After a long hiatus for Covid, I opened the tearoom last spring. I did not teach any beginner classes for 2 and a half years while the tearoom was closed. There were about 20 people on the waiting list and when I opened the new introduction to Chado class, it filled quickly. Then I started a new introduction class while graduates of the previous class went on to take the Ryakubon class. Of the eight brand new students, I now have 3 long term students.
These new students are integrating with the regular and long-term students of the keikoba. I really like to mix the new students with the long-term students. The new students get the benefit of having sempai show them what to do in the mizuya, how to set up and how to clean up. Sempai can also encourage the new students because we have all been there with numb feet, getting lost in temae, wrestling the fukusa, and feeling like a clumsy oaf when walking and sitting in the tearoom.
I also love having new students with regular students because sometimes we can get jaded doing the same temae year-in and year-out. When we don’t have to think about the order, it is easy to just phone it in.
New students bring excitement and enthusiasm to the tea. Everything is brand new and interesting. Every job is important, from filling the natsume to folding the chakin correctly. They pay attention intently to what is going on and what sensei is saying. They have a thousand questions, and their concentration is fierce. New students remind us of what we found fascinating about tea in the first place.
I am grateful that these new students choose to attend tea class once, and sometimes twice, and even three times a week. I want to nurture their passion for tea. In return, they give me energy and purpose to my teaching. A sensei told me once that it is easy to teach a student who is eager to learn.
As a long-time student and teacher of tea, we want to get back to shoshin, the humble, but eager heart of the beginner. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying, even at an advanced level, just as a beginner would. The practice of shoshin acts as a counter to the hubris and closed-mindedness often associated with thinking of oneself as an expert. This includes the Einstellung effect, where a person becomes so accustomed to a certain way of doing things that they do not consider or acknowledge new ideas or approaches
The challenge is to find shoshin every time we do temae. If we can embody the enthusiasm and excitement for our guests, we can create a unique and memorable experience for them.