Mar 20, 2008

On receiving teaching

In my study of Chado, I have had some very strict sensei. They would watch me make tea and pick apart everything from how I wore my kimono to the speed or slowness of my movements. They insisted that I sit properly in seiza even when my legs and feet were screaming at me for movement. I almost quit tea lessons a hundred times. Yet I came back for more. There was definitely something that drew me back again each time I got discouraged.

I have a friend who is a Zen priest. When she began to study chado, she learned everything very quickly. She told me, if you truly want to learn the Way, you have to steal the knowledge, sensei don’t just give it to you for free. Another sempai told me that the way of tea is filled with jewels, but you have to dig them out yourself.

It wasn’t until I went to Japan to study that I finally appreciated how strict my sensei were. I complained regularly to my sempai about how tough the teachers were on me. Often they were stricter with me than any other student, and I would get flustered and angry. Why were they being so unfair with me? Finally, after listening to me for months, he said, “Don’t you get it? It takes a lot more effort for teahcers to be strict with their students. The strictness you see as picking on you is really them showing you how much they care about you. They want you to do well and will spend the time to correct you. So next time you get a correction, just say ‘hai’, or even better say ‘thank you’”.

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