The Process of Centering

Posted by on August 18, 2015

Blue Dancer-McKella Sawyer

“Twilight Dancer” 24x36x1.5 Acrylic on Canvas
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In my sophomore year of high school, I took a pottery class. It’s the only art class I’ve ever taken that I actually kind of sucked at.

It’s not like I’d never worked with clay before, because I had, but only with sculpting. Pots? Nah. Sure, I could sculpt animals quite well, but as soon as I was expected to make functional stuff, my brain started to melt. Handbuilding wasn’t too bad, but it was in this class that I met my arch nemesis:

The pottery wheel.

If you’ve ever tried to wrangle a lump of clay on one of those monsters, you know that it’s a whole lot harder than it looks and frankly, I just didn’t have the patience for it.

I remember it well:

In his demonstration, my teacher plunked a lump of gray clay into the center of the wheel and the clay spun in his cupped hands. At first, his hands shook as the uneven clay rebelled, but then the clay softened into a smooth mound that seemed still on the spinning wheel.

He told us, “The first step is to center the clay on the wheel. You can’t work with clay that isn’t centered, it will just go all over the place.” (This totally happened to me once I tried.)

I nodded my head. Centering. It makes sense. “If you aren’t centered, your pot will be all wiggly and you won’t be able to do a thing with it. If you aren’t careful, it can even come off the wheel and go flying across the room. No good.”

I nodded again. I could do this.

But what happened as soon as I sat down at the wheel?

For the life of me, I couldn’t get the damn clay to center. I tried over and over, fought the lump as it spun, and it even flew off the wheel completely once or twice. Finally, I managed a three inch tall pot that still lives on my bathroom counter and holds my bobby pins and hair ties.

But I gave up and didn’t complete any of the other wheel assignments, because I couldn’t get the clay to center.

Over a decade later as I juggle two jobs, art, writing projects, and spending time with loved ones, I’ve once again learned the value of centering, only now I’m centering my soul rather than a stubborn lump of clay.

If we don’t center ourselves by recharging, taking time to create, think, wonder, dream, and just be, our lives become chaos and instead of flying off the pottery wheel, we burn out. We snap at our families. We become unhealthy. We get anxious and depressed.

Centering ourselves is the first step to being the person we want to be.

How do we center ourselves?

This looks a little different for everyone, but for me it means taking a daily walk, making time for creative projects EVERY DAY, stopping everything an hour before bedtime so I can wind down for sleep, and giving myself at least a few minutes each day to just sit and think.

Your centering process might call for a good workout, meditation, lots of time in nature, walks with your dog, journaling, or sketching each day. You might need to write down your thoughts before bed or first thing in the morning to clear your head, or start your day with a quiet breakfast so you can gather yourself before you start your work.

What centers you? What grounds you? What brings you back to yourself and helps you feel like YOU again, even when the rest of your life is a circus?

Try different things. See what works for you, and make sure to do it. When you are centered in yourself, you have a strong base for creating the life you want to live.

Lots of love,


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