Richardson-Borne Interviews Standing Rock Protesters


The Dakota Access Pipeline protests, also known by hashtags such as #NoDAPL, are grassroots movements that began in the spring of 2016 in reaction to the approved construction of Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline. The approved pipeline would run from the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota to southern Illinois, crossing beneath the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, as well as part of Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

Michael Richardson-Borne: Can you let the audience know what brings you to Standing Rock?

Protesters: We’re here because we feel aligned with the mission of the 300 unified tribes and the other water protectors.

MR-B: Be a little more specific.

P: To slow corporate domination of this country. To protect natural resources from the short-sightedness of decision makers driven by financial gain. To respond to overt racism we see as comparable to what created certain housing projects in the Bronx when freeways were run through black neighborhoods to preserve the white ones.

But, we’re also here with the understanding that everything happening in Standing Rock is a sideshow to the main event. While we are taking a strong position on the questions and challenges outside of us, we know that our actions and answers mean nothing without exploring the questions inside of us as well– questions of the self and non-separation. This is the main event and the key to real change.

We understand that the people of ETP (Energy Transfer Partners) and DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) are an integral part of this internal question and that, right now, anything we can “win” here is just a continuation of separation in the way protest is competitively and separatively conducted today. The way we protest matters. Our orientation in non-separation matters. The context of non-separation matters.

If the internal question of the self is not explored (and realized), everyone will continue on a path where they believe themselves to be the doers of something that in actuality they are not. Each individual body will remain a separate tribe in and of itself rather than a surface structure of non-separation.

The real question is this: “Can we stop the human circus long enough to get people to take a look at the questions of consciousness and non-separation?” Can the obviousness of the truth of our pre-existing unity become so clear that our addiction to separation falls to the wayside?

MR-B: Do you think this new orientation in non-separation would right the chaos?

P: Maybe, maybe not. But what it would do is reset our collective orientation and let a new kind of process begin to unfold. One where everyone takes responsibility for the whole rather than pledging a blind sort of allegiance to a few meager segments.

MR-B: There seems to be a spiritual component to this protest. Can you talk about that?

P: There are two kinds of spirituality present here with a third that is currently missing. The two that are here are exoteric and esoteric in nature. Exoteric focuses on external ritual. Esoteric focuses on state changes, ways of thinking, and worldview shifts.

The third form is non-separation which delves into questions of identity and the self. The first two are surface features of the third. The first two are still rooted in egoic separation, the third is earnestly working to break free from this.

Because the third form of spirituality, non-separation, is missing at Standing Rock, no matter the progress you see us making here, it’s still business as usual. Make no mistake about it.

Like everything else in the world, the entire scene that is Standing Rock is a pointer to self-realization. It’s an opportunity more than anything. An opportunity to turn within and recalibrate the process. Until that happens, we’re mostly spinning our wheels in everything we do. This goes for everyone on the planet and applies to every waking moment of our days.

MR-B: How does one stop evil if there is no self to stop it?

P: That’s exactly the point we’re making here. Everyone, from the majority of the water protectors to people out here performing media coverage, still believes in the separate self– and it’s this belief in separation that creates evil to begin with.

So there is no evil to stop per se– just the realization of who is doing the stopping. Once this is realized, entrenched tribalism becomes a thing of the past and decisions for the whole become simple. What is to be done becomes plain as day. The gamefication of life comes to an end as there is no longer a character in the game to control.

To say a little more, not only can we not stop evil, we cannot create non-separation. The most we can do is further unfold the conditions for the orientation of non-separation to take hold. Of course, this will not be our doing either, but the possibility exists since it is presenting itself as a movement in our minds.

MR-B: How is this protest different from others that you’ve viewed or been a part of?

P: Besides the fact that there are so many tribes congregated here, I can’t say that there’s much difference. The established rules of the separate self are still very much at play here on both sides which makes the encouraged version of non-violent protest at Standing Rock still violent. Very few understand that believing the human experience consists of a collection of separate selves is a violent position in the world.

We’ll say it again: every protest and rebellion of any kind needs to always be rooted in questions of the self and non-separation. It’s not only about understanding what you’re doing and why, but also deeply understanding who is doing it.

MR-B: What do you respond when you hear that police are treating the water protectors as non-humans?

P: We’ve been hit with rubber bullets, pepper spray, water cannons, and a mandatory evacuation ordinance. This is what happens when one’s “opponents” are not living from a place of non-separation. In separation, people are capable of treating brothers and sisters like non-humans rather than the Self.

MR-B: Now that you’ve gained a little momentum that has garnered whispers of re-routing the pipeline, do you foresee a change when Trump, who is an investor in ETP, takes office?

P: We really can’t speak to that– it would all be speculation anyway and mask our main point which has nothing to do with who is President. When it’s time, no leader on the planet will be able to stop the wave of non-separation, nor will they want to.

But, for now, what we can speak to is the fact that the entire country, left and right, red and blue, is entirely missing the point.

The culture wars in the United States are a battle of ego development, both sides enmeshed in the foundational assumption of the separate self.

Non-separation, on the other hand, is an orientation that creates the conditions for the possibility of mass-scale ego transcendence and the wherewithal for decision making that keeps the whole at the foundation of all action.

The former leads you to continued tribal wars and eventual extinction. The latter gives you the landscape for peace to emerge.

*This is a fictional interview written by Michael Richardson-Borne as a teaching of Non-separation.