The most useful woodworking classes I took in college were actually in the religion department.
Though I was a journalism major, every time I was allowed an elective class I blew it on Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Christianity and Judaism. I wasn’t comparison-shopping for spiritual guidance. Instead these classes offered me insight into the ways different cultures perceive time, the self and others.
And the classes made me a better turner.
Though I’ve been turning for more than a decade, I didn’t make any real progress until five years ago when I started thinking about some of the Eastern meditation practices I studied as an undergraduate.
The following explanation is a gross simplification: One of the goals of meditation is to focus your mind so you perceive only the present moment. You do not think of the future or the past – only the fleeting bit that you are perceiving. When you get to that point, you can do anything on the lathe (or with a saw, chisel or gouge).
When I can bring my mind to that level of focus, my perception of time can also change. It can stretch or compress, depending on my needs.
Before you start asking me what I’ve been smoking, I encourage you to try it. If you don’t have a lathe, then cut some dovetails and try to clear everything out of your head – everything – except what is happening with the saw in the wood. Don’t think about the next cut or even the next saw stroke.
In photography terms, tighten your aperture to f22, f32 or more. The result will be – also in photography terms – the deepest focus possible in your work and your results.
— Christopher Schwarz