Every week on Fridays at 10:00am, my Study From Afar Program mentor and clay instructor, Sarah Wells Rolland, is on Facebook demonstrating a throwing technique by making a teapot, a pitcher or other clay forms. It’s a wonderful 30 minutes and I try to catch it live. Otherwise, I watch the saved version.
She has the most wonderful way with clay, great command of the clay and can make it do just about anything. I love watching her throw and talk about technique, the little tips, and small details that capture what it means to “throw with excellence,” in her words. (Here is a link to an 8-minute YouTube video of Sarah making a pot) It’s part of a Vessels of Hope series, but that’s a topic for another blog.
There is a particular aspect of throwing clay on the wheel that is brand new to me and it has a great practical connection with spiritual life. Sarah talks about catching center. This means that in the process of centering clay on the wheel, and lifting the clay into a tall cylinder, you continually make sure that the clay remains centered. There is no wobble or swim, the walls are even in their thickness, there are no thin spots or bulges. In shaping the clay and stretching it to its limits, a well-thrown pot remains centered. Sarah can catch the center at the top of the pot or in the middle or anywhere it needs to return to its invisible axis. She coaxes the clay into its natural place of rest while it spins.
So too in the spiritual life, I sometimes need to sharpen the skill of catching center, of being able to return to my own invisible axis, on which my world turns, the interior space where I can sense God’s presence within. A still space amidst the turning world around me. Being centered is a contemplative practice, an awareness of who I am and who I am before God. It might happen purposefully in a time set aside for prayer or reflection. It might happen as I finish making my bed, when I sit down to gather my energy and focus for the day.
Catching center might occur when I look out the office window and watch the trees blow in the wind. It’s a private moment, all it takes is breathing and listening. And being aware that being centered is an active and engaged way to become internally quiet. Catching center is when my day is over and I come to rest, I return to the quiet with gratitude.