The next morning after returning from the village we discussed our plight. “Listen carefully,” a John said, “just as one avoids a snake, we are leaving this village to protect ourselves and the villagers from unnecessary danger. I know you won’t agree because you would rather fight than run, but hear me out. Even if we could fight and kill all the soldiers in Ayatana, would we be closer to our key? Would the villagers who would sacrifice their lives for us be better off? Would the mothers and babies be spared? These soldiers want you. And If I have any say, they will never compromise your inner work.

“Look,” a John continued, “life is a constant battle, is it not? We battle to ease our invariable dissatisfactions whether these dissatisfactions are affecting us now or perceived to cause us difficulty in the future. So we try to resolve our many conflicts by making choices.

“We could say that our entire life is spent making choices as we desperately try to be happy by choosing between doing this or doing that, eating this or eating that, going here or going there. This is our life - continuous, endless choices. When we practice the inner work and observe our mind, we see how these pervasive choices create conflict, which in turn creates confusion and stress. Should I do this or should I do that? Have I made a mistake? Should I have done that instead of doing this?

“These thoughts in our mind usually begin as a single picture. When your inner work becomes refined and your mind slows down, you will be able to discern a little spark in your subconscious mind just before a tiny picture surfaces. This picture then develops into a series of pictures accompanied by words until they become animated into a story with two opposing voices arguing over what to do. Because of this incessant, internal squabbling, we are never integrated.

“Since we are never in agreement with ourselves, we become fragmented. We get caught up in the conflicts of these endless decisions with a bit of us here and a bit of us there. This internal bickering then becomes all pervasive, compulsive, and addictive.”

“I can take care of these soldiers, a John. Just give me a few villagers. I don’t care how many there are. But I hear what you are saying. Things happen mechanically, endlessly. When something happens, I react. This happens - I do that. That happens - I do this.”

“Hear me out, king. Key seekers curb these reactionary, compulsive actions by simplifying things. With our inner work we not only restrict our outward activity but at the same time calm the inward activity of our minds. We accomplish this by living a life that strictly limits our choices. When we do make a choice, we strike a balance between extremes. This way we come closer to Infinity.

“Do we as key seekers gorge ourselves? No. Do we starve ourselves? No. We find a way in the middle. We mix our food together in our bowl before eating it - honey cakes with the grasshoppers! This way we eat enough to sustain the body while at the same time not encouraging the mind to desire more than the body needs. It’s a compromise.

“In our present situation we could remain here, as you wish, and cause bloodshed – and that is an extreme. Or, we could travel very far away to a distant country where we could never be found - another extreme, because some distant countries will not welcome key seekers. They consider key seekers strange, seeing them as a danger to their lifestyle and beliefs. As a compromise to these two alternatives, we will move away from the present danger and this village, avoiding bloodshed but remain in this part of the forest where we are respected and supported, and where we can continue our inner work.

“As a key seeker’s inner work develops, he or she begins to understand the root of the addictive and compulsive nature of the thoughts that create these choices and where they come from. Conflict begins the moment we are conceived in the womb. We embark on an effort to survive. Being born into a material body involves the struggle for food, shelter and security. This in turn gives rise to greed, hatred and confusion. These endless conflicts create thought, and thought in turn feeds off endless conflict. It’s a vicious circle. These reactions keep Infinity from surfacing.

“Infinity is always patiently waiting for our minds to move beyond these thoughts, conflicts, desires and choices for a moment so that Infinity can get a foot in the door to change our lives. This is why we practice the inner work; to end this addictive mental activity. However, like any addiction; the thoughts, conflicts, desires and choices are difficult and painful to withdraw from.”

“I don’t know, a John. Tell me; what remains when my thoughts and desires are gone?”

“You are not your thoughts, king. They are but a small, mechanical part of you, merely a tool to be used no different from your arm or your hand. Until you understand this, there will be an immense, undiscovered part of you that will forever remain a mystery. Only when you can be in this moment, right here without thought, yet in complete awareness, will you be able to glimpse your true potential. But for now; trust me. It’s time to get moving.”

“Okay a John. For the sake of one mother who I saw bathing her baby one day, we will leave.”

I whistled for Conqueror. We were on our way to friendlier regions. . . . Or were we?