Beginner’s heart

tray-styleOne line of the kotoba reads: As we diligently learn the Way, we shall not forget the humble but eager heart of the beginner.  To many of us who have been studying the Way of tea for a number of years, it is easy to forget what it is like to be a beginner. It is easy to get jaded and consider that today, I will be doing just old hirademae.  I have done this dozens (or hundreds) of times and just go through the motions.  We forget what it is like to be a beginner.

I have a new class of beginners and they are eager and excited to come to class.  Nearly everything is new to them and somewhat intimidating. But their concentration is fierce.  They are paying attention to which foot is entering and leaving the tea room.  They are counting the number of weaves to sit in the proper place.  They listen hard when I am explaining something for the first time. They want to know the proper way to turn the bowl or which way their fan should be pointing. They are hungry for learning just about anything and everything. No matter how often I teach the beginner class, it is humbling to me that there is such enthusiasm for the Way of tea.

When you are a beginning student, no job is beneath you.  Everything is important and you want to it properly.  Preparing your bowl to make tea is an important job.  Washing up and emptying the natsume is also an important job. For us experienced students, it is good to remember how eager we were to be included in planning a chakai, and even humble things like washing bowls, wiping tatami, and emptying the trash were important jobs.


This is why I like the gyakugatte temae.  It makes me feel like a beginner again. I have to concentrate on my footwork.  The utensils must be placed in different places and I have to remember the order and which hand goes where.  My heart beats fast, I make many mistakes, and it humbles me.  And yet, it brings back my eagerness for the Way of tea; to get it right and make the best tea I can for my guest

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