Garden of the Humble Administrator, Suzhou, ChinaQuestion from a reader:
What roles does the teaching about different "I"s play? Nicholl says it's about noticing that you're not one, so that you can separate yourself from the falseness. Are OCD and addiction under the control of one "I," or—if they are features—are they "spread" over, perhaps, the same group of different "I"s that need to be isolated and separated from? I assume separation (and, I guess, here the sense of being comes in) from them is so that we can create individuality.
Let's examine this a little bit.
First of all, I'm not sure how we can separate ourselves from what is "false" here. Each part of me is something true; so to call something which is actually a part of me false is already itself false. Saying things are false, that is, not being part of my nature, sounds incorrect to me.
Generally speaking, what one might say instead is that there are many parts in me, all of which are limited. They are fragments. I am partial.
So I am trying to see my fragments. I'm identified with them; that is, each fragmentary truth or "I" that comes along takes me in. So I'm this way, in one moment, and then in the next I am that way. This is true. There isn't any consistency to me. That's also true.
I could, in this sense, say that I am not trying to separate myself from the falseness; I am trying to align myself with the truth. For example, when I am an addict, that's true, not false; I need to see that. So when I admit my addiction, I join the truth. So I personally think that Nicholl—who I generally have great respect for— had that part a bit wrong, or, at least, didn't express it so well as he could have.
I want to see my fragmentation of being and reunify myself. There has to be a wholeness of sensation in me in order to do that. That's what can bring me together — this organic sensation of myself. You could call this seeing a kind of separation... but it is equally a kind of union, and calling it separation sounds too much to me like a form of rejection.
Trying to bring in questions like the struggle against compulsion or addiction are broader questions in one sense, and narrower ones in another. They are broader in the sense that there are these physical tendencies that overwhelm everything else; and they are narrower in the sense that they do not necessarily relate to my fragmented being.
Let's look at it this way; there is a lake. It has dozens of rivers that flow into it; and yet everything is, in the end, the water.
Now, I live on one river, then later on another one; I move around, but (weirdly) I don't necessarily see how they are all connected together by the same big lake. I certainly ought to; it's on the order of the patently obvious—but I don't.
Meantime, everyone on each river is polluting the lake. There's a lot of pollution taking place. This is what addiction is like. It pollutes the lake. It becomes a question of survival; but it doesn't answer the question of how all the communities around the lake need to see how they are connected.
If they see how the pollution affects all the communities, eventually, maybe all of them wake up together and see there is something going wrong. Then something real can happen; and all of a sudden, there is a new kind of awareness. This is why fighting addiction can become such a powerful help for inner work.