Apr 1, 2009

Back to Basics

Christy Bartlett sensei was just in town for koshukai, an intensive teaching workshop for the way of tea. These workshops are always an inspiring and humbling experience. Usually they last two or three days and are divided into sections for advanced intermediate and beginner students. The students prepare and make tea for other student guests much like regular keiko, but as I said before it is intensive. Christy sensei’s experience, knowledge and teaching deepen our understanding of the way of tea, of the historical precedents of tea, of the exact order and questions about temae and most important, something about ourselves. One thing I so appreciate about Christy sensei is that she gives the most honest feedback and corrects even the smallest points to pay attention to. The effects of these workshops stays with me for many days and weeks.

These koshukai are also a gathering time to be with people who we do not ordinarily see, fellow students and teachers of the way of tea. While the format of the classes are strict, there is a fellowship of feeling as we are all there to study hard and learn more. There is something to be said about the closeness one feels for other students who have suffered along with you sitting seiza for 8 hours a day for three days.

It was interesting to me that this time, what struck me the most was not so much the teaching of the upper temae, but comments and teaching from sensei about the basics. How to fold the fukusa, working on footwork, conversation about utensils, picking up and putting things down, the speed (or slowness) of the pace of temae. How we do all of these things tell us about ourselves. It is a way of looking at ourselves as we are in the world. What can we learn by looking at ourselves as we behave in the tea room?

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