Week 10 – Butterflies and Window Washers

This year, I’m sharing a section each week from THE FRICKEN MAP IS UPSIDE DOWN. From start to finish, from my heart to yours. From the big comfy chair.

Welcome to week ten of this free series. Settle into your own comfy chair, grab a mug of something nice, and read on.

(The following content is excerpted from The Fricken Map is Upside Down: Notes from a spiritual journey, by Carrie Triffet © Copyright 2019.)


Butterflies and window washers

With my reconfigured navigation system up and running,
the spiritual journey it inspired unfolded slowly and gently,
in ways that at first seemed very unspectacular and mundane.
Nothing felt like dramatic progress, initially. I spent the first
few months simply teaching myself the new discipline of un-
relenting kindness, as I learned to embrace the subterranean
self with compassion in every moment, no matter how it was
behaving—and no matter what mood I was in.

The effects of this practice seemed cumulative. Under the
benevolent gaze of the divine self within, the subterranean
ego self slowly blossomed and became willing to actively par-
ticipate, sharing its deepest unconscious secrets as needed. In
this always-gentle process, the unlikely trio of divine self, sub-
merged iceberg and I, cooperated on what ultimately became
a grand adventure of liberation.

Everything about this evolutionary journey has felt quite dif-
ferent from the agreed-upon collective ideas about the awak-
ening process. The usual metaphor for the spiritual awakening
process is the caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly. The
caterpillar lives his wiggly little existence for as long as neces-
sary, then cocoons himself to kick off the transformation.

Once inside, he swiftly breaks down into an unrecogniz-
able pulp. In this demolition process nothing of the caterpillar
himself remains. And the be-winged end product, the splen-
didly awakened divine self who no longer eats your prize ge-
raniums, is seen as being so much more wonderful than the
lowly caterpillar, the inconvenient personal ‘me’ self from
whence it emerged.

The comparison is understandable. It contains big nuggets
of truth. But do you notice the underlying current of self-ha-
tred running through it? It takes for granted the ordinary ego-
ic self is the unwanted obstacle to awakening. It assumes the
inconvenient old self must be got rid of pronto, so the shinier,
newer divine self can emerge.

The implication is that it takes nothing more than a heroic
act of will to let go of the inferior old self. Never mind that few
seem able to accomplish this act of will in actual practice. I
certainly couldn’t. This personal failing, this inability to let go
of ourselves is seen as the only thing standing between us and
our experience of divinity.

The good-riddance-to-bad-rubbish implication is, this mag-
nificent, newly emergent divine self (if we ever manage to be-
come it) will fly away without so much as a backward glance at
its own shredded egoic cocoon.

I dunno. I can only go by my own experience. To me, the
awakening process is more like walking around my own
house’s perimeter and performing a gentle window washing,
day after day. Gradually the Light is let in. When the out-
side panes have become somewhat clearer, I then choose to
knock on the door and ask permission to wash them from
the inside too.

Oh so slowly, the once-filthy panes of glass become more
and more transparent to the Light that’s always been here. And
after enough Light has been allowed to enter, a type of quiet
transmutation starts to occur.

This soft alchemy is no magic trick of transformation. It does
not suddenly make an unwanted obstacle disappear, revealing
a marvelous new butterfly-ish ‘me’ in its place. As it finally
occurs to me that everything, honest-to-God, really is God,
I begin to patiently wash my own windows with greatest ten-
derness and respect.

Not to remove the unsightly crud, but simply as an expression
of care and devotion. I am, after all, God washing the God off
of God. I’m not judging the dirt or the windows. Why would
I? That would be silly. I’m just practicing attentive self-care. It
doesn’t even matter, ultimately, whether stuck on bits of grimy
gunk are coming off or not. Holiness is.

Take a look around, inside and outside your own life. Maybe
it’s not what you imagined it would turn out to be. Washing
the God off of God is a practice of genuinely learning not to
mind what’s here right now. And that acceptance, in itself, is a
form of mastery leading to a type of enlightenment.

When washing the God off of God is our genuine window-
washing attitude, the interior of our house grows rapidly
brighter. And as the interior illuminates, the house itself and
all its contents
start to wake up and recognize themselves as the
same Light that’s been softly streaming in all along.

And that’s the alchemy. Inner crud slowly remembers itself as
divinity, which inspires the aforementioned crud to accept
Light instead of resisting it. The more Light it embraces, the
easier it is for the crud to more fully recognize its own
identity as God.

(Won’t that make the crud arrogant, believing itself to be
God? Uh, no. The crud has spent its whole self-hating exist-
ence believing in its profound unworthiness. The recogni-
tion of its own divinity, which is not a belief but rather a
direct knowing, causes it to realize, for the very first time,
that it has an authentic right to be. Along with every other
part of all-that-is.)

The cleaning of one’s own muddy windows is an oversimpli-
fied analogy describing this gradual evolution toward inner
union. In actual practice the process of window washing
is neither linear nor straightforward. Although higher
and lower selves are ultimately one, and the decision to
treat both with love and respect is profound, their aims
are not the same.

The higher divine self desires only our freedom and eternal
happiness. The worldly subterranean self will do whatever it
can to keep the game alive. Both are innocent; one of them just
doesn’t know it.

As my relationship with the subterranean self
deepened, I naturally wanted to ease its suffering. If it was ask-
ing for mercy, my instinct was to offer it. Yet in my experience
one reaches key points again and again in the journey, where
allegiance to Light must clearly be chosen.

The subterranean self benefits greatly from increased Light
streaming in through its partly cleaned windows. It feels hap-
pier and so do we. Yet this submerged self needs at least a
minimal amount of crud on its windows in order to survive.

As long as it survives, both we and our subterranean self will
remain in bondage together. For its sake and ours, therefore,
divine Love will inspire us to choose against the subterranean
self ’s pleas for indefinitely protracted survival.

This isn’t tough love. It’s the opposite of tough, and the op-
posite of small ‘l’ love. The tenderest divine Love imaginable
is what inspires us to hold the subterranean self close to our
hearts, in the authentic desire to spare it further unhappiness.

Love and compassion for all parts of the self, will help us
bring the higher and lower selves together holistically. In
my experience an attitude of love and compassion is a defi-
nite must if we want to experience true spiritual alchemy—
the kind where nothing ever needs to be killed off or aban-
doned, in order for the magnificent awakened self to emerge
and take flight.

~ Carrie Triffet, excerpted from The Fricken Map is Upside Down: Notes from a spiritual journey, © Copyright 2019

Find out more about The Fricken Map is Upside Down or buy the book

Week 6 – A High Speed Chase Seen Through Backward Binoculars

For the rest of this year and most of the next, I’ll be sharing a section each week from THE FRICKEN MAP IS UPSIDE DOWN. From start to finish, from my heart to yours. From the big comfy chair.

Welcome to week six of this free series. Go ahead and settle into your own comfy chair, grab a mug of something nice to drink, and read on.

(The following content is excerpted from The Fricken Map is Upside Down: Notes from a spiritual journey, by Carrie Triffet © Copyright 2019.)

A high speed chase seen through backward binoculars

I was being taught to step away from my own personal view-
point with good reason. For years I’d been exploring the
theme of enemy consciousness (and how to live beyond it),
because the flip side of that tug ‘o war is true inner peace.

I was learning that an enemy is only an enemy, because I
have perceived it as such. But the human perceptual view-
point is a freaky thing. It was slowly dawning on me that I
probably shouldn’t have been relying on it as an advisor in
the first place.

A human being’s perceptual lens can never be trusted as an
accurate reflection of the way things really are. Your percep-
tion and mine are not clear, factual representations of what
we see. They’re made up of our own highly personal sets of
prior associations.

Some of these associations are cultural or religious, others
are supplied by the society we live in. Any of these may give
the illusion of common ground with those who seem to share
our general view. Education and family influences (or lack
thereof) also play big roles in shaping perception.

Our own personal prior historical experiences, paired with this mélange
of tangled associations, inherited assumptions and unexam-
ined group expectations forms the lens through which we in-
terpret everything we see. It’s all relative, and no interpretation
is ever truly accurate.

To illustrate how it works, here’s a small example of my own
from many years back:

I was driving through South Los Angeles one day with a school
friend I hadn’t seen in ages. We had
just been to a trade show together, and were on our way to
another appointment someplace deep in the garment district.

In that section of the city several freeways converge in a complex
series of cloverleaf curves, the on and off ramps weaving under
and over each other in every direction. It takes a fair amount of
lane merging to get where you need to go. Jabbering excitedly
with my friend about all the changes in our lives since we’d last
seen each other, I barely noticed what I was doing.

Having made it safely onto our chosen freeway, a few min-
utes went by before my friend observed, ‘Um, there’s a guy
who’s been driving alongside us for a while now, and he keeps
looking in the window at you.’

‘Really?’ I asked, my eyes on the unpredictable antics of driv-
ers in front and behind me, ‘What do you think he wants?’
‘I dunno,’ she said. ‘But he looks pretty mad.’

I felt a cold stab of fear. Partly because my own prior associations
had long ago led me to the conclusion that other peoples’ anger
was unsafe, and I should always tap dance my way to a state of
mutually agreed upon harmony whenever possible.

And partly because of another prior association: This was Los Angeles,
famous around the world for the occasionally lethal effects of road
rage. I prayed the guy wasn’t carrying a baseball bat or a gun.

I stole a peek over at him. A very dark skinned man of pow-
erful build glared back at me. Oh man. Oh shit. I had no idea
why he was mad at me, but prior societal associations of mine
made his anger a little bit extra-frightening.

I grew up in an economically depressed Rust Belt town in the
1970s, where racial tensions ran high. My junior high school
years in particular saw semi-regular flashpoints of pent-up
student frustration, the racial lines often clearly drawn. I never
got beat up, back then or ever. But sparks and fists flew all
around me with a certain amount of regularity.

Decades later, on this Los Angeles freeway, I couldn’t help
but filter an encounter with this angry stranger through that
junior high school lens. It was automatic; it’s how our minds
process new information.

I made that unconscious linkage instantly, and promptly
broke out in a nervous sweat. For the
next ten miles his car kept pace with mine while I steadfastly
refused to look at him, fervently hoping he would get bored
and go away. He didn’t.

At last I reached my exit, dismayed to see he was taking
it, too. He followed behind me for another ten minutes as I
made my way to our destination. I pulled into the parking lot
and he brought his car to a screeching halt next to mine. We
got out of our cars and stood face to face, him shaking with
rage, me with fear.

I braced myself. This was many years before I knew anything
about empathic tendencies and what it means to feel other
peoples’ feelings; all I knew was, his anger tore into me like a
hundred knives hurled straight into my body. But there was
something else too, something besides outward-directed rage.
And in a peculiar way it hurt even more.

‘You cut me off,’ he snarled. ‘Like I wasn’t even there.’

Like I wasn’t even there. That was it. A focused pinpoint of
white-hot searing torment, aimed with surgical precision not
at me, but at himself. Although I had no words to describe the
phenomenon back then, I felt his inner pain and frustration
for one blinding instant as if they were mine.

His momentary jolt of fear as I’d cut him off on the freeway
(a normal reaction to being put in danger), had quickly turned
to boiling fury at my apparent cavalier disregard for his inher-
ent right to exist. (Instant linkage.) How dare I think his life
was worthless?

I listened quietly, looking into his eyes as he spoke. When
it was my turn to talk, I apologized humbly for my error, ex-
plaining truthfully I never even saw his car. It must’ve been in
my blind spot, and I wasn’t paying nearly enough attention to
what I was doing, I admitted. I was genuinely sorry for taking
him so many miles out of his way just to speak with me, and
I said so.

He nodded, processing this new information. As I watched
his face, I could see it was almost as if his inner GPS unit had
originally taken him down a well-worn route marked
‘Favorites.’ But now it was recalculating an entirely different
pre-programmed route. A route called ‘Lady Drivers.’ This
road held no rage, just an exasperated handful of patronizing
gender assumptions. He sighed heavily and turned away.

‘See that you don’t do it again,’ he instructed almost offhand-
edly over his shoulder, shaking his head with a sour grimace as
he pointed his car back in the direction he had come.

My point here is not to suggest his prior experiences of life
weren’t real. Or that his conclusions about his experiences
weren’t accurate. Of course they were. They were valid and
real to him, as my prior experiences were valid and real to me.

It’s the way we each pasted those historical assumptions onto
our present circumstance that highlights just how unreliable
and arbitrary the personal perceptual lens really is.

By seeing through the lenses of our separate histories, we each brought
wildly divergent and completely irrelevant ideas to the in-
teraction. And because we believed what our separate lenses
showed us, we each perceived ourselves as the potential victim
of the other one’s intentions.

It’s the inner satellite navigation system itself that can’t be
trusted. It can never be relied upon to give an accurate read-
ing. By analyzing its millions of data points to formulate its
conclusions, that very process guarantees every road it takes
us down will be faulty.

Our inner GPS unit does its very best to
help us navigate our world, bless it. But in truth, all of its data
points are meaningless. And the destinations even more so.

Learning to take the personal point of view with a large grain
of salt is fundamental to spiritual and emotional freedom.
Strangely enough, I didn’t fully recognize the deeply flawed
nature of my own (or anyone else’s) personal point of view,
until my softened stance toward the ego self helped me notice
firsthand the fallibility of its perceptual lens. The egoic lens
just isn’t built for accuracy.

I realized then that I am endowed with a personal viewpoint,
simply because that’s what allows me a sense of being a sepa-
rate personal self. Not because there’s anything inherently true
or right in my way of seeing anything. So my egoic lens isn’t
worth a lot. And honestly, that personal self business? It ain’t
what it’s cracked up to be.

~ Carrie Triffet, excerpted from The Fricken Map is Upside Down: Notes from a spiritual journey, © Copyright 2019

Find out more about The Fricken Map is Upside Down or buy the book

Week 5 – My Tiny Guru

For the rest of this year and most of the next, I’ll be sharing a section each week from THE FRICKEN MAP IS UPSIDE DOWN. From start to finish, from my heart to yours. From the big comfy chair.

Welcome to week five of this free series. Go ahead and settle into your own comfy chair, grab a mug of something nice to drink, and read on.

(The following content is excerpted from The Fricken Map is Upside Down: Notes from a spiritual journey, by Carrie Triffet © Copyright 2019.)

Earlier I was sure of so many things, now I am sure of nothing.
But I feel that I have lost nothing by not knowing, because all my
knowledge was false.
~ Nisargadatta Maharaj


My tiny guru

One day last summer, fresh out of the shower I sat down to
meditate. I began by asking the question: What it would take
for me to Love humanity?
Not in the intellectual abstract, but,
y’know, for real.

Because let’s face it. We suck, right? We’re a tough bunch
to Love. And yet many times in meditation, I had experienced
firsthand the God-self-ness of human beings, individually and
collectively. I had felt our divine Light, our timeless innocence.
Where’s the disconnect, I wondered? How do I experience this
purity of self and other in my daily life?

Just then an incredibly persistent housefly began buzzing
and buzzing around me, landing periodically to tickle its way
across my bare arms or zip back and forth around my wet
hair. I smiled and acknowledged its God self, which of course
meant nothing at all to the fly. He knew what he was. He was
also thirsty and I was a bountiful fountain of recently showered moisture.

No amount of shooing had any effect at all. I tried slip-
ping into conscious Awareness and meditating on the in-
convenience of his behavior, seeing the behavior itself as
God. Seeing my own mild annoyance as God. It’s all true of
course, but the buzz-tickle-stop, buzz-buzz-stop-tickle was
so random it would have taken a meditator far more master-
ful than I to manage it.

And yet I had long since realized everything arises as an op-
portunity to shepherd me along my path of awakening. So I
checked in with my higher self: Is there a lesson here? Does this
fly have something to teach me?

As if in answer, the fly turned and flew straight at the tip of
my nose—bop!—with a force that startled both of us. Okay, I’ll
take that as a yes. What am I missing? What’s the lesson?

I paused to allow an answer to arise from the depths of divine
inner wisdom.

I was invited to notice that greater vision, greater Light and
greater Love are automatically limited by the habitual action
of seeing through the lens of the personal self. I was viewing
things from my own perspective. (Of course! Who wouldn’t?)
That perspective naturally included my own needs and wants:
I wanted to meditate. Meditation was important to me. It’s
what I do, it’s who I am.

Yet this fly, this outsider, was ruining my meditation because
its own needs and wants were, of course, its primary concern.
Were my needs and wants actually more important? Or were
they just more important to me?

I wasn’t really wondering whether flies should be accorded
equal rights. I was asking this question to investigate my own
egoic assumptions about life. I was beginning to notice my
own agenda was not necessarily more important than any-
body else’s. It just felt more important because it was mine.

This was a question I’d pondered before, most recently while
tending my garden. I was the one growing the veg at great effort
and expense. What was the right attitude to take toward the
beings who were busy decimating my lettuce crop? I couldn’t
bear the thought of waging war; that was the complete antith-
esis of where I wanted to be in my life. It was just too damn
painful to cultivate enemies anymore.

I decided I valued inner peace more than I did my lettuce.
I also valued peace more than I valued my ingrained assump-
tion that my lettuce belongs to me. So I blessed these slimy
little creatures, then plucked them off my leafy greens (ick)
and repatriated them to the other end of the garden. They
came back, and back, and back again of course, until no let-
tuce remained.

Bugs, birds, rodents, slugs. I was sort of willing to entertain
the idea that I was not automatically entitled to harvest what
I grew. And since all of Nature seemed to passionately and
emphatically agree with that conclusion, I figured there must
have been a lesson in there somewhere. But that was as far as
I’d gotten on this particular question.

So this new bit of wisdom was highly pertinent to my daily
life at this time. Although I had already been experimentally
looking outside my me-centric ideas about life, it was still me
doing the looking. The ‘me’ self was chewing over the idea of
stepping outside the viewpoint of the ‘me’ self, in other words.
I hadn’t thought to examine the fact that the ‘me’ lens itself is
the limiter of wisdom.

The higher self ’s implied suggestion was a delicate one: Why
not play around with viewing the situation from beyond the
limiting lens of the personal self?

I realized this exploration
would offer not only an answer to the housefly-meditation
thing and even the garden pest conundrum, but an answer to
the question I had posed at the start of the meditation. Where
was the disconnect between the recognition of God in human-
ity I experienced during meditation, and the ability to apply
that knowing to the actual human beings we are?

I immediately checked in with the personal ‘me’ self. Gone
are the days when I would take a unilateral battering ram to
its defenses in the name of spiritual progress. I was only too
aware this suggestion of stepping outside the personal local-
ized viewpoint, would strike at the very heart and purpose of
the personal self. If I wasn’t viewing the world through its sub-
terranean lens, then what exactly was its job description?

What do you think, I asked. Would you be willing to allow this
exploration, to help me understand better?

The fly’s buzz-tickle-buzz-buzz antics had become too much
at this point. I moved into the bedroom and closed the door.
When I checked in again for the subterranean self ’s response,
I realized I was feeling no inner resistance of any kind. It had
quietly backed away, leaving me free to explore outside its usu-
al boundaries. I was overcome with a wave of deep admiration
and gratitude for the subterranean self ’s bravery and (ironi-
cally) its selflessness.

I’d been working patiently and steadfastly with the subterra-
nean self for several months by this point. It had taken quite
a while to build mutual trust and respect between us. Even
though I had dropped all my jaundiced ideas about the intrin-
sically destructive motivations of the subterranean self before
I approached it, I found myself unable at first to extend it my
authentic trust, affection or respect. Even though I wanted

Heartbreakingly, for its part, the subterranean self seemed
far more eager to trust in me, far more willing to give me the
benefit of the doubt than I could offer it in return. Progress,
genuinely desired on both sides, was steady but painfully slow
and awkward at first.

I’ll include here a representative example of my early at-
tempts to reach out humbly and sincerely to this aspect of the
self, just to give you some idea of the collaboration’s rocky be-
ginnings. I was not in the general habit of writing letters to the
subterranean self, but I found myself doing so as I sat down to
pen this diary entry.

January 5, 2018
Oh, sweetheart. Can I call you that? I so want to be able to offer
you my love. But when I try it feels fake, to you and me both.
And I want to trust you deeply and completely, because I know
you deserve it. But no matter how hard I try, something within
us (within me) just won’t go there.

It’s tricky. On the one hand I know in my heart the teachings
about you are correct. You do block out true peace. And that
hurts. How can I trust deeply in anything that blocks out God?
But I also know you’re not to be blamed for that. I know you’re
not evil. I don’t know how I know, but I do.

Maybe my feelings will change as I get to know you better. In
the meantime, instead of love or trust, I’ll offer you everything I
can right now. My honesty. My loyalty. I’m here no matter what.
I want to learn what you truly are. I don’t know why you do the
things you do, but I’m interested. Whatever you want to share
with me, I’d be honored to learn. So let’s start with that and see
where it takes us. Okay?

On this sunny summer day six months later, as I found myself
preparing to meditate from outside the personal viewpoint,
my relationship with the subterranean self was already one of
ever-deepening trust and mutual respect. By this time we were
routinely working together with the divine Light of Aware-
ness, and could clearly feel the rapidly growing inner illumi-
nation, clarity and wisdom that is a natural hallmark of such a
divine partnership.

Having taken refuge from the persistent fly behind the closed
door of the bedroom, I sat and prepared for meditation. Sinking
deeply into present moment Awareness, I marveled at how re-
markably easy it felt to step completely away from any sense of
personal viewpoint. For the first time I could ever recall (other
than during awakenings), the ‘me’ point of consciousness held
no gravitational pull.

Since the ‘me’ perspective was temporarily deactivated, I
took advantage of this gift by focusing on the truth of what
is. What does truth feel like? I wondered. How does it feel to see
humanity as the Creator sees us?

I tuned into the human collective. Without a personal point
of view I found I was automatically free of my own assump-
tions, opinions, beliefs, judgments and even my innate prefer-
ences. None of that was relevant. None of it held any kind of
energetic charge. I could sense my vision had become far less
restricted than usual; I was seeing from a higher perspective.

As I brought the Light of Awareness inside the collective sea of
humanity, I first felt it as a surging, clashing, chaotic sea of move-
ment and change. Yet there was nothing alarming or negative
about it. Resting here, I was startled to discover this turbulent
sea was actually made of ecstatic joy. I was made of ecstatic joy.

I sank in deeper, beyond the surface level of constant move-
ment, and settled at last into deep stillness. And in this hushed
and holy stillness, this sacred foundation of our shared
humanity, I felt our true nature. It was made of ecstatic peace.

That was it. That’s what I had been missing. God is the col-
lective perfection of all-that-is, exactly as it is. It’s the ecstasy of
our human perfection, exactly as we are right now.

I just wasn’t on a high enough wavelength to experience it, until I stepped
outside the localized viewpoint of the individual self. Until,
you might say, my heartfelt desire to know God became (tem-
porarily) stronger than the desire to see things my own way.

And yes. This new knowing of our collective perfection was
still happening only in meditation, not in daily life. What can
I tell you. Mine has been a gradual ascension; so gradual, my
ears don’t even pop.

~ Carrie Triffet, excerpted from The Fricken Map is Upside Down: Notes from a spiritual journey, © Copyright 2019

Find out more about The Fricken Map is Upside Down or buy the book