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AT Congress® Berlin 2022

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Tommy Thompson

Portrait of Tommy Thompson

Tommy Thompson
Cambridge
Massachusetts, USA

For the past 47 years Tommy has taught and applied the Alexander principles and concepts and has guided thousands towards a life well lived more to their satisfaction. This list includes Alexander teachers and trainees, professional and Olympic athletes, dressage riders, scientists, physicians, corporate and university professionals, musicians, dancers, actors, children, trauma victims, the sexually abused, and those with life threatening disease and the disabled to a more fulfilling and meaningfully satisfying life. He currently has an active in-person and online teaching practice and taught on 30 teacher training courses in the USA, Europe, the UK, Netherlands ,and Asia. He has given well over 1000 workshops internationally for Alexander teachers, teacher trainees and the general public in 16 countries including Ireland, France, Israel. Germany, Austria, Italy, Holland, Hungary, Spain, England, the USA, Japan, Korea, Switzerland, Canada, and served as special assistant to the 1976 Olympic USA Heavyweight Rowing Crew. Tommy served on the faculty at Harvard University for 12 years where he taught the Technique to graduate students enrolled in the Institute for Advanced Theater Training, Harvard University/Moscow Art Theater and the American Repertory Theater. He is founder and Director of the Alexander Technique Center at Cambridge, where he has been training Alexander teachers since 1983. The Center was awarded The Best of Cambridge in Alternative and Holistic Health, by the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A former Assistant Professor of Drama and Managing Director of Tufts Arena Theater at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, Tommy has acted and directed over 200 theater productions, working, acting or directing with such notable artists as Tennessee Williams in a revival of Eccentricities of a Nightingale (1977), and Michael Douglas, actor/producer and two time Academy Award Oscar winner.

Tommy is co-founder, charter member, and was inaugural Chair of Alexander Technique International (ATI). His contributions to ATI earned him the ATI Lifetime Membership Award. He is also an Honorary Member of ATI France (ATIF), the Irish Society of Alexander Technique Teachers (ISATT), a teaching member of the Japan Alexander Technique Association (JATA), and is Associate Director of Body Chance’s Japanese Alexander Teacher Education Program in Tokyo and Osaka.

Along with Richard A. Brown and Helen Rumsey Jones, wife of Frank Pierce Jones, Tommy co-founded the Alexander Technique Association of New England (ATA) in 1982 and the Frank Pierce Jones Archives and the F. Matthias Alexander Archives, initially housed in the Wessell Library at Tufts University. He was ATA’s director for six years. He is author of Touching Presence (with Rachel Prabhakar) and co-author of Scientific and Humanistic Contributions of Frank Pierce Jones. He has contributed numerous papers on the Alexander Technique, Tai Chi, and theater to Alexander and theater journals, periodicals, martial arts journals and newsletters. Tommy is currently writing another book, ‘An Awakened Life: Evolution of an Alexander Teacher and a revised edition of Touching Presence, translated recently in Japanese and French, with Korean and Spanish translations in-progress.

No newcomer to the Alexander Congresses, Tommy presented papers on his teacher, Dr Frank Pierce Jones at both the first and second International Congresses at Stoney Brook, NY and in Brighton, England and was one of the Second Generation teachers invited to give master classes at the Third International Congress in Engelberg, Switzerland, and has consistently given Continuous Learning classes at the Congresses since their inception. In 2016, along with Debi Adams and Bob Lada, he co-founded ‘In the Company of Support’ an annual Summer Retreat for advanced study in the Alexander work for teachers, trainees and the invited public. Each summer teachers and guest presenters from the Alexander community and in the Arts , Humanities and Science worldwide are invited to teach and participate.

At the onset of the Pandemic, Tommy launched ‘The Gift Of Our Understanding’ a series of online Zoom classes based on his then recently published book ‘Touching Presence,’ granting to those participants who completed the course a ‘Career and Life Enhancement Advanced Study Certificate’ from the Alexander Technique Center at Cambridge. The course continues and now extends beyond the scope of his book into an in depth exploration of how to apply the Alexander principles and concepts to the ever evolving and delightfully surprising evolution of your life. Tommy continues to teach privately in Cambridge, Massachusetts, both in person and online. And, post pandemic he continues to travel and teach in numerous countries.

Email: tommy@easeofbeing.com Website: www.easeofbeing.com Summer Retreat: www.easeofbeingretreat.com

About Tommy’s approach to teaching from a review of his book ‘Touchng Beauty’ by Bruce Fertman and Penny Oconner:

Tommy uses the Alexander Technique as his vehicle through which he guides his students into living more compassionately conscious and self-embodied lives. Use is too narrow an arena for Tommy. He is interested in personal transformation.

In our profession, thankfully, we have many gifted teachers doing research into different aspects of Alexander’s work. Some of us are reductionists. Some of us are more physiologically oriented and want to zero in on the precise physiological mechanisms involved in bringing about improved use. This is exciting. At the same time, some of us, like Tommy, are what I would call expansionists. Tommy wants to expand Alexander’s work beyond the workings of the body into the workings of the heart and soul. That is where Tommy’s work lives. This too is exciting. For Tommy, Alexander’s work is a spiritual path, a way of life. I think this is true for many of us. Tommy is as much a healer and secular rabbi/sheik/priest as he is a teacher.

I am fine with this because when reading, Touching Presence, I feel in the presence of a person who is entirely himself, who teaches through who he is. He’s not imitating anyone. He teaches through his own personal ethical framework, expressing his own truth. He teaches through his own language. He teaches out of his own experience, sometimes painful experience. He’s real. He’s authentic.

Tommy often, like a Hasidic rabbi or Sufi sheik, teaches through story. He’s a good storyteller. He shares deeply moving stories with us of his birth, of growing up in the segregated south, of the love for and death of his wife, Julie. These are not just stories. The key concepts which Tommy holds dear about the Alexander Technique are clearly elucidated within these stories.

What are some of these key concepts? Here I will not go into detail; for that I suggest reading Touching Presence and if possible, studying with Tommy.

1.) Perhaps the deepest and most far reaching of all of Tommy’s key concepts is that of “withholding definition”. This is his way of talking about Alexandrian Inhibition, of a radical sort, one that allows a persons’ fixed sense of identity to become unfixed, fluid, changeable. Tommy’s work revolves around the issue of identity, how we define ourselves and by doing so, how we limit ourselves from experiencing who we are and what we might become. In the words of James Baldwin, “Identity would seem to be the garment with which one covers the nakedness of the self: in which case, it is best that the garment be loose, a little like the robes of the desert, through which one’s nakedness can always be felt, and, sometimes, discerned.” Tommy work seems to be about loosening the garment.

2.) Seeing a students’ beauty. Appreciating a student for how and who they are and letting your lessons unfold from there. Tommy’s work is profoundly non-corrective.

3.) Restoring a supportive sense of being as we do what we are doing. Remaining a human being rather than turning into a human doing. Our culture judgmentally demands: “Don’t just stand there, do something!” Tommy’s advice might be: “Don’t just do something, stand there.” First get a sense of where you are, what you are in relation with, how you are being, what you are experiencing and then let your doing arise out of this fullness of being.

4.) What most influences our students and allows them to change depends not so much on what we do but on who we are when we are with them. Ram Dass says, “The only thing you have to offer another human being, ever, is your own state of being.” Maybe Ram Dass heard that from Tommy! Sounds like Tommy.

Touching Presence does not read like a novel, or a textbook, certainly not a manual. Reading Tommy requires some work and some time. I found myself reading just a paragraph or two and then having to stop, become still, quiet, and just think, reflect, meditate before reading on. Touching Presence reads more like a Buddhist Sutra, or like the Cloud of Unknowing, where something important is said over and over again. Humility…is nothing else but a true knowledge and experience of yourself as you are. (Cloud of Unknowing). Or, The word is not the thing. (The Diamond Sutra). Or, Form is emptiness, and emptiness, form. (The Heart Sutra). Ideas not for thinking once and then forgetting, but rather ideas you sit on, like a mother hen, until one day, CRACK, your mind opens, your heart opens, and new possibilities you never could have imagined, present themselves.

If you are training to become an Alexander teacher, or if you are an Alexander teacher and if you are interested not only in The Use of the Body, but are really interested in The Use of the Whole Self, if you wish to go beyond teaching about the body and about movement, if you are interested in your physio-spiritual life, then this book may help you along your way.

– Bruce Fertman
STAT Teaching Member
Alexander Technique Teacher and Trainer
Denmark

“At this time when the world is falling out of touch, ‘Touching Presence is an antidote and reminder of its importance.”
‘Touching Presence’ is a gift.

PennyO’Conner
AlexanderTeacher
STAT Teaching Member
UK

_______________________________

tommy@easeofbeing.com
https://www.easeofbeing.com

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