Jul 16, 2009

Performance Anxiety

Doing temae in class is sometimes intimidating, especially when we are learning a new procedure. We want to get it right from the very beginning. Many students have performance anxiety and can do procedures at home but make mistakes or forget the order in front of sensei.

I used to get very nervous before class and worried if I was going to forget something. But after many years of class, and some very kind (but strict) sensei, I have come to the conclusion that performance anxiety is ultimately a self-centered thing. When I should have thought about making the very best tea for my guests, I worried about how I looked. When I should have concentrated on being as natural and relaxed for so my guests enjoyed the experience, I was tense and worried about doing things in the correct order. When I should have made a mistake beautifully, I became embarrassed and forgot what the next thing to do was.

My sensei told me that the classroom is the place to make your mistakes. (And believe me; I have made some real doozies). If you look at mistakes in your temae as learning opportunities, then the outcome is not whether you did it right or wrong, but what did you learn from it. How do you handle a mistake or lapse of memory? Do you get flustered? Do you lose your place? How do you recover from a mistake?

Sometimes we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. Often the lessons we learn in the tea room have nothing to do with the temae and correct procedures. How you are in the tea room ultimately is how you are in life. If you can detach enough to see how you behave in the tea room, many lessons will open up for the rest of your life.

Torigai-sensei in Kyoto was watching me make tea one day, and afterwards, told me, “Marjorie, you will never have a perfect temae.” I was disappointed that after I worked so hard she thought I would never achieve a perfect temae. “However, you are very interesting to watch. You are able to work yourself out of your mistakes and come out fine in the end.”

Presentation July 18th
Issoan tea will be at the Portland Japanese Garden on Saturday July 18th at 1:00 and 2:00 pm for a demonstration of Chanoyu. Free with admission to the garden. Come down to the tea house for an explanation and to see Japanese Tea Ceremony.

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