They say you do your best tea after 60. Having lived past the age of 60 I’d like to think that I am doing my best tea now. Yes, I am a little stiffer in my legs and slower to get up and down, but I am at an age to have less concern for the criticism of others.
I have enough experience in making mistakes so I can mostly recover gracefully. I am no longer working a demanding corporate job, so I have time to study and practice. I have time to reflect and think about tea.
I also feel more comfortable in my body and feel like I can move around in the tea room in kimono confidently and naturally.
Having practiced temae for so many years, I can trust my body to do the procedure and I can expand my awareness to the guests and how they are feeling.
I am familiar enough with the dogu I own that I can choose a toriawase not just to please myself, but to meet the occasion, be thoughtful to my guests, and perhaps provide a twist to surprise and delight them.
Could I do better tea? Of course I can. I still make mistakes in temae. I still get confused and lose my place when my focus wanders. I still have trouble controlling my kimono sleeves. My feet still fall asleep during temae. But all of these things can be managed and I no longer panic at any of them.
When you are young, there are so many demands on your time and attention. Your job, your kids, your school work, your relationships that there simply isn’t time to devote to tea. Yet I admire my students who are persistent in giving as much time as they can, despite these demands, to improve their study of tea.
When you are younger, the opinion of others matter much more than when you are older. I think students take to heart criticisms as self worth rather than making it a springboard for further development. When tea is your passion, it sometimes is a hungry monster, demanding more time, more energy, more of your life.
So yes, I think I am doing my best tea right now that I am over 60. But it can also be said that you do your best tea after you are 70, or 80, so there is that to look forward to.
With dedication, if we stick with it, our tea becomes more fulfilling. It becomes deeper and more meaningful. And it begins to creep into other parts of our life, making them more fulfilling, deeper and more meaningful. So wherever you are in your tea journey, however old you are, you are doing your best tea right now.