Reflections

Reprinted from: NeVLAT-news May 22, 2009 article written by Rebecca Gwynn-Jones after the Amsterdam workshop

Ease of Being – Reflections on Tommy Thompson’s Approach

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!

So I had no doubts about inviting Tommy to Holland to learn more. 9 other countries had the same idea, but he was keen to fit in Holland as he had had good contacts with some of us in Lugano. I arranged for him to come in March. He gave a weekend workshop to 18 teachers, and 11 private lessons, 2 of which were to students who took up the last minute booking possibility. (Tommy arrived a day earlier than originally planned and so had more time available) He also visited ATCA for a morning. I would like to describe the workshop, with help from teachers who gave me feedback afterwards, and then to make some general reflections on Tommy’s approach.

Wonderful stories from his own life are a key part of the way he teaches groups. One teacher said: “I was touched by his stories, the tenderness and the humour and the messages they carried concerning human encounter and quality of attention.” The story about how he learnt to use his hands in teaching is a good example. Studying with Frank Pierce Jones had taught him that the technique was essentially about how we use ourselves in life. So he decided to experiment with how to get below his habitual reactions, especially extreme fear. He chose to paddle far out to sea in a kayak (without being skilled in this) so that he could really experience this sort of fear. At first he could only thrash wildly around with the paddles without getting any nearer to shore. Then he let himself be aware of his fear, and tried to not do anything with it, but to allow new information to keep coming. After some time he was able to feel the deeper current below the surface waves. By keeping this connection he was able to paddle without fear back to shore. This helped him understand inhibition as direct experience – a natural and organic process in humans, as in other animals. Putting hands on for him became the same as paddling on the sea – opening up to connection with the deeper level of the person beneath the surface habits. ‘I put my hands on the person, not the habit” he told us.

We experimented in different ways with withholding definition. For instance we looked at a partner and said Rumi’s lines: “I will never try to know you. I will always long to see you.” while we allowed more information to come to us, so that the other person would really show up. One teacher wrote me after the workshop “with this little exercise I do experience the world differently, softer, more real it seems.”

Tommy connected this into ‘becoming who we are now’ instead of fixing ourselves in the past through habitual self definition. At the start of the workshop we had already played with this. Tommy asked us to explain our reason for attending. He put his hands on someone and asked them to tell their reason again – as the person ‘showed up’ the reason did indeed evolve. During our two hour lunch break he asked us to spend one hour alone and to focus again on this question without fixing an answer.

Most of the feedback picked out ‘withholding definition’ as a valuable insight, for example:

“Life is a flow of experiences and 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.”

“See the student under his or her use – also works very well for oneself”

“Withhold definition so that other information may show up – this became a new meaning of inhibition for me.”

We also played with differentiating between kinaesthetic awareness, intentional awareness and attentive awareness – applying them as student and teacher in hands on, one after the other and all together. Teachers commented:

“Although you can’t separate different types of awareness from each other, this simple analysis gave clarity to the fields in which we work.”

“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”

participant’s comment:…attentive awareness […], 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.”

Withholding definition and consciously using these three levels of awareness clearly led to establishing a deep contact. Tommy added in another aspect, asking us to allow ourselves to be touched when we touch.

“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”

Things happening by themselves – either in teaching or in one’s life – Tommy calls ‘choiceless awareness’. Like getting up early, totally against a very strong habit to stay in bed till the last possible moment – not by deciding to force it, but just finding oneself doing it to enjoy more time/less pressure.

There was also some attention to ‘monkey’ – how we approach it and when and why we use it in teaching and everyday situations. A few teachers even went into ‘extreme monkey’ where they became a sort of high speed bouncing ball – hard to describe if you haven’t seen it!

Finally, Tommy demonstrated how he applies all these elements when he works with people in activity. Activities teachers chose included playing an instrument, dancing, doing akido and reading a book. As each one came back into closer connection with themselves there were the expected changes in posture/presence/movement/tone etc, but also the surfacing of emotions – like hating the piece of music and also the conductor. After the teacher in question let this out, the piece went much better!

This was a good demonstration of the psycho-physical unity that the technique is all about. Connection with the core self goes together with expansion and release – the natural movement of the healthy organism. Some of us got into discussion at ATCA about how to explain this to people outside the Technique. Can we explain our basic concepts like primary control in language both they and we are happy with?

Tessa gave me Walter’s commentary on some passages where FM writes about primary control. He said: “The only way you can identify primary control is by looking at yourself, looking at the living organism, in an integrated way, from the standpoint of wholeness. {..} Where you want to look for primary control is not in the nerves, muscles and bones, but in the process of thought. {..} When we speak of a thing as mental in that sense, we mean we are looking and we are looking at the aspect labelled mental, but all the other aspects naturally exist as well. {..} Primary control is a concept of wholeness.”

We can say that restoring this wholeness is what brings ease of being. It’s both simple to understand and beyond description. In a way we are working to be magicians, alchemists for ourselves and our students. No wonder so many words are used and so many different approaches taken!

Tommy recommended teaching from one’s own vision of the world and shared his of people living closer to their soul’s purpose and more connected to each other and the environment. He invited us to think about what our vision is. He also said: “My approach is probably not for everyone – that’s ok!” Several teachers commented that they liked his aversion to dogmatism in the technique, and others commented on a sense of freedom. . As one teacher said: “I was really impressed with his authenticity and integrity. He was who he was.”

Greater ease of being and connectedness is my main experience of Tommy’s visit. Other people have told me they experienced something similar from their private lesson and/or the workshop and we are very grateful! The nice thing about putting all the work into bringing over and hosting a visiting teacher is that you get to spend more time with them. Tommy was certainly very easy to be with!

Several teachers said they would have liked more opportunity to work with each other – to practise applying the principles and processes we covered. Many of us are keen to explore his approach further, including some who couldn’t take part this time. So we have invited Tommy to return next year. He said we had only just scratched the surface and that he is looking forward to delving deeper. New participants will be welcome to join us!

Rebecca Gwynn-Jones, April 2009, Amsterdam