An Interview with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler

Ted Wheeler is an American Democratic Party politician who has been the Mayor of Portland, Oregon, since 2017. He was Oregon State Treasurer from 2010 to 2016.

Michael Richardson-Borne: Recently, Trump sent unmarked federal agents into Portland to disrupt the Black Lives Matter protest. What was your initial reaction to hearing this news?

Ted Wheeler: It was a stark reminder that the federal government is a collection of people who believe the Separate Self is real and thus unwittingly perpetuate The Culture of Separation. Even the government officials who cried foul were merely speaking up about the sending of troops being unconstitutional rather than calling it a psychologically immature act against perceived “others,” obstructing the alignment with our true being, the movement of Non-separation.

At some point we must collectively realize the Constitution is a document based on separation, a document formed by the assumption of a Separate Self – it is not designed to be a pointer to the non-separative nature of who we truly are as a people. The Constitution claims we are all equal and free as personal actors in the world – but this declaration of equality and freedom stems from a belief in a Separate Self that can never arrive at the “real thing.” Real freedom and equality can not exist when the separative core of who you are is unable to experience it, to actually be it.

To be lived as the equal and the free, you must dis-identity with the Separate Self, you must find that the Separate Self is a collection of stories that collaborate as the fundamental elements of a divided mind. You must discover that living with the assumption of separation as your starting point distracts you from coming to terms with the impersonal freedom and equality of existence itself. Not knowing this is how troops arrive in Portland like flares in a night sky signaling us to locate the lost aspects of ourselves living as an unnoticed pavement under a cityscape of stories that continue to build separate identities.

In The Culture of Separation, there is only one way to move on the chessboard – there is always a one hundred percent chance in relationship, communication, signaling, and shaping that the Separate Self will take action as a pawn of separation. Engaging in a world composed of Separate Selves, there are never any surprises. So my initial reaction to federal troops entering downtown was pretty bland – the separative faucet is on and water is coming out.

In our current national circumstance, there is always the original assumption of separation followed by “this response” or “that response.” Either route that is taken is an expression of a Separate Self.

MR-B: What do you mean by “this response” or “that response”?

TW: If one is embedded in a Separate Self, there are two ways that a response can manifest – both of which maintain separation. “This response” is one that agrees on a common story to define the Separate Selves involved. “That response” is a refusal to agree on a common story to define the Separate Selves involved. 

If you understand the pattern created by these two limited responses, you immediately notice that no protester or anyone in our government can get outside the confines of their own stories – which means they can’t offer even a speck of relationship and thus a total solution to any conflict they encounter can never occur. All conflict is like an ill-fitting suit on the hanger of a Separate Self – so division is either in the closet of a common story or on a separative body in full view. Either way, the Separate Self and the separation it manifests are always present in one form or another.

Only an identity that has experienced what is beyond the Separate Self can speak to a latent depth inherent in The Culture of Separation and invite all parties involved to match their depth of response to the call of the invitation.

MR-B: So back to your initial reaction…

TW: When troops entered Portland, I knew they were sent as an expression of a constricted identity experience – and since the action was performed unilaterally before an attempt at finding a common story was approached, I knew I was dealing with a contraction of a contraction when it came to Trump’s identity. What do I mean by this?

I mean in order to reach Trump, I have two layers of identity to work through before he can truly see what the protesters are calling for. He must move beyond the contraction of his refusal of a common story and then move beyond the illusion that a “one to one” agreement between autonomous Separate Selves is the nature of negotiation. Refusing his refusal gets me nowhere.

MR-B: Say more.

TW: First, I have to invite him to see through his refusal to find a common story by offering a story that can be used to his political advantage without sacrificing the authenticity of the protests. Basically, transition him from a state of tense hostility to one of relaxed tension. Relaxed tension is the best one can do when it comes to agreements with the Separate Self.

Once the common story is established and stabilized, I can then set in motion a series of invitations that transcend the separation inherent in all agreements.

MR-B: How will you do this?

TW: Any worldview attached to a Separate Self greatly limits experience, so all actions stemming from separation are completely predictable. There is no creativity, no spontaneity. The movements are always dead responses to a dead world, personal reactions to impersonal happenings.

So the invitations extended must transcend the common story agreement by turning the stories that make up the Separate Self from an isolated subject into observed objects.

MRB: Yes, but what would the invitations look like on the ground as a “real world” strategy?

TW: All protests manifest because of a division between two identity stories – a division between “the way things should be” and “the way things are.” The ultimate goal of protesters is to get these two identity stories to overlap as much as possible.

Based on this understanding, I would speak with the protesters and attempt to amplify the common story agreement with the government by inviting protesters to locate, and then act from, the story where there is no division between “the way things should be” and “the way things are.” Rather than putting effort into changing the external circumstance, I would focus on an invitation to change the internal circumstance – and then watch the response that arises from this new internality.

How do you do this? One of the first steps to arrive at the realization of Non-separation is to commit to the story of “the way things should be” as “not separate” and “the way things are” as “not separate.” This commitment immediately unifies the polarity in a complete overlap, eliminating the gap between the two which is where conflict exists. Now the invitation of the protesters is undivided, it’s “not separate.” So no matter the response of the government, the story dynamic that creates separation is no longer functioning for the protesters – which means the only story that truly exists is “not separate.” By reducing the plethora of split identity stories down to a single story, by unifying the polarity of separative identity, there is now an emergent singular response – one that has flipped from “separate” to “not separate,” from “total separation” to “totally not separate.”

This is not mere civil disobedience as civil disobedience has always been enacted from the belief in a Separate Self, from a fixed position held by a collection of Separate Selves that were taking a stand against something. A “non-separative protest” transcends the need to refuse to agree on a common story and transcends the need to actively seek a common story based on the unspoken mutual assumption of separation. In the story “not separate” is where power lives – not in the separative force of subversion, a tactic that has been repeated throughout history, a tactic that we must realize will never reach the final healing of The Culture of Separation. Looking at the world through the lens “not separate” is the initial advance into transforming the city of Portland’s relationship with local and national Government.

Our response to the protesters should be less about the immediate behavior of both sides and more about a commitment to understanding the psychological causes of our behavior. Rather than focus on the current external outcomes in our city’s streets, it would be more beneficial to report on and teach the public how and why separation happens. Rather than feel the need to combat division, we need to see through the illusion of separation and respond accordingly equipped with a new psychology in which to handle the problem. This is how to start to take further steps into our experiment with democracy – by empowering the multitude with the psychological wherewithal to enact a democracy from within, from the inside out. We cannot want democracy for all without developing identities that can recognize the source of democracy which is the natural movement of Non-separation.

MR-B: You’ve spent a lot of time speaking with the protesters. From this experience what are the majority of protesters calling for? What are their demands?

TW: To put it simply, policies that enact police reform and democracy that includes all people.

MR-B: Right. But what you’re saying is accomplishing this requires something beyond policy changes in our current system. Transformation requires an emergent system established on the foundation of a new identity norm.

TW: Yes. My inquiry, right now, is how do we use Portland’s resources as a means to share a new vision based on relationship practices that encourages a depth of communication which no longer speaks solely to the Separate Self as a Separate Self. How do we speak to the impersonal existence of people in government and in the streets so that Non-separation is received and revealed in “real world” action?

How do we use the resources of Portland to invite people around the country to see this moment in US history for what it is – a piercing cry to recognize we are looking in the mirror at our own reflection when we see violence on our televisions, computers, and mobile devices?

This moment is a direct call to ask how the political climate of America is a personal reflection of our own heart. It’s a call to turn within and seek the source of our experience that is no longer identified with a Separate Self attached to partisan outcomes. Turning federal troops on our citizens is a riddle to be solved, not an occurrence to which we react.

What we are involved in is not an expression of physical war – seeing the events transpiring in Portland as a traditional war is to be seduced by an old way of thinking. It’s an illusion, a distraction. The current war in America is a war of narrative, a war of story, a war controlled by the impulses of the Separate Self, and a battle over how the Separate Selves in this country should define themselves.

The federal agents weren’t sent to Portland to enforce a brutal crackdown on the protests. They were sent to create a counter-narrative to the protesters’ story – a counter-narrative meant to muddle the call for change by absorbing the protesters’ narrative into its own.

Narrative is a product of the Separate Self, or is the Separate Self. The Separate Self is an extracted entity composed of the original story of separation that happened to you and a unique set of subsequent stories that arise and appear to belong to the original story of personal awareness.

If you understand what I’m saying, you understand why I focus on the Separate Self as the crux to moving beyond the separative game we’re playing out. When facing a war of narrative, the only response that is an actual response must come from an identity structure that has moved beyond being embedded in narrative. All expressions of narrative must become an object to a perceiving subject where the subject isn’t “touched” by the object – the subject is “outside of narrative,” no longer impacted by the story of being separate.

Narrative must be understood as an impersonal arising, an impersonal arising that includes what is perceived as personal experience. It must be known as a non-autonomous construction whose side-effect is trapping us within the confines of a story that leaves no action of life, only reaction to life outside of itself.

To live your life from this new depth is to absorb the totality of all narratives presented to a storyless presence that is beyond narrative and able to flow with all stories spontaneously lived as the impersonal existence of Non-separation. Realizing Non-separation is check-mate for any maneuver sourced from a Separate Self.

Rather than try to wiggle free from the counter-narrative, it’s time for us to expand and “absorb the absorption” – to swell so wide that absorption is no longer a law of resolving conflict and using strategical narratives of the Separate Self is no longer efficient nor effective. The world situation is ready to become an active practice based on “deep information” that symbolizes graduation from commentary on shiny surfaces and predictable behaviors that are dead upon arrival.

If the goal is to silence the protesters, for the first time in history we need to offer a total response, not a replacement for the stories that make up the Separate Self. To bring the protesters to total silence, one must model total silence, must be lived as an invitation to Non-separation.

Adding more noise to an already loud room only amplifies the decibel level. Conflict in The Culture of Separation is a shouting match, even when agreements are in place. The original silence of who we are is drowned out by an ever-growing piercing din that must expand indefinitely to maintain the illusion of progress. This is what we must recognize to remove our attention from the noise long enough to settle into an identity space where the noise is a faint melodious echo.

MR-B: What is your take on the Black Lives Matter movement?

TW: As with all movements, it’s a pointer to wake up to the depths of who we are.

So, in this case, the call for change is cart before the horse so to speak. It’s a call to change external conditions without first changing the internal condition that is the driver for real change to occur.

Trying to fit a call for unity inside of a system that is built on that which spends its every waking moment fighting against unification just won’t work. It’s the proverbial square peg in a round hole scenario. Realizing the futility of our Separate Self actions is the first step in garnering the transformation we seek.

Achieving the reforms needed to make black lives matter does nothing when it comes to addressing the epidemic of separation. As hard as it is to accept this, you simply can’t live as a “black person” or someone that supports black people, you must surrender and be lived as black or be lived as support as an expression of the totality that negates race and support. It’s a subtle distinction where black lives matter as an expression of the total movement of Non-separation.

The mission here is beyond accepting a sub-grouping of established identities – the goal is to transform all identities so that the multitude is in relationship with one another in a way that catalyzes a new systemic based on what lives as the foundation of all established identities.

MR-B: Do you have any ideas about police reform? Are you currently discussing anything with your cabinet about potential first steps?

TW: Obviously, one idea is updating police officer training to include practices and processes that support their move beyond the Separate Self.

I’d also like to begin training a cadre of what I call “de-escalation agents” for our local police force as a prototype that can be applied to all police forces in the US. Think of these people as “non-separative therapists” that participate on the front lines of all police responses to guide the interactions from the lived existence of Non-separation. This kind of constant presence of non-separative experience is a sustained “in the field” form of relationship training for police officers.

I’ll also take a look at creating a large task force that participates in our social media platforms, sort of like what are called “troll farms” in today’s parlance. Rather than sowing discord, these men and women would sow invitations to Non-separation far and wide across our online forums.

MR-B: What you propose focuses on healing police officers rather than any sort of “defunding” that leaves the underlying relational dynamics in place.

TW: Right. We want to help heal the mind’s biases by questioning the stories that compose the mind.

It is possible to reveal to all police officers that crime is the energy of self-inquiry being blocked by the belief in a Separate Self. From this perspective, the entire prison industrial complex becomes a psychological practice about freeing this energy. This kind of shift is the gift of Non-separation – what I call Applied Awakening.

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