Practice Does Not Make Perfect

Quarantea 2

Tea in the snug, again. Today I used the old wooden tool box (my granfather’s) as a tokonoma of sorts; convenient for placing five smooth basalt stones from the UP near the magnolia cuttings which are budding out quickly, and room for incense, too.

  • Tea – Matcha Harmony
  • Sweet – toasted rice(?) tea sweets from Japan (thanks, Roo!)
  • Chawan – heavy and solid, from Japan
  • Natsume – plain crimson laquerware from Japan
  • Obon – Swedish tray
  • Tetsubin – heavy hive pot
  • Kensui – locally made by Northport Pottery

Today’s ceremony, obon gyou, was a challenging one for me to learn. It was the second temae Roo taught me, and for some reason, the jump from sou to gyou felt daunting. It took a long time to move from my head into my body with this one. At times now, I still second guess the slightly, but not extremely, more complex steps. Maybe when I began tea study/practice, I wanted it SO badly that I worked really HARD at it. You know, thinking and thinking as I was doing. Tea ceremony is not about working hard, it is about the discipline of practicing well. Many years ago, a teacher told me, “practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent.”

Trust me, gyuo was not the most difficult challenge tea practice has offered me. It was just the first.

While doing tea today, I noticed how easy it is to get stuck in my head. There are two places in every ceremony where we do chasen tosh, wetting the tines of the whisk, and later rinsing the tines of the whisk. Each time I let the chasen drop against the chawan lip with a soft “clink,” I feel myself soften, dropping my attention to my hara, letting go of self and ego, getting out of my head. This is my practice. This is what I want to make permanent.

With special gratitude for my tea teacher, Roo sensei,