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For the past couple years there has been a little, nagging voice in my head telling me to explore pottery. Not like Color Me Mine paint-a-plate pottery but get-down-and-dirty-like-Ghost pottery.

I tried it and fell in love.

 

I guess I thought it was going to be dainty somehow but pottery is not girlie. You have to sit with your legs splayed, your elbows jammed in your inner thighs and use your body weight to throw the piece. You work your upper arms to a state of near paralysis as mud splatters, matting your hair together. It’s hard.

And it is an incredible lesson in mindfulness.

In centering your piece, the breath is more important than I could have imagined. Centering requires getting your mass of clay in the exact middle of the spinning wheel so that you can shape it evenly. To many people, it’s the most challenging part of throwing pottery. In my very first class, the woman next to me leaned over as I struggled, my clay flopping around like a drowning fish on the wheel, “The thing with centering is that if I’m not – I can’t.”

Siddhartha himself could not have put it any better.

I need all my focus and all my attention. I need to breathe in gentle confidence and breathe out expectations.  Only then can I see what this mound of dirt is willing to become.

When my mind wanders to what I need to do later – the clay collapses. When I think it is looking really beautiful and I hope it turns out well – the clay collapses. When I think about how hard this is and I’ll never get it centered – the clay collapses. When I’m doing anything other than breathing and being in the moment with this mud – the clay collapses.

But when it doesn’t collapse and when I can see my lump of clay through the whole process, the result is something so sweet and useful – so essential –  as a bowl or a cup. It’s like a tangible reminder of my mindfulness, of what is possible if I just stop and be here now. 

I have much to learn about the nuance of pottery, the science of glazes and the kiln process. But so far, I love playing with million year old pieces of dirt and being present with them until I can slowly and quietly coax out their beautiful purpose.

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