I clench my book tightly against me,
like a shield against the world,
I’ve devoured its pages
and spat out the words in recitals,
but never did I try
to make the words dance off the page.
When the time came to make the words real,
I awkwardly moved around,
still clenching my shield,
trying to dance to
what was written in those pages.
My teacher gently took hold of the book,
I struggled to hold onto it,
“You don’t need that anymore,” my teacher said,
“It’s already in your heart.”
I reluctantly folded the pages and
put down my shield.
My teacher smiled and said,
“Now just dance”.
I took my first steps onto the dance floor,
trying to remember the steps on the page.
“There’s no music!” I called to my teacher,
“Just dance and you’ll hear it,” my teacher replied.
A current flowed through me,
as the words came alive,
turning my movement the way I turned the pages.
My forebears’ lives danced through me,
to a song that’s been sung through the ages,
but to a new rhythm that was being created,
with each step I was taking.
Writer’s note: The above poem comes from a dream I had of a monk who I’ve never met but have great respect for. His name was Ajahn Chah. In my dream, Ajahn Chah was talking to me about the disciplinary rules (“Vinaya”) and he told me that the Vinaya was there to help people with their practice, not to bind them. To hold onto it without wisdom is like “dancing while reading a book [of instructions], so better to just dance,” he told me in the dream. I’ve never heard that quote before, and have not found any references anywhere, but it prompted me to actualise the theory of my spiritual practice so as to make it more than just words on a page.