The next day Frith hobbled into Lancelot’s garden on tender feet. Alura was already there. Able to move more quickly, she had dashed ahead of him. He immediately sat on the bench without waiting to be invited. “I think I must discontinue the study of Latin. It interferes too much with my duties.”
“Giving up already?” Lancelot said. “You have but five days to go. Shall I remove my footwear and show you the calluses of many quests? Remove my shirt and show you the scars of many battles?”
Frith looked down at the ground sheepishly.
“There are painful experiences that are worth something, and there are painful memories that are worth nothing,” Lancelot said. “Go through that which you must go through to reach a worthwhile knowledge. Let go of that which you have been through. Do not forget its lesson, but do not treasure the pain.”
“I’m sorry, sir. Please draw for me the next two letters.”
Lancelot picked up a stick and made marks in the sand. “N for ‘novus’ – new. And O for ‘oculus’ – eye. This type of learning will do you no harm. When you’re attentive to the machinations of your mind that I’ve been speaking against, you’ll see that for everything that happens your mind has an opinion about it... Doesn’t it?”
Frith stooped down and began collecting pebbles. He took off his shoes and arranged the pebbles to match the letters Lancelot had drawn. “It does, sir. I have been seeing it. In snatches from time to time, but more and more often.”
“The mind is full of all manner of views, opinions, desires and fears that you have accumulated,” Lancelot said. “Why did they accumulate? Because you dwelt on them. If a stray dog comes, can you make it leave by feeding it? If you wash it and pet it, it will surely not go away.”
Frith put his shoes back on. He winced when he stood up. ‘Novus oculus,’ the new eye.
“Our minds are full of pettiness because we hold on to those petty likes and dislikes. Like clouds, they obscure us from true perception. If you do not engage them, you will cease to hold them. They’ll drift away on their own and that which is obscuring your view of true knowledge diminishes.”
“But I haven’t the willpower to stop it,” Frith said.
“You have the willpower to endure stones in your shoes,” Lancelot said. “Don’t underestimate your will.”
Frith looked pleased.
“While you can’t use will to stop thoughts – they do not obey your will – you can will yourself to just let the thoughts pass.”
“I’m trying, sir. I just don’t understand how.”
“No? Well… Have you noticed that when someone is upset you can’t get them to listen until they’ve had their say? For example, if Alura wants to talk about something that distresses her, then there is no point in trying to do anything else until she’s spoken her piece. Isn’t that so?”
“Now if what’s a crisis for her isn’t an issue for you, then you can listen to her without being drawn into her drama, because it has no effect on you.”
“Because it’s her problem, not mine.”
“Exactly. Now, take the same attitude while watching your own thoughts. Your worrisome self might still talk about something, but let it talk without being drawn into it, and you are freed from it. You only have to be willing to let it come and go. You’re not trying to stop it, but not acting upon it either.”
Frith stood first on one foot, and then on the other – novus, oculus – and finally sat back down on the ground and looked up at Lancelot. “So then what happens?”
“What happens is that you become the witness rather than the thoughts. Thoughts come and go, emotions come and go, events come and go, but you don’t come and go with them. You’re watching it all, but you’re neither taken in by it, nor taken away with it.”
“I never get taken,” Alura said.
“Don’t pretend that you are not following your mind when it tells you, ‘I need this. I need to avoid that.’ I’ve seen you do it, and I know you’ve seen it in your meditations as well.”
“Sorry,” Alura said. “I was making a poor joke.”
“I don’t think you were joking, but—”
Frith squirmed and changed the way he was seated. “Can’t you give us some actual instruction?”
“You find yourself by not being drawn out of your self,” Lancelot said. “It’s just a question of your willingness to watch under different circumstances. The things you go through will help you let go, unless you resist.”
“You don’t think I am resisting?” Alura said.
Frith stood up and got between them.
“I think we keep thoughts of what we fear because we resist them instead of letting them pass by,” Lancelot said. “Remember the day we went to the river? How my foot acted like a dam when I stepped in the water? Don’t step in it and leaves won’t gather around you.”
Alura gently nudged Frith out of her way. “What if it’s something you are not afraid of? What if it’s something you want?”
“Wants have the same effect on your mind as fears. Stop resisting the fact that you don’t have something, and it will stop bothering you.”
“Because you aren’t trying to get anything from it?” Alura said.
Lancelot nodded. “Most people don’t realize they have a choice about how to live their life, but they do.”
“That may be true for knights and nobility, but we who live at the other end of society don’t have much choice,” Frith said.
“In the subject I am discussing, neither do the nobility. People don’t realize they have a choice because they let themselves be surrounded by their problems and desires, and the nobility have as many of those as anyone else.”
“Well, a single woman certainly doesn’t have a choice,” Alura said.
“Not choices about what work you do or whom you marry. But you have a choice about whether or not you’re happy.”
Alura stuck her lip out. “Easier if you’re a man.”
Lancelot shook his head. “For a moment I thought you understood.”
“Too well,” Alura said.
“Winning a tournament or even your lady’s hand doesn’t ensure happiness. Wanting to change your life by changing the world outside just makes you want. Wanting isn’t good because it takes you out of the now. You are only ever happy now.”
“I’ll be happy when I’m married.”
“You don’t know that,” Lancelot said. “But even so, when that happens it will be the now then, won’t it?”
Alura looked confused.
“Live your life from a higher point of view. Understand that you are the soul inside. Everyone and everything outside are just experiences that you’re witnessing. Be ecstatic on the inside, and it will make your life outside seem good.”
A tear tracked down Alura’s cheek. “But I feel so lost, so abandoned.”
“Frith, I believe we’re seeing your flaming swords.” He lowered himself until he was meeting Alura, eye to eye. “Be brave. You’re never lost or alone. That’s not you. That’s just the mind. It spends all of time trying to use everything and everyone to make itself not feel lost. And even when it gets what it wants, when everything is all right, it begins worrying that someday it might not be.”
Alura looked away.
“Most people spend their entire lives with their consciousness drawn away from God by these thoughts and emotions. When that distraction stops; when consciousness remains watching from the place within; you find the Grail. When your consciousness remains there, you begin to see the source of consciousness instead of the objects of consciousness. You begin to discover why Christ said ‘I and my Father are one.’ That’s what the Grail shows you. You can’t know any of that when you are looking at the world. You can’t know that when you are lost in your thoughts. You can’t know that when you are caught in your emotions. You will know that when you’re sitting in the place of the Grail.”
“Are you going to show us the Grail?” Frith said.
“Someday,” Lancelot said.