that by just being with the person and withholding definition / judgement, more information can come to you; this has proven to be working for me! And what helped me a lot too, is that he said that life is a flow of experiences and that by not defining them all the time you can keep the flow going, whereas by judging yourself or others or situations, usually change becomes very much more difficult. Because you don’t see the possibilities any more. So : I LOVED IT! Although I would like to see him again and have him work with us (maybe in smaller groups) so we can actually try all this in hands-on. –Doris Hochscheid, Alexander Technique Teacher, The Netherlands
I honestly can say that I am not the person anymore I have been, but the one i have become. There were so many diamonds to find in this workshop, that a lot of my teaching changed but even more important the way i look at my family and my friends and at myself. with this little exercise ” I will never try and know you but I always long to see you” I do experience the world differently, softer, more real it seems. Two other exercises were giving me, and still do so, a lot of insights: the first one is “withhold definition so that other information may show up”. This became a new meaning for inhibition for me and the other one is to feel so clearly the difference between kinesthetic awareness, intentional awareness and the attentive awareness. The last state is, what I always knew, the way of being, but to experience it so clearly in my teaching feels like I can finally take my “personal hands” of and let the “hands of god” play, to bring things back into its natural balance.
I found it an inspiring and educational weekend. He was not telling totally new things but gave his own colours to the principles of the AT. His stories, drawn from his own life gave much clarity. However,hte exercise with kinesthetic, intentional and attentional awareness worked well. Although you can’t separate different types of awareness from each other, this simple analysis gave clarity to the fields in which we work. Some parts I found especially interesting were the story about the kayak, the one about the dogs, the demonstration with the matches…and the opening game about how we are continually changing…and the observation that you usually give people what they expect instead of who you have become……..
On Saturday morning I found Tommy’s stories inspiring – he is a wonderful storyteller. It was a shame for me personally that he carried on in the afternoon in a similar way because I became very tired – listening to English for so long was one reason and the other was so much sitting. But the Sunday made up for everything – it was good because we were busy with practical work and it was all in all a fine AT weekend. Especially, “Let new information come in, withhold definition” was very useful for me.
“You look at the quality of attention”, I remember this statement of Tommy Thompson quite well. It seemed to me that this is essential in his approach to the Alexander work. I was touched by his stories, the tenderness and the humour and the messages they carried concerning human encounter and quality of attention. I liked his aversion against dogmatism within the technique and the examples he gave to underline his opinion.
First of all I really enjoyed the workshop and learned quite a few things. I was really impressed with his authenticity and integrity. He was who he was. What did I learn? Well looking back I think that the central theme of the workshop was expressed by his three levels of awareness. Kinesthetic awareness (being aware of what is going on inside of us e.g. are we pulling down), the intentional awareness (what is it we want from our student or what result are we looking for) and attentional awareness (bringing the other two together in a brighter burning). I also liked his idea of with-holding definition as a way of describing inhibition it allows us to move to attentional awareness, allowing more information to come in. Another way that he expressed this was in the quote from Rumi “I will never try to know you but I will always long to see you.” Another way this was expressed was the idea that we don’t allow ourselves to be touched when we touch. Touching, being touched, communication, relationship, an open intimacy. I see all of these filling in the idea of the attentional awareness. I should also mention hat the level of the workshop connected to the level of myself as a teacher by that I mean it was more of a graduate workshop then a beginners workshop.
Don’t reduce your attention to the intentional or kinesthetic level. Expand your awareness and notice how the intention and more happens – so much more than you expect. He showed us that contact with the student is really the most important thing. To really see someone and to allow yourself to be touched by the student, creates a two way contact instead of a one sided transfer from teacher to student, and in this way, as a teacher, you are allowed to once more become a student and then you will be amazed at how everything happens by itself.