Clearing the Gunk Out of Your Head

  1. Body Cleanse
  2. The Mind’s Cobwebs
  3. The Bliss of an Empty Mind
  4. Clearing the Gunk Out of Your Head
  5. Exercises in Mind Emptying
  6. Clearing Relationship Gunk
  7. Putting Your Soul into your Being
  8. Dropping the Excuses
  9. Seeing the Light
  10. You Can’t Win

How to Clean your Mind — Clearing the Gunk Out of Your Head

stuffed stuff

© Playboy Magazine

Let’s have a look at two theories that are similar regarding what’s going on in our heads. The illustration, above, was taken from a longer series in “Playboy” some decades ago, and I love it, as it’s so apt. I see this as our ‘families and tribes’ doing a simultaneous addition and subtraction. What’s being added are cultural norms which fall into the ‘good / bad’ class, as well as expectations and traditions.

What’s subtracted is anything the tribe does not value, or considers life-threateningly bad. Now, remember, the stuff can’t actually be removed. It just goes underground, ever to reside, and pop up from, our subconscious.

I mentioned, last article, the dual concepts of the authentic and the actual self.


This idea was developed in the west by Carl Jung, who was fascinated with the contents of the subconscious. He also coined the term ‘collective unconscious’ to describe tribal knowledge, ancient taboos (i.e. against incest), food prohibitions, etc.

Size Really Matters

Boy, do you ever have a huge ;-)authentic self.

Yup. Huge. There is a ton of material stuffed down there. Some of it is close to conscious, other parts are blocked and repressed and need a therapist or Zen teacher to help you extract it.

Extract it You Must (sounds like Yoda, eh?)

Most people sense a lack in their lives — as if something important is missing. Mostly, it seems to be about power and anger and force and it seems a bit (or a lot) black. It seems that way (see first illustration, above) because, since you were a kid, people have been stuffing you with fears, prejudices, and airy-fairy ideas that being a good little boy or girl is the only acceptable state.

Why I Hate New Age Claptrap

I use those words a lot. Monotheistic religions (judaism, christianity, islam) used to have a lock on this nonsense. The belief is that ‘god is good, and so am I!!’

Now, this is crap for several reasons, not the least of which is that we are created to be what we are — an amalgam of all aspects of self. Fighting our true nature is silly.

Other reasons:

  1. The world is identical to a yin/yang symbol: There is no black without white, light without dark, good without bad, love without fear. We know everything in comparison to its opposite.
  2. The New Age and religions try to blame ‘bad’ on either a misunderstanding, or ‘them.’ Look at the state of the world, and your role in it. Think about a war you are party to. I can guarantee several things: you think your side is right. You are angry. You blame whomever you are fighting for ‘making you angry.’ (In other words, “I’d never be killing all these people if it wasn’t for them. They are making me kill them.”) Remember, your ‘enemy’ thinks exactly the same of you. It’s what we said earlier in this series: it’s all about perspective.
  3. If I can make others ‘wrong and bad,’ I can pretend to be ‘right and good,’ and any wrong/bad I do is someone else’s fault. This, I repeat, is crap.

You are both good and bad — me too!

The eastern approach is to simply accept that I am ‘all of it.’ When I want to kill someone, that’s me, wanting. If I sit in a mall and want to have sex with every attractive woman I see, that’s me, being horny. If I’m bored to tears, that’s me, boring myself.

Mindful Observation

I could keep making this case forever, but rather than that, let’s get to how to look at this material. Looking requires learning to peer into your shadow side, and you do this by watching what emerges in your mind.

Exercise: a day of judgements

As I mentioned above, I like to send clients to sit at beaches or malls, and to ‘just look.’ I want you to go and do this. Look at people of your preferred gender, and notice who attracts you, who repels you. If you see a particularly attractive person, follow your mental fantasy, in your imagination, and see where it leads.


Then, look at body types. Watch fat people and skinny people, people of different races. See what story emerges in your mind, as you criticize and judge each stranger according to your inner (mostly subconscious) prejudices.


In other words, consciously watch your mind tell you stories about people you do not know. Remind yourself — these are my stories, and have absolutely nothing to do with these people.

This is what happens all the time. The only difference is that you are paying attention, as opposed to having these stories in the background, and simply acting as if you are attracted, repelled, or indifferent. Paying attention helps you to see that you are creating these feelings, and none of this has anything to do with the person (or object) you are observing.


In Mindfulness teachings, this acronym is used to describe the process of learning to observe and own your subconscious. It stands for Recognition, Acceptance, Investigation, and Non-Identification.

Notice your reluctance to accept the idea that your authentic self holds all kinds of ‘juicy’ stuff — lust, hate, boredom, rage, sadness, fear, plus all of the skills you are afraid to try.

The first step is to notice what you are feeling and thinking, and how your judgements cloud what you observe. At the same time, notice that the part of you that is observing is neutral, and is not feeling what you are feeling. it’s simply observing. Notice how you identify with your roles and upbringing, and how these are just ideas — they are not you.

For example: a client says, “I want a good relationship.” I reply: “Great, bring your relationship in next week and I’ll tell it to be good.” The point? There is no relationship separate from my client(s). My client needs to behave differently and be what she wants.

This is recognition: I am the only actor in the play of my life. I make the rules, I judge the events, and I choose (or refuse) to act.

Acceptance –
This is such an important point. I must accept that ‘the way it is, is the way it is.” Life is precisely as it appears to me, and playing the “It’s not fair!” card changes nothing. I am precisely the illustration above, (the conscious / unconscious pyramid.) I am all of me. All my thoughts, desires, hopes, stupidities. When I get this, I can own it.

Acceptance is scary. We’ve been trained from birth to deny, deny, deny. When a ‘bad’ thought arises, we want to push it away. In truth, “I’m having a bad thought” and “I am a bad person” are not the same.

We all have amazing dramas going on inside of us. There’s nothing we can do about this! Meditation, therapy, Zen — nothing takes this stuff away. What I am suggesting to you here is that you accept the reality of you — all of you, and that you learn the Zen truth of it.

This is Acceptance: Nothing means anything (everything is empty of meaning) so just let it be, own it, and let it go.

Investigation –
Once we accept that what is happening is totally about “me,” I can then dig further to see what is going on. None of this is denial. Terrible situations happen all the time.
The question is not, again, “Why is this happening to me?” The question is, “Given this situation what do I do?”

This is only possible after the first two steps. If you are still busily denying your situation, reaction, emotions, etc. or are blaming them on others, you are well and truly screwed. The goal, then,
is to accept and investigate. This is me, my life, and I have choice. Given that, where am I stuck?

This is Investigation: I look at all of it. The stories I am telling myself (mind), my feelings, where I am tight in my body, and what I know that will give me direction. Again, none of this is possible if I am busily trying to escape responsibility for my life.

Non-Identification –
Here come the Zen! Here come the Zen! I mentioned this briefly above, but non-attachment is the key to both active an passive meditation, and is crucial for living a real life. I must remember that I am the observer. I am having experiences, but am not my experience.

This is tricky. I will say “I am angering myself right now.” This is a pure, Zen statement. It’s like “I choose to wear a black shirt.” I am not a black shirt. it is what I ‘put on.’ I ‘put on’ feelings, tightness, prejudice. I am not these things. I am (in my case) he who puts these things on.

Once you get this, freedom comes.

This is Non-Identification: You watch your thought, feelings and states come and go, attaching to none of it. You can feel and express anger without judging yourself an angry person. You can be present with any situation, and then let it go.

Next article will give you examples and techniques. But here is a secret for you: fulfillment comes from simultaneously embracing all that you are, while exploding your attachment to who you pretend do be. It begins with breath, and it starts here:


About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

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