I’ve been fortunate to have had a number of very impressive and inspirational teachers, in different fields of study. However, in my experience it is rare to come across a teacher who is one of the lights of the generation, someone who is above and beyond even the inspirational. If you are lucky enough to encounter a teacher like Tommy Thompson, it is worth doing everything in your power to organize your life in such a way as to be able to study with him.
I came into the training program looking for specific technical skills: as a Pilates instructor, I wanted to learn techniques to help my clients stop repeating the dysfunctional neuromuscular patterns that were causing them pain and producing functional limitations. While I am indeed learning these skills, what I have found in Tommy’s program has gone far beyond anything I expected. The aspect of the work that has been most meaningful in my life has been the concept of “withholding definition”, Tommy’s perspective on inhibition.
Tommy’s concept of withholding definition suggests that we can lessen our commitment to seeing and doing as we usually see and do. As we lessen our commitment to reinforcing the habitual, the invisible hand of expectation loosens its grip on us, and we are able to take in more information from the world around us. As we take in more, possibly going beyond what we expect to see and hear, we can come up with a more fitting way to interact. As I have been working to integrate the practice of withholding definition in my own life, I have seen my relationships with my family, friends, clients, and colleagues become richer and deeper. New solutions to problems show up, or sometimes something that I think is a problem turns out not to be.
If you are considering joining the training program, I can’t recommend it highly enough. In addition to Tommy’s rich and deep teaching, Debi Adams and Bob Lada also teach in the program every week. Debi and Bob are exceptional teachers, each with a unique style, and each bringing grace, humor, and different ways of finding the right word or touch to illuminate a difficult point. Other Boston area teachers come into the training on an approximately monthly basis, and guest teachers visit from around the country and around the world. In the training program, the principles and skills of the Alexander Technique are taught with an undergirding of Tommy’s deep humanism and compassion. Ideas such as looking for the beauty in each person, always striving to connect with the person, rather than working with a particular body part or a problem, and looking beyond any restrictions to see and work with the potential, are all wonderful ways to approach the Alexander work – and to bring home.
Rachel teaches Pilates in Cambridge, Brookline, and Boston.
Voice Faculty at New England Conservatory
There is so much I am learning under Tommy’s guidance, and in so many different levels. I started taking private lessons with Debi, originally to help my singing, and to deal with persistent neck and head pain/tensions. I was mostly fascinated about how peaceful and light I would feel after the sessions. Debi suggested I start training, which I did a year ago. This has been a life-changing experience, and the perfect step I needed to take in my search for my deeper, freer self. Tommy is an amazing teacher and healer. The depth of his work, his wisdom and understanding of and compassion for the human experience are so profound. The AT technique for me, at this moment, is a meditation happening between two people, the teacher and the student, where both are engaged in a subtle communication, both in body and spirit; where changes to the habitual patterns start happening in both persons, which allow us to experience life in a more open and fearless way, where the true self can blossom.
Violinist and Alexander Technique Teacher
Suzuki Violin Faculty, Longy School of Music Preparatory Program
Almost a year after my graduation from the Alexander Technique training course, I am struck by how the profound nature of this work keeps unfolding. My years spent in the training changed my life and outlook and as I go forward as a teacher I am deeply grateful for the years spent with Tommy, Debi, Bob and all the teachers and trainees I worked with. The Alexander training I went through was about support. Support on all levels: inner support, structural support, supported letting go, supportive thinking and direction, supportive environment and people. The training was also about deep listening, touch, and relationships–our relationship to our self, each other, the environment, our head to the rest of our body, and our thinking to our use. Being supported from within and without, learning to listen to ourselves and others, touching and being touched, and the deep interconnectedness and relationship of all things: these are some of the deepest desires one can have and to have 3+ years to be in such an environment and explore is truly a gift. Thank you to Tommy and all for the deep support, connection, and love I experienced and take with me.
As a second year trainee, my understanding of the Alexander Technique has undergone many revelations, changes and rebirths. One of the most affecting parts of the approach to this training is the work we do ‘in activity.’ Outside of the training course I have a busy life with duties that demand my full psychophysical attention and participation. It is so helpful to be able to use the training as a place to experiment and troubleshoot the tasks I have to fulfill ‘out there’ so that they become more integrated and more in relationship with my whole organism. It’s a beautiful marriage of the practical and philosophical elements that encompass the Technique.
Another powerful aspect that makes this training unique is Tommy’s approach to inhibition, which he has re-coined withholding definition. Inhibition used to be something I applied to individual, simple things, such as thoughts and physical actions. But now I see things with such a wider range of perspective that instead I apply his take on inhibition to whole situations that encompass many different things, like personal relationships, and I find that I can enter all the different arenas of my life with a clearer sense of reality that lacks judgment.
Tommy says, “people come into the training for one reason, and stay for another.” This certainly applies to me. I have acquired greater freedom as a singer, and more subtle tools as a voice teacher, and greater ease in what Ido; what one would expect in extensive work in the Alexander Technique.
The “other reason” has to do with shedding patterns of interference with me being who I am. Is it possible to change, and connect with one’s more authentic self when in their 50’s? Yes. Tommy’s training offers the gifts of patience, deep listening (on all levels; with hands, ears, heart) and acceptance. This is what I will strive to be able to do in my own teaching; to meet people where they are and to offer an open-ended invitation to make choices from a place of support and possibility. We can discover ourselves in these moments of transition, bringing us to know more deeply ourselves, and the people in our lives.
At the outset of my third year of training at the Alexander Technique Center in Cambridge, what I know is both immense and puny. The mystery of the Technique persists yet I have gained some indication that it works despite clumsy application and short experience. Three years, however, is not nearly long enough time to be an able teacher. I am in awe of (and grateful for) the patience and fierce faith of my teachers. My fellow trainees, modest to a fault, possess skills and experience I will never match; without their inspiration I would have despaired long ago, proving what Tommy Thompson has often said, that we are designed to help each other.
Tommy, who has taught the Alexander Technique for over 30 years, brings to his students an inkling of what F.M. Alexander, the founder of the Technique must have had in mind when he titled his first book, Man’s Supreme Inheritance,  though to date, alas, it is an legacy we have largely failed to win as a consequence of humanity’s unthinking dependence on habit.
Today I am closer to the better person of my heart than I was yesterday or a year ago and I know that there is so much more available to me than I ever thought. One day I hope to know enough to enable someone to walk across the floor like flowing water.