Friday, October 10, 2008

getting centered

Learning how to center clay on the wheel is the most challenging part of learning how to throw. I was taught by a master teacher, and my whole class learned how to center and throw within a very short time because of his skillful teaching. I think right about now is a good time to think about the metaphor of centering clay and getting centered in life. I bring this up because of the drums of fear and panic that are beating in all corners right now. Apparently we are in the depths major financial crisis, and unless you are living under a rock, we all know the words that are getting repeated over and over again.

There is something about chaos of panic that can set you free from the daily monotony. We are coming up on the 19 year anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake, which I experienced in full effect in Santa Cruz. It was the single most terrifying event of my life, but it was also one of the most meaningful. It totally released me from my own daily insecurities and problems that I was experiencing at the time, and put front and center exactly what was important: being alive along with your friends and family. It was an extremely valuable lesson to learn in my late teens, and I still can't think about that time without having an overwhelming emotional response of gratitude that I was able to experience it.

Change is happening; it's going to happen and it's out of our control, much like an earthquake. When I start feeling scared about what's happening and how it may impact me, I think about how much more important it is that I stay centered with my work, my husband, and my friends. For me that means staying calm and focused, and not spending to much time letting my imagination run wild, and not indulging in a lot of conversation about "the markets" or "the economy". I don't really understand any of that shit, and the majority of my friends don't either. Most of us are repeating what we hear in the news, which is pretty useless. I would really love it if we could all think about how major change can bring so many blessings to our lives rather than darkness, and how essential change is to make life worth living in the first place. In the short-term, change can be very uncomfortable and scary. But no matter what happens, we are still all going to be on this planet, alive, and together. How great is that?


  1. Fantastic post - I've been pretty good about not listening to all the political and economic noise, but just 5 minutes ago, I checked how many points the market dropped today.

    You are very wise and your centering analogy is perfect.

    My moment of truth came when I was a flight attendant for United Airlines and was stuck in CA on a layover for 6 days right after the events of 9-11, knowing that some of my colleagues based out of Boston had died a horrific death. I was scheduled to work the exact same trip the following week - and kept putting myself in their shoes imaging like a mental movie that wouldn't stop what they had gone through that day.

    All I wanted to do was go home to Maine and to hug my husband and daughter. As frightened as I was to board the airplane back home, I knew I had to make myself do it. And, despite hardly ever taking time off from work for fear of not having enough money, I also knew that I wasn't going to go back to work for UAL when I did return home.

    I found clay instead and took my first class. There was something so comforting about working with a lump of clay - meditative, consuming, joyful. Clay saved me - or rather, "centered" me once again.

  2. bronwynb1:12 PM

    Whit, as usual, your comments are genius! I always like to remind people that the Loma Prieta gave us the new Embarcadero and Ferry Plaza building in SF, the new Hayes Valley park and off-ramp, the new (eventualy) east span of the Bay Bridge. It also incorporated West Oakland back into the fold of the city after the collapsed Nimitz freeway was re-routed. Great results from a literal shake-up. I'm looking forward to this financial shake-up improving the rest of our lives. We'll sort out our wasteful fuel consumption, and re-connect with our food sources and our local community. I'm kinda excited about it!

  3. Being an eternal optimist, I love this point of view. I just keep making my pots, teaching my kids, and decorate a theater set every now and then. I say escape reality whenever possible! I have an amazing family and we have food on the table that is delicious and we have great conversations. That's about all I need, and a cup of tea every morning to get me going.I was in the freak tornado that hit Salt Lake City a few years ago, I can relate to the earthquake moment.

  4. I was hit by a car and found myself suddenly in the hospital, in a lot of pain, fairly helpless and my life completely thrown up in the air. I was amazed to realize after a few days of frustration and anxiety, that I had been completely liberated from my everyday and with no recourse on going back to the way things were- and it was an incredible relief in its way. While I would not like to experience that again, I am more open to profound changes, though they are always a challenge when you first meet them.