Miles Bothwell: Tea ceremony

After four months and seven or so lessons worth of Tea Ceremony, the only thing I am confident in is how unknowledgeable I really am about the subject.  You could study book after book, which I have, about the ethereal concepts and practices behind Chanoyu. However, only until you spend truly countless hours learning the seemingly-trivial, elementary techniques like how to enter and exit the tea room, fold your tea cup cloth, and even just how to stand up, do you realize that there is nothing trivial in anything you do in Tea Ceremony.

That being said, I couldn’t be happier that I chose to do Tea Ceremony for my CIP.  Besides giving me the opportunity finally do hands-on learning of a traditional art I’ve been interested for a long time now, it has opened me up to a amazing community, giving me insight into how and through whom Tea Ceremony survives in the modern era; a question for which has and will take a long time to find an adequate answer.

Within the community, I was surprised to learn that most of the students are in fact  only up to ten years older than me.  But, with the exception my fellow classmate HB, everyone is clearly years ahead of me in experience.  On the one hand, this has been exceptionally convenient because no matter who I direct my questions toward, they have always been able to at least answer my questions. Whether I’ve been able to understand their answers is a whole other matter. On the other hand, because the discrepancy between our skill and knowledge levels is so great, that discrepancy veils to me how far I have come and how far I have to go in my training before being able to conduct a tea ceremony.  So, I try not to think too much about it and let my own idea of my experience speak for itself.

For two reasons, one of the more memorable moments I will have from this time was when we went as a school group with our teacher to have Tea Ceremony at Doshisha conducted by the on-campus student circle.  First and foremost, it was the first time I participated in a more formal Tea Ceremony setting, as opposed to a classroom setting.  Secondly, and more importantly, sitting there alongside my teacher, facing the Doshisha students, made me realize that I’ve now become a part of this Urasenke school community just as all my other Japanese classmates have.  It was a surreal moment to say the least.

With this semester coming to an end, I’ve decided that even if I choose a new CIP for next semester, I have enjoyed my classes so much that I will be continue to take them regardless.  All I can hope for is that I will learn as much next semester as I have this one.


2 thoughts on “Miles Bothwell: Tea ceremony

  1. Hey Miles!

    First of all, let me say that I love the aside “Everyone is clearly ahead of me (except HB)” — that made me laugh out loud. Seriously though, I am happy that you chose to do something classical and thereby predictable for your CIP and yet still feel it was a worthwhile experience. Many people, including myself, might feel that the more stylized arts like tea ceremony may be, as you said, “trivial,” so I am glad that you found meaning within the details of this ancient art. More importantly though, kudos to you for feeling like part of the community you joined. I think that’s really the hardest part of the CIP program, and you did it!

  2. Hey, you should also talk about your tea spoon, which is great isn’t it?