Potter at the wheel.
From centering to finished pot,
Form increases as options decrease;
Softness goes to hardness.
Deng Ming-Dao writes, "When a potter begins to throw a pot, she picks up a lump of clay, shapes it into a rough sphere, and throws it onto the spinning potter's wheel."
The image of a clay in the shape of a rough sphere reminds me of a dream from a few weeks ago: I'm attending a New Age/Spiritual Conference. Each religion or spiritual branch has its own booth and a person to represent the teachings. I wander booth to booth. I go to a booth where there is a large framed Native American man in his 50's. He is sitting on the ground cross-legged. He invites me to sit opposite him. As he stares at me I notice that he has a grey-colored ball of clay that he is tossing from one hand to the other. He finally speaks to me and tells me that it is no wonder that my soul has been unhappy in this life, especially with the name I have given it, "Dop". I realize that the ball of clay that he is playing with is my soul. He tells me that I have been very careless with my soul and by tossing it back and forth in his hands he is letting me see just how I've been treating it. He then hands me a black leatherbound (8X10) book. His clay fingerprints are all over the cover. He has made this book especially for me. In return for this book I must pay him $20. I give him the money. We leave the building and begin to walk. He tells me to open the book. I untie the leather string holding it together and open it. A great light shines from the pages, making it so that I can't read any of the writing. He explains that only truth will reflect from those pages like sunlight off the water and that these are the teachings on how to live a "right life". I realize that what he has handed me is my life book. It reveals the truth and knowledge that that I have discovered and accumulated in this life despite my carelessness. I leaf through the book and find blank pages. He tells me that I must continue on this life path and those empty pages will be filled with my teachings. We have been walking for a long time and finally arrive at a river. I turn to ask him what is next, but he is gone. I awaken from the dream.
Deng Ming-Dao continues, "As we shape the situation, we must be aware of what form we want things to take. The closer something comes to completion, the harder and more definite it becomes. Our options become fewer, until the full impact of our creation is all that there is. Beauty or ugliness, utilitary or failure, comes from the process of shaping." He continues, "(the potter) cannot go on too long, for the clay will begin to "tire" and then sag. She (the potter) gives it the form she imagines, then sets it aside. The next day, the clay will be leather hard, and she can turn it over to shape the foot...Eventually, the bowl will be fired, and then the only options are the colors applied to it; its shape cannot be changed."
It is time for my soul to be thrown onto the potter's wheel for final shaping, fired and fixed - certainty of purpose and finite time before the clay becomes too tired and sags. If the dream has anything to tell me in relationship to Day 12: Shaping it is that I have been careless in my endeavor to find spiritual and life truth. I've wandered in and out of teachings and lives (booth to booth) with no regard to how it was impacting my soul (aka "Dop"). Rather, I looked upon it all as a means to an end (no matter the cost), and that it would all lead to a great teaching from a great teacher. Well, it did. Nature (symbolized by my Native American friend in the dream); and that in the process of being the student that I have become the teacher (symbolized by the black leather book).
So, I am a ball of clay that has finally found a potter with a wheel: nature. I trust it to form me into the final shape and color I'm meant to be with a design of purpose, a unique clay pot. With this understanding comes the reality that my options in life (what remains of it) must become fewer and the view narrowed; there must be concentration on the final form.
I'd like to ask you a question.
What is the shape of your soul?