Meditation for the Non-Meditator
By Jean McClelland
As Alexander Technique teachers, we are often asked by our students if we meditate. In truth, we are “meditating” every time we give a lesson. That is, if one’s definition of meditation is to produce a mind that is clear, focused and uncluttered.
Many people find it difficult to meditate. They describe not being able to remain “still” for extended periods of time, or they find that their mind wanders. Often, we think that meditation means to focus on something—a mantra or our breath—but our idea of focusing might be to “over-focus,” which is impossible to maintain. The type of mind that meditation should cultivate is one that is open to insight. It is not narrowly focused; rather, it is expansive. Musicians “meditate” when they play, sing music or compose. Experienced athletes are meditating every time they practice or compete, and artists find themselves in the “zone” when they paint a canvas.
A clear, open mind can be part of our day. We do not need to go off someplace in solitude to meditate, and chances are, we may be already “meditating.” During the pandemic, many people began to cook more and bake bread. What a wonderful form of meditation! The art of measuring amounts, kneading dough, and appreciating different aromas are all ways that we use our minds in an un-forced but focused way. That is why, for many people, cooking is an excellent way to relieve stress. It is pleasurable, while also being meditative and mindful.
Walking is another excellent way to incorporate meditation into our daily routine. Walking meditation is an encouraged form of meditation, and there are different ways of experiencing it. It is often suggested that one focuses on the feeling in each foot as it moves forward, step by step. There is another way to meditate while walking that will also improve the alignment of your body while connecting you to your environment.
Before setting out on a walk, we can take a moment to sense the earth underneath our feet. Don’t try to “feel” for it; sensing is immediate. What happens when someone touches our arm? Instantaneously we register it as touch. So it is with the earth. It is there. We can just become aware of it and let its presence make itself known.
Readers of this column may remember that gravity stimulates our muscles that keep us upright.Gravity also stimulates the muscles responsible for making our legs move. Literally, the earth can “walk us,” as if we are on a moving sidewalk in an airport. When we sense the earth walking us, we will start to glide. Our vision will improve, and we may feel lighter. With practice, our minds become clearer and open to new insights and creative ideas. The joy we will experience will keep us practicing meditation and make it part of our day.
Jean McClelland is on the faculty of the Graduate Program in Acting at Columbia University and a guest lecturer in the music department at William Paterson University. She is an AmSAT certified senior teacher of the Alexander Technique and studied with Carl Stough at his Institute for Breathing Coordination. She is one of fewer than a dozen people worldwide personally selected by Stough to teach his work. In addition, she has performed extensively in musical theater and is a member of Actors’ Equity Association. She teaches in-person at One Spirit Learning Alliance, in addition to other in-person and virtual private lessons and group classes. For more information, visit