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Presenting the Way of Tea

One of the things I am passionate about in my life is the way of tea. I am known for my enthusiasms, and Chado has kept me captivated for more than 30 years. There are many ways that I share my passion for Chado and one is that I talk about it all the time (just ask my husband). A way to satisfy my urge to talk about it and to share it is to give presentations.

 

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When I first started training, my sensei had me participate in demonstrations as a guest. I also had to show up, dress in kimono, help prepare the mizuya and clean up afterwards. Eventually, I got to do the temae and after a couple of years, I was doing the narration and answering questions. She like me to talk because I was so enthusiastic that people hung around afterwards and wanted to know why I found it so exciting. It was a great recruiting tool for sensei and many of the people I engaged with ended up as her students.

After I returned home from Midorikai, I kind of lost confidence that I knew what I was talking about when I did the narration for a presentation. There was just so much I didn’t know, and so much that I did know that I couldn’t boil it down for a half hour presentation. But sensei still insisted that I do presentations. And when I moved to Seattle, they had regular presentations at the Seattle Art museum. One of my sensei always did the talking, and it was inspiring and interesting when he did. Instead of just talking about what was happening in the temae, he interspersed personal stories, myths, history and aesthetics. He asked people questions and captivated the audience. Since then, I have modeled my presentation on his, but with my own personal stories, historical facts, examples and questions to the audience.karen-and-margie

Since I before I started teaching, as part of my practice, I present Chado, the way of tea at least once a month. Sometimes, like last month, it is more than 5 times. I know that many tea people do not do presentations because it takes a lot of work. From securing venues, to planning toriawase, to packing everything, hauling it to the venue, unpacking, setting up, doing the presentation, clean up, packing, unpacking again and letting everything dry and putting everything away. It is a lot of work, and for many presentations, I had to do everything all by myself.  I once set up in a large gymnasium where hardly anyone could hear me. But for me, the privilege and the opportunity to share my passion for the way of tea, and to tell people how much it means to me, satisfies me in a profound way.

Presentations don’t all go well

That is not to say that every presentation that I have done has gone smoothly. One time I forgot to bring a futaoki, or I didn’t have a fukusa. I have also forgotten where I was in the middle of the temae, or had out of body experiences. I have tripped over electrical cords and blown out the electricity in the building, and all manner of disastrous things have happened to me when I was giving a presentation. And yet I was able to observe how I handled disasters and I survived and learned things and improved things for the next time. All very good life lessons.

Now that I am a teacher, I have my students participate in presentations on Chado. Students start out like I did, being a guest, then doing the temae, mizuya cho and then doing the narration. This is good training for students, in that they have to put to use what they have learned without relying on Sensei there to direct them, or rescue them when they make a mistake. It teaches them to move forward no matter what and how to handle themselves in uncertain situations. It also teaches them to help each other out and work as a team.

The principle 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 entrance way 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. ~ Soshitsu Sen XV, The Spirit of Tea

One of the things that we lose sight of when we are doing presentations is that we still have a guest and the most important thing is to make good tea for our guest. If you can manage to put tea in the bowl, add hot water and whisk it well, then of course, that is still a good thing.

img_1055I’d like to close with a thank you note I received from a student after a presentation:

Dear Sensei:
I just wanted to write and say thank you for your support on Saturday. It means a lot to me. My husband asked me how the night went and I told him, “Awful, horrible, a mess, and wonderful.” Your words really helped me see the wonderful part, the part where I got to fail in a safe place and to succeed in persevering and striving to make the best bowl of tea that I could make in that moment, and for that to be okay. You reminded me that perfection is not the goal we should strive for, but for making tea with our hearts. And I accept what my heart said about me in that moment. I remind myself that when I am feeling most lost, someone who cares will whisper directions. As always, thank you for being my Sensei.

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