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
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
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