Apr 25, 2008

Performance anxiety

When I first began to make tea for my sensei, I had terrible performance anxiety. I would be very afraid of making tea and making a mistake. No matter how much I practiced at home, when I got in front of sensei and guests, I would make stupid mistakes. My brain would wander far from the tea room and I would forget even the most basic things. It was not as though I did not know the procedure, but the pressure made me forget or do stupid things. I would freeze and my brain would go out the window. When I was alone, I could get through my temae without mistakes, but when I went to class, I would forget which was my right hand and which was my left hand. My hands would get so sweaty, that the utensils would slip out of my hands. I spilled tea all over the tatami and myself (and yes one time on sensei). She would scold me and I would clean up and continue with my temae.

“In a certain place for practice of the way of tea, there hangs a plaque that reads: ‘A Place of Making a Shameful Show of Oneself.” Once you pass through the entryway, you will experience no shame, no matter how shameful a show you may make of yourself. The practice room is where you are trained as a human, even as you are sharply scolded and hesitate to humiliate yourself in the process. The principal aim of your training is to enable you, when the time comes, to perform tea splendidly and without shame. This is the reason why those who pass through the entranceway of this place are prepared to endure severe discipline. For it is in this way that they gradually develop fine characters as people. They cannot achieve this simply by reading books and listening to others. They must experience it through their own bodies.” ~ Sen Soshitsu XV, The Spirit of Tea.

The only way that I could overcome this anxiety was to continue with tea study. Continue to make mistakes and continue to practice. I still make mistakes and get scolded, but now I look upon them (mostly) as learning opportunities.


  1. Most of the times, when I read you Margie sensei, I feel gratitude for the lesson, so delicate and beautifully complete.. And I don't feel like I need to comment but just thank you! Sometimes I find in your words missing parts of my idia of what we do on tatami and not just there.. So helpful and enjoyable! Sometimes I succeed to take the lesson with me in the tea room and discover something completely new.. Like one of my favourites - the sounds of the tea room! :)
    I'm practising for almost five years. We have small group, here in Bulgaria. Our sensei, Kimura sensei form London branch, comes for seminars here twice in a year... For the last few seminars I felt like I wait them for so long to come, that when they happend I actually kind of miss them because of my excitement! So, I'm verry happy and grateful for the chance to read your lessons!

  2. Dear temae,
    Thank you for the comment. I am glad that you are studying tea, and I am happy to share my experience with Chado. Keep studying and practicing tea.