As the world begins to open up again after Covid, activities that we used to enjoy can be intimidating to start again. As I contemplate starting tea lessons in person again, I am thinking how can I ease the way for students who may be hesitant to come to class. I will do my best to put together some procedures for making and drinking tea together, sanitizing, clean up, and social distance for everyone to feel a little more comfortable.
As we have been practicing alone in our own tea spaces, making tea in front of other people can be scary and anxiety producing. Will other students judge us, have I forgotten how be a guest, what will I do if I cannot remember the most basic things?
Back in 2011, I wrote a blog post about starting over. But I have come to realize, when you return to tea after a break (no matter 1 month or 25 years), you don’t start over. You start again at a deeper level. Because you have experience in learning how to fold your fukusa, when you start to do it again, your body knows at a deep level how to do it. If you haven’t been on a bicycle in years and you go out for ride, you don’t have to start with training wheels and learn like you did the very first time. You may be wobbly, but instinctively your body remembers how to ride.
So we may be rusty for a few things as we come back to the tea procedures, but the greater challenge is how to be with people again. Some may have social anxiety or are reluctant to share. In the period of isolation from others, we may have forgotten how to consider others first. Osaki ni may not be instinctual before partaking sweets and tea. In bowing we may not be aware of when the other person is rising to match our movements.
But with practice and patience, it will start to come back. We should not expect to come back to the tea room and pick up where we left off as if nothing happened. There will be a period of adjustment in getting used to people and social situations. So it is really not starting again, but reviewing where we are and practicing diligently to move forward from where we find ourselves.