Centering Clay on a Potter’s Wheel


A Metaphor for Life

Clay represents a metaphor for a life of relationships—and situations—and you are the potter. Life will offer its external and internal expectations of what the final piece should look like. It is the potter who gets to decide when: to add pressure and to ease up; to speed up and to slow down the wheel; when to step back and to sit down; when to be the student and when to be the teacher. Sometimes, even after much effort, the potter has to just accept that it’s time to start over.

There are times the potter has invested energy and creativity into an important piece and it can be difficult to stop and start over. Unexpected external events that have can have influenced our preferred choices that force us to rethink our next steps.

In favorable conditions, the potter is able to practice their craft with joy. Gracefully balancing the speed of the wheel with the right amount of clay centered, adjusting each hand’s pressure to allow the piece to come to life. Adding just the right amount of clay or water to allow it to flow and grow into its preferred shape. The potter is able to periodically pause: to step back and observe the piece from a different vantage point. The potter returns to the wheel recharged with a new perspective to continue crafting the vision held in their mind.

If all goes well, the vision comes to life as planned and its beauty can be forever preserved with fire. What was once wet, soft, and pliable will become dry, hard, and set to be enjoyed for a lifetime. Ironically, even after this beautiful work of art has been transformed by fire—it remains susceptible to breaking into many pieces if not cared for or protected from unintended bumps in its resting place.

Centering clay on a potter’s wheel represents a metaphor for the fluctuations of our daily lives. Life has an interesting way of not throwing anything at us or throwing everything at us at once—often, at what seems like the worst possible moment. Sometimes we have to step back from the wheel of life and remind ourselves of those practices we do—or know we can do—to center ourselves.

Practices are what we do to live our values, to provide a counterbalance to stressful situations or unexpected events that bring uncertainty. Taking a walk in nature, practicing yoga, or spending time with people that matter most may not change the current situation immediately, but they can provide space to pause, observe, and determine the best next step to resolve apprehension.

Consider some of the practices that center you and the name of the value they provide. Make a list of them. Describe how practicing them makes you feel.

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