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