Pottery seemed like one of the more challenging crafts to learn and I must admit, I was afraid to try.
My inner perfectionist thought, “There are too many variables at work and possibly working against me: a high speed wheel spinning clay and whipping water around (messy!) and my unsteady hands attempting to create shapes…What if I can’t do it? What if everything I make turns out lopsided?”
Since half the battle of trying something new is simply putting yourself out there, I signed up for a 8 week course with my ceramic savvy friend, who is an Artist in Residence at the Harbourfront Centre.
What became clear to me during the first few classes was how focused and meditative it was to work with clay; it was easy for my attention to zero in on the first day—but as the weeks progressed, challenges did show themselves.
“Centering” seems to be the most difficult part of working with the clay. This means that I had to get the clay smack-dab in the middle of the wheel—and yes—as it is spinning at the highest speed. Easier said than done.
I had to be in control of the clay, while at the same time letting it do its thing (with help from cylindrical force), all the while trying not to zone out on the cool swirl of the wheel spinning; in the beginning, I felt like the wheel was trying to hypnotize me and as the weeks went on, I allowed it to.
I found the clay easy to work with, yet I had to be cautious when manipulating it to make sure I didn’t throw it off its center. Once the process began of drawing up (think what gives height to a vase) the clay, any diversion in attention—or even a glance away—could send the clay off center and potentially ruin what I was working on.
So, without being distracted by other shiny objects around me, I would let the spiral of the clay hypnotize me…watching the water spray out around the edges, focusing into the sensations of warm wet clay in my hands. I attempted to create something (anything), all the while not becoming too attached to what I was making—for it could change in a moment!—and that so-called ‘perfect’ vase would get badly warped, or the walls would get too thin, and with a humble sigh, I would squish it back into the pile of clay I began with.
It was neat starting over, because it required a new batch of clay and starting from the very beginning, again; you couldn’t reuse the previous ball of clay, because it had to dry out…and that is what reminded me of my yoga practice.
Interesting how starting over reminded me of yoga—but the reset with a new batch of clay is exactly how I’ve come to understand my asana practice—because after having a regular practice for sometime, I took a year off.
What’s rarely talked about openly in the yoga world is when people take a break from practicing yoga—or if it is spoken of, it is wrapped in guilt and shame. More importantly, what is often meant as asana (just one aspect or limb of the practice), ends up being referred to as the entirety of yoga.
Just because I stopped attending classes at studios, or didn’t do daily sun salutations, didn’t mean that I wasn’t practicing yoga; I had many changes in my life and with that, I needed to step back, regroup and examine what yoga meant to me…which is also a part of the practice—and, for me, more important than how my shoulders were doing in downward dog.
Although I have emerged with (some) answers and (more) questions, it has become clear to me that I was caught up in my idea of what the practice should look like from the outside, rather than examining and appreciating the ways it has transformed me, on the inside.
When the time came and I went back to class, I unrolled my mat and discovered that my body was that of a beginner; in a standing pose, I watched my mind trying to tell my body that it should be able to do—what it used to do. I realized that I was that new piece of clay and like in my pottery class, I came back to it, from the beginning, all over again…but this time a little wiser and kinder with my reasons, in my heart, for why I was there.
Remember, the first step in working with the wheel in pottery is centering—and that is what I did in my asana practice; I gently thanked my mind for reminding me of where I used to be, then shifted my attention to my heart, my center…and to where I actually was.
I was happy to have created a few things in the pottery class but also appreciated the greater lessons of impermanence, patience and a better understanding (and letting go) of my ideas of perfection at the wheel, on the mat and in my life.
Written by Lindsay Gamester
As a coffee aficionado, free form dancer and lover of ice cream, Lindsay enjoys contemplating the mysteries of life while attempting to balance on a slackline. Yoga has influenced her being in ways often not able to transcribe but instead she attempts to integrate the teachings into daily life, crafty projects and musings on her blog. Lindsay is personally dedicated to being awesome and helping others to experience their awesomeness as a humble student, teacher and woman of the 21st century. Currently, she is enjoying life in Toronto, obtaining her B.A in Humanities and being part of the OG community.