New Chains, Same Shackles

Question: I love the way this song starts out by saying: “Must one person’s triumph be another’s humiliation? Of course!” What came up for you when you first heard this?

Michael Richardson-Borne: I recognized the question was entangled in the assumption of a separate self while still being lived as that which is not separate. This entanglement is identical to the average condition of what we divide out and call humanity. By assuming “one” and “another,” the fabrication of two entities is finalized – imagining one creates the other and division is complete.

When a question begins from a place of pre-supposed separation, an invitation is extended to accept a certain set of operating rules – so a trap is laid in your path, and you either see it or you don’t. I’m encouraging you to look at the trap right now and to reflect on the implications not seeing this is having on your world. You walk directly into these traps tens, hundreds, thousands of times per day and then wonder why your life is so filled with agitation and suffering. Why not stop walking into the traps and understand the operating rules for what they truly are? Every trap has a new chain attached to the same shackle. That’s a good way to describe the separate self and its viewing of objects – anything considered separate is a new chain linked to the same old shackle.

Q: What you are suggesting is not common sense at all.

MR-B: What I’m suggesting is the ultimate common sense! The traps, the chains, and the shackles are not separate. They appear as separated to what is aware of them – but what is aware is indivisible and lived by an activity that is the pre-existing unity of all. This is the common sense of non-separation.

Take a look for yourself. I’m not dancing around you with any kind of hocus pocus. I don’t have time for snake oil and have nothing to gain. What I am saying to you is direct. You are telling me that you want to build a house and I’m giving you all of the materials you need if you will take them.

What you call “common sense” is planted in a common illusion. The culture of separation gives your interpretation of common sense plenty of free access to water and sunlight. But this water and sunlight still come with a cost. You must take the way the mind presents things to awareness and accept them without investigation. You must never question how easily obtainable the water and sunlight are around you, even if deep down you intuit something is off.

But even if you do investigate from the illusion of separation, it is just research of the mind by the mind. Content is used to interrogate content. No attention is given to that which is aware of all thought and physicality. Even with investigation, the field of vision is considered “mine” and that which doesn’t show up in your particular field of vision is considered an other or positionally away from you.

However, whether you realize it or not, consciousness is there all of the time – there is no such thing as “away.” The concept “away” is a trap because anything considered away is attached to the shackles of the separate self. Anything that is considered independently seen is a chain – every new object that appears within the field of vision of “mine” is a new chain attached to the same shackles.

Can you see that the triumphant and the humiliated require one another? From non-separation, one person’s triumph is not another’s humiliation. Why? Because the participants are not separate from one another and share both the triumph and humiliation at once. Winners and losers may seem to receive new chains in the moments after battle, one chain called victor, the other called defeated – but the non-separate know better. They see, in reality, the triumphant and the humiliated are wearing the same shackles – which is the fashion statement of the separate self that perpetuates the farcical nature of our separative culture.

Q: It’s a bit of a 180, but I wanted to ask you about this. I’ve struggled with depression and addiction to opiates in the past. So, I’m attracted to music that addresses the issues of suicide, addiction, and mental illness. Where is the connection between these issues and awakening to non-separation?

MR-B: Where is the disconnection? That is probably what you really want to know. Where is the disconnection between depression, addiction, and awakening? I hate to be the bearer of controversial news but there isn’t one. There is no disconnection between what you call issues and awakening. One’s mind can be suicidal within a deeper knowingness that the mind is not separate from the natural movement of the totality. Depression and addiction are mental and physical maladies but do not impact what is aware of both the mental and the physical.

On the flip side, if you know that you are the impersonal existence of being that includes the personal, you will also know that the suicidal and the celebratory can be embedded in the same assumption of a separate self. You will know that separation is the typical condition of the healthy and the unhealthy – a condition that is not recognized by the medical establishment. You will see that even though it appears the healthy and unhealthy are displaying different chains (i.e. surface behaviors), it remains obvious to you that they are sporting the same shackles nonetheless. Happy or sad, both are living in a world where walking into traps and desiring new chains is the norm. Both are living in a world where ignoring one’s shackles is the norm. The suicidal and the life-affirming have the same shackles. The addicted and the unaddicted have the same shackles. The mentally ill and the mentally healthy have the same shackles. All individuals living into the primary assumption of separation have the same shackles.

I’ve gone through a major depression and, if anything, the realization of non-separation may have saved my life. Honestly, it may be continuing to save my life as depression still comes and goes. Let me tell you what I mean by this.

In my experience, depression is not unhappiness or a basic discontent in and of itself. It’s a very specific mental and physical discomfort that makes day to day living much more difficult. Unhappiness and discontent can be secondary symptoms of the extreme discomfort – depending on how the pain is handled. In regards to suicide, when what is aware of the mind is still in the dark so to speak, it is much more likely that the mind will be able to lead one to what we consider a less than desired outcome. When one cannot see beyond the mind and body, it is easy to fall victim to the body’s feelings or the mind’s suggestions. However, if one is aware of the mind and able to watch it’s movements with a little distance, the symptoms of depression become more tolerable and less likely to lead one down a destructive path. Realizing that life is living you and accepting it to work through you without judgment, even if that includes the pain of depression, is an application of awakening that would be useful to the medical community. To this day, depression continues to be my teacher.

As a matter of fact, it was through depression that I learned, at a deeper level, to differentiate what one of my teachers called the thinking mind versus the working mind. The working mind is the natural arising of the mind’s mental objects without the separate self’s involvement. It’s the mind doing what the mind does without resistance, interference, or personalization. The thinking mind, on the other hand, is the entanglement I mentioned to you earlier – the thinking mind of the separate self gets entangled in the content of the working mind and personalizes it. It’s this vine-like growth of separation that twists into the lattice of the working mind’s activity and creates chaos that is difficult to unwind. Depression is an aspect of the working mind that can incite a maelstrom if the thinking mind gets overly involved with the arising content. As one learns how to leave the thinking mind alone, the vines stop receiving the attention they need to survive and slowly wither leaving only the working mind to run on autopilot just as all other organs are left to do.

The realization of non-separation is not a protection from or treatment for mental illness or addiction any more than it is for cancer, or diabetes, or heart disease. One can live the depths of non-separation and still become physically or mentally less than well. Just like a teacher of non-separation with diabetes would continue to take her medication, a teacher of non-separation with an addiction or mental illness would continue to seek the necessary treatments associated with their particular illness. Non-separation helps one see the impersonal nature of illness but does not function as any kind of bullet-proof firewall to the manifestation of disease.

Just remember that addiction, suicide, and mental illness are not self-authored – understanding that statement alone should answer any and all questions about the connection or disconnection with non-separation.

Q: That is the doorway to a great discussion but I want to go in yet another direction. The $uicideboy$ talk a lot about the devil in their lyrics. What is the difference between worshipping the devil and worshipping God? I have to tell you, as I see things, one doesn’t look that much better than the other.

MR-B: Because it’s the same thing – new chains, same shackles.

Worshipping anything as an individual is stepping into a trap to worship a new chain connected to the same shackles that are locking you into separation.

Q: So does “new chains, same shackles” also apply to Democrats and Republicans? Seculars and Muslims?

MR-B: Yes. New chains, same shackles. Switching between democrat and republican or secular and religious is just hooking up new chains to the same old shackles of the separate self.

Q: What about “new chains, same shackles” in the context of mindfulness versus recklessness?

MR-B: Yes. New chains, same shackles. Being mindful or reckless is just adding sets of new chains to the same shackles that exist as the assumption of a self-authoring individual.

Not understanding the separate self is the true definition of recklessness.