“This is enough discussion for one night,” a John concluded. “It is time to retire.”

We settled down in a clearing where there were two large trees. One was brooding, with its leaves hanging limp and its top bent over, while the other was open and expansive, its branches splayed out reaching for the heavens. I curled up under the brooding one and curiously noticed that a John, instead of lying down by his tree, sat up straight as a board. His legs were crossed with his feet resting on his opposite thighs, looking very much like a pretzel, and he was sitting still, like a rock.

As I watched a John sitting under the tree, my mind mysteriously became infused with a profound peacefulness. Any worry and concern that I harbored disappeared for a moment. I had never felt anything like this before and was certain that he was somehow influencing me. I watched him off and on for an hour or so and just as I began to fall asleep I was startled by a powerful, low growl that was dangerously close. Conqueror instinctively backed into the forest, with me right behind him! It was a tiger, and by the depth of the growl; it was gigantic.

Suddenly I remembered a John and looked back to where he was sitting. He had not budged, even though a monstrous tiger was standing not more than a few paces from his tree. Assuming he was asleep and unaware of the danger, I quietly worked my way back toward a John while at the same time looking for something to use as a club. I wouldn’t have a chance against a tiger this size, but at least I might distract it for a moment so that a John could run. I found a stout limb and silently slipped closer, and just as I was about to command Conqueror to charge, I heard something . . . it was a John talking to the tiger!

“Why do you disturb my inner work with your growling? I am a simple, poor man who is not bothering anybody and of no concern to you. You should be off doing animal things! If you are hungry and are too lazy to chase after wary and swift animals, then you can eat me, but I must warn you, I will not taste as good as what you are accustomed to. Worse than that, eating me will be a problem in your next lifetime, for to kill a key seeker has the most dreadful consequences. On the other hand, if you don’t harm me, this will help you immensely in your next existence, for your close contact with me while I was deep within my inner work will assure your rebirth in a human form. Then, you will be able to begin your own quest for the key someday. So, if you would rather sit with me for a while instead of eating me, you may do so, but you must be quiet.”

A John then closed his eyes and continued with his inner work showing no further concern. The tiger looked at him for moment, then walked over, curiously sniffed his robe, and pawed at his shoulder as if he wanted to play. When a John didn’t respond, the tiger circled a few times before curling up next to him and falling asleep!

I stayed glued to the tree I was hiding behind, barely breathing for what seemed to be an eternity until finally the tiger got up, lazily stretched, yawned, wiped his whiskers with his huge paw, and rambled off into the woods.

I was wide awake now, and stayed that way the entire night keeping a watchful eye out for the tiger and thinking about what I had just witnessed. This little man was certainly an enigma, and I found myself confused over what the word courage really meant.

As dawn poked its reluctant sleepy eyes through the trees, a John bounced up from his sitting position, looked at his hand, and then motioned toward the village.

“Why did you look at your hand?” I walked over and asked him.

“I looked at my palm to see if it was light enough to distinguish the lines,” he said. “When I can see the lines, we have just enough time to make the two-mile walk at a brisk pace to the village and arrive exactly at sunrise when the villagers will be expecting us.”

“I thought maybe you were reading your palm to see our fortune.” I said.

“Oh, I know my fortune, and yours as well! . . . We will soon grow old, and die!” Then he laughed. But I didn’t laugh with him.

The forest was deliciously cool now, waiting silently, reverently for the day ahead. Fidgety birds and animals greeted the new morning with their familiar cries on a trail that was a lush, fragrant tunnel of large ferns, bamboo groves, and tropical flowers surrounded by endless trees, foliage, bushes, and plants of every variety. I must have felt some effects of the little man’s inner work from the previous night as the simplicity of this beauty completely overwhelmed me.

We ambled along in silence for a time, a John carrying his clay bowl and totally engrossed in the loveliness of this serene setting, while my mind raced along non-stop about the tiger. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer and blurted out, “Weren’t you afraid when that tiger came up to you last night?”

A John laughed, “Fear is a good friend; don’t you know? It is the best way to calm your mind. You will find that when you are a hairs breadth from oblivion, the fear vanishes. Everything becomes remarkably clear in the immediacy of the moment because the insignificant concerns of the mind are erased by the sobering infinity confronting you.

“Awe-inspiring beauty, close encounters with death, heartbreaking disappointments, life threatening tragedies, spiritual awakenings — all of these have the powerful potential to overwhelm your everyday mind and reduce you to tears as their precious moments directly touch you. These glimpses of Infinity by-pass your mind and directly impact your heart creating permanent shifts in consciousness. In the depths of your being your values forever change and channel your life into uncharted waters. These are deep-seated epiphanies of which I speak, and only when you are willing to subject yourself to these kinds of sweeping transformations in your heart can you make progress in your quest for the key.”

When I was in my father’s bedroom and my mind did clear for an incredible moment, all thinking and scheming stopped, and my life was changed forever from this experience. Something just snapped, and there was nothing that I could do about it; it just happened. I wasn’t trying to change my direction in life. I didn’t even want to understand anything. I was simply overwhelmed by a force crouching deep within, waiting for the right moment to pounce.

“Beware of the sparks of unnecessary thoughts,” continued a John, “lest they become a bonfire that destroys you, for only in the absence of thought, and only in this one precious moment, can your deepest being be touched. Your mind will attempt to remember this moment, it will try to hold it, possess it with your thoughts; analyze and sort it out, and in this flurry of activity, the Infinity of the moment disappears, replaced by your false interpretations of the truth. You see, while you are busy remembering that last moment, the truth of the present moment slips by, unnoticed, and you completely miss it - and then, sadly, you completely miss the truth of life and every one of its moments as well.”

I never really thought about “thoughts” before. They seemed to be there all the time; they were actually me. They defined me. I could not imagine a time when I did not have thoughts; it would be like not breathing . . . except for that one brief moment when my father died - and when my life changed.

If I was not learning anything else, I was learning that the walk to the village was not a time for idle chatter! A John was giving me some basic key seeking advice.