Centering: Empower Yourself!

In pottery making, centering is the most important aspect of throwing on the wheel. If the clay is wobbly or un-centered, it’s impossible to make a symmetrical, balanced pot.


To center, slam the clay down as close to the center of the wheel as possible and make sure it sticks.

You must get your hands and the clay wet.

Your body position is extremely important. Sit on the edge of your seat, as close as possible to the wheel with your legs hugging the sides.

Wrap your hands around the clay.

Your back is actually centering the clay as you lean over and into your left elbow. Your elbows should be tucked into your hips to stabilize the arms and wrists.

When you lean in with your back it pushes on your left forearm to wrist to hand pushing straight ahead.

You right hand comes down on the top like a ‘karate chop’ to keep the clay compressed into a cake shape and not a mountain or cone.

When you hold your body stable and strong the clay has no choice but to respond to the ‘mold’ you have created.

Remember you are in charge – not the clay!!

Even if you’ve never worked at a potter’s wheel, as you read this you likely can sense the degree of focus in consciousness and in physicality you can develop as you practice throwing a piece.

“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside you.”  Deepak Chopra

Centering has been an experience explored not only by potters, but by dancers, philosophers, poets, theologians, and saints.  As one who is currently being Human, have you ever wondered what is at your center?

Who is the You who is in charge?  Who do you ask for guidance?

People who choose to re-center themselves with the support of a twelve step program look to a ‘higher power’.  Indigenous tribal people, pagans, wiccans, and others who honor the Earth, tend to pray to the cycles of nature and creation. People all over the world call on a god of different names.

Many verses in the Christian Bible state in various words that “the spirit of God lives within you.”  Gurus in the tradition of Siddha Yoga take it a step further and tell us that ‘God dwells within you as You.”  In the Qur’an 64:1 we may read “Whatever is in the skies or on the Earth invokes God”.

All seem to suggest that this inner ‘god’, this conscious creative universal energy, is the force that centers us.

The Sufi Semazen sect known to us as the Whirling Dervishes were inspired by the Persian poet Rumi in the 13th century.  They center themselves and truly experience their own ecstatic centers through their spinning dances. They feel that whirling unites the three fundamental components of Human Nature – mind, heart and body, and  center themselves on the wheel of life.

Ballet dancers and figure skaters know all about centering by spinning.  When a skater loses his center he begins to wobble and lose momentum.  A twirling ballerina who loses focus becomes dizzy and stumbles.  One of the surest ways to get off center is to get into our heads!  That’s how we know for sure that our mind is not our center!  Focusing too much in the nether regions of our torsos is just as likely to move us off center.

So, if we’re not inclined to twirl on ice, or on pointe shoes, how do we find our center?  How do we find that place within that we can count on…go to for guidance and to re-boot?  How do we create stillness in the midst of movement and sometimes chaos?

How do we maintain our center while dashing from one obligation to the next activity?

How do we reach that place of calm and wisdom in the middle of a family squabble?  How do we stay cool when we’re angry? – Just like in the old story about the tourist in NYC asking how to get to Carnegie Hall, the answer is practice, practice, practice!

Working in clay, especially practicing on the wheel is a centering experience!  Check out our schedule of classes and private lessons.

Maintaining a meditation practice whether as part of a satsang (Sanskrit for ‘in the company of Highest Truth’) or alone, or both, will lead to that place of centeredness that will stay with you. Practicing shamanic journeying is another path to Center. We offer these as well!

Breathwork is a powerful way to find and maintain your center.  You can’t be in your head or anywhere else while you’re focused on your breathing!  Try a Breathwork Session, or a series of them at Clay Alchemy from The Voice of Clay!

You can experience all of the above and more when you enroll in our upcoming series we’re calling Empower Yourself with Clay, Dreams, The Breath and Journeying.

‘Ash Wednesday‘ this week begins the Christian forty day observance of Lent – a time of  replacing self indulgence with fasting, compassion and prayer in preparation for an experience of rebirth on Easter Sunday.  We must die before we can be reborn. Ashes rubbed on the foreheads of the faithful are meant to remind us that our time on Earth is finite.  Our clay bodies of volcanic ash and dust, will ultimately revert to the same…the ultimate letting go! Lent is often associated with ‘giving things up’. The new spiritual leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has asked people to rethink Lent this year.  He quotes the mystic John Chrysostom:

“No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage to others.  No matter how much time you spend fasting…if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”

Pope Francis suggests that this year we “fast on indifference to others”.  As I see it, that

includes indifference to the impact of our criticism be it intended to be of the so called ‘constructive’ type, or just plain accusatory.  We can fast on blame and contemplate instead the ways in which we are the source of our own experience. We can give up judging others, and imagine instead what it would be like to have to meet their life challenges.  When we give up the old ways that have held us back we’re free to create ourselves anew!

Gathering in groups, sitting in circles and listening to others’ perspectives, while we all move closer to our own center reminds us of how we are much more alike than different!  When we each own our gifts, are grateful, and find small and larger ways to contribute to making the world a better place, we are operating from our center!

shannon Burke