Week 12 – Tell Me Where it Hurts

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 twelve 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.)

Tell me where it hurts

Bodies, man. Can’t live with ‘em, but just try living without
‘em. As one whose physicality has been no stranger to dis-
comfort, I’ve had plenty of opportunity over the decades to
perceive both the body and its malfunctioning behavior as
enemies. Yet neither one is quite what it appears to be. More
recently I’ve come to recognize pain, as well as the body hous-
ing it, as wise gurus and steadfast friends.

Pain and the suffering that accompanies it, are two sepa-
rate things. We tend to experience painandsuffering as all one
sensation lumped seamlessly together. But as it turns out, the
suffering is an optional add-on, entirely due to the influence
of the subterranean self. It’s fascinating to feel just how differ-
ent the experience of pain can be, when it occurs outside the
subterranean self ’s identity structures.

And herein lies another clue about the deeply unhelpful
nature of the subterranean operating system itself. As we’ve al-
ready noted, the subterranean aspects of the self are responsible
for weaving a personal identity for us, more or less out of thin
air. The weaving of a personal identity out of millions of indi-
vidual data points seems a harmless enough activity. It isn’t.

Besides sending us down the wrong roads toward faulty
conclusions (as in my LA freeway example), this process of
automatically categorizing and linking the things we perceive
now with historical precedents and future imaginings, turns
out to be the very activity that indirectly creates all our mental
and physical suffering.

All our seemingly innocuous personal data points collec-
tively form the distorted lens through which we can’t help
but compare and resist, criticize and judge ourselves and our
world. The data points themselves obstruct all hope of experi-
encing true peace.

The gurus have been telling us this truth all along, of course.
The so-called ego is the source of all suffering. That’s an una-
voidable part of its job description. It’s the knock-on effect of
building a personal self that can’t help but function to resist
and block out the peace of God. But I maintain there are no
evil-geniussy criminal motivations behind its doings. The il-
lusory frequency the subterranean self emits simply jams the
God broadcast, that’s all.

Back to pain without suffering: It’s an odd sensation. The first
time I experienced physical pain minus suffering was back in
2013, during yet another of those brief awakening events. On
this occasion I’d had an encounter with Thich Nhat Hanh, an
enlightened master, in a vision the night before.

In the vision I was standing fifty feet away from him in a
stark concrete courtyard. He turned to look at me, and as our
eyes met, his piercing gaze transmitted a palpable vibratory
wave of enlightened realization deep into my mind. I felt the
powerful, high-frequency wave shudder awkwardly through
my energy field, and I lost my physical balance.

As I was falling sideways onto the concrete I realized I had
a choice. I could put out my hands in an attempt to break my
fall, which I knew would severely limit the power of this awak-
ening transmission. Or I could surrender to the powerful vi-
bratory wave and let myself fall unimpeded, even if it meant
my head might smash open like a pumpkin on the concrete.
I chose the pumpkin option. The vision ended just before my
head hit the ground.

I arose from my bed the next morning to find an entirely
silent inner state of being. Gone was the usual mental chatter.
It was a typical September day in Southern California, cloud-
lessly sunny and warm, so I dressed in jeans and a sleeveless
tank top and drove to the beach. It seemed as good a place as
any to get used to the unfamiliar inner quiet. This wasn’t trans-
cendent peace I was feeling, exactly, nevertheless the egoic self
was nowhere to be found. All inner turmoil had ceased.

I parked the car and made my way toward the water. No-
body was around, so I sat down on the sand and tried medi-
tating. It was a nice, effortlessly spacious feeling. But within a
minute or two the wind picked up so strongly, hurling the sand
with such unexpected force that it was starting to sandblast my
skin. Weird, the weather had seemed so calm a minute ago. I
opened my eyes to investigate.

Directly in front of me, the blackest clouds I’d ever seen had
gathered in ominous billowing layers to obscure the horizon.
Beneath them the turbulent sea had turned a brilliant emerald
green, frothed with whitecaps. I was startled to feel icy rage
emitted by that water, and understood immediately that the
scene in front of me was a physical out-picturing of my own
intense internal resistance to permanent awakening.

I tuned in deep within, and noticed for the first time a faint
and faraway rumble of dissent coming from the region of my
abandoned mine. As I focused in on it more closely I felt the
unruly ruckus of unconscious resistance that was still present
somewhere within me, hiding beneath a vast blanket of pris-
tine silence. No wonder this inner state hadn’t quite felt like
transcendent peace.

Back in 2013 I was still a little bit enamored of my own
drama, and true to form, I couldn’t help but marvel at the fe-
rocious beauty of sea and sky I was witnessing. I found its un-
bridled fury mesmerizing. But I couldn’t linger to admire it for
very long. The temperature was dropping and the wind was
rapidly picking up speed, the sand striking my bare skin with
ever-greater force.

I stood up to go find a café across the road where I could
enjoy shelter and a cappuccino. It was then I realized the hori-
zon in all other directions had remained cloudless, sunny and
presumably warm. I was in my own tiny, bitterly cold and un-
forgiving micro-climate.

Walking slowly through the marina, I watched calmly as
the yachts bumped and rocked madly in their slips. The wind
shrieked an earsplitting dirge, the boats’ metal riggings
whining eerily as they clanged and scraped against hollow
metal masts. Both my ears ached from the cold and the deaf-
ening cacophony; the ear facing the ocean was also being
pummeled relentlessly with frozen sand at full force. It was
extremely painful.

That’s when I noticed the genuinely odd sensation of
pain minus suffering. It’s kind of like pain doesn’t hurt. Or
rather, it does hurt, but it’s irrelevant. It couldn’t possibly
affect your inner state, which is entirely untouched by the
discomfort. In no way would pain ruin your day, no matter
how intense it might be.

That mini-awakening lasted a bit longer than most of
the others. But after a few days the angry inner foot-dragger
reasserted its supremacy. And for a long while afterward the
experience of pain without suffering remained a mere mem-
ory, a curious side benefit of a short-term, partial awakening.

Several months ago I was experimenting, just for fun, with
deep surrender into knowing the divinity of a painful condi-
tion—with no agenda other than recognizing its perfect iden-
tity. If everything is God, I figured, this must be too.

So I was trying to feel into that knowing, as fully as I could. Because
why not? Pain was here. I might as well occupy myself with the
game of unmasking its true identity. I held the pain in steady
recognition of its pure divinity. And not unlike that peculiar
sandblasted hunt for a cappuccino back in 2013, I discovered
the pain was present yet it didn’t hurt. Or, it hurt, but it wasn’t
bothersome in any way.

These more recent explorations into the nature of pain
went deeper than they did back in 2013. This time I noticed
it was a beautiful expression of radiant divinity. I marveled
at the wondrous gift this pain revealed itself to be. I was hon-
ored by its presence. And because it was already perfect right
here, right now, its choice of whether to stay or go was of no
importance at all.

(As it happened, the pain chose to leave after a day or two
of being recognized as divinity. The mysterious condition,
which showed up all of a sudden, disappeared without a trace
as quickly as it had arrived. But I didn’t require that outcome.
Or any outcome.)

Although we’ve talked mainly about physical pain here,
the same would surely hold true for mental-emotional pain.
The good news is, whatever form of inner or outer discomfort
we’re experiencing, pain without suffering can be known prior
to permanent embodied awakening. All it takes to explore the
sensation of pain without suffering is an attitude of gentle cu-
riosity, an open mind, and an abiding trust relationship with
the subterranean self.

In my experience, when we reach the point that we value
this self almost as much as we value the divine Light of our
own perfect Source, the subterranean self will gladly do eve-
rything in its power to help us taste spiritual freedom. Out
of loyalty. Out of gratitude. Out of relief to no longer be the
object of persecution.

It will back away as much as it dares, intentionally limiting
its own influence, so we can experience miraculous glimpses
of the transcendent self we truly are. It hopes we’ll be satisfied
with these glimpses. It hopes we’ll stop short of choosing a dif-
ferent operating system altogether.

The subterranean self can’t help being what it is. It is keenly
aware its very existence brings a world of suffering to itself and
you in equal measure. And yet it knows no other way to be.
There is no other way it can be.

Despite what the subterranean self would prefer, please don’t
be satisfied with mere miraculous glimpses of yourself. Dive into
the infinite beauty of your own true divine identity. You’ll nev-
er regret the unfolding mystery and adventure of discovering
who and what you really are.

And as for the subterranean self—although it may not seem
like it now, ultimately no greater gift can be given it, than peace
and liberation from its own dilemma at last.

~ 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 4 – The Half-Acre I Call Home

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 four 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.)

What follows is a little more in-depth backstory explanation,
leading up to that decision to turn away from everything I
thought I knew. Because the decision itself was a pretty big
deal. It felt radical.

To abandon all spiritual teachings and
concepts felt like I was trespassing upon a secret forbidden
zone. The very idea of stepping beyond all known bounda-
ries seemed like a violation of the rules, somehow. Somebody
else might find such a thing exciting, but I’d never been the
rule-breaking type; I did it only as a highly uncomfortable
last resort.

Here then, is a brief rewind. A short history of my spiritual
journey, and how it brought me to this choice point.

Thirty-something years ago I began my first spiritual practice
as a way to fix my dysfunctional life and livelihood. I did it
because I wanted to feel better. Career, relationships, finances,
health, housing and just about everything else was in serious
need of cleanup. If my life had been a parcel of land, you could
have likened it back then to a stagnant, polluted swamp.

I worked hard in those first twenty years of diligent daily
practice. As a result the muck and stink of the swampland
slowly receded, leaving nutrient-rich soil in its place. Each
time a newly fertile bit of soil revealed itself, I rushed in to
plant beautiful flowers in tidy rows. Over the years my
patch of land gradually transformed into a rather damn
fine good-looking garden. The envy of many other would-
be gardeners, in fact.

My dysfunctional relationships had become functional;
serious illness had reversed itself completely; and I’d gradually
gone from deep debt to savings in the bank. I had a good mar-
riage to a good guy. A good career with good clients. A good
house in a good town. Good friends. It was all very, very good,
and I was deeply grateful for all that goodness. But. And.

I started to notice, no matter how carefully I weeded the un-
wanted debris and planted nicer things in its place, the ground
underneath my little half-acre didn’t feel good. Despite the
lifelong desire for peace, inside I was anything but peaceful.

This had always been the case, of course. But so many more
pressing things had been wrong with my life, the inner unease
had barely registered. Now that the landscape was green and
skies were patchy blue, I became unbearably aware of my un-
comfortable inner condition.

Closer examination revealed my attractively landscaped gar-
den was perched atop an abandoned mine, the tunnels dark
and forbidding, the entrance long since caved in and sealed
tight. It was then I realized I could pretty up the garden until
the end of time, but my subterranean regions would remain
largely untouched by that effort.

Naturally I assumed the tunnels and their unknown contents
were the cause of my pain. If I could just get rid of them I’d be
happy. Over the following decade, I tried to pry the tunnels
open, flooding them with the healing Light of divinity until
they cried ‘Uncle.’ Or sometimes I cajoled, offering sweet-talk
and patient reasoning along with my heavenly searchlights.

Other times I lost patience, and went at the mine’s entrance
with a non-dual battering ram instead. Nothing worked.
Damn you, abandoned mine. Can’t you see I want to fix you?
Well, maybe not fix you. I want you gone, because you’re block-
ing my access to enlightenment. Why won’t you go away, so I can
know inner peace?

No response. (Unless, of course, ‘crickets’ counts as a re-
sponse.) For years, I nevertheless remained grimly deter-
mined to unleash the bulldozers, for an extreme makeover on
my underground landscape. I vowed I would not stop until my
garden smelled pretty inside and out.

Yet by and large, this collection of shadowy tunnels remained
stubbornly unknowable and utterly immovable. The harder I
tried to eliminate the entire subterranean mine—or better yet,
bypass it with a jaunty wave, my heavenly jetpack propelling
me up, up, up beyond the clouds—the more grimly it dug in.

It wasn’t interested in my little epiphanies and awakenings. It
wasn’t impressed with my spiritual illuminations in the least.
Our rejection, it seemed, was mutual.

Enlightenment per se had never been my intended destination
in those early landscaping days. A desire for awakened con-
sciousness never even made it onto my radar screen, let alone
my metaphysical bucket list, during the first twenty years of
spiritual practice.

As far as I knew, a quest for enlightenment looked like that
old cliché parodied in New Yorker cartoons. The cross-legged
guru on a mountaintop, and the disheveled climber who ar-
rives at long last to ask the guru his Big Burning Question:
What is the meaning of life?

Um, right. I was no existential rock climber. Who cared what
the meaning of life was? I just wanted to feel better. I had no
concept of what we were supposed to be awakening from, or
why enlightenment was even a thing. (Or a no-thing.) I just
knew way down deep in my bones, somewhere, somehow it
was possible to feel lasting peace. And that’s what I was after.

It wasn’t until my first brief ass-kick of a spiritual awaken-
ing in 2005 at the age of forty-seven, that I got an actual taste
of that peace. It was transcendent. Big as the entire universe.

My life restructured itself completely in its aftermath, this time
with the map oriented firmly ‘True North,’ toward the direc-
tion I assumed enlightenment would be found.

Big changes had come in the powerful aftermath of that awak-
ening. Over the next few years one good marriage ended, and
another good marriage began. One good life in a beautiful
Californian beach town was eventually traded for another
good life in a beautiful English hamlet. It seemed, at first, like a
huge evolutionary leap forward into divine trust. And in some
ways it was. Yet deep beneath the surface, nothing changed.
The abandoned mine and I remained at a stalemate.

It was clear this powerful subterranean intelligence wasn’t going
to budge if it didn’t want to. Nor was it going to let me go any-
where without it. Inner peace simply wouldn’t happen without
its consent. I was the one, in the end, who cried ‘Uncle.’

So I finally dropped all my ‘spiritually correct’ certainties. I
dropped my arrogance. I dropped everything I thought I knew
about maps, and tunnels and everything else. I let go of my
withering judgment of this stubborn subterranean self, and
took a closer look, this time with fresh eyes. Was it possible
nothing about this old mine needed fixing? What if I was only
seeing it incorrectly?

Setting aside all my ingrained assumptions, I began to com-
prehend at last the fundamental mistake I’d been making all
along. This old abandoned mine was…mine. Maybe it was
time to reclaim it. To treat it as something valuable, something
dear to me. Maybe even offer it some long overdue respect.

For the first time I approached the tunnels and their mys-
teriously alive contents with complete humility. I stood at the
mine’s metaphorical entrance and quietly knocked. I asked to
be allowed in, as a student who knew nothing.

I reached out to this much-maligned aspect of the self, even
though I had long believed its sole desire was to deprive me of
peace. I became genuinely curious to know more about it, to
understand life from its subterranean point of view. With this
change of attitude, I found my wish readily granted. Knock-
ing on that symbolic door with full trust and an open heart, I
asked for, and received, permission to come home.

Who knew such a simple shift would allow a breathtaking
world of miracles to unfold? In equal partnership with all as-
pects of my self—from the very highest to the lowest—I soon
discovered this reclaimed mine of mine offered an unlimited
motherlode of inner exploration. And there was gold in there.

~ 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