When I first started making ceramics, I noticed an overwhelming change in my ability to focus, relax, and be in the now. Making something by hand connected me to the immediate moment in a way that I had never experienced before, and for the first time I was able to have myself with me - all of me.
This change didn’t just happen in my work, it started to permeate throughout my life generally. I started approaching everything with a much more present approach. I stopped worrying so much about things that don’t matter in the bigger scheme of things and trained myself to focus more on all the positive things in life, on all the little acts of kindness that happen around us all the time. And I let myself feel more.
I knew I felt a sense of happiness when making, and that's all I knew. I've since come across the ideologies behind "mindfulness". It was like someone else had put words to what I intuitively felt and knew to be a better approach to life. When I was making, I was there in the moment, "staying" with what I was doing and, probably for the first time, I stopped running away from things and I stopped looking for the next fix that would fill the emptiness that I was feeling inside.
I slowed down and started noticing all the little things in my life that gave me a sense of meaning and fulfilment; a smile from a passerby, the sun warming my face on the bus, a hug from a friend at the studio, a stranger picking up the papers I dropped in a shop - all the little miracles of life and the kindness in the world that so many of us are too busy to notice because we are living in a society that has become obsessed with success, happiness, beauty, achievements and instant gratification.
I still have days when I don't manage to focus on the kindness around me and I feel stressed and overwhelmed. I then try to remind myself of this important fact: being busy and stressed is a choice, just as slowing down is. I try to remind myself of this every time I start to feel my mind speeding up or tripping over itself, overwhelming my head with thoughts flooding in. In those moments, I choose to stop, take a step back from it all, and if I’m really struggling, stick my hands in some clay.