The great teacher gathered her students one evening at the school. As the students were seated around her, she said to them, “We have learned much together about prayer. We have learned how best to say our prayers.” And then the teacher rose and exited the school. The students followed. They followed her to the village square where she stopped. And the students formed a circle around her to listen. “Yes, we have learned much together about prayer. We have learned how best to write prayers.” The students all nodded silently, wondering what this new lesson about prayer could mean.
The great teacher took off again across the square, and her students dutifully followed. Along the way the teacher called out again, “We have learned so much of prayer that now others come to us at times so we can listen to their prayers.” It was then that the great teacher and her students reached their destination. The students sat once more, arranged around their teacher who said, “Yes, we have learned about saying prayers, writing prayers, and listening to prayers. But today, my students, we will watch a prayer.” And at that moment the curtain parted and the dancers took the stage for the dance to begin.
This is one of my favorite stories about faith. Yes, it has its messages about the different ways to experience faith. And as a religious person, that interests me. But more than that, I like the emphasis on dance as perhaps a higher or more holy kind of prayer than some of the others. One of the great blessings I have known in my own faith life is to be on this island where so much of history, faith, and understanding is told in hula. Our bodies are powerful teachers and powerful storytellers.
In this month of March we will be drawing some attention to the spiritual theme of “balance.” I have learned a few different views on what would be a complimentary theme from the Hawaiian language for balance. One person suggested that “pono” would be appropriate. Others have remarked that “kaulike” would be equally appropriate. And there is no need to choose only one. A great teacher might tell us, “We have learned much together about one language. Let us go ahead and learn as much as we can about another.”
A great teacher of mine once explained that dance is the ritualized negotiation of all the space between standing up and falling down. That sounds a lot like life to me. And the great teachers we encounter in our lives, whether they be prayer, dance, or language teachers, all have the same goal: to contribute new information, new inspiration to our lives so that, on balance, our lives will be better. And there may not be a more holy, more sacred expression of faith and hope in this hurting world than that.
…As the students filed out of the theater, their mouths were silent. But every single step they took between heaven and earth was different somehow forever.
And may it always be so.
Rev. T. J.