Mar 22, 2008

Observing vs. doing

Observing is much harder than doing in tea. Perhaps in life as well. When I began to study tea making procedures, I was very excited to make tea. But when it came my turn to be a guest or just an observer, I let my focus wander. When the teacher was correcting another student at some point in the procedure, I really didn’t pay attention. Inevitably, when it was my turn to make tea, I made exactly the same mistake at exactly the same point in the procedure.

A note one of my students made to me last month was that sitting seiza was much easier when making tea than being the guest, and hardest of all was to sit in seiza through the whole temae as an observer. By having something to occupy our minds and hands, it takes the focus off of the pain in the feet and legs.

Chanoyu cannot be learned from a book or video. While you can learn many things from observing and watching, one must experience chanoyu and participate fully with all of your senses for both the host and the guest roles.

In this regard, I often compare chanoyu with learning to ride a bicycle. We could listen to experts talk about the physics of balance and have experienced bicycle riders relate stories of great rides they went on. We could even have an instructional video of learning to ride a bicycle with step-by-step procedures. And yet, until one actually gets on a bicycle and learns what it feels like to balance, pump the pedals and lean into a turn, you really have not learned to ride a bicycle.

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