Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Alexander John Shaia was part of a large extended family that had emigrated from Lebanon a generation previously. He grew up immersed in the ancient traditions of Middle Eastern Christianity (Maronite Catholicism) and was expected to become a priest, a family tradition since the year 1300. He was led otherwise.
Alexander John received a degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Notre Dame and was also privileged to learn from Joseph Campbell. Next came a brief time in seminary followed by a master’s in Counseling Education, a master’s in Religious Education, a graduate certificate in Pastoral Psychotherapy, and a PhD in Clinical Psychology.
His extensive psychological training across many modalities finally led him to Switzerland where he studied with Dora Maria Kalff, a Jungian analyst and founder of Sandplay Psychotherapy. Alexander John became the first U.S. man, and openly gay man, admitted to the International Society for Sandplay Therapy — and continues to serve as a senior Certified Teaching Member of the organization.
Returning to the United States, he undertook years of private practice, teaching and leading retreats across world spiritual traditions, and further study. Integrating his lifelong practice of prayer with many cross-disciplines — anthropology, psychology, spirituality, and ritual work — has shaped him into a unique thought leader, prolific author, and widely sought-after consultant, trainer, and inspiring speaker.