Oct 24, 2010

Trust the process

We have been doing several chanoyu presentations lately.  When students make tea in front of an audience, I am usually talking and explaining what is going on in the presentation.  Unlike in class, where I am sitting right there, correcting, encouraging and reminding students about the procedures, they are  on their own to do the temae.   Students call this making tea without a net  

It is scary to be out there without sensei to remind you what to do next if you forget.  Sometimes you make very stupid mistakes, and strange things happen in temae.  I never criticize students when they are presenting tea.  Instead, I ask them what did they learn.

Some students can do the temae perfectly in class, but in presentation or chakai, they forget everything completely.  They have an out of body experience.  Sometimes this is due to stage fright, performance anxiety or nervousness.   Sometimes it is doing it for people they don't know  -- or even just for people that they do know.

This is where your training comes in.  Trust that you and your body know what to do.  And if you make a mistake, you will know how to recover.

One student asked me after the last presentation, "How do you trust?"   That is a hard thing to answer.  You cannot tell someone to JUST "trust the process"  when they have no idea how to do it.  After thinking a while about this,  I expect everyone will have different answers to this question.  

For me, trust is a leap of faith.  Like mountain climbing, you have to let go of where you are and make a leap to some other place.  This is scary and risky. We want and need assurances that we will be okay when we land, we need to know we won't lose what we have when we let go.  We need to have control so we can feel safe.

So how do you make that leap of faith that is  trust?  You have to focus on what is on the other side.  How much do you want the outcome that you will risk letting go of where you are?  There has to be some greater value to take the risk otherwise why do it?  The secret is maintaining deep belief that your initiative will be rewarded.

When I went to study tea in Japan for a year, I didn't know anyone, I didn't speak the language, and I didn't know if I could endure the discipline of it.  I had to give up a business, a relationship and a home.  But I certainly wanted to go to Japan to study the heart of tea.  I wanted it so much that I trusted that I would be okay and that whatever the outcome, the experience of living tea in Japan would be worth it.

Are you ready to trust?


  1. I am only a beginner student, so I probably shouldn't say anything, but I have never thought of it as a matter of trust, but more of experience. I hope that I can become so familiar with both dougu and being considerate that the next correct action would be merely logical, even in an unexpected situation.

  2. Sharku,

    Thank you for your comments. You can say anything you like. Even experienced tea people may get nervous, lose their place or blank out. I know I have, and that is the time you need to trust in your training and the process. I do hope that you become so familiar that you will know what to do in that unexpected situation.
    Take care,