Tea presentations as training

As part of tea training, I encourage all my students to take part in tea presentations.  Last week we had several opportunities at the Portland Japanese Garden to do so.   There are weekly presentations at the Cultural Corner platform, an elevated tatami mat that looks like a floating platform.  It is a little challenging as this platform is in a building where there is traffic through the space to get from outside to the gift shop to the bathrooms. 

We also had an opportunity to present public tea at Kashintei, the tea house at the Japanese Gardens. In these venues, we can have 40 – 100 people observing at a time. 

These tea presentations are good training for students as they get to do their temae without sensei sitting there to correct and prompt the student.  My students call this “tea without a net.”   When you forget where you are in your temae, you just must figure it out in front of the audience.  If you make a mistake, you have to “hataraki” or work it out. 

 

For those who get stage fright, I always remind students that even in a presentation, we are still making tea for the guest. If you concentrate on making good tea for your guest, it is easier to do it in front of an audience.

My sensei said that in a chaji or chakai, if you are going to make a mistake, make it beautifully.  The same thing in a presentation.  Often in keiko, students will make mistakes stop, and call attention to what just happened.  “Oh no, I forgot to put the chakin on the lid and now I have just poured hot water on it! What do I do?”  In a presentation, if you just matter-of-factly wring out the chakin and refold it, everyone will think that is what is supposed to happen.

It is okay to pause, breathe and figure out where you are and how to get back to where you need to be. A pause under stress feels like a million years, but in reality, it is probably only half a minute. 

This training helps students to think on their feet, solve problems, and move forward without acting like it is a disaster.  Having poise and presence of mind in a tea procedure can be applied to other areas in life where you can recover and move forward gracefully. And don’t forget to breathe.

Haku un onozukara kyoraisu. White clouds come and go by themselves

Thank you to Sean Tooyoka, Gabi Blaug, Heather Loden, Ryan Merrill, and Chie Tanaka for participating in these presentations.

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