Life Messages from a Potter
An Inner-World Exploration
I took a course in clay sculpture a long time ago in New York City. I remember rolling the clay into “snakes” and then weaving them in a circle to make a bowl. I remember looking at a live model and managing to mold a small figure. The instructions were to cut away what was not needed.
Cut away what is not needed
Now there’s an amazing life lesson! What are you carrying around in your life that you no longer need, or never needed, but are hanging onto as if you did?
Self-doubt, comes up. Not experiencing your own self-worth. Who needs those! Take away what is not needed. What should be left, what should be saved is self-love.
Build a foundation
To build a larger structure, potters create an armature. It’s a wooden or metal base they construct to hold the clay when they sculpt a figure or a head.
The pottery lesson here is that although we can shape our lives into any wonderful figures or elements or expressions of our life that we wish, we may have to provide an armature, a strong, supportive foundation upon which we can build. That means we need to know our values and our spiritual beliefs.
The potter knows that the structure of this foundational armature must be in the correct proportions or the entire sculpture will be flawed and unsteady.
How strong is your armature, your foundation? Does it need strengthening? Start with self-love.
You magically shape your life every day!
Become more aware of your role as the sculptor of your own life. I never expected to become a really good potter, but I did love the learning process. And I surprised myself. My most amazing feat was to create the head of a woman model that was really good. I was really proud as well as truly pleased at the talent I showed that I had no idea I had. It surprised me that I could do it. I took away what was not needed and true beauty emerged.
Then the head broke when the instructor fired it but I was so surprised and pleased that I had done it that I carried the unfired sculpture with me for years. Remember your life successes and bring them forward with you.
Clay can be made into anything, as can your life.
You begin with nothing and you make something. Is that not a perfect metaphor for life?!
Chose your clay
We come into this world with the ingredients of clay, along with the ability to fashion our life in any manner. But we can add elements to our clay to change how it can be used. We may mix different colors of clay for a specific effect. We may vary the coarseness of the mixture. We may need to make the object thicker to make it stronger, depending on its intended use.
We begin with the clay of our being, evolve its purpose, add our choices, our beliefs, our experiences into our own unique clay-ness to form and create and evolve the expression of our life.
Mix in clarity of purpose
The clay itself will vary depending on where it comes from the earth. Just like us. The potter (that’s us) slowly adds water (choices) until the right consistency is reached.
We add all sorts of things to our “life” clay. We add experiences and beliefs. We add learning that we accept and learning that we reject.
Start with your intention
What do you want to create in your life? You have access to the ingredients to make anything you want. What will that be? Begin with an intention but let the clay talk to you and help shape the end result.
What do you want to make of your life? How do you want your “clay” to be in service? That will determine how you shape it.
Form the shape you want
In pottery, you work the clay to get out all the air bubbles, the excess, the unwanted. That takes massaging and folding and pulling and kneading.
The next step is to put the kneaded clay (you) on the wheel (the Wheel of Life) and center it. Picture this. The lump of clay (you) is on the wheel (life) and the hands of the potter are there to hold you and center you. These strong, supportive hands (your values and spiritual beliefs) help you begin to form the shape of your life experience and your form of service.
Shape your life based on the clay you have chosen to work with and the service you wish to provide
To get clay ready for the wheel, you press it to make certain all the air is out. Air will cause distortion. Think of air as unfound beliefs or ideas that do not serve your final destiny. Get rid of them.
The very first act is centering
Here is a major lesson in this metaphor of life. We must center ourselves many times as we move through our lives, through our day. It is at the center that we find balance, redefine our direction, and move forward.
The potter makes certain the clay moves into a balanced form as the wheel is slowing turned. A slight pressure here, a release there, and the clay begins to take its intended shape.
The potter begins to get a feel for the texture of the clay and her hands adjust in order to help the shape take form. She “listens” with her hands and responds to the needs of the clay. A little pressure here. A little release there. Just like life.
Draw the clay up into the desired shape
If you’ve ever watched a potter work, there’s a constant moving of her hands. She “draws” the clay up as the wheel turns. Pressing in one place so another area can expand. A potter talks to her clay. She listens to what it offers and she uses her imagination and intention to shape the piece into the best form for its intended place of service.
Cut off excess
After the shape is as she wants it to be, the potter lets the clay harden, leather hard, soft but holding its shape. She examines her piece to see that it is what she intended and trims off the excesses. She checks for balance and trims off what’s throwing it off. She checks for appearance and balance. What do you need to trim off in your life? What’s keeping you off balance and needs to be discarded?
Trim the unnecessary pieces in your life and refined its shape to make your life experience more balanced and aligned.
Fire it to make it hold its shape
The idea of firing something to help it hold its shape is an interesting life concept. You need fire in your life to hold your shape. Passion, conviction, a little testing here, a lot of testing there. That firing, that heat, allows you to make choices that firm up your beliefs and helps you recognize your gifts and take steps to shape your life according to your calling.
The potter lets her shaped clay dry completely. Then she puts it in the very, very hot kiln. This is the bisque firing. Clay is super fragile before you fire it. Once you’ve done the bisque firing it holds its shape and is as sturdy as stone.
Does that mean our times of pressure and difficulty are simply ways to help us toughen up so we can truly be in service?
How do you decorate your life?
Now comes the fun part. The artistic part. The decoration part. Now that you have the shape of your life determined, how will you decorate it? What colors do you use? What shapes do you draw? Your life is yours to decorate. What do you choose?
Once the color is on, the decoration complete, it’s ready for the glaze firing.
Put your life in service
The life you have shaped and fired and glazed is ready to go into service. Who needs it? Who wants it? Where will the life you have shaped and decorated have the most impact?
Did you shape a life that could hold the joy and love you want? Are your lifelong lessons emblazoned on your surface? Is your place of service clearly evident?
Make each day a new creation
If I approach each day as a new opportunity to create a unique shape for my service I’ll begin by using my spiritual practice as the armature, the solid frame upon which I’ll build my day. I’ll consciously and intentionally shape my vessel for the service I intend to offer through the choices I make. And I’ll decorate my life with my thoughts and actions so everyone can see how I’m in service.
How do you shape your day? What form do you want it to take? How do you want it to look? Are you willing to do what it takes to make that happen?
Each day is an opportunity to create a new offering. Make it a useful one.
To Sing a Deeper Song Consider:
What Are Your Weaving in Your Reality?
Does Your Work Stir Your Heart