Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pottery as Spiritual Practice

With all the hype about the “new American spirituality,” a veritable smorgasbord of old and new, East and West, I would like to throw my hat into the ring.


Yes, you heard me right. Pottery. It is my spiritual practice. It is my Zen, my meditation, my conversation with God. It is my personal gauge of my sense of balance and my comfort with the world at large.

I hesitate to call what I do art as my pottery itself is very simple in its construction. Any first year pottery student could do what I do. For me, the pottery’s purpose isn’t the product, but the process.

If you were to watch my process, you may question my sanity.

First of all, I know better than to turn on the television to CNN or some insipid talk show. I have made many a bad pot while I filled my eyes and ears with the junk of the world. I throw to classical music, preferably Mozart or Vivaldi.

I center my clay with my eyes closed. As I feel the wet clay slip through my fingers, it tells me when to push and when to yield. If only life were that simple. My pots are a metaphor for life. When you push too hard, when you constrict too much, you get a wobble. Sometimes you get an entire collapse. When you are feeling stressed, the clay knows. It tells you to relax. If you can’t relax, it is very certain to tell you to step away from the wheel. NOW!

But when everything is right, it is magical. It is smooth and soothing and cool. It moves in harmony with the fingers, not knowing where the clay ends and the fingers begin. For a short while, you become part of the piece. And then it tells you when it is done. Not one more movement lest you interrupt the beauty of what it is trying to say.

Okay, you probably prefer Eckhart Tolle, or yoga, or kabbalah. You might be Catholic or Jewish or Muslim and have your own well worn path to the divine. I understand completely. Playing in the mud may not be what most people would call spiritual. But for me, it is my most sacred moment, when all things become possible and life is at its most glorious.

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