Sunday, June 12, 2011

no resolution

I've been an undisciplined meditator for about 4 years now. Every other week or so, I meditate with group at Shambala Meditation Center in Berkeley, and there is always a reading on Buddhist practice that we discuss after the 45 minute meditation. The last reading from Pema Chodron's Living With Uncertainty was about resolution. She wrote that as humans, we are always reaching for resolution, but resolution does not exist. This immediately caused a stir among the over-achieving Bay Area types who typically attend this meditation session, all of us quite comfortable with the idea that hard work will bring results, then resolution, quickly followed by happiness. The writer went on to say we don't even deserve resolution, but something better than that, which is mindful awareness. When it comes to mindfulness, I'm still batting in the Little League. But the concept of no resolution is something I grasped immediately.

Pottery is all about no resolution, which is why many ceramic artists are driven slowly crazy by the medium. It's difficult to accept no resolution. For me, that means nothing I make is perfect, shit is always falling apart, the work is never done, and there is always something more to learn. I have intellectually understood this about pottery for quite a while now, but practicing acceptance without resistance is exercise that gets me all sweaty. I get there every once in a while. Meditation helps. So does an ice-cold cocktail. With apologies to Pema Chodron, I've reinterpreted some of her writings to address the potter-warrior:

A potter accepts that we can never know what will come out of the kiln. We can try to control the uncontrollable by following the glaze recipe exactly or firing the kiln to the same temperature each time, always hoping to get a perfect result. But the truth is that we can never avoid uncertainty. This not-knowing is part of the adventure. It's also what makes us afraid of opening the kiln and wish we majored in computer science so we could be making money writing apps for smartphones instead of spending our days alone in a dusty studio. If we find ourselves in doubt that we're up to being a potter, we can contemplate this question: "Do I prefer to grow up and accept what comes out of the kiln, or do I choose to live and die in fear of what comes out of the kiln?"