Multiple-I’s v Excruciating Pain (R7)

On 26th January 2013 my left hip was chopped out and replaced by a bit of bionic gadgetry.  Remembering what it was like when I had the right hip done ten years ago, I had been putting this off for many months, preferring to suffer the relatively simple pain of putting one foot in front of another with the aid of a walking stick to voluntarily undergoing the pain & horror the other side of my body remembers well.

I knew that I would have to get out of all the Feeling-excruciating-pain-I’s, the Feeling-sorry-for-myself-I’s into other more positive ‘I’s as soon as possible in order to get back to ‘normal’ quickly.

I know the process; I’ve taken others through it; when it comes to working it for oneself things may be a bit different.

By 5 o’clock on 26th January 2013, post-operative pain was so excruciating that it seemed it was all there was in the world.

I Was Pain

The Pain invaded my whole Being.

For the next three days Excruciatingly-pained-I went along with the patient physiotherapist, nice man, walking the corridors of Pain, doing his exercises and receiving statements like, “You’re doing ever so well…” with an internal, ‘Get lost!’

The reading I’d planned to do went by the board; nothing in my notebook; the music I’d brought to listen to remained unplayed. Something in me knew that this was not how it should have been.

Back home, the following Thursday, I woke up and looked at the grey shapes beginning to appear out of night and realised that I had been well and truly invaded by Feeling-I’s, by Being-in-painful-shock-I, by Feeling-very-sorry-for-myself-I, by Swearing-&-cursing-I, and so on.  But accepting all this was the beginning of renewal.

Just looking at the external world took me beyond all that—the waking self went automatically into Seeing-I, and, noting the difference it felt, went into Intellectual-I, reconstructing the process. Being-in-thinking-I predominated while I trogged through 400 emails, not just to delete most of them but sometimes to construct lengthy replies.

Friday Evening This Packet of Flesh & Bone Rediscovered Reading-I

It asked my wife to pick a book at random from the library shelves; the book turned out to be My Story by Marilyn Monroe, waiting for 44 years for this moment now to be read. It’s such a lovely book: the beautiful thoughtful screen woman killed by the system comes alive. Plenty there to think about, to feel for and to bring into being. The sensible cycle round Intellectual-I, Feeling-I, Making-sense-of-things-I re-commences.

Now, early spring totally blue sky days have enabled me to stretch my ‘I’s across the fields out the back; there regrows in me a consciousness that’s nearly as big as the universe again. There are out of season primroses blooming in the rockery below my window.

How does internal change happen? It’s lots of steps taken with effort and persistence. It’s a full recognition that ‘I’ as a single being is illusory; it’s possible to maintain a proper sense of being only when you scuttle between the millions of different ‘I’s that constitute who you imagine your self to be. Then, and only then, can you make the choice to be all of them or none of them at all. Marilyn Monroe recounts how she alternated between Norma Jean, Norma Dougherty, Being-an-orphanage-slave-I, Aspiring-filmstar-I, Being-made-a-sex-object-I. Writing her notes towards an autobiography she must have been on the way to what I call Meta-I—the ‘I’ that can observe the transitions from one ‘I’ to another and learn to make real choices between useful and unhelpful ‘I’s which in the end I suppose she couldn’t do.


Now that, in what I call Meta-I, I can observe all this of mine, I can allow Feeling-the-pain-in-my-side-I to play its part on the stage of my mind with impunity; it’s much less of a bother to the entire carcass. I ‘feel’ I’m getting back to where I want to be after going the circuits—Pushing-into-the-pain-I, Noticing-things-around-me-I, Seeing-I, Hearing-I, Intellectualising-I and only then Ouch-making-I.

I am by no means entirely out of the woods. Why should I expect to be?


Mindfulness, which puts full attention on the movements and the characteristics of the body, can eventually see with clarity that the body is nothing but a conglomeration of parts which happen to be working in some manner and fashion as long as there’s life. The parts hardly ever work quite perfectly, otherwise there wouldn’t be any aches and pains, and they only keep going for a certain number of years.

We call this body ‘mine,’ creating the illusion of a ‘me.’ We think, ‘I know what I look like. When I look in the mirror I see ‘me’ and I actually know this is ‘me’. Yet, were we to make a closer examination we would find thousands of ‘me’s, all different sizes, shapes and colours. Sometimes a little fatter, sometimes a little thinner, first short, then taller, having black hair, then grey hair, having no glasses, later with glasses, feeling miserable, then feeling wonderful. The question must arise, ‘Which one is me?’ If the answer is, ‘I’m all these different people,’ we have at least seen that we’re not one, but maybe a hundred thousand people…Which one of the hundred thousand can we pick out to be the real me? There has to be somebody that’s real to keep the ‘me’ going. It’s impossible for one person to be a hundred thousand people. It doesn’t work, does it?

We may think, ‘I’ll pick the one I am this moment.’ But then what about the next moment? What about ten years from now? Always the one in this moment, that’s me. We wind up with a constantly changing ‘me’ which is sometimes hardly recognisable. Yet we think this is my body and attach great importance to it. Of course we have to look after our bodies. It would be foolishness not to. But to let our bodies dictate our lives is futile, because the body will never be satisfied. Even at one’s last moments, the body still craves comfort.

Being Nobody, Going Nowhere—Meditations on the Buddhist Path: Ayya Khema



I teach a way of using the concept of Multiple-I’s as they are called in certain 4th Way Circles. There’s never seemed to be to be much point in entertaining an idea unless you find out whether it can be put to some practical use. This fits Gurdjieff’s assertion that Understanding can only come about by fusing Knowledge with Being—by doing something with ideas and seriously studying the consequences of your actions.

As part of a much longer bit of personal exploration, I coach people to think about something that’s an issue for them while they are literally walking this circuit:-

In wandering this map people move between different aspects of their thinking/feeling/doing process; they are enabled to explore something of what happens in their ‘consciousness’, up and down their Figure of Eight, and things move internally.

I begin by redefining whatever issue they have suggested and am fairly directive to start with but my aim is to get the discoverer to take over the passage round the map as quickly as possible. It’s fairly straightforward as a process—it’s not brain surgery. The simpler the process the more complex the results. Outcomes are often startlingly revealing…

Sometime Ago

There was a young woman on my course who expressed some concern about her pregnancy.

“So, you’re a bit concerned about things…”

“Yes, I’m not sure I’m quite ready for what’s going to happen to me…”

“It’s not something you’ve experienced before…”  (big smile…)

Since she was clearly feeling something deeply, I asked her to occupy the space labelled ‘Feeling-I’s’ and suggested she had moved into her limbic system where feelings would come easily and be entirely appropriate. I coached her into exploring her feelings, watching carefully for any shifts of language patterns.

She suddenly said, “I think I’ve got everything ready at home…”

“Hold it—you’ve gone into some kind of Thinking-I, you’ve moved into your neo-cortex. Go to the space marked ‘Thinking-I’s’…” We explore what kinds of things she’s been thinking about—what to call the baby, how to keep the consultancy going…

“And what have you done about that?” I ask pointing to the slot marked ‘Doing-I’s’ where she goes without much prompting.

“But sometimes things get on top of me…” she takes herself to the slot marked ‘Feeling-I’s’ and I get her to unpack the sense of ‘things getting on top of her’.

This goes on for some time oscillating between Thinking and Feeling for the most part.

I point out that she hasn’t been in the slot marked ‘Doing-I’s’ very often. I suggest she goes there. She suddenly says, “Do you know what—I haven’t been doing anything much for myself; I haven’t been getting into tune with the baby inside me…”

The floodgates opened.

“So what will you do…? How will you feel about that…? What difference do you think that will make…?” Spinning round the model on the floor.

The less you say, the more the response. Artful Vagueness. Always providing things are set up ‘correctly’…

“Go to the centre; step into Meta-I…” —a concept we’d already explored. There was a deep sigh of satisfaction: something had moved inside of her.


This young lass had left her own body till last.

Post-operatively that’s where I had started—all I had to do was reverse the process: get out of Being-constrained-by-body-I and step into Feeling-I and, the point of this Glob, into Intellectualising-I. Balance… 

Nearly done… Almost into Meta-I…

18 thoughts on “Multiple-I’s v Excruciating Pain (R7)

  1. I love you Colin, for the you that is you. Nothing more or less. You make the world make sense, with your sense of the strivings and being-parkdolg-duty. “I love he who loves work” –Richard Lloyd


  2. Inspirational ….and to think you have done this whist recovering…..even more impressed…..truly walking your talk….and reminding us it can be done and to do the same.
    May your Speedy cell recovery-I be very much in the Doing phase. Much Love to you Colin xx


  3. Your lovely wife picked Marilyn Monroe, wow! The rest of this post just drifted away… The body is here right now always not just some of the time, there is a powerful connection that happens when our attention is strong enough to move into Meta I It’s the great impartial “I” The Big Cheese of I’s. I always figured you knew this would happen just as it did but body trauma is an invasion that rips through all levels of this thing we call consciousness and I do marvel that a new post arrived today. I’ll read the post again I just wanted to get to the Best Wishes part and am glad you’re healing. Now back to Marilyn. She came to me when I was very young, very young, enough said:-)


  4. Hope you are well and I must say your wife picked the right book for you! Young man, she wants you to be youthful in our mind and forget the post op pain! Gell well and cheers!


  5. Now that’s what I call teaching! Great news Colin – and thank you for the insight and for sharing the exercise – very neat (of course). Also loved the “our” splendid. I wondered where you’d been – welcome back! x


  6. Hi Colin. Although I have had many pains I am quite sure I have not had the severity that you experience. For me, to consciously separate from the negative emotions, which is not allowing them a place, makes the pains bearable, and which amounts to acceptance. Your Meta-I and my Impartial Observer or Passenger appearing in the Coach, seem to be the same Conscious-awareness, the establishing of which is the Instrument that makes the whole difference between real Work of Transformation and false work of self-change.


  7. So sorry to read about the pain you have had to endure these past few weeks, Colin. And how amazing that you can transform even such a trying personal experience into such an insightful lesson in how to be with life as it is in the moment – whether what is happening in that moment is pleasing or excruciating. Wishing you continued progress in your recuperation, and many pain-free, pleasure-filled walks with your new bionic hip in the days ahead.


  8. All this terminology is new to me.
    Pain isn’t though, so the feeling part of I welcomes the news that steady convalescence is under way. There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. Hope to see you soon Colin. Peter H


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