Polishing Our Own Mud Balls

In a book called Art and Fear there is a story of a pottery instructor who told half of his class that they would be solely graded on the quantity of the work they turned in. He told them he would even weigh their total output on a scale. For instance, 50 pounds of pottery would give them an “A”, 40 pounds a “B” and so on. The other half of the class would be graded on the quality of the one pot that they must turn in. That’s all it would take- one perfect pot to guarantee an “A”.

The first group got started right away, making many oddly shaped pots at first, but learning from their mistakes as they went. The quality of their pots grew along with their growing quantity as they learned what worked and what didn’t.   The second group began to theorize on what would make the perfect pot… and that is about as far as they got. Their clay for the most part remained a lump of unformed clay.

We can easily transfer this analogy to people and the way we live out our lives. There are those who outwardly appear flawless, with an expert answer for everything. Yet they don’t risk much, or ultimately give much. They are too involved in theorizing about what constitutes a “perfect pot” so to speak.

Others get involved in the real business of living- getting in there, rolling up their sleeves and actively creating their lives. They give and take, and work with the raw materials in life. They create by learning, and also by their interactions with others. They aren’t afraid of the not knowing what comes next, and are eager and excited to find out with you.

There is a man named Bruce Gardner who creates beautiful, shiny orbs called hikaru dorodangos (which means shiny mud balls). They are made from dirt, sand, and water. When completed, they are about 5 inches in diameter. They cannot be completed in one sitting, but rather must be made over time by adding fine sifted silt to the entire surface of the mud ball. He showers the surface and then polishes it to a fine sheen. This process is repeated over time, and takes great care and patience to perfect. They look like orbs of marble when completed, each one a different color depending on where he gets the mud from.   They are lovingly created from dirt and sand caressed into a beautiful work of art. It is a refining process, a process of becoming.

The creation of dorodangos was a craze in Japan among the children. They loved the creation of them, and also the competition as to who could create the shiniest ball.

Aren’t we like that too?

Hopefully we get as much joy out of the creating of our lives as the Japanese children did when creating dorodangos, but do we? Are we so wrapped up in either thinking about what the perfect pot or mud ball might look like, that we neglect to actually engage? Forget that we might actually have to get our hands in the mud of life?

In the forming of the dorodangos, it is the soft showering of silt on the mud ball, while gently turning it so that the silt covers it evenly that creates this piece of art. And the rubbing, polishing, of the dorodango is what makes it beautiful.

In life, it is the silt we try to avoid in our lives that creates the very polish that makes us beautiful! It is the dirt that we avoid, hide or run from that takes the edges off our lives and makes us shine! The depressions, the people that cause us stress, the work issues, family issues, and the day-to-day wear and tear of living. These are the things life is made of, and the very ingredients we can use to become the works of art we were born to be!

The poet Rumi said:

If you are irritated by every rub,

how will you be polished?

I invite you to make messes. Play. Create the mud ball that is your life by letting the silt in your life gently shower down around you and over you. Move gently and joyously through your life. Know that the very silt or dirt that you fear in your life is taking your edges off, and helping you to shine!

Polish on!

I invite you to check out his web site at www.dorodango.com. Enjoy!

If you find your life is out of control, or that you need some help, you may find our guided imagery therapy helpful, or the life or spiritual mentoring. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and lived to the fullest! If you need help, I am right here.