Apr 10, 2008

It’s in the details

I had a tea student once who was very bright and enthusiastic about chado. She never missed a class. And she was very competitive and impatient to move to higher levels of temae. As soon as she had done a procedure a couple of times, she wanted to move on to the next level. Though she could not always remember the order of the procedures, she could grasp concepts and philosophy very quickly.

One time when I corrected something she didn’t do in her temae, she got very impatient with me and told me that it was just a small detail and not that important. So I just let her proceed and didn’t correct anything else that she did. Eventually she became stuck and couldn’t remember what to do and didn’t know how to backtrack to get out of her dilemma. If she had just done a small little thing, the next step would have been obvious.

I tell this story, not to make this student look bad but to illustrate that chanoyu is all about the details. The small little things are what keep us present in our temae. It is the details of life that bring us all those little joys and satisfaction throughout the day.

To notice and celebrate the details takes time, awareness and attention. These things are in such short supply in our busy life. Sometimes I look at the way the steam curls around the kettle lid, or see the shadows on the shoji screens, or listen to the rain on the roof and my heart wells with emotion. Chado teaches us that when we notice the details, life is so much richer.

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