‘Mainichi tsuchi to shoubu shite imasu,’ which means something along the lines of, ‘Everyday is a battle of wills between my will and that of the clay,’ is a phrase which my pottery teacher sometimes liked to repeat; having heard it said by a potter featured on NHK TV.
We, too, can sometimes feel like there is a battle of wills going on – whether between us and an external circumstance, or an internal battle within us – and Sunday was one of those days when I was literally doing battle with the ‘clay’ of my life.
When opening up the clay to make a pot, if it happens to be a little bit off-center the very worst thing we can do is to ‘fight the clay.’ Any attempts to assert our will against that of the clay’s only confound the problem, leading to ever-increasing frustration.
The only way, in fact, that I have found to successfully re-center clay, is to harmonize with it, to let its rhythms become your own. From this space of surrender and integration you can gently ease it back on center and cut out all the frustration to boot
As it is with clay, so it is with life.
Returning to Sunday; I started the day feeling tired, down and, yes, a little off-center. My morning practice of breathing and meditation served to ground me a little, but the feelings of sadness and unease persisted. Far from trying to harmonize with them, I did full force battle with them. In all truth, it was a declaration of war, as I resisted and fought them hand, tooth and nail. I didn’t want to feel that way. I resented the me who was feeling that way, preventing the elusive ‘other me’ from enjoying my Sunday. I saw them as something outside of myself; something separate, and ugly that was blocking my enjoyment of life. And I certainly didn’t want to have to deal with them. I just wanted them to go away – to force them to retreat backwards over the cliff into oblivion; unseen, unheard and unexamined; never to be seen in these parts again.
To add to the injustice, I then spent the day heaping blame and criticism on myself for not getting anything I ‘needed’ to done, precisely because I was feeling that way. I was in complete emotional denial; literally under fire from the one person who, in theory, I should always be able to depend on to look after my best interests: me.
And guess how all of that made me feel?
About ten times worse.
In declaring war on my feelings I was declaring war on myself. And my self felt this and recoiled in greater pain.
It was only when I started to be there for myself and integrate the feelings – to listen to them and accept them for what they were; to remind myself that I was only human and doing the best I could in this moment; to accept that I was having a bad day and that this, too, would pass; to love all of myself, including the me who was feeling this way – that the constriction in my chest started to ease and peace was able to enter my being again.
It was in giving up my resistance and aversion to the feelings that I was finally able to release them, even just a little; just as it is in negating our resistance to the clay that we are able to move it back on center.
How often do we do this? How often do we speak harshly to ourselves; heap blame on our own heads; criticize ourselves for being or not-being a certain way, doing or not-doing a certain thing?
We need to stop resisting who we are and allow, instead, all of ourselves to be heard: the ‘good’ and the ‘bad;’ the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘ugly.’ Our painful feelings are crying out to be heard and held; they just want to be acknowledged and then they can start to dissolve.
It is us who needs to do the hearing, cultivating the same compassion for our feelings that we would have for a friend. In this lies our only hope for integration. For how we can integrate what we do not first acknowledge is there? And it is through this integration of the different sides of ourselves that we come into greater wholeness.
What part of you wants to be heard today? Can you harmonize with it instead of trying to push it away? Give yourself the gift of being there for yourself; of being present and ready to listen. Gift yourself with your presence; it is the most precious gift you can give.