The Middle Way

Zen Spot #193 — Mindfulness, meditation, earth, water and wine April 27, 2018 00:00

Excitement and joy

The choice to become a potter is instinctive for some people. The idea of throwing a pot on a wheel, with the clay spinning through wet hands, molding the shape as if it is alive, coaxes forth a natural creative mindfulness and joy. Playful, honest, inquisitive joy.

Building before throwing

For those who take a pottery class, the knowledge required of clay, with an emphasis on building a pot before throwing a pot, is a detour to joy. Preparation places happiness just out of reach of hands that desire dirt and slurry. Manipulating flat clay walls, constructing joints and firing finished structures can provide a frustrating detour to the destination of throwing.

Heavy wheel turning

There is something profoundly special about bending over a potter’s wheel and pushing the stone with the ball of one’s feet to create entropy — and the joy that never disappears, no matter how many pots are thrown. Over the course of a lifetime, the visceral response that reaches down into one's gut, providing an unspeakable connection to the earth, can always be counted on to arrive.

Lust and interdependence

My first encounter with the definition of interdependence used the example of the structure of a simple clay cup with a handle. The Dalai Lama, in his book The Art of Happiness, explained that, without the handle, the cup is not the cup that it is without the interdependent nature of all the elements that comprise to make up the cup, including the air that fills the cup. The air, while appearing empty, defines the cup as much as the clay from which the cup is made. In particular, the role of the air filling the cup has, since my first reading, provoked an evolving understanding of the world.

Among the techniques used to shape a pot is reaching down with one’s hands into the spinning interior while placing the corresponding hand in the exact same place on the exterior, applying a near-equal force that allows one to shape the clay. In doing so, the process of creation can become almost erotic, accentuating an uncommon lust, love and satisfaction.

Wonderful failure

Throwing is an exercise in giving away complete control. The wheel doesn’t stop spinning on command. Requiring instant, intuitive decisions, some of which will throw the object off center, the method can lead to ruin. Sometimes the unfinished pot caves in. Sometimes centrifugal forces splatter chunks. 

Disappointment follows, especially if one's anticipation was growing and the embrace of love was within reach. That said, if the shape of the failed pot can be seen with an eye to interdependence — and without the need for it to nurture earth, water or wine — the potter can redefine themselves.

Throw a pot. Feel the slurry. Consider the earth, water and wine. Succeed. Fail. Repeat.


About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?