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.