Nov 6, 2009

Back to the beginning

I have already written posts about going back to basics and back to one again, but for this week's lessons we are changing to the ro season and we are reviewing the very first things we learned in the tea room again. Every change of season we go back to the beginning in how to bow, how to enter the tea room, how to walk, turn, sit and stand and move about the tea room. We also review warigeiko: folding fukusa, purifying utensils, handling hishaku and most importantly the roles of the guest and host. This is a good time to correct bad habits that we have accumulated over the past season and straighten up sloppy handling of utensils.

Funny thing is that my students have taught me more about basics than I think I am teaching them. I have found quite often in teaching the way of tea that the lessons I am teaching are really not what the students are learning. Yes, this week's classes are about the technical aspects of learning tea, but what one of my students told me after class was that we should go back to basics in other parts of our life as well. We talked about being grateful and how it is very rare these days to receive a hand written thank you note, especially that people don't write in cursive handwriting anymore.

One of the things that another student talked about was that tea forces her to slow down. At first she was rather resentful in having to go back and re-do something she thought she already mastered. This led to a discussion of what mastery really means. Does folding your fukusa every week during your temae mean you have mastered it?

Even high ranking teachers with many years of experience, when they go to an intensive seminar, they start with the beginning of tea training: how to bow, how to walk, how to fold the fukusa and every time I have attended a tea training seminar, I realize just how sloppy I have become and how many bad habits that I have accumulated.

Also for me, going back to the beginning is really not back to the beginning but going back and learning the basics at a deeper level. It also connects me back to when I began as a tea student and was so very excited about learning the way of tea. I have at times become quite nonchalant about my tea studies, and it helps to recapture "the humble, but eager heart of the beginner" again.


  1. Interesting that you go back to the beginning so often. In my journey of Japanese embroidery I have recently gone back to the beginning with my phase 10 class where we reviewed all the techniques. It was very useful and something I'd like to do regularly. I like what you say about reviwing the basics all the time. Now I am thinking about starting on my teaching path I need to thing about how to include this kind of thing in my embroidery classes, certainly something to think about.

  2. Jane,
    Thank you for your comment. For tea ceremony, there are obvious times that we can go back to the beginning and that is when we change from the summer to the winter or winter to the summer seasons. I look forward to your comments, so thank you for reading and making the effort to comment.