Welcome to week three of this free series. Go ahead and get settled 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.)
The Evil Genius
I didn’t turn toward the inner foot-dragger comfortably or
easily. Three decades of spiritual training had taught me to dis-
miss or overpower this reluctant subterranean self. The picture
painted of this inner self by so many spiritual teachings was
anything but flattering. Traditionally, most have considered
this aspect of the self to be something of an evil genius, hell-
bent on keeping us from knowing our own inherent divinity.
All worldly suffering is blamed on it.
But here’s the thing. For me personally, this kind of training
didn’t seem to fit my skill set. Try as I might, thirty-something
years of hard effort brought little success in dominating or dis-
mantling this stubborn portion of the self. Plenty of other nice
things changed dramatically along the way, as a result of all the
hard labor. But never that.
Yet that had long been my one great desire. To know my
own inherent divinity. To radiate peace from within. But if
these spiritual lineages were to be believed, I could never hope
to know true peace as long as the evil inner genius was alive
and functioning. I should starve it, they counseled. I should kill
it. Only then could I be happy. Except in my case, the starvation
diet simply didn’t work. I was clearly outmatched.
Nothing I tried dislodged the evil genius from its core seat
of power. Consequently, I couldn’t seem to get anywhere near
my desired destination of transcendent inner peace. In fact,
every step I took in the direction of peace seemed to lead me
father from it. Thirty-odd years into this journey, it finally oc-
curred to me I was thoroughly lost—with no idea which direc-
tion might lead toward authentic peace.
For the first time ever, I stopped to take honest stock of my
spiritual journey as a whole. If not toward inner peace (which
at this point was clearly not happening), where was I hoping
my path would take me? How, exactly, did my spiritual life,
with its transcendent meditation practices and brilliant little
awakenings, translate into my actual daily life—like, y’know,
after the meditation was over?
As I launched into each day, was I feeling ever-greater inner
fulfillment? Ever-increasing appreciation for life itself? Was I
growing steadily more compassionate in my attitude toward
humanity and its foibles? No? Okay, well was I at least becom-
ing more gently accepting of my own imperfections? Was I in-
creasingly happy just to be me? Uh. Not really. Not that either.
So then what, I asked myself with a certain amount of exasper-
ation, was this all-consuming spiritual journey actually about?
It was a pivotal question. In the unanswering silence that
followed, I gave up trying to be my own navigator. I dropped
my map and surrendered into the lostness that engulfed me.
Like most forms of spiritual surrender, this one brought with
it the immediate seeds of salvation, although I certainly didn’t
recognize that at the time. I didn’t even think of it as surren-
der; I was merely admitting the totality of my failure, because
it could no longer be denied.
I gave up control of the map—of all maps, now and forever.
In my hands, I now realized, the fricken things were useless
anyway. So I set aside all my training and everything I’d ever
learned, along with all my preconceived judgments and ideas
about what my spiritual path was supposed to look like. And
I let divinity reconstruct my navigation device on my behalf.
My attitude toward the ego self has transformed completely
over the past two years. It has become abundantly clear to me
it isn’t evil in the least—even as I have also come to recog-
nize just how correct all those established teachings really are,
when they speak of its inherent God-blocking properties.
The egoic perceptual lens is unquestionably the source of all suf-
fering. Yet this aspect of the self can’t help being what it is, and
it believes its job is to keep us safe, no matter what. It does its
best. For me, the appropriate response to its efforts is compas-
sion for our shared plight.
This non-adversarial attitude has made it possible for me to
work very powerfully with both the subterranean egoic self
and the higher divine self. In this divinely led partnership,
much has come to light. For one thing, I’ve been shown time
and again that the unconscious mind is capable of far more
responsiveness than is generally assumed.
Even if it is looping old patterns of pain over and over again,
reliving its traumas in what seems a mindless or unconscious
way, the simple introduction of my conscious awareness, my
loving intention, was all it took to gently awaken this subterra-
nean region to itself. You’ll see some examples of what I mean,
In exploring this part of the self, I’ve come to recognize there
is great purpose, perhaps even great nobility in its function.
The unconscious faithfully carries many heavy burdens on our
behalf. Part of the spiritual maturation process, as I see it, is to
learn how to help lighten that load.
I feel the whole idea of the ego could use a radical rethink-
ing. I used to give lectures in which I sometimes worked with
‘The Ego Puppet,’ a googly-eyed sock puppet I wore on my
arm. I used it to demonstrate (even back then) the ego is not
a separate evil entity to be blamed for our ills, as it is so often
portrayed in spiritual circles. I conversed with the puppet at
length about its tireless efforts to do our own bidding. And
finally I pointed out, to great guffaws from my audiences, that
if you look carefully you will notice it’s always been your own
hand up the ego’s ass.
My little standup comedy routine had its roots in truth,
of course. The subterranean self is always trying, in its of-
ten head-scratchingly bass-ackward way, to do exactly what
we’re asking of it. To blame it for that is just shouting at
the mirror. But I’ve come to realize I had my depiction all
wrong. It is, in fact, the other way around. The subterra-
nean self is not a puppet at the end of my arm. I am the pup-
pet. And the subterranean self is the one who innocently
pulls my strings.
Consider this. The personality self is often likened to an ice-
berg, right? The top ten percent is thought to be the conscious
surface dweller, the one who answers when somebody calls
your name. The so-called ‘real you.’ And the rest of the iceberg
resides in the murky depths.
All our wounds, unresolved issues and traumas reside there as burning hotspots. Most of the time we don’t feel the burn directly; that’s what the ice is for.
We only get a rush of heat when somebody or something
pushes our buttons. Meaning, they’ve bumped into one or
more of those painful unresolved hotspots. And when a hot-
spot gets activated, it flinches. It can’t help itself.
This involuntary contraction automatically yanks on our
strings, causing us, the surface-dwelling personality to jerk
abruptly. Generally speaking it takes a fair amount of con-
sciousness and plenty of practice, to be able to interrupt that
knee-jerk reaction to an activated hotspot, because our strings
are wired directly to it.
The more unresolved hotspots our submerged iceberg con-
tains, the more reactive we are to inner and outer circum-
stances. Reactivity is pretty much the opposite end of the spec-
trum from true peace. When I finally realized true inner peace
wasn’t even slightly likely, it was because I saw this connection
between subterranean hotspots and my own surface-dwelling
experience of daily life. My iceberg contained deeply buried
hotspots galore. I couldn’t seem to get at them, but I sure as
hell felt their effects every time they flinched.
Eventually I came to the conclusion that the submerged
ninety percent is the one steering the ship—the one who is
actually having a life experience that answers to the name on
our birth certificate. The top ten percent is just the figurehead
bolted to the front of the boat.
It was with this humbling recognition that I, the gaudily paint-
ed figurehead on the Good Ship Carrie, finally relinquished all
delusional belief in my own independent power, authority and
rightful role as captain. I saw, finally, it’s never actually been
me at the helm.
~ Carrie Triffet, excerpted from The Fricken Map is Upside Down: Notes from a spiritual journey, © Copyright 2019