Why a Lump of Clay Can Teach You More Than 100 Youtube Videos

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Why a Lump of Clay Can Teach You More Than 100 Youtube Videos

Have you ever had a go at throwing a pot on a potters wheel? Last summer I fulfilled a dream I have had for a long time. I took a pottery class and finally got to try out moulding a pot on the wheel. Not only was it a fascinating process, but it also taught me about myself and about life in a very raw and basic way.

The Basic Start of Creation

When you approach the potters wheel, you have a lump of unworked clay in your hands. In it resides the most glorious potential to create something breathtakingly beautiful. Not only beautiful but useful too. For millions of years, people have used the raw earth to make containers for their belongings and it is still a very important part of life for many on our planet today. The potters wheel is the most basic starting point of creation, a flat, round stone. So you take your round lump of clay and you aim to throw it in the dead centre of the stone. If you are not concentrating or you have a doubt you will achieve that, it goes off centre. After a couple of throws you wonder if even that most basic action is possible at all! This made me think of the goals we set in our lives. Why is it many people never even get started? Like that lump of clay, if you commence to start and you get dis-heartened, it is easy to give up right there. So many amazing ideas never even make it outside of our minds.

I managed to get my clay dead centre after a couple of tries and felt a wave of satisfaction and excitement. Now I was ready to create. The next thing was to start the wheel spinning. I started it up and immediately noticed that what had statically looked like a well-shaped ball was much more wonky when I watched it going round! Sometimes we have ideas that we think are really great, but when we start to tell other people they point out the holes, discrepancies and objections. Some people will not be satisfied until they find one. Already we reach another point where it is easy to just give up and not take it any further. It takes a lot of determination, courage and vision to get past this stage.

So I was staring at this lump of slightly wonky clay spinning round on the wheel and now came the scary and exciting bit, I was actually going to start to mould it. You need to keep the clay moist enough so that it doesn’t dry out, but not too wet so that you can’t work with it. A delicate balancing act which requires total concentration. You start by holding the lump, firmly cupping it with your hands so that it disappears from your view. Then you press your thumbs on top of each other into the centre to create a well. The clay starts to respond to your downward pressure and before long, you have a deepening hole appearing.


The clay is starting to mirror your physical actions. If you don’t exert enough pressure with your thumbs, you won’t get the well, you will just get an indentation. If you exert too much pressure and force the clay, you are likely to hit the bottom fast and make a hole in your potential pot. Just like when we have a goal, we need to stay focussed, determined and balance up working too hard with not doing enough to get it off the ground. The clay teaches us how to get that balance.

Once I had my well, it was time to widen the base inside and create the wall of the pot. I was shown how to brace my hands so that I kept up an even pressure holding my fingers against the clay. I discovered that it was easy to get impatient and fall into the trap of pushing too hard. My base became too wide too fast meaning it couldn’t support the sides. I had to compensate by pushing the clay back together from the outside. The second time around, I was more patient and the widening and lengthening happened slowly and in a more controlled way. This is such a perfect metaphor for how we shape our lives. Do we create a solid base where we can grow from? Or do we make a flimsy base because we are in such a hurry to get independent or move away from pain, that we find we can’t support ourselves in life later down the line? Or are we too scared to create anything at all; to make a mark on the world?

The Clay Dance of Manifestation

I learned very quickly that even the slightest change I made with my pressure, resulted in the pot’s shape changing dramatically. If I pressed on the side wall, a bulge appeared. If I held my fingers over the top, a lip appeared. My thoughts were becoming manifest in the clay. The marks of my fingers created indelible grooves however smooth I aimed to make the surface. Here was a physical mirror of my every action which responded and showed me the end result of that action. Potters say that the clay is alive and I agree. It was as if the clay and I were performing a sophisticated dance of give and take, action and reaction. I saw how powerfully my thoughts and beliefs influenced physical matter. If I let negative beliefs creep in, the clay showed it by becoming deformed and uneven. When I felt confident, positive and joyful, I saw the balance and symmetry return to the shape I was forming. Our beliefs shape our lives. I have a wonderful way of illustrating this in my 7 Step Belief Ladder



Why does the way you create your life affect everyone and everything on this planet? Because of energy. Not only do you take up a physical space but you also take up an energetic space. Albert Einstein said

‘Everything is energy and that is all there is to it.’

Your energetic influence affects all other energy, everywhere. Thoughts are a vibrational signature that you send out. When you look at the waves coming in from the sea, the water moves because of energy. An earthquake can cause a tsunami which can engulf land 16,000 kilometres away. Water can harness tremendous momentum unleashed from one source event. Your thoughts are waves too and can have an equally dramatic affect on others and the world.

The ‘Failed Pot Bag’

As for me, disaster did strike! Just when I thought I was doing so well and getting a little complacent, my pot suddenly collapsed. The beautiful curvaceous shape I was moulding just fell inwards and that was that. My heart sank. There was nothing else to do but to scrape the remains of the clay off the wheel and throw it in the ‘failed pot bag’.

So now what? I had a choice. I could just walk away and wonder what it would have been like to create a pot, paint it, glaze it and hold the finished product in my hand. The alternative was that I could start again with a new lump of clay and use all that I had learned with the first throwing to make the next attempt better. Well, I was excited to see how much better my ‘dance’ with the clay would be this time, so I started again. I am delighted to end my story by telling you that my second pot formed and held its shape. It went on to become a delicate little terracotta and green receptacle for nuts and olives that sits on my table at home.

If you want to get to know the truth about yourself, throw a pot. You will learn more than watching 100 Youtube videos.

What Are YOU Made Of?

Throwing a clay pot is a stark way of finding out what YOU are made of! Can you pick yourself up from a collapse and start again with your positive attitude dented but still defiant? The second, third and even fourth attempt might also end up in the ‘failed pot bag’ but can you still keep your eye on the goal and your motivation alive? Are you going to get to the point where when you throw the clay, you are already expecting it to end in disaster? You can’t argue with clay, or tell it your excuses, it just shows you what you are thinking in solid form.

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  • Edina van Geffen

    Ildikó, that is an amazing little story that I have just read and what a wonderful lesson you went through. Your writing is touching and motivating. Thank you for sharing your experience. – Edina

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