Protesting in America with a “Heart on Ice”

Question: We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. Police are killing innocent black men and women right and left. The country is already in a cultural civil war. I don’t trust our government. How could I not be concerned with the state of the nation? It seems to have gone mad. Anymore when I watch the news, I feel like my heart’s on ice. I feel frozen with fear about the future. How do I even begin to see any of this is a positive light?

Michael Richardson-Borne: Please know it’s not necessary to see what is happening in this country in a positive light. You don’t get any “spiritual bonus points” for being in a good mood or spreading the story of “love and light.” The way the world is presenting itself to you right now is exactly as it should be. Keep your hands completely off what it is you are feeling and let what is there be there fully. What is present is never a lie. The only lie is if you tell yourself what’s present is a personal point of view that defines your absolute condition.

So, take a look right now and if your feelings (whether they are viewed as positive or negative) are personally felt, as real as the feelings are, you are still being deceived. It’s what I call being locked in a Separate Self. No amount of positive thinking will free you from this separation. Projecting contentment with your life situation does not help you remember who you are as the Impersonal existence of Non-separation.

In fact, you’re probably a step closer to remembering Non-separation in your more downtrodden state because you’re actively questioning the cultural symptoms caused by the belief in a Separate Self. From where you are, it’s just a matter of developing the depth of your questioning. Try this – instead of questioning the government, begin questioning your own form of self-governance. When did your self-governance take control? What is it that governs a mind and body outside of yourself? If autonomous action isn’t real, where does the need for self-governance come into play?

As you answer these lines of inquiry, the first thing to recognize is how all forms of governance require a relationship. Take a look at the way your question was posed – there is obviously a relationship between a self and the story of fear or between a self and positive and negative points of view. Ask yourself how this relationship was composed. When did this relationship first happen? What, exactly, are the elements of relationship in your internal experience that create your concern with the state of the nation? How did the internal split occur that forces you to be in relationship with yourself?

You’ve noticed racial separation. You’ve noticed there is separation culturally between political parties. You’ve noticed the country is mad. Why do you find a problem with these realizations? As I see it, cultural recognitions of this kind are the beginnings of a life guided by inquiry – a journey that can be one of great discovery for you. As you sit here, I’m literally witnessing you break free from one narrative and construct another. And it’s during this construction process where a great opportunity arises. I invite you to seize this opportunity right now.

Is it a new narrative based on positive thinking that you are looking to bring into being – or is there something else you are trying to remember that drives the longing for justice and a sane world? Do you truly believe that defining yourself with a new “positive” narrative will permanently thaw your frozen heart and stymie your fear? Or do you know deep down that this is just a cheap distraction until you find the road to the real solution?

The state of the nation is asking you a poignant question that cuts to the heart of the matter right before your eyes. Will you choose to remain in the cold world of separation? Or will you step into the heat of self-inquiry? Will you continue to look for haphazard flings outside of yourself to temporarily thaw the ice? Or will you seriously commit to discovering an Impersonal experience where there is no need to preserve the heart while you seek a place where it can truly be alive?

Q: But I want to get out there and protest, to let the government know the state of the country is not ok. It feels irresponsible to “navel-gaze” when there’s a real cause to support. Racism has been hanging over America since its inception. Now feels like the time to actually do something about it. If we pause to look within as you suggest, this moment might pass us by.

MR-B: Go protest. But spend your time as a protester resting in curiosity rather than personally pressing against a boundary as a declaration. Live as a question and observe how the widened space relaxes the limitations of being trapped in a life lived as a specific statement. After you make this shift from statement to question, notice how the negotiation for change becomes less about an opponent defending unfair systemic conditions and more about your personal approach to or point of view about why, who, what, and how. The opponent becomes irrelevant and the resistance lives as a set of unanswered questions that make their home inside of you. Negotiating for incremental change via strategies rooted in Separate Self statements is the same as chasing your tail. Let protest start with the Separate Self being a question and watch how the reversal of attention impacts the playing out of events.

So as you sit here, contemplate what it would be like to protest as a question. Contemplate what it would be like to shift all of your Separate Self stories from oblivious demands of separation to focused, civilly disobedient demands of “not separate” – and then move on to what will be perceived in The Culture of Separation as uncivil questioning of who is aware of the story “not separate.” What lives on the other side of this question is what I call Non-separation.

Q: So how do you define the word protest?

MR-B: Protest is righteousness within curiosity that has transformed into an unshakeable invitation to become what drives the immediacy of all outcomes directly into the next question of “what wants to happen” as the “hands-off” Impersonal movement of existence itself.
This is Non-separation. As many of you know, I always say locating Non-separation is the only revolution left.

Q: My husband, who’s sitting right here, always tells me to be calm because the world isn’t real anyway. Is that what you’re getting at?

MR-B: Do you believe the world is real?

Q: I do.

MR-B: Tell me about your experience of what’s real.

Q: I believe what’s in front of my face. I have no reason to doubt it. I believe my life is real. I believe what I feel and sense all around me is real. What is normal and real for me is what is normal and real for everybody I know.

MR-B: Except your husband.

Q: Right. But you know what I mean. I think he is in denial. He performs in the world just like the rest of us.

MR-B: Let’s ask him. Are you in denial?

Q: Hi, I’m Kevin. Nice to meet you.

MR-B: Hi Kevin. So, are you in denial?

Q: I don’t think so. There’s reality with a “big r” and then there’s reality with a “small r.” One is the source or reality. The other is an illusion or unreal. To get wrapped up in the affairs of the world is to play into the illusion.

MR-B: Who is it that remains free of this illusion? Who or what is it that doesn’t get wrapped up in the affairs of the world?

Q: Me, as the source.

MR-B: Ok, I understand.

In The Path of Non-separation, there are five ways to describe your answer. Each is a deeper layer of your identity, moving “downward” from personal experience to Impersonal Experience to Impersonal Existence, or Non-separation.

The first question to ask is if your “me” is experienced as a separate autonomous individual defining itself as “the source.” Are you personally experiencing the world, believing you are extracted from the whole, defining your personal experience by all of the stories you use to understand your meaning of “the source.” If so, this is what I call your Story Identity. Living as the Story Identity occurs when you are unaware that the mind is a collection of stories living as the total definition of your individual identity. Living as a Story Identity, you are trapped in your mind, in your imagination.

The way the Story Identity defines you can just as easily be a “spiritual” definition as anything else. When you identify as “spiritual” or other spiritual ideas such as “the source,” the common term used to describe this behavior is “spiritual bypassing.” Spiritual bypassing is when you believe the Separate Self is a spiritualized story of your own making – when you’ve convinced yourself that living as this story is the same thing as authentically being lived as the source.

If Story Identity doesn’t describe your total experience, the next place to look is your Original Story. The Original Story is the first story of individuality that happened to you – the personal “internal presence” or “mono-story” that is “covered” by the narrative of the Story Identity. In essence, your Original Story is “under” your Story Identity – it gives your Story Identity a foundation on which it can construct the particular stories of your Separate Self.

Many times experiencing the world as your Original Story coincides with the belief that “I am personally all that is.” It is this belief in being all things where a limited personal consciousness, the “I amness” if you will, can be confused as being the same thing as the source when it’s just the baseline of separative experience. When identified with your Original Story, you realize that you are the observer of all the mental objects that formerly made up the full spectrum of your awareness – but what you don’t realize is that the Original Story is just another object in the same separative awareness, a “singular” story that is needed to complete the composition of separation. So, your Original Story may be the source of personal experience, but it is not “the source.”

Next, when you become aware that the Original Story is also an object, you can begin questioning the solidity of the Separate Self in its entirety – you can begin asking what the Original Story is “resting in.” This kind of inquiry is what I call “living as a question.” Living as a question transforms all of the “statements” of your personal narrative into a focused curiosity that is continually asking, “Who’s aware of the story of the Separate Self?” Sticking with this question until you break through to its answer leads you to experience what I call the Impersonal or Impersonal Experience – a less contracted sense of being that no longer holds the personal world as real.

Many times, the initial arising of Impersonal Experience is called “the absolute” because it seems “more real” than what you called the “the affairs of the world” – which is usually referred to as “the relative.” Since the Impersonal is what the world of the Separate Self rests in, it is assumed that the Impersonal or absolute has an implicit value that is higher or of greater significance than the relative.

This assumption results in the intentional separation of the Impersonal from the illusion of the manifest or what was once thought of as “the real world.” Just as the Original Story can be mistaken for “me, as the source,” Impersonal Experience as the separated absolute can as well.


Clinging to the belief in being the separated absolute, the absolute is thought of as “the real reality” even though it is still a subtle personal experience – what I call personally impersonal instead of the deeper experience of the impersonally personal. This first level of realization of the absolute continues until you recognize you are dividing the source from the real world as if it were possible.

When you recognize the division you are imposing on the world is an error, a second kind of Impersonal Experience eventually presents itself – one that views the absolute and relative as “non-dual.” This non-dual realization means the absolute and relative are now “not two” and therefore both unreal as a non-dual Impersonal Experience where the relative has completely dissolved into the absolute.

If this is where you live, you have no choice but to claim the affairs of the world are unreal – the only “thing” that has any sort of reality for you is a pure Impersonal Experience where nothing in your life is separate. The belief can be described as, “I am both the absolute and relative impersonally, neither of which is real.”

It’s here where the source is mistaken for an expression of non-duality, an Impersonal Experience that is “not separated” – where there’s still a hint of doing the living, as impersonal as this living may be. Having this depth or degree of Impersonal Experience leaves you at the doorstep of Non-separation.

Take note of this. These two experiences of the Impersonal are as deep as your answer “me, as the source” and claim that “the world is an illusion” can go. After the Impersonal, it’s a delicate jump to Non-separation where the relative is, once again, perfectly real but being lived rather than doing the living. As Non-separation, getting wrapped up in the affairs of the world is what I call Applied Awakening.

Thanks, Kevin. Now back to you, Nisha. Any other questions?

Q: If the world is real, aren’t you upset with the state it’s in? How are you okay with ignoring it?

MR-B: If you recognized what was happening in this room, you wouldn’t ask that question.

What you don’t see is that you are involved in the true protest right now. You are protesting the very root of the system built on the belief in a Separate Self. It’s this protest that will take you to the solution for racism. Nothing else will get you there.

What you don’t see is that I am protesting with my every breath. You are sitting in as revolutionary an atmosphere as you will find – and you think it’s a place to “navel-gaze,” a place that is disconnected from the revolution.

But what you will experience in the streets is what is disconnected from the revolution. You must first know what the world is in order to protest and transform it.

Like I said, being lived as an invitation to Non-separation is the only revolution left. Any other type of rebellion lived into being by a collection of Separate Selves will merely bring on the next iteration of The Culture of Separation.

What I’m inviting you to do is locate Non-separation as a revolutionary act and then let the protest naturally unfold from this realization. A protest spontaneously enacted from the remembrance of your true being is Applied Awakening – which is the solution you are seeking.

Q: This all just feels like too much to handle. No wonder my heart chooses to feel like it’s on ice.

MR-B: I understand. Please know your feelings are not wrong in any way. Please don’t judge them as something you shouldn’t be feeling or that you’re in a bad place when it comes to what you may think of as your spiritual path.

Many times, self-inquiry begins with the type of experience you’re describing. It takes this kind of pain to rattle the Separate Self enough to get it to pay attention – and to question if there is another way to approach your experience of life.

When I was in college, I worked as a “heart holder.” My job was to assist in cardiac surgeries by holding patients’ hearts in position while the surgeon attached vein grafts during bypass procedures. I usually joined the team surrounding the operating table about mid-way through the procedure after the heart had already been brought to a stop and a kind of slushy ice filled the chest cavity. When I was ready, the surgeon would reach into the open chest, grab the heart and position it – then take my hand and plunge it into the ice until my fingers wrapped around the heart just the way he wanted.

Obviously, my hand would be shocked to attention by the cold and after a very short time, it would begin to ache. And at that point, I had a choice. I could protest the fact that the surgeon hurt my hand by placing it in the ice. Or I could work with the pain myself, seeking to discover what was on the other side of my suffering.

So, while my hand was adjusting to being frozen, I remember meditating on what I thought of as “the collective heart of humanity.” I would focus on being part of a global pulse, I’d feel my heart beating and know it was the same life as the heart I was holding. As I did this, at some point, my hand would “merge with the scene” and the pain would subside into a pure focus on the external world. This is what I now call being in the “Surface Moment” – the first step in The Path of Non-separation.

If I may, I’d suggest sticking with your inquiry into The Culture of Separation and question how and why the world gets ahead of itself when it comes to protests. Recognize that force from the place of weakness isn’t power from the place of depth. Recognize that force is unsustainable while power from the depth of Non-separation is unshakeable.

Learning How to Live as a Question

Question: I always feel like I’m stuck in a box. The more I try to get out, the tighter the walls feel. Some days I feel like I’m suffocating in a bad dream. When I talk with my friends about it, many of them feel the same way, but they think it’s just the way life is at our age. We comfort one another, and I appreciate the support. But I’m not convinced that my life has to feel this way.

Michael Richardson-Borne: Let’s begin by exploring what “the box” is – how it comes about, what it’s composed of, how it maintains its experience, and why it feels the way it does.

The first and most important thing to understand is your thoughts are physical. You touch them. It may not be the same kind of touch you feel when your hands caress an object that draws your attention – but you still touch your thoughts.

Q: How?

MR-B: Turn within and watch your thoughts right now. More than likely, as these thoughts arise, by the time they grab your attention, they are pressing against the walls of what you call “the box.” In fact, the pressure of thoughts on the walls of “the box” is the reason you notice your thoughts in the first place.

Sit back for a second, close your eyes, and see if you can feel the sense of “pressure” from each of your thoughts. Feel their presence and see if you find they are pressing back against you in some way. Notice how this pressing occurs simultaneously with what we call “feelings” – notice how these feelings are triggered by the pressure of your thoughts. Notice how it’s this push against the boundaries of “the box” that is the constant agitation felt while being locked in a Separate Self.

As you move deeper into your inquiry, if you pay close enough attention, you will see that your thoughts are present long before they hit the walls of “the box.” By continuing to practice looking within, you will catch your thoughts earlier and earlier in their life cycles, you will be able to watch their trajectories – and if you follow the thoughts to their termini, you will find there’s a “trampoline effect” against the walls of “the box” that keeps all of your thoughts bouncing around in a container with no way to escape. Every thought “presses into” a wall of “the box” and then is bounced back into the over-populated vessel that is the Separate Self – a self where every thought making up its composition floats around until it hits another wall.

Some of these thoughts remain in motion on the surface, remain present, but most continue in motion by sinking into the sub-mental portion of your personal experience. Many of these sinking thoughts become buried in the sub-mental compartment of “the box” and needlessly anchor the totality of your separative experience – leaving you to hunt for the solidified weight that constricts the happenings in your mind. These thoughts can even settle as a type of thick resin on the walls of the sub-mental, making these areas of “the box” rigid, leaving a less than ideal structure for movement. Down here in the subterranean, it’s almost like the walls of “the box” are made of a strong, inflexible film with tiny invisible hands that read a sort of Braille, a dead pre-configured language, written on the surface of thoughts.

So, when you feel this internal pressure, it’s a felt experience of the boundaries of “the box” – it’s feeling the push of the guardrails that protect the enclosure that is the Separate Self. As more and more stories populate “the box,” the sense of pressure builds. Most people just live with this pressure and accept it as the typical experience of life. But a few start asking questions and wind up in conversations such as this.

Q: I still don’t understand how thoughts can be physical.

MR-B: Thoughts are the stories that construct your mind – but the mind, in terms of the Path of Non-separation, is composed of both the inside and outside worlds, together lending you what feels like a personal experience. The pressure felt on the inside, what we referred to as the “trampoline effect,” and the pressure felt on the outside, say if you kick a rock, is a unified collection of stories, what we call your Story Identity. The Story Identity is an aspect of the Separate Self that divides the singular story of its personal experience into component parts, all of which have a palpability that makes them physical.

Thoughts are stories, and stories are objects – so whether you think of these stories as internal or external, they both push back against something tangible that creates felt experience. Can you see that thoughts are objects observed by the same personal consciousness that perceives everything considered “the outside world”? That personal consciousness is the Original Story that lives as the witness of your Story Identity. The Original Story is the wall of “the box” – it is what the stories of the Story Identity press against before they are bounced back into the mass of stories you recognize as the totality of your identity.

Try to push the stories of the Story Identity through the wall of the Original Story, what we can call your original sense of individuality, and see if you aren’t bounced back as if you’d just run into a brick wall. You run into this wall countless times every day, and from what you’ve told me, you are feeling the physical symptoms of the physical interplay of your stories.

The box of stories that make up your identity is just as constricting as the metal bars of a jail cell – and leave your freedom taken from you in much the same way. Constriction is likely what you feel right now. You are trying to barge through a wall and aren’t having much luck. So, it’s essential to understand that getting out of “the box” doesn’t take a “thought-bulldozer” – it takes an inquiry into the nature of separation, an inquiry that leads to remembering how the Separate Self is bulldozing your true being.

Q: You say it’s possible to move beyond this boxed in feeling. But specifically, how? Is there something I can do right now to get out of the box?

MR-B: When you try to get out of your box, a counter-intuitive trap is set that keeps you captured. The harder you try to get out, the more resistance you feel. To relax and ask why your effort isn’t working – and then to remain inside of this inquiry indefinitely is challenging for the Separate Self because it’s the first direct action taken “against” the Separate Self. Sustaining an inquiry feels strange because it opens a novel context, a context where the Separate Self senses it’s being demoted. When the Separate Self feels this way, your habit is to experience fear, and to assume this fear means you should run in the opposite direction. Hence, most people return to “the box” where the Separate Self once again feels agitated – but the reasoning is that agitation must be better than fear. So the cycle of fighting in “the box” re-assumes its position as the way life is.

Trying to break free of the Separate Self is much like heating water – the more energy put in, the faster the particles of the molecules move around. The result is you hear a lot more noise, you’re subjected to increased aggravation, as your stories are busier bouncing around against the boundaries of “the box.” The more intent you are in forcing your way out, the more feverish you feel. But with all that said, you are correct in being convinced there is something you can do to get outside of “the box.”

So, what can you do right now? Well, when you stay with the inquiry into why your effort isn’t freeing you from “the box,” eventually, you begin paying more attention to the qualities rather than the quantity of your thoughts. And as you move deeper into these qualities, you discover there is an overarching characteristic that gives structure to all of your thoughts – you realize all of your thoughts, all of the stories that make up your mind, are statements. Even your inquiry, all of the questions you are asking, has the quality of being launched from an assumed secure position – it feels like an individual is behind your thoughts and thus directing them in a continuous flow of declarations.

When it dawns on you that you’re living life as a statement, you notice that thoughts always have forward movement, there’s a certain violence to them, they seem to be projected forward with a subtle aggression that is intent on proving something. But what is this something? Is it possible it’s a desperation to continuously prove to yourself that the Story Identity is real?

And now you’ve hit on your first authentic question – one that changes your life from living as a statement to living as a question. Asking if the Story Identity is real flips your Separate Self from a personal experience of “I am” to a lived inquiry of “Who am I?” Flips it from “I am” to one of the most critical questions on the Path of Non-separation – “Who’s aware of the story?” “Who’s aware of the story of personal beingness?”

Engaging this inquiry as a question automatically takes you out of “the box” because now rather than playing at life fully convinced of being a Separate Self, you are actively questioning the Separate Self. “The box” becomes an object in your awareness, something you now have perspective on, something you are “looking at” instead of “wallowing in.” With this new perspective, you spontaneously move from a sense of “forward doing” to a sense of inquiry-driven being. Now, the pressure of “the box” is gone.

Q: Just thinking about being a question, I can tell it will be difficult to maintain the perspective.

MR-B: Nobody said breaking free of the belief in separation was easy – there is a reason why very few people find their way out of “the box.” It takes an earnestness, a real commitment, sincerity. But the vast majority of us don’t believe a different kind of experience is possible or give up without seriously resting in a true inquiry, or are never blessed with the awareness that an inquiry exists right under our noses.

As you step into the inquiry of living life as a question, don’t worry about how you’re going to “carry” this perspective or keep its presence in the forefront of your mind. It’s not something you’ll need to pack around in your pocket and be diligent about remembering.

Just focus on the qualities of your thoughts as statements, trace how they lean forward in pursuit of something they desperately need – then watch what happens when all of a sudden they stop leaning forward, stand straight up, go nowhere, and have nothing to prove. When you physically watch this happen, see for yourself if you’ll need to maintain the perspective or fear losing it. See if there’s any difficulty. See if you have any choice but to immediately ask how this occurrence just changed who you thought you were.

Once you make the flip from statement to question, once you have the actual transformation, making an effort to maintain the perspective isn’t necessary because it’s now your lived experience. When being a question is the way you’re lived, “Who am I?” or “Who’s aware of the story?” is ever-present as the moment to moment way you experience the world.

Think about this. Do you feel like you make an effort to maintain or remember “the box,” to remember your Separate Self? Of course not. Even as “the box” is dominating your perspective, it isn’t something that takes an act of volition on your part. Resting in new levels of identity is the same. The way you inhabit the world as a statement or a question “just is” – and there is nothing you need to do for either pattern to persist.

Q: Why does getting out of the box sound like such a lonely place to be? I don’t know if I could live that way.

MR-B: You’re already living this way, you’re already in a lonely place. Why? Because loneliness is a manifestation of the Separate Self. The only reason you know how loneliness feels is because you’re trapped in a box that separates you from your true being.

If anything, living as a question will bring you closer to others than you’ve ever been up to this point in your life. No longer will you be relating to statements as a statement – there will only be a question that brings you into a more direct form of relationship, a form where the loneliness that depends on a belief in separation no longer inhabits your journey.

Q: Here’s what I think you’re saying. My approach to “the box” is what gives it its strength. It needs my resistance to stand strong. The second I stop believing in statements, I take my resistance away, and the walls fold. I just need to drop the rope instead of playing a game of tug of war I can’t win.

MR-B: That’s right. Very good. Trying to “do” your way out of “the box” is a fool’s errand. “Being” your way out of “the box” is the only way.

Let’s use your analogy for one final point. When you stop playing tug of war and the game ends, where does that leave you? That’s the inquiry you are now living. Discovering the answer is to remember Non-separation.

The Reality of Blame

Question: I work on staff at a prison in my hometown. Over the past couple of years, I have begun thinking a lot about “blame.” And if we are all not separate, how our ideas about blame change. It’s like I am brought closer to all of the crimes committed by the men I work with, if that makes sense. I haven’t been able to work my issue with blame out in my mind completely. But I feel like I’m on to an important question. I’m still having trouble formulating it – it’s like I know what I feel, but I can’t give a clear explanation of what I’m thinking. Can you understand what I’m getting at?

Michael Richardson-Borne: Yes, and it’s beautiful.

By “closer to crime,” I don’t take it that you’re talking about “understanding crime” in a deeper intellectual way, that you are becoming an expert on what crime is, studying the results of decades of case studies. I take it to mean that your belief in the separation of personal action is loosening. The separation of your behavior with an other’s behavior is getting closer to an impersonal experience – an experience that has moved beyond the story of individual beingness. The gravity of separation is dissipating as a restrictive force on your identity – a force that pulls you away from your true being and the single movement of existence that lives us all. The stories that define your Separate Self are beginning to disperse, and the brick wall of separation is becoming more translucent. You’re beginning to see that crime is not a matter of individual actions accumulating to configure the concepts that create blame. You are nearing the understanding that crime is a collection of impersonal experiences that can only be addressed by the self-rightening remembrance of Non-separation – from which arises Applied Awakening.

When impersonal experience begins to predominate, you will find that you arrive at the scene of the crimes and watch them all in full view. You will find that it’s you who passes along the drugs, pulls the triggers, steals the goods. Who else could it be, right?

Which brings us to the questions that are beginning to knock at your door. Who is there to blame for an impersonal movement that lives all personal action? If blame is a product of believing in a Separate Self, and the Separate Self isn’t real in the way you think, how is the way you believe in blame an illusion as well? If our projection of blame is rooted in the assumption of separation, how does it change when one is lived as impersonal existence, as Non-separation?

So keep following your thread. It seems you have found a path that, if completed, can help you make your way through the belief in a Separate Self, beyond what feels like a purely personal consciousness.

Yes, keep going. Find out how close you can get to the crimes of all the inmates with whom you work. Keep moving closer and closer until you become what in physics is called “in phase,” – an occurrence that happens when the crests and troughs of two waves flow together as one pulse. Locate how you flow with every crime on the planet so that you, the crime, and the perpetrator are lived as an impersonal existence that includes all personal movement. You will find that understanding crime from the inside out rather than the outside in is a different condition that brings a non-separative alternative to personal reactions such as blame.

You will find that not knowing your birthright is the only crime. And blame is simply a misunderstanding of the nature of Non-separation.

Q: Okay. But how?

MR-B: Notice how separation is mandatory for an environment to emerge where blame is created and passed between human cogs in a societal wheel. Without separation, there is no “space” in which concepts, such as blame, can be transported and pinned onto some people but not others. As I said, blame is a byproduct of personal experience, of believing in a world where the stories of the Separate Self represent the fullness of your reality. The Separate Self, whose personal container is filled with identity stories, must embrace the cause and effect nature of blame to make sense of its “position” and to protect its world of continuity without inquiry.

To see through this, you must notice that personal experience requires an original act of separation that happened to you – followed by a total belief in the post-impersonal happenings.

During the course of human development, there is an instant for all of us when the first personal experience happens to who we are as the impersonal, pushing all impersonal experience into the jungle of the unknown – and thus, all impersonal experience is forgotten. After this original blot of individuality happens, stories continue to arise – but now rather than the stories “passing through” impersonal experience, they begin to “attach” to this original personal experience, giving it definition. That’s how the Separate Self is born. And when one gets lost in the stories of the Separate Self, the original sense of individuality that lacked all definition is forgotten. The impersonal experience that the personal happened to is forgotten. And impersonal existence, Non-separation, that which lives both personal and impersonal experience, is forgotten. This forgetfulness is the substrate for blame.

So, to understand blame, it’s necessary to walk back through these “places” of forgetfulness so that you can remember who you are as the pre-existing unity that is not separate from the entire sequence of separative “development.”

Ask yourself these questions. When there are no others, where do the bodies exist on which blame can be placed? Can a self-authoring individual accurately decide the fate of a person guilty of wrong-doing in a way that is not furthering separation? If you become the pre-existing unity, how does your view of the inmates change, and how is blame understood differently? What are the conditions that are needed to animate blame – and how can these conditions be changed where blame is no longer logical?

Q: Wouldn’t that change the entire prison system?

MR-B: The entire Culture of Separation would change. When the psychological environment self-rightens, all structures and systems are impacted as the foundation of these institutions no longer grows out of the assumption of a Separate Self.

As for the prison system, how does one dole out a penalty for non-autonomous action? Understanding the answer to this, police training, policing, the court systems, and prison systems immediately shift. When it becomes known that the problem isn’t the crime, the blame, the restitution, or the penalty – it’s the misalignment of personal being with non-separative being – then our prisons transition from shelters further embedding the madness of separation into centers for the exploration of identity. The rehabilitation process becomes a way of teaching people who they truly are – rather than reinforcing the idea of who they are not. Don’t mistake the teaching of Non-separation as a re-education camp that is merely swapping one story for another, lining up the story of an individual with the agreed-upon story of a society of individuals. Non-separation is the step-wise eradication of identity stories until they are integrated into impersonal existence through “right relationship.”

The prison system does not have a culture in which one is surrounded by a rallying cry for transformation, a constant invitation to be lived as one’s true being. It has a form of gravity that pulls one deeper into the Culture of Separation (both by abuse and the context of its “support”) – keeping one a subject of a fiefdom owned by the Separate Self.

So unless we can all arrive at what I call “total forgiveness,” an open-ended forgiveness that’s a spontaneously lived expression of Non-separation, we will never move beyond blame and the resulting prisons that are created and controlled by the unexplored constricted identities of our lawmakers.

The Separate Self interprets such talk as naive – as being unrealistic to practice in the real world.
I invite you to remember the lived existence of Non-separation – and then check in with me again and tell me face to face that you still believe this is the case.

Q: What about accountability and civil society? I’m sure you’re not against a safe environment for everyone.

MR-B: Of course not. What we’re discussing here is not a matter of belief in the concepts of the Culture of Separation, but how these same concepts are “re-approached” once Non-separation is remembered. Concepts like accountability, civil society, and safety are a completely different lived condition when they are no longer seen through the prism of self-authoring action.

So ask yourself, “What is non-separative accountability? What is non-separative civil society? What is non-separative safety?”

Q: Will you answer those questions?

MR-B: Sure.

Non-separative accountability is not a matter of personal “pressure” baked into a societal locale – it’s becoming an obvious and immediate invitation whose presence reveals the relationship between separation and accountability.

Non-separative civil society is no longer a dead agreement that attempts to induce preconceived behavior. It’s utterly unconcerned with itself. There’s an understanding that all social circumstance is being lived in the moment – and civility is merely keeping one’s hands off of this moment. Non-separative society doesn’t feel the need to make the moment happen in a certain way; it trusts the moment to reveal what wants to happen.

Non-separative safety is permanently resting as impersonal existence rather than a continuous hustle to manufacture personal experience where safety is imagined in the form of preservation of a Separate Self.

Q: Non-separation really flips the world on its head. It’s hard to let myself go there fully. It’s like I’m on stable ground and being asked to run into an earthquake.

MR-B: It actually places the world back on its feet. You don’t notice that you are in an earthquake right now and running towards stable ground.

Q: Now, I’m really confused about how to approach my job. I am in contact with hardened men every day and can’t appear “soft.” There’s very little room for spiritual pursuits inside of a prison. It’s fine in my personal life – but work is an entirely different story.

MR-B: Once you remember your non-separative nature, it’s that very instant that Applied Awakening begins. Until this moment, there is resistance to where spirituality “fits” and where it doesn’t.

And maybe what we’re discussing isn’t spirituality. I view it more as practicality. Does practicality fit with your job?

Q: I blame you if this all goes wrong!

MR-B: Being lived as an invitation to Non-separation can never be wrong. It may not make your life any easier on the surface. But transitioning from “doing the living” to “being lived,” and then letting life naturally unfold, is unleashing a self-rightening movement that can never go wrong.

Just How It Is

Question: My father’s favorite answer to all of his deeper questions is, “That’s just how it is.” He doesn’t question things further the way I do. I’m almost forty, and it still drives me nuts. What do you say when someone demands the world is a certain way, and there is nothing anybody can do about it?

Michael Richardson-Borne: The first thing to notice is that, in part, they are on to something. “Just how it is” insinuates that there is nothing you can do about reality – “just how it is” doesn’t have anything to do with personal autonomy. Using the phrase is an admission, or acceptance, that the world reveals itself on impersonal terms without the intrusion of personal experience. There is an inherent release of control, a submission of sorts – even if it is unrecognized. A type of deeper knowing lurks in the background and is begging to be enhanced, to be clarified. This knowing exerts a pressure that they feel, which is the tension of being separate – something that never dissipates until the source of separation is dug up and re-planted in an impersonal field. I view this unrecognized submission as a transitional identity story that further tills the soil for the seeds of Non-separation.

This depth of identity is to be embraced and built upon until it falls over on its own – not attempted to be intentionally torn down in a way that is the equivalent of turning a public space into a guarded fortress. I keep my hands off of their identities and merely let life live the invitation to Non-separation that I am. When they are ready for movement, they ask questions. When they are not ready, they make statements or ask questions that are just disguised statements.

So back to your father. Can you see how you may not be aware of the depth of his breakthrough? Aware of how much trust it takes to get to the point where he can admit the definitely known inside of the unseeable unknown? Do you see how “just how it is” opens the unknown to a non-invasive experience of the normative? If so, you’ll notice that the understanding you attribute to your father is the first wisps of discovering that personal experience is lived as impersonal existence.

Do you see how “this is how it is, but we can’t really know why” is the beginning of embracing the limitations of the mind? It’s the first practice swings of using the mind to pierce the mind. Maybe you could steady his hand rather than fight with him to drop his sword for a bigger one?

So the key is to home in on his submission rather than your attachment to what you think is a better story by which he should define his Separate Self. Leading him further into “the why things are the way they are” distracts him with your own distraction. Now, rather than having a fly every hour or so land on his nose to remind him of separation, your presence engulfs his head in a cloud of gnats. Which is fine enough if you are holding the can of bug repellant. But in this case, you’re not – so your presence is that of the “gnat-bringer.” And it’s easier for him to say, “that’s how it is” to get a reprieve from the annoying gnats than to open up about the damned fly that keeps landing on his nose day after day.

Stop bringing your circus of gnats with you, become curious about his experience of the fly, and watch what happens. Rather than challenge the truth of his statement, another possibility is to embrace the non-separative outliers he has already uncovered – like seeing through the illusion of personal control and the limitations of the mind.

Q: So, is there a set way that things are? Just not in the way my father is thinking?

MR-B: If I say there is not a set way that things are, then I am still saying that there is a set way that things are. Do you see what I’m pointing out? Ultimately, if pressed, I am forced, one way or another, to say the same thing as your father – “That’s just how it is.” Being trapped in a relationship that relies on the mind for its total experience results in this predicament. There is no way around the separation that singles out one ultimate way as the way things are. This problem is the nature of the mind.

But, let’s play the game of the mind, ok? In the world of separation, there is one way that things are – and that way is separative. This separative way creates a Culture of Separation built on the primary assumption of humanity, a belief in a Separate Self. The Separate Self is always looking for “the final answer,” or “the ultimate set of facts” – it is always trying to convince you that you can find or become the totality as an embodiment of separation extracted from the whole. It assures you that the impossible is possible, and leaves you to suffer as an illusion.

What your father is saying is an expression of a Separate Self. What you are attempting to get him to believe is an expression of a Separate Self engaging with “an other” – engaging with another Separate Self that you believe is disconnected from you in the external world. This dysfunctional dynamic is the way all relationships are conducted in the Culture of Separation – relationship is a disconnection between Separate Selves that are believed to have the potential to connect, to reach one another, to agree about how things are. It isn’t understood that two stories of separation can never connect – they can only observe more stories rooted in a belief in separation.


As a Separate Self, you focus on the external world and fight about the way things are rather than questioning the source of the fighting. You question the beliefs of perceived others rather than search for how your own beliefs arise and the way that personal belief happens in the first place. You haven’t noticed that the way things are in the Culture of Separation is not about the content of “why” – it’s about the context of “why separation?” Do you recognize the difference?

Until you move beyond the sole identification with a Separate Self, there is only one way that things are – and that way is the illusion of being an individual isolated from the whole. Being embedded in a Separate Self is “just how it is.”

Take a moment, and don’t attempt to answer the questions present in your mind. Just let them be. Make their presence known without requiring attention. Right now, there is a roof over your head, and you just let it exist without focusing on it. While talking to me, you couldn’t care less about the roof – you just let it do what it does without any concern. Treat your obsession with questions and stories in the same way. Let them be there and let them do what they do without any burden of concern.

Practicing this can reveal that the story of “how it is” is an object defining an “empty subject.” This change in perspective transforms your line of questioning from an inquiry into the way the particular contents of the Separate Self are into an investigation into the way the Separate Self actually is. Right now, you and your father are fighting about versions of the way things are – not the way the Separate self is. With this, the best you can do for one another is limited – you can only offer a horizontal jump into the same separation. This is a fact that you must discover for yourself if you want to adjust your inquiry into a form of verticality where the Path of Non-separation awaits.

Q: Everything you teach is about the Path of Non-separation – and you insinuate that once you remember Non-separation, you truly know the way things are. Applied Awakening is knowing the way things are and bringing one’s behaviors into coherence with this established way. How can you not be saying that Non-separation is “just how it is?”

MR-B: Again, I understand the trap. By teaching “something,” it’s easy to think that I’m taking a position or making an absolute claim about the way things are. But it’s important to understand that I’m not teaching a theory, or “something to know,” or a set of facts that are intended to replace the ones you’re currently using to define the separation of your personal experience.

The stories of your Separate Self, the set of dominoes that make up personal experience will never reveal a set position that proves what I’m teaching is true. Questioning what you think of as my “stance” reveals your misconceptions about relationship more than anything about a position I’m taking. In your world, I must take a stance. There is no way around it – it’s “just how it is.”

In my world, there is no such thing as a personal stance that is not lived impersonally. This is Non-separation – where a stance may be taken as life itself, impersonally lived as a personal position. But this personal position is never the end of the story.

If you pay close attention, you will see that the stance being taken through me at this moment is a lived invitation to Non-separation – not an attempt to seduce you into taking a deeper personal stance about the way things truly are.

That said, your question also reveals the strength of your intuition. If you begin excavating your identity stories, you will eventually get to an experience that reveals why you must automatically take a position, why you feel in your bones that there is a definite way that things must be.

If you drop all of your personal stories right now, you will find an empty story of pure personal beingness. You will find the original source of individuality that happened to the impersonal existence you are. This is what I call your Original Story. It’s the beginning of position, the beginning of the possibility for there to be a definite “how it is.”

Locating your Original Story re-situates your perspective on occurrences like the battle with your father. You begin to understand the futility, the backwardness, the blindness of giving your life to such matters. And as you move deeper and deeper into your Original Story, the origin of separation, you can eventually break through into what I call the Impersonal. By discovering the Impersonal, you identify how the idea of “how it is” floats through you as an expression of the existence you are. Remember, Non-separation is the impersonal existence of being that includes the personal – or the impersonal existence of being that includes the Separate Self.

Q: If there is no set way the world is, why are there patterns in my experience that never change – gravity, trees, family members, even my day to day existence. This is always my father’s final argument. Trying to move beyond this point is a “no-fly zone.”

MR-B: Let your personal experience be what it is. Leave it alone, allow it to be perfectly real. Then use the mind’s relaxation to rest in the unknown. This unknown, what I call “living life as a question,” will give you a taste of your Original Story – the original sense of “I amness” that has no definition other than it is.

The unknown will provide you with an experience of pure beingness that is effortlessly curious rather than hell-bent on pushing a particular story into a world where what is considered curiosity is an offshoot of seeking the best story to define the underlying “pure individuality” that’s been forgotten.

This forgotten Original Story of beingness is the restrictive edge of reality for both you and your father.

Q: What if I asked you, “Why is the sky blue?”

MR-B: Sunlight reaches Earth’s atmosphere and is scattered in all directions by the gases and particles in the air. Blue light is scattered more than the other colors because it travels as shorter, smaller waves. So, voila, a blue sky.

Again, let that be true. Who cares? Literally, who cares? It’s just the current state-sponsored condition of story that will morph in due time. There is no terminus to the movement of stories that make up the Separate Self.

Q: If life is just a story, what is the point of wanting to know how things are? Isn’t that what gives our lives meaning?

MR-B: Non-separation does not remove the meaning you find in life. Personal life can have meaning while existing impersonally. Discover this, and you will understand why “just how it is” and “consciousness is all there is” are two very different statements.

A Guide is Not Guidance

Question: There are many people lost in the world. They lack purpose or are stuck in lives that offer little hope. There are some instances of guidance offered to them that may help solve surface problems – but as you say, the foundational assumption of separation is left in place. How do we get the guidance of Non-separation in positions where it matters so that we can genuinely help them?

MR-B: The first thing to ask yourself is, “Am I a found person?” If you are, ask yourself, “What is it that I have found that allows me to define myself as such?” If you’re not and still consider yourself lost, ask yourself the same question. Why do the questions to ask yourself not differ when they are pointing to opposite experiences? Because the particulars you allow to define your original story of pure beingness all function as a single definition – and that definition is separation.

If the Separate Self is the totality of your experience, every word you speak amounts to the same utterance – “I am separate.” As Non-separation, those are the only words I hear – “I am separate” – as you ask me about lost people from the perspective of a lost question. The entirety of our conversation is white-washed into an attempted cover-up, a heist of your true being by an illusion. I will not participate in driving you away from the scene of a robbery that is occurring right in front of your eyes.

Rather than imagining yourself living from a higher level of “foundness,” discover the root cause of separation in a world where people can become lost in the eyes of “others.” Discovering this root of your personal experience will reveal to you what makes you lost in the exact way as those you consider lost. If you have not located the impersonal existence of Non-separation, all words used to label your Original Story, your “I amness,” are disconnected from their separative source. What is this separative source? To find out, begin asking yourself who exactly is it that holds all definition? Doing this, you may find that there is only one way of being lost – and this kind of lost is total.

So rather than worrying about the lost in the outside world, make it a priority to save yourself. Get your oxygen mask in place before bothering with the person beside you – a metaphor that points to the only way to help the lost is to realize you are the lost.

Realizing your “lostness” starts with locating the Original Story of your Separate Self and observing what the finding of this story exposes. When you move beyond the identity that blindly embraces the normative habits, values, and behaviors your culture considers being lost or found, you will be able to question a different experience of lost or found – now based on living “underneath” all of your cultural stories. Questioning this new experience is the gateway to the Impersonal, to Non-separation.

I remember singing church hymns as a child that said, “I was lost, but now I’m found.” The questions I asked back then were, “Where was I lost?” and “Who found me?” I was told that I was lost in the secular world and that Jesus found me. He was my savior or “saver.”

That never sat well with me.

As a teenager the first inklings of the questions, “What has been found?” and “Who has been found?” began to appear – which led to a life of self-inquiry. As my inquiry matured, the understanding of who I was matured. Now I know what was found is the Separate Self, a collection of stories in relationship with the story of Jesus. Who has been found is a personal experience that is lived by impersonal existence, Non-separation.

So the early questions had their scripted answers. The later questions had to be discovered through the spontaneous happening of the Path of Non-separation as the needed depth of questioning did not exist in the Christian environment – being a Christian meant having staunch security in an established story that left no room for self-inquiry. There was no room to live life as a question rather than a statement.

The Christian life was like being trapped in an attic with the door pulled shut and padlocked. The small bit of light that came through the roof-top window was imagined to be the fullest source of light.

But I was granted the mercy of a vision of the sun. I scratched at the attic door for decades, gave every ounce of my life to stand in full sunlight, to stare directly into the sun.

What happened was unexpected. I was blinded by the sun to forever see nothing but the sun’s reflection. Now there is only a steady glow behind my eyes that makes shadows in front of me but only reveals the brightness of life.

There is an assumption in the Culture of Separation that lost people always need guidance, and the found are the ones to give this guidance. So as far as getting guides who remember Non-separation into the “right places” to heal the lost, it is essential to first realize that it’s the found who more readily need guidance.

The lost are already in a perfect place, basking in creative opportunity – there is space for emergence. Their illusion of knowing has been broken. The already found are secure in their delusion. To even begin their journey, they must either make a break or be broken by life in order to land in the creative space of the already lost.

But to your question, the true guides are already in place. They just have no interest in offering advice. They have remembered that a guide is not guidance. They have seen through the role of guides and realized there is no such thing as the guided.

Non-separation is not something to be lost. Not something to be found. Not something that can be guided or offered by a guide.

Slow down and ask yourself right now, “Am I the guide or the guided?” Don’t rush. Take a deep breath. We have plenty of time.

Q: I’d say both. For some, I function as a guide. For others, I am willing to take on the role of the guided. I realize that there are no others in the world – that makes sense to me. But this does not impact the fact that some people know more about certain topics and can give guidance.

MR-B: You missed the question – it was not one to be answered. It was one in which to identify the flaw I induced in our conversation. Notice how you became absorbed in particulars, in words, and considered the question from a perspective that had a “point of solidity” calling for your reaction. To offer this kind of response, I had to be an “other.” So when you say you have realized there are no others in the world, the way you use your words suggests otherwise.

The intimate time spent with a guide is not a wise elder guiding a pupil. It’s a collection of moments that are screaming at both of you to see through the dynamic taking place. You leave every interaction in your life thinking something was given and received – relationships are transactions. As Non-separation you will discover that the collective story of linguistic interaction created by two people has a prior unity infusing what appears to be an exchange with a remembrance that halts the possibility of back and forths between autonomous individuals. As Non-separation, personal autonomous action becomes an understanding of the Impersonal, an impersonal existence of being that includes the personal.

Say you were to ask a question about your love life – what you should you do in a certain situation. By giving you a horizontal question or answer rather than a vertical inquiry, I am participating in something that is not mine to participate in. Sure, I could answer your question – but I would be allowing a relationship that is seducing you to lean on me in a way that will never reveal the truth you are seeking.

What you consider a guide is just a mirror to observe your own confusion – a test, or a call, to see through the mechanism by which guidance occurs. Giving you something to replicate or reinforcing that you “have to make your own decisions” is a form of deceit, the standard evil in our world. Giving you objects to be carried (then placed or delivered) instead of showing you the understanding of the objectless would leave you to live your situations rather than be lived by them.

Whether you see it or not, you are attempting to be my guide and to offer me guidance. You imagine that you came here seeking advice, but you’re really just looking to have your own desire to be a guide reinforced. You are looking to have statements validated. Your questions are not questions. They are statements you are looking to embrace as stories that prop up your belief in separation.

I will not fall victim to your request. You can be your own guide and offer your own guidance. That has nothing to do with me. You are also free to accept the guidance I may be perceived as offering. But any guidance I could possibly offer has nothing to do with you.

Q: That contradicts other spiritual teachers I read. They own the role of teacher and seem almost to flaunt the fact that they are offering guidance to their students. They know the territory that I don’t and are trying to guide me there. They are my guides. But you seem to be deflecting the role of guide. Why?

MR-B: Applied Awakening is the application of the realization of Non-separation – which is to be lived as an invitation to Non-separation.

Being lived as an invitation is not the same as offering guidance.

Accepting an invitation is to feel the space of the only event, not a subtle push to feel the power of our engagement or a subtle forcefulness to accept my suggestions.

Q: Are you giving me a hint that striking off on my own is the only way to Non-separation?

MR-B: No. I’m not suggesting that you should strike off on your own, I’m suggesting that you can remember when this striking off actually occurred and how you have been wandering all alone as an isolated story ever since.

The moment the original act of separation happened to you, it established your feelings of personal beingness – and that’s precisely the moment when you struck off on your own. So I am asking you to notice that you have been on this lonely trek for a long time now – which is the nature of separation, the reality of the division imposed by believing in a Separate Self.

Q: What you describe worries me that I may just be drifting in the wind. That’s disconcerting.

MR-B: Do you notice how through the short duration of our conversation, you have shifted from the place of being found to the place of being lost?

Q: Yes.

MR-B: Well, keep drifting in the wind. See what happens when you relax and let the wind take you. Observe how the wind has held you all along. Observe the impersonalness of the wind. Observe how the wind is not an independent movement. Observe how the wind is not separate from your drifting. Observe how the wind and the drifting are stories that can only point back to a single story. Question this single story.

And then tell me if a guide has ever offered guidance.

Running Toward God First

Question: When I was in my twenties, I asked my parents how I would know when I had found the right group of friends or the right woman who I may imagine a future with. They told me to put God first. They said to always run as fast as I could toward God – and the men and women who kept up with me were my friends and maybe even a life partner. That has always stuck with me – to put God first.

Michael Richardson-Borne: There is nothing to run toward – running is the problem. The running you’ve been advised to do is the equivalent of obsessively seeking something outside of yourself when there truly is nothing outside of who you think you are. Constantly running toward an object in your imagination is to worship an ideal that never allows you to fully let go – it convinces you that “God first” is a more relaxing alternative to the story you imagine yourself undergoing as “not God first.”

Buying into running as a way of life is buying into a continuous state of freak-out that anticipates who you think you are spinning backward, what evangelicals call “back-sliding” – and before you know it, you might find yourself in a dark alley with a syringe full of heroin after robbing a bank and kidnapping a baby. It isn’t understood that either direction you go, God first or God last, your imagination is working overtime, presenting fear as the driver of your life. Either direction is a life that assumes separation where there is none.

As for those who keep up with you, they are your enablers. They share your attachment to separation masked as a love for God. They share your belief in the concrete truth of a Separate Self and the importance of having a rigid self-definition. They share the absence of inquiry into Non-separation, which is the muting of life as a question in preference of life as a declaration, a statement of forceful misunderstanding.

As a Separate Self, putting God first is to autonomously give a sub-set of concepts priority over all other concepts that are outside of the realm of your constructed story of God. In essence, what your parents recommend is for you to run toward this sub-set of concepts, for you to dogmatically attach to this preferred collage of self-defining labels as a means to discover the comrades who will consistently remain dogmatically attached to the same set of stories as you. It’s a test of who will share your fantasy of separation. Those who align with your beliefs qualify as friends or life partners. Those who don’t are left on the outside looking in as others who follow a corrupted vision. This is one of the basic laws of the Culture of Separation, the foundation of the divisiveness found all over our world. Christians and Muslims. Democrats and Republicans. Liberals and conservatives. Men and women. Blacks and whites. Americans and Latinx immigrants – you name it. They are all running toward their gods in the exact same way.

To put God first is to separate yourself from an object and then to give this object outside of yourself the upper hand. It’s a way to imagine yourself as deficient, as an individual that is feeble and isolated in a scary Culture of Separation. It’s the way you run to perpetuate a divided personal experience in the name of a God who has forgotten Non-separation.

Have you contemplated the mechanics of how the experience of “God first” manifests in your life to cloud the realization of Non-separation? If not, let me help you get started.

All objects are an impersonal existence that can move into an impersonal experience through forgetfulness – which means objects neutrally present themselves as a neutrality before a story arises like a piranha that bites as the first act of separation, providing the foundation for a Separate Self to come into being. The continued bites of this piranha can cause enough sharp pains to eventually flip impersonal experience into a personal one. As secondary piranhas continue to arise, they bite and attach to this personal experience – which can encourage a newly defined individual to forget anything but the stories that define it. These bites and resulting pains are the building blocks for “God first.” Notice how with each bite you are being pulled away from yourself, each flick of pain controlling your attention and subtly guiding you further and further away from the remembrance of the non-separative beginning.

Whether God is perceived as an external object or an idea, which is to say an internal object, notice how it remains an occurrence outside of your personal and impersonal identities. Notice there is nothing you can do to relieve the separation between you and your top ranked object until you remember Non-separation – which occurs by realizing that the only relationship available between you and your God is a butting of heads, a crashing together that never results in authentic fusion or non-separative blending, only the desire to try harder under an illusion that a coming together of separate objects can result in real unity. It is important to recognize that only the questioning of the Separate Self can open the path to discovering the means that match your impulse toward unification.

As Non-separation, putting anything first under your own volition is a dream. The act that is chosen in the moment is not an individual’s “first choice,” it’s simply the non-choice of a total movement perceived as a self-authored decision. Do you make a decision while watching a film that forces a specific image to be shown in a specific sequence? Or is the film simply moving, simply running – so that personal experience picks it up as an expression of the impersonal existence of the projector and set of eyes watching. You imagine the inanimate as a dead existence separate from the totality – but all objects are animated, totally and impersonally alive as Non-separation.

Take a look and observe how you can run the opposite direction from God and remain in the same destination the entire time – which is also the same destination as when you were running toward “God first.” There is never real separative movement. All personal experience leads to the same arrival point that it actually never leaves. This is the nature of being consumed by the Separate Self where any artifact of separation, no matter how “godly” is just that – separation. As Non-separation, who you truly are is stable and unchanging – leaving you free from chasing a God that is always a winning lottery number just beyond your reach.

To put God first, drop the concept of God. Otherwise, your attention remains full, hyper-vigilant, and thus un-inquiring. Right now, you have your nose directly against the ass of God. You’re so close that you see nothing but his ass crack while the totality moves you without your knowledge. I encourage you to stop, stand up straight, take a breath, and let God do what he will do. You may find that he is open to sitting with you if given a chance. You may even find that there is nobody to sit with.

Q: It doesn’t sound like you believe in God.

MR-B: As Non-separation, there isn’t a need to believe in anything, as the belief and believer are not split. The signifier and signified don’t have an acknowledged stop-gap. There isn’t a disconnect that makes believing a necessity of life.

Belief in God is a placeholder. It’s like placing a manakin to hold your spot at the front of a long line to get a coffee while you work behind the counter creating the drinks. It is possible to realize right now that you can just take a drink of your own creation and stop holding up the line with your fictional self. You can notice that you’ve always been first in line without knowing it. You can see that the manakin is an imagined “God first” that keeps you from realizing who you are in the process of creation.

On the Path of Non-separation, believing in God is an invitation to inquire into the nature of belief rather than to flatly believe in belief. Let me ask you this: Who or what is God?

Q: God is all that is.

MR-B: Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. How are you separate from “all that is?” How do you put “all that is” first? How do you divide “all that is” into “all that is not” in order to create a ranking system? Is it possible to run toward “all that is?”

Q: It feels like you are trying to talk me out of my experience of God.

MR-B: Only what is personal can be threatened. Only what is grasped can be taken away.

Notice that what I’m saying is less about talking you out of anything and more about asking you who is having your individual experience – not just of God, but of everything from which you are separated.

The invitation being offered is to transform experience into existence, to become a lived expression of Non-separation, to effortlessly unfold as Applied Awakening. No one can be talked into this – consciousness does not talk anyone into anything. Consciousness has no angles, though it’s the lattice for angles to exist.

Q: Is Non-separation consciousness?

MR-B: Partially, but probably not in the way you are imagining. Non-separation is the impersonal existence of being that includes the personal – not the personal existence of being that includes the impersonal. When most people think of Non-separation, they embrace it as the latter.

Experientially, remembering Non-separation is a re-alignment with a pre-existing position-less orientation, not a change in material condition. It’s a change into a lived orientation, not a change in the structures of what was formerly thought of as external experience. In other words, the total surrender of self-authorship flips life from living to being lived – but kicking a rock will still most definitely bruise your foot. Hard surfaces and the actions of these surfaces do not necessarily change as you identify with personal consciousness or impersonal consciousness, or remember Non-separation. The world marches on as it will.

This is, of course, as it should be. There is no need to attempt to cancel scientific insight by weaponizing the discovery of contextual depth. Remain curious while leaving everything alone and being alone. If you’re going to cancel something, cancel the separation inherent in “being conscious of” or even “being conscious.” Become the present without presence filled with the usual suspects making their play of identification with the co-arising of physical relationship observed by presence. Can you see what I’m pointing to? This is the remembrance of Non-separation.

The Heart of Buddhism

Question: Hi. I’ve been a Buddhist for 10 years. Recently, I’ve been studying Japanese calligraphy, specifically the practice of how to draw the circular shape of an Enzo in a single stroke – where I let my mind be free and my body just create.

Michael Richardson-Borne: Hi and welcome. I’m intrigued by one of your statements. How do you just, “let the body create?”

Q: I try to get into a state of complete relaxation and then draw the circle in a sudden burst. Once I feel like I’m ready in the most peaceful state I can attain, I make the Enzo. I do this twice a day as a form of meditation.

MR-B: Trying to get into a state of relaxation is attempting to use separative tension to non-separatively relax. It won’t work. Personal effort is just confusion about the way life moves – the only results being chaotic scenarios that leave the mind tense with the observation and interpretation of its own stories. Remaining in the confusion of self-authorship leaves you in an endless cycle that guides your daily habits with the perceived need for exertion.

You believe you are a sprinter running at three-fourths speed where you can either exert to speed up or exert to slow down – either way you go it takes your personal effort to make something happen. Your experience is like flexing a muscle for a long time before letting go – the muscle seems to relax for an instant, but the baseline tension never fully recedes. This is just like the separate self. There are periods of extreme tension and moments of temporary pseudo-relaxation – but the foundational tension is never fully alleviated because the belief in separation is at its core. Relaxing isn’t something you try to do, it’s something you are. You’re either relaxed or you’re not – and no amount of trying will take you one way or the other. You’re either aligned and lived as Non-separation, or you’re embedded in the contraction of separation.

The state of complete relaxation is only a state just as you call it. States always pertain to individuals who believe in separation – even a “non-dual” state is merely a glimpse of the non-dual because embeddedness in the personal eventually returns. It’s this re-contraction that can inspire you with tremendous energy and longing for a return – as you have viewed an alternative possibility of awareness. The problem to be solved here requires the discovery of how to wake up within the impersonal in a way that the separate self is a micro-experience of who you are rather than the whole of your contracted state of relaxation.

The sudden burst you mention is only a sudden burst as your mind defines the experience. The experience itself is an expression of effortless rhythm, a rhythm without peaks and valleys, an impersonal hum that floats through and as your body and mind. What you describe as a sudden burst is an expectation that is projected into the future and executed in the past. It’s an action you think of as an autonomous decision after you undergo a violent relaxation.

Why is it violent? Because it’s seductive and forced upon you – it’s self-propaganda or a marketing scheme you use to imagine relaxation as a story you can buy from the marketplace of separation to make the pain of division feel a little better. Life as a perceived individual is just a shopping addiction, a hoarding of stories, two of which are imaginary relaxation and the possibility of sudden bursts of autonomous action. Waiting for the story of a separate self to accept a story of relaxation so that it can believe in an individual who draws a circle as a spiritual act is what the Enzo and your Buddhist tradition are inviting you to question. They’re inviting you to understand relaxation, not to be relaxed.

This means peaceful states, or relaxation, cannot be attained – they happen on their own terms as lived by Non-separation. Peace cannot be captured like a wild animal in a trap. If it’s captured, it’s an illusion. If it’s left uncaptured, no state is present separate from an individual and therefore doesn’t float ghost-like in an external field as an object to be experienced.

If you are “in” a relaxed state or “in” a peaceful state, it is impossible to create as anything other than an individual living in the past and the future. Only the separate can be “in” a contracted container that self-defines as relaxed or peaceful inside of its own unseen, but not unfelt, tension. Creation does not occur in this kind of fractured individual – creativity does not happen when the mind is pulled apart, drawn and quartered by memory, imagination, time, and continuity. Creation of a circle can only happen whole.

But be sure not to place your boundaries around this wholeness. What I’m speaking of is not like a “whole pie” where a slice has yet to be taken and its perimeter is still clearly defined by edges. What is in the moment as creation itself is free of edges, free of the restrictions that kill creation as such.

The edges, which we can call the body and mind, are like the conductor of a train that is off the tracks. When you are off the tracks, you sit in an empty field blowing clouds of smoke and collecting separative dust. The tracks where you have been extend as far as your eyes can see. The tracks where you could go are unseen and imagined around the bend. You remember the tracks to be evenly spaced and trustworthy enough to get you from and to the separate spaces of here and there. You are convinced there is somewhere to go. Because the train is still running, it doesn’t dawn on you that the vibration of the idling engine does not guarantee the power of real movement. So you remain exactly where you are, dreaming that you’re heading toward a destination where you will unload your cargo. But the cargo, the stories that define your separate self, remain exactly where they are – leaving you with only your memories, attachments, and projections to define how your fullness was created. You no longer have space to accept anything new in the moment other than random bits of refuse thrown into your cars by vagrants passing by. And all of this you don’t even notice.

To get back on the tracks is to re-align with Non-separation. It’s to regain the natural movement of what you were built for – which is to exist as a knowingness that your birthright is a lived invitation to the impersonal.

This is what Buddhists mean by “just letting the body create.” It’s an impersonal happening, the magic of a one to one blending that removes all personal creations by embracing the separate self as a merely imagined aspect of one homogenous movement. Non-separation, or just letting the body create, is the unencumbered effortless happening when one is being lived as existence without personal experience. As the impersonal, a circle draws itself; as the personal, an individual draws a circle in a self-glorified relaxed state of separative being.

Q: How do you come to realize this?

MR-B: You must undergo what I call “the flip.” While embedded in the belief of a separate self, you imagine you are doing the living as a self-authoring individual extracted from the whole. This belief is the foundational one that pulled you off the tracks, misaligning you with the movement of Non-separation. Belief in a separate self leaves you stagnant and locked in an idling train, lost in your imagination. When the remembrance of Non-separation comes into being, an understanding that one is lived rather than doing the living arises instantaneously with the realization. After the flip into being lived, there is no going back to “the other side” as the other side is seen to be a reflection of Non-separation that continues life exactly as it always has.

Without the divide that separative living brings, creation no longer has a creator. When the creator dies, creation comes into being. From here, a circle is drawn. To look at the finished product impersonally is to keep it alive, to observe the circle as an object created by an object is to suck the life out of the process and smear the outcome into a mere shape, a symbol that destructively turns awakening inside out.

If you look closely, you will see that Applied Awakening and the Path of Non-separation have many similarities to Buddhism. In the Buddhist tradition, there are three significant aspects of a holy triangle called Buddha, dharma, and sangha. Buddha is the awakened – what I call the realization of Non-separation. Dharma is the teaching – what I call the Path of Non-separation. Sangha is the community – what I call a culture of Non-separation being lived as an alive expression of Applied Awakening. Applied Awakening is a byproduct of having undergone “the flip,” a spontaneous self-rightening act where a body has no choice but to create because choice is gone.

Q: It’s amazing how such a simple movement can express the heart of Buddhism. Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult to make an Enzo look like the ones I see in museums or on the internet. In those, the artists have gone to the heart of the matter. Some of my friends make fun of me when I try to explain it to them. They say it’s just a circle and that anybody can draw a stupid circle.

MR-B: How do you respond?

Q: I tell them that they don’t get it. The Enzo symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, the totality.

MR-B: What do you mean by absolute enlightenment?

Q: Absolute enlightenment is the pinnacle of human achievement. It’s knowledge of the ultimate. It’s to know the nature of reality directly.

MR-B: Enlightenment is not the pinnacle of anything, except maybe the pinnacle of confusion. If it’s to be described, it’s a total humbling of the separate self to the point that pinnacles no longer exist.

As far as human achievement goes, it’s like taking credit for achieving your hands. Was developing your hands your doing? Or did it just happen? In the same way, is developing the desire to achieve your doing? Is enlightenment your doing? Can enlightenment ever be possessed and experienced by an individual directly?

Ask yourself these questions. What if there is no mountain to climb that isn’t climbed for you? What if your drive to climb and the climbing itself is on autopilot? What if all achievements, including enlightenment, happen to the impersonal impersonally? Do you believe the human achievement of enlightenment is the accomplishment of a self and/or an other – that it is an observed byproduct of a separate self divided from the totality? And how would you know the achievement of enlightenment if you had attained it?

Q: If you can’t achieve awakening, why do you teach Applied Awakening?

MR-B: In Applied Awakening, there is only the application itself – it’s not the awakening of you or something applied by you. It’s a remembrance of Non-separation that happens to what was formerly you – and a split second later there is only application.

That’s why I define Applied Awakening as the impersonal application of the realization of Non-separation. It’s not the personal application of the realization of Non-separation after the achievement of enlightenment. Applied Awakening is an application that’s done, not done by you. What is being done through me is the opposite of teaching. Even as you expect to be taught, I’m not teaching you anything that is outside of who you already are. I’m merely alive as an invitation – an invitation for you to make my words useless so that you can become useful.

I don’t want this to sound overly abstract or heady. What I’m saying is that existence is impersonal and therefore so is your experience. It’s the impersonal beingness that is living – your personal stories of a body and a mind are merely presented as what Rupert Spira calls “the activity of the thing.” This is what I describe as the impersonal movement of Non-separation.

Q: But when I look at Buddhist art, it feels deeply personal. What is it about the minimalist aesthetic that is so beautiful and makes me feel the way I do? When I look at an Enzo or other traditional Japanese landscapes created by a master artist, I just want to cry. Do you understand what I’m saying?

MR-B: I suppose so. But in my experience, it doesn’t take art for those feelings to arise. For instance, they are here, this very moment as I look and listen to you.

Experience makes you ache, whether it’s beautiful or ugly. Both are the same exact feeling of separation colored by different stories of the mind. So existence hurts – you’re just not fully aware of it unless a particular experience seems profound. During profundity, your mind is arrested for a brief spell from its blandness, altered by having your attention more singularly focused. It’s not the painting that is beautiful, it’s the freedom from the usual rampage of stories that have taken up residence in your mind. A clearing has occurred – an expansion of free space that is momentarily haunted by a narrowed focus of individuality and thoughts of beauty. These two forms of story, the foundational assumption of separation and the secondary stories of beauty, isolated together, easily bring tears as the closeness to who you are is nearer to the surface than during your normative day to day experience – and the sense of freedom and possibility is overwhelming.

Many teachers talk about Non-separation being pure bliss – I have found this to be pure bunk. Existence always brings the personal to its knees, to its fundamental breaking point. It shatters the heart – which is the suppressed pain the Culture of Separation acts out every day. When one understands attention from the inside or has an experience of the external world so full that nothing is left except Non-separation, the heart is completely shattered – which reveals the source of a pre-existing pulse.

Being utterly broken brings peace, but it does not always bring bliss. Tremendous pain can live in the peace of Non-separation and it’s okay to feel this. There is nothing to move beyond, nothing to transcend – especially the suffering of separation that is so obvious to a heart being lived as an invitation to Non-separation.

If I am blissful while knowing that there is a little boy or girl hungry, probably within two blocks of me, and that there is no way to find them in this moment to provide comfort – if I am blissed out while knowing this, then bliss is not something worthy of trust. I can be at peace knowing things could be no other way than the way they are – but the feeling tone of Non-separation is not one to be described as bliss. Non-separation can also appear as a deep heartache to the point of tears where the inclusion of the separate self is being lived with a fog of depression undifferentiated from love and compassion.

The entire world is not an Enzo but the action of drawing the Enzo. Seen correctly, all of these paintings are self-portraits. Pay attention to the moment you are close to tears – see through this moment and all of these images will be your self-portrait also. The Enzo you see is your reflection, not a calligraphic scribbling for the mind to pause in time and project upon.

You take the images to mean something when to the artist, the images are utterly dead. The moment the stroke of the brush concluded, time did not break into a fragment for the artist – that would turn the Enzo into an actual Enzo, something besides the point.

Q: I think I’m starting to understand. It’s crazy to me that something like drawing a circle can be a spiritual practice – that knowing how to draw a circle can be an indication of a deeper wisdom.

MR-B: Every moment is a pointer, every breath is a spiritual practice – so it’s not a surprise that drawing circles is no different. The only thing to know in this world is the right response to life – which is total action rather than total reaction. This is the teaching of the Enzo. Every circle drawn is the beating heart of Buddhism – which is also the beating heart of Non-separation.

How Many Times Have You Lied? A Lot.

Question: About six months ago, I had an awakening that felt like I understood what you call Non-separation. However, even with this understanding, I’ve found that I still can’t do the right thing 100% of the time. I always seem to break my commitment – and for the stupidest things. I lie here, cheat there. I hurt the people around me.

Michael Richardson-Borne: How many times have you lied? How many times have you cheated? How many people have you hurt?

Q: A lot.

MR-B: Exactly. That’s why I asked the question, and that’s the answer I expected. Not because I have a negative view of human nature – even though I know that everyone is out there lying, cheating, and hurting the people around them as these actions are tools the separate self habitually uses to protect itself and ensure its continued existence.

It was the use of the word “a lot” that was the true tip-off that Non-separation is still not your lived experience. If Non-separation were present, more than likely, you would have answered my question by saying something like “literally, who cares” or “the question is absurd, culturally inflicted, story-based” or some-such other response that pointed out the dynamic of separate selves deceiving one another is a played out fiction not worthy of any sincere attention.

Lived Non-separation takes no issue with the movement of life as it is. Being lived as Non-separation, the mechanics of deception are clearly experienced as existence – so being presented with the separate self’s deceptive off-spring is not a shock to the system or experience of defied cultural expectations or social norms. Deception is a natural occurrence in the culture of separation. Actually, your shock should be if these forms of deceptions didn’t happen – as the tendency of your separate self is to act out in ways that lie, cheat and hurt in order to maintain its story of separation or to be upset by those who do not share the exact story it wishes to be playing out in the moment.

Remember, Non-separation is the impersonal existence of being that includes the personal. It’s not the personal experience of being that separated from existence and accumulated evil deeds for itself to identify with as a reinforcement of its assumption of separation. So, forgive yourself right now. When the stories of lying, cheating, and hurting push far enough back in your consciousness, they will begin to walk through walls, even the final wall of individual beingness if you’re brave enough to let it happen. Walking through this final wall, which when seen correctly isn’t even there as a solid demarcation, is to die into the Impersonal as life itself.

Believing in “a lot” requires division so that story-fragments can accumulate on the already existing, ever-growing fragment of the separate self. It’s like a coral reef where the free-swimming coral larvae attach to rocks. Eventually, you get a reef structure – and as beautiful as it may be, it will still cut you by touching its mere presence. It’s the same with the separate self. Come into contact with it, experience its beauty, but as soon as you touch it, it will cut as it is always reminding you of the pain and grasping of separation (whether you realize it or not.) It’s a reminder of an unseen continuity that is cutting you each time you connect the moments into a single definition that gives you an identity that only serves itself.

So, by answering “a lot,” you tell me you are still holding tight to the demarcations that create a separate self. In order for “a lot” to exist there has to be a non-changing entity as the foundation of separation – a separation that is being defined by the different stories that play out as the experience of a personal consciousness, as all that can be personally known.

By answering “a lot,” you tell me that someone is there to collect the garbage – and this someone has decided to pile the garbage on her back rather than dropping it in the landfill of the culture of separation.

But remember, when dropping your garbage in the cultural landfill, there’s always a possibility of the instant realization that there is no such thing as throwing garbage “away” – as there is no “away.”

When it comes to dropping contamination in the field – even after your perceived personal movement “away” from your garbage, you still remain embedded in the contaminated culture that accepts your garbage as a normal part of the collective life cycle. You dump your garbage and then immediately begin collecting new trash as a fresh set of identity stories.

The only way to keep the field clean so to speak is not to be an autonomous individual where garbage accumulates in the first place. You must learn to allow the trash to incinerate upon arrival as the personal and cultural illusion it is.

Be lived as an invitation to Non-separation and watch this fire burn in real time.

Q: I understand what you’re saying. But I know I had a glimpse of Non-separation – and can’t understand why I keep lying.

MR-B: How can you not lie to others when you are constantly lying to yourself? Maintaining a story-image of yourself is to lie about who you are – both to yourself and to what you perceive as others around you. Why do you lie? You lie to others to compensate for the feelings of fear and lack that come with being separate. It’s a natural symptom of the sickness of separation. When you have a disease to an organ inside of the body, eventually it will manifest in your physical appearance. It’s the same thing with lying. “Internal lying” about your identity eventually drives you to “external lying” in one form or another. When there is a separate self, there are identity stories to protect, and when this is the case, you will respond by any means necessary to perpetuate your story. Even when you “come clean,” it’s only done to maintain the story about the lie you are living.

Believing in the separate self and buying into the culture of separation is like being a balloon and tethering yourself to a metal pole with a bunch of other balloons. When the wind blows, you bounce off one another and flail around while thinking something major is happening. But you eventually just settle into the same place, never leaving the pole you are grasping. The existence of Non-separation is different. As Non-separation, a balloon floats freely wherever the wind takes it as an effortless movement – there is nothing to which it can tether.

Also, there seems to be a belief that you will behave differently by remembering Non-separation. Ask yourself what alignment with Non-separation has to do with your philosophy of good behavior. Until you no longer believe there should be a certain kind of behavior after the experience of Non-separation, you will not be released into real alignment with your true being. That’s your predicament in a nutshell. You think that once you remember Non-separation your mental projections onto it will come true. You think that remembering your true being must bring a reward of sinlessness. That’s just not the way it works, sorry. Non-separation doesn’t care about the behaviors your separate self wants or believes in – or what your mind or society believes is the best way to engage with one another.

Everyone having perfect behavior as defined by the culture of separation may not be what we discover as Applied Awakening. The only way to know is to take the journey and let it be revealed as lived in the moment. This level of trust is not something to which the separate self can commit – as this level of commitment is its actual demise.

Point being is you can’t predict outcomes or project your personal utopia on the realization of Non-separation. Until you take your hands off the video game controller, you will be left to merely press buttons and hope for specific outcomes. On the flip side, letting go will reveal that what happens is exactly what’s supposed to be. Whether that includes lying or not will be revealed as the movement is presented.

As an aside, I will say this. The wisdom of impersonal to impersonal communication removes the “need” for lying. And if it does happen, there is an understanding that the lie lives itself and that it could be no other way.

Q: What about cheating?

MR-B: Cheating is to use, or attempt to use, culturally defined deceptive means to gain anecdotes of separation for a personal identity to the detriment of realizing who is doing the cheating. Put in simpler terms, you cheat others because you are willing to cheat yourself. The separate self is always cheating its true being by covering it with stories that give you the impression of separation from the totality as an agent of autonomous action.

Cheating comes from the desire to claim something for yourself that is currently beyond your self-definition, or that will preserve your self-definition. It’s the desire and action to achieve a certain self-image while disregarding the collective assumptions that compose cultural rules. It’s grasping at an object that belongs to an other (physical or psychological) in hopes that deception will bring an object or outcome to represent your separate self rather than an others. You cheat in order to gain or maintain a story.

Again, to say that cheating would stop once Non-separation is remembered is not the point. You are not the designated mouthpiece for what speaks you. You can’t make the world an object outside of yourself and tell it what it should do. And for that matter, you can’t make the separate self an object outside of yourself and tell it what to do either. Thinking you can is where your questions about lying, cheating, and hurting come from.

The point is to see through what is doing the cheating and to comfortably live in the unknown – to live as a question and to let the answers drag you around like the puppet you are. This is Applied Awakening.

Q: Ok, let’s keep going. What about hurting people?

MR-B: Just like when you lie to yourself and cheat yourself, you also hurt yourself by hurting others. This hurt originates by placing others in the field with whom you can relate. As soon as there are others in the field, it’s imbued with the separative electricity of hurt. Relations between two separate selves merely bring this electric hurt to the surface and release it like a liquid to be absorbed by two sponges. Sometimes the hurt seeps, other times it flows – either way, the sponges get saturated. When this happens, the flood that results in the field is the culture of separation. And the only way to clean up the mess is to find the drain that leads to the Impersonal, the existence of Non-separation.

It is important to remember that hurt doesn’t come from the immediate actions of relationship. The hurt is already there prior to the actions – it’s just brought to the light when two or more separate self stories do not align or when story-exchanges are personalized and seen as autonomous actions. Even when the exchange between two separate selves feels good, the hurt exists under the pleasure as a longing for continuity or a longing to extend the experience of what is perceived as positive feeling – something that temporarily numbs the pain of separation. To remain embedded in separation is to hurt yourself and everyone around you. To not be lived as an invitation to Non-separation is to hurt your very birthright. This is the hurt you and everyone around you are experiencing. But it’s projected onto the actions of others rather than being attributed to a confused state of personal being.

When lived as Non-separation, one understands how hurt happens – the hurting of feelings is seen for what it is. To begin, two separate selves create a substrate so to speak where people can actually be hurt as individual people. This creates the conditions for separate selves to put their division on the table and to project rules on the way this divisiveness can take place – it’s an unseen agreement that separation will be the primary rule of the game. With the table covered in stories of separation, the process of attempting to align stories begins. This is a difficult task – as you are always on the razor’s edge of a separative grasping laying in wait for you to make a mistake and disturb either your story-identity or the story-identity of the other.

As lived Non-separation, this game of aligning stories is there but not believed in the same way. There is more of an inclination to leave the stories alone rather than get wrapped up in them – or even embedded in them. Two parties lived as Non-separation understand that they are not two. It is understood that aligning the impersonal with the impersonal is an effortless arising that cannot be touched by the alignment or misalignment of story. Neither party demands responsibility be taken for hurting cultural norms because both the individual and the cultural norms are lived as a fiction – a joke of personal consciousness only necessary in a world that is a carnival of separative beliefs.

Q: Thank you. Looks like I still have a lot of work to do.

MR-B: Returning to the answer “a lot” requires a mathematical story to spawn the number of necessary individual experiences to meet your personal definition of “a lot.”

Remember, zero is the first division. Then one comes along. And two. And before long, the field of numerical separation is exponential and overwhelming to the point that you can no longer recognize where and when the zero happened to you. In a world like this, it is pertinent to ask yourself what is before zero, the first division.

The separative life is composed of work. If asked, I would recommend just watching it unfold. That’s all you can do. The space between the work you have to do and the work itself is never there anyway. Knowing this intellectually will help keep you from pulling away from your perceived center – until the center releases.

Nowhere, Nobody

Question: The spiritual gurus whose talks I read all say the same thing – that I am “nobody.” They say the experience of the world isn’t real. I can mentally believe that and I try to live my life with that belief. But, in the back of my mind, there is the suspicion that I am deluding myself. That I’m trying to make something real because I want to believe the gurus over the scientists. I’m torn.

Michael Richardson-Borne: I’ve found that there is great confusion around the notion of “being nobody.” A lot of this comes from the way this concept is promulgated. It’s taught in a very “airy” way – like being nobody is some kind of profound mystery that takes a wild goose hunt, a cat and mouse game of hide and seek in order to understand the experience. One person sits in the front of a room slyly smirking, soft-spoken, and full of love saying he or she is nobody. This goes on while everyone else tries to guess why the person in the front of the room is smirking and loving and being nobody – and they’re not.

Sure, there is a presence that can be transmitted, that can be lived as the essence of nobody. But leaning on this presence without a clear conceptual explanation leaves many people to just emulate the surface features of presence as a mental concept of the way Non-separation, or being nobody, looks behaviorally.

This is how we’ve ended up with spiritual communities around the world enacting the persona of nobody as a collection of somebodies. I’ve found that the traditional teaching environment this creates is a turn off for many people on an authentic spiritual journey – a turn off that is strong enough to become a hindrance to their paths. A question I frequently get asked is, “Why would I want to realize Non-separation, to be “nobody,” if that is the way I end up behaving?” Rather than focus on the inquiry into the self, there’s a focus on a legitimate doubt and a resistance to inauthenticity – one that makes remembering Non-separation more difficult than it needs to be.

The teaching of Non-separation, which includes the understanding of what is meant by the concept “nobody,” can be more grounded, more collegial – something that fits into the way people are more accustomed to learning, particularly in the US. It is not necessary to engage in vagueness to become something that is the furthest from vague. “See the Buddha, kill the Buddha” doesn’t necessarily need to include the broad teaching structure, just the more particular aspects of one’s path. Having handrails along a stairway that leads to nothingness, or being nobody, can be more useful than immediately being dropped into a container of nothingness and being told you are nobody from the word go – leaving you to search for your keys in the dark.

In my experience, in any teaching method, the mind must be used to pierce the mind. I have found that not all concepts fortify the mind or separate self – there are some that are wrestled with as tools that ultimately puncture one’s separative illusion and reveal the impersonal nature of being nobody. A well-built bridge can be offered from guide to inquirer – which I’ve found works better than presenting a vast chasm to be leapt over or offering the thinnest of tight ropes blowing in the wind.

I’m not saying these old school teachers are wrong, it’s just not the way I go about things. For one reason or another, I’m not lived to appropriate the way Non-separation is traditionally taught. I’m not as opposed to using words to translate the traditional teaching methodologies into more of a professorial art. The majority of people I speak with live in the US – and based on their cultural conditioning, cutting the spiritual fat and giving the mind poignant concepts and relational practices to engage in their day to day lives is the most efficient and effective way to point to Non-separation – to help them understand what being nobody is all about.

But to your question. Being nobody is a reference to the realization that being somebody as the totality of your experience is a limitation imposed on existence itself. Being nobody is a more expansive conceptual holding of space where the separate self can release being somebody – or contemplate the possibility that the somebody is a collection of stories that, when dropped, leaves an impersonal nobody. The invitation to be nobody is an invitation for you to move from personal to impersonal experience.

Breaking it down a little more, the possibility of being nobody begins as a concept that is added to the heap of concepts that make up or populate your mind. If you accept the concept that you are nobody, this experience usually begins as a mere conceptual addition to the mass of stories that make up your identity or the way that you define your separate self. In this interpretation of being nobody, one can easily be, as you referenced, “torn” because the separate self is still living in a world of concepts that describes itself as this or that – and in a this or that world, the fact that there is a “that” always looms in the background as a disturbance. It makes things always feel a little off – just off enough to maintain the hint of doubt that keeps you entangled in a battle. The battle is a fear of being fooled or missing out on a better object that will define your separate self in a more accurate way. This is where most people remain stuck and why they show up to ask for guidance – and this is where I usually begin, pointing out that swapping stories to define the separate self rather than questioning these stories is a dead end. It’s a form of translation, not transformation.

The act of seeing your way to “nobody” is not a forward movement that trades the story of somebody for nobody (that still defines a somebody). It’s more of a non-movement that keeps you still while you question how the somebody can arrive at being nobody. Once this “how” is discovered, you are ready to exit the arc of separation. Exiting the arc of separation leads to a naked inquiry rather than an autonomous experiment of wearing new pants in the world to see how they fit and the type of attention they bring.

In the Path of Non-separation, this naked inquiry is shepherded by asking “Who’s aware of the story?” Who’s aware of the story of being somebody? This question opens the process of excavating stories until the presence behind the stories of your somebody is revealed. Finding this presence is locating the “I am,” – a deeper identity of being a somebody that lives underneath the surface somebody you formerly thought defined you. Continuing to ask “Who’s aware of the story of I Am,” the foundation of being somebody, leads to impersonal experience and the impersonal existence of Non-separation. There are methods, besides meditation, to aid you in bringing the understanding of nobody fully into your lived experience.

It is taught in the Path of Non-separation that “you are nobody” means your experience and existence is impersonal, period. Experiencing the world as a somebody (even if this somebody is defining itself as nobody) is just to remain embedded in the personal, or the separate self. Experiencing the world as a somebody that is being lived as the existence of nobody is to be grounded in Non-separation, the impersonal existence.

As far as reality, being taught that you are nobody is just another way to point out that the world isn’t real in the way you think it is. It’s not that it is completely devoid of any reality whatsoever. I always refer to one of my favorite quotes from Ramesh Balsekar when asked about reality. He said, “Real because observable, no independent existence of its own.” So, being nobody and saying the world isn’t real is not to negate the world and leave it negated. It’s to negate the way the world is experienced by a self-authoring individual and to animate the individual with the impersonal existence of Non-separation that lives the individual and the negation.

Q: So I can be “nobody” and, as I sit here talking to you, also be “somebody?” If I’m being honest, I feel like I’m somebody, not nobody.

MR-B: There is an understanding that goes with your question, but, yes, that is exactly the point. You know you are alive – you just don’t understand who is alive or the correct placement of objects that make up lived experience. Becoming nobody isn’t having your life taken away from you. The teachers you read are not trying to take away beingness or even personal beingness when it gets right down to it. They are re-situating your life as lived in the moment from a personal experience to the existence of an experience. I encourage you to trust your feeling. There is life and there is no need taking the time to question it. Instead, ask yourself how the life of “nobody” is lived as the exact same life as “somebody.”

Remember, Non-separation is the impersonal existence of being that includes the personal. So, know you are somebody. But also know that this somebody is not separate and lives inside of and as an impersonal existence that can be aligned with this somebody. The alignment of somebody with nobody leads to becoming an invitation to Non-separation. You are alive as the world and realize the world is more inside of you, impersonally, than you inside of it.

Q: What about my feeling of having a sense of place? If I am nobody, how does this nobody have a definite location? This nobody can’t be “nowhere” as I’m obviously in this room with you and can’t be anywhere else. There’s a reality to this that I can’t get around.

MR-B: To understand the conversation we’re in, the focus of inquiry must be brought to the fore. What we’re inquiring into is not focused on a matter of being in a specific location or not. Although the question is fine to ask, in our line of inquiry it’s a distraction because it’s focused on a somebody located somewhere, a self-autonomous entity located in an external world. Instead of trying to figure out how a somebody with a somewhere is situated in the projections of time and space, ask who it is that is concerned with having a specific location and how the stories that make up a somebody can have a specific location.

Make our focus right now a matter of if the location you mention is personal or impersonal. Once this inquiry is answered, you can revisit your original question and have no problem answering it.

If you go deeply enough into questioning the separate self, eventually you will arrive at what I call “the flip.” The flip is a transition from believing in a separate self that does the living to an impersonal movement being lived as an invitation to Non-separation. Being lived as Non-separation takes the somebody away as your sole position and leaves the somebody inside of that which has no position.

By knowing this, notice how the experience of talking with me changes. The act of speaking to a body with a location from a body with a location is understood to be real exactly as it is, impersonally. The story of self and location is perfectly real – but the rooted experience of a separate self in an isolated position is not.

Non-separation is nobody, nowhere that includes the somebody, somewhere.

Q: So, if I’m “nobody, nowhere,” doesn’t that mean my experience should feel like I’m “everybody” and “everywhere?”

MR-B: If by being everybody and everywhere, you mean all bodies (including your own) and locations are arising and presenting as existence, then it is a pointer to Non-separation. It is important to note that being everybody, everywhere is not an experience, it’s an existence – the existence. The experience is part of what is lived by existence. Part of what is lived in and as Non-separation. Locating the contraction and easing of contraction between those two concepts, experience and existence, will point out the difference between nobody, nowhere and everybody, everywhere.

It will point out that being everyone is the same as being nobody – just as you said.

Q: Being nobody and everybody at the same time still seems to leave an empty space where I once existed. I’m not anybody, but the everybody still is. Where did my somebody go in the grand scheme of things? It had to go somewhere. Isn’t my “I” now just lost among people, most of which are yet to be lost in the same way? This seems alienating, even if I am everyone.

MR-B: Notice that what you are experiencing still has a sense of everybody else. You are still adding and subtracting to and from a world outside of yourself. Non-separation is not the equivalent of social-relational math.

There’s an entirely different logic when one is lived as the existence of Non-separation – personal logic is not impersonal logic. Impersonally, the push is at your back rather than resistance in the front. But the push from behind doesn’t deliver you anywhere new, doesn’t reveal an arrival. It is a kind of perceived unfolding in nowhere, by a somebody who is always relaxed in the nobody-nowhere whether it is realized or not.

Right now, you are viewing Non-separation as a game of uprooting flowers where once they are pulled, they are carried away and discarded, leaving a hole in the garden. The other flowers keep on living, but you are no longer a flower, just a hole. Since your “occupied space” is now just a hole in the ground, you are no longer able to relate in a society of flowers because nobody is there from which to relate. Let’s reframe this visual.

When the flower is pulled, it is an impersonal action of who you are – not a particular action to who you are. Since this is the case, the ability to relate goes nowhere because the action of any flower is still the impersonal action of who you are. The hole has nothing to do with you personally. The flower that you thought you were never died or left a hole in Non-separation. The flower was pulled, but it didn’t remove you from the society of flowers. If you pay close attention to your story, even though you were a hole, you were still aware of the society of flowers. What is this awareness if you were, in fact, gone? How could you be alive and dead at the same time? How were you the hole and the flower at the same time?

Remember, a pre-existing unity has no empty space for the kind of hole you are pointing out. A shifted story does not create a gap in consciousness, it does not create a hole in the impersonal. Nowhere, nobody is an emptiness or a fullness that cannot be altered.

What Does It Mean to Reboot Consciousness?

Question: What does it mean to reboot consciousness?

Michael Richardson-Borne: There is no way to reboot consciousness. Consciousness is effortlessly present. It’s always perfectly still in the background of the identity stories that swarm and control the attention of your mind. Consciousness is “just so.”

Rebooting is a way to recover from an error. But, consciousness has no errors. There are only perceived errors that appear as expressions of consciousness. The errors are outcomes based on the comparison of two false stories – the way things are supposed to be and the way things are. Neither of these stories has an individual existence that would make it an overarching definition of reality. And yet, they are treated that way when a separate self is accepted as the totality of your existence. Accepted constriction manifests constricted beliefs that pull you away from your true being – which is Non-separation.

Asking about rebooting consciousness is like asking how to turn on a computer that is already on. It’s impossible and reveals confusion. Consciousness has no power button. Pressing control, alt, delete or clicking restart has no impact on consciousness because the action is consciousness. Getting outside of consciousness in order to perform an operation on it is not the truth of your non-separative existence. It is the imagined truth of separative experience. What is believed to be rebooting consciousness only has the effect of adding a story to the mind that a rebooting has occurred. But, the addition of this story leaves who you are unchanged because consciousness is changeless. Also, notice the deficiency of language here – because consciousness is not an “it.”

When a person has had a major head injury and is lying in a hospital bed, we call this person “unconscious.” This is not true. The mind may not be present in the way it once was, but the person is not unconscious. Consciousness is still very much present. We can see this by the fact that consciousness is still available and aware of that which is called unconscious. In this example, the actors have isolated consciousness within a physical object, forgetting that the physical object never has ownership of a separated consciousness. Objects, such as an “unconscious” person, are reflections of an impersonal consciousness – which includes objects that may have lost access to the mind’s Original Story of individuality and the stories that define this individuality. But consciousness, as so, cannot be lost.

So, we are here to remember that who you are cannot be rebooted. We are here to remember that who you are, as the Original Story of beingness cannot be rebooted – the primary source of your identity cannot be rebooted.

But, we are also here to discover that who you are not can be rebooted to reveal the foundational individuality within consciousness that happened to you. To reboot what you are not is to reset the particulars of your identity that define a separate autonomous individual, to reset the story that defines the illusion of a separate self. This reset is a reversal, a method to remember who you are underneath of your identity stories – to remember your Original Story of “I am.” It’s a return to a stillness that has been obscured, a return to a stillness of pure personal being. It’s also an opportunity to question this personal beingness as a path to the impersonal, what I call Non-separation.

So, once again, to reboot is to reboot the mind. To reboot the mind is to clean the software of all the stories that misaligned the individual with the nature of its beginning – obscuring its true nature more and more until it becomes lost on a path that requires a reboot. But none of this changes consciousness. None of this touches Non-separation object to object.

Q: So if consciousness cannot be rebooted, why do you say humanity needs a reboot?

MR-B: Notice that I said humanity could benefit from a reboot, not a reboot of consciousness. Consciousness cannot be rebooted, but humanity’s journey to the remembrance of who they are as consciousness can be. This is the journey of Non-separation – a journey you begin by becoming familiar with the stories that make up your personality until you are able to accept that the primary assumption of humanity is the belief in a separate self. By accepting this assumption, it becomes possible to reboot the personality – which leads you to the discovery of your Original Story, the story of individuality that is experienced as the “I am.” From here, this Original Story can be questioned until it falls away into the lived existence of Non-separation.

As you sit here, take notice that humanity does not have consciousness, consciousness has humanity. Humanity is a collection of stories that live within and as consciousness. Not remembering this leaves humanity, as we know it, living in the world inside-out so to speak. With the dominant culture living inside-out, divorced from its true nature, what I call the Culture of Separation is the water we swim in. So, the reboot of humanity is the reboot of the story of separation. This reboot of humanity is needed so that we can collectively, all at once, remember our true nature as Non-separation – which will naturally reboot the culture in which we are the vehicles.

How about we take a step and begin rebooting your mind together?

Q: Ok. But before we do that, if you don’t mind, I have an important question. I definitely feel like I need to reboot my life, whatever it may be. Some days more than others, but I consistently have thoughts of what a reboot would feel like. What it would be like to start over and receive another shot at getting life right. Would you consider this a spiritual aspiration?

MR-B: It depends.

If by spiritual aspiration, you mean an action that makes the story of your separate self spiritual, then no. This kind of aspiration is a separative aspiration. It’s a desire to think of yourself as spiritual and to be thought of as spiritual. It’s an example of one of the processes that drive the Culture of Separation – a fiction that you lay out in front of you that is compared to the fiction you believe yourself to be right now. This kind of spirituality is a concept that describes the concept of individual beingness. It is an overarching label that flavors everything you are not. It is a concept that directs your attention away from the separate self just as much as any story that would be considered “not spiritual.” From this spiritualized belief in separation, there is no way to “get life right” because life is still fundamentally divided from its source.

Now, if by spiritual aspiration and getting life right, you mean an openness to realigning with Non-separation, then maybe.

Why do I say maybe? Well, to move into the conversation of Applied Awakening and the Path of Non-separation is to move beyond spirituality in the old sense – in the way it lives in the Culture of Separation. So, whether this beckons you to create a new word to describe spiritual aspiration or to update the definition of the word spirituality is up to you. Just recognize that spirituality, as it exists, is merely another institution of the Culture of Separation founded on the assumption of a separate self as real. Spirituality, as I speak of it, has seen through the separate self, the resulting Culture of Separation, and the way spirituality shows up within the separative ways of that world.

So, the question becomes, “How do you realign your life with the remembrance of Non-separation?” This is the only question of value in the Culture of Separation. How do you begin? By accepting the invitation I am making to reboot your mind.

Q: So, let’s do it right now. Guide me through it.

MR-B: Ok. So, right now, notice how there are stories arising in your mind without any effort on your part. You can completely relax, and without an ounce of strain, your thoughts, feelings, and emotions continue to present themselves to you. Who you are, at the deepest level of your individuality, simply sits and receives.

This receiver is the observer of your stories, the observer of your mind. The mere existence of this observer reveals to you that you are not your stories – it reveals that these stories do not have the absolute definitional power that you have given them up to this point. The definitions of concepts do not define you. The definitions just define themselves as they appear to you. They move in front of and cover the observer – but know that it isn’t set in stone that 100% of your attention has to be given to these stories. You can begin to peek around these stories and to see with a clarity that would otherwise be missed.

Take some time and notice this observer, and how it’s watching your stories in the same way you would watch a movie. When you, unaware of your identity stories, watch a movie, you believe it is a separate self who is doing the watching. From the observer, it is different. It is the individual experience of watching your stories watch a movie. From this deeper layer, you discover, more fully, how the mechanics of separation work.

In addition to this, because you are able to observe your stories, you are now in a position to inquire into the experience of dropping those stories. You can now ask who you are if those stories are just more objects presenting themselves to you as the observer. Answering this question is what leads you to the reboot that reveals the foundation of the mind as a singular story of separation, one that can be inquired into to show what lives the mind – the impersonal movement of Non-separation.

Q: Let’s say I reboot and remember Non-separation. How does this really impact humanity? Wouldn’t I just be a drop in the bucket?

MR-B: This is a question to answer for yourself. If you are hungry to impact humanity, discover why there is nothing you can do other than to be lived as an invitation to Non-separation. When the doer lets go and is no longer doing the living, then the answer to this question becomes apparent – and has no choice but to impact the Culture of Separation.

I will say this, though. As existence itself, there is no drop and there is no bucket. There is only Non-separation.