Unstuffing from Stuff

  1. Nothing to Cling To
  2. Clinging to People
  3. Unstuffing from Stuff
  4. The handy dandy 5 step plan to cure what ails you
  5. Real Relating
  6. No-Body Home
  7. Undoing Trauma’s Knots
  8. Non-Habitual Living and Being
  9. Healing the Mind — Body Split
  10. Ideological Foolishness
A New Series—On Clinging


stuffphoto by Editor B

My, we do like our piles, don’t we? This entire series is sort of about piles of stuff—all that changes is the content of the pile. I’ve listed “money, possessions, titles, jobs” for today’s discussion, but that’s not the end of it, by a long shot. Because unstuffing from stuff is hard.

Stuff could include eating too much of the wrong foods, drinking too much booze (or anything-coffee, tea, water…) or being stuffed to the gills with the stories you tell yourself.

If you take a step back from it, you begin to see that each pile is about how you identify yourself.

  • I am this / not that.
  • I have this / I never want that.
  • here are my collected fears / these are my collected passions.

photo by bls_number_1fan

Much of what I do is to get people, first, to acknowledge that their pain (called dukkha in Buddhism, normally translated ‘suffering,’ but actually meaning ‘unease’ or ‘unsatisfactoriness,’) comes from their death-grip (clinging to) on their piles. This is a monumental task, as, until you aren’t, you are a fish swimming in the water of your stuff—your beliefs, identifications, and possessions.

And no fish knows it’s in water until you yank ‘him’ out.

Being (in the main) good little consumers, we teethed by chewing and swallowing capitalism. The premise there is there is never enough.


I reframe this as “You can never get enough of the things that do not help.” I mention this because our entire culture is built upon the sand of happiness being directly related to more, more, more. We have an almost knee-jerk aversive reaction to the thought of giving this up.

And, of course, we pile up education, roles, descriptions, and diagnoses.

Many people come to me with the question, “What’s wrong with me? Or, “Why can’t I feel my body,” or “Where are all of the good [wo]men?” As if another diagnosis will change things for the better. I refuse to bite, because my opinion would only become one more item in a pile of stuff.

Here are 5 ways to begin to unpack your stuff.

1. Get to know your body—

Most folk are numb from the head down.
Example: I was working with a client last week. I asked her, prior to Bodywork, to tell me where here body was sore or tight. She listed off a few areas. I said, “What about your lower back, butt, and legs?”
She: “Hmm. They’re fine.”
In Bodywork, these areas contained lots of sore spots.
Yesterday, she e‑mailed that she’d had trouble sleeping the day after our work. Her legs were tight, she said.
I wrote: “Glad that you’re feeling your legs. Noticing is the beginning of shifting!”
She replied: “Hmm. Hadn’t thought if it that way. Thanks for the insight.”

It was an insight. She’d gone inside and actually noticed her holding patterns. And all holding patterns are about wanting more, or wanting less, of something. It’s a resistance to ‘what is.’

So, pay attention to your body! As you interact with stuff—people, situations, objects—keep track of what’s going on, physically, for you. Where are you tight, in pain, gripping? Breathe into those areas, and see if they loosen.

The key is to notice where you first grip or tighten as you confront a gripping/sticking point. If you commit to scanning this/these area[s] regularly, you’ll soon be aware of the games you play with yourself.

2. Monitor your judgments—

Piles are all about defending. We pile stuff up to give ourselves a sense of permanence in a world we know is impermanent. Everything, including you, is in flux.
All things arise, persist, fade, and cease.
I was thinking about this in terms of a cup of hot coffee. Heat arises through, of course, heating. Then it persists for a bit, all the while, though, fading, until the coffee returns to room temperature. It is thus with everything.

When it comes to our stuff—our stories, our beliefs, the contents of the places we live—we want some sense of permanence, or rightness, or correctness. We judge ourselves to be a certain way, and resist letting go of the judgement.

As you feel your mind going to judgment, have a breath, and ask yourself, “What am I holding onto here?” Am I always this? Am I always anything? If I let go of this [belief, judgement, thing] will I cease to be? Then, have a breath, and let it go.

3. Sit, watch your breath, observe your mind—

In other words, meditate. Notice how just sitting is a lot of effort. You’ll notice tight muscles, other people if there are other people there…) or imaginary friends and thoughts arising in your mind.

I seem to keep creating images of my first girlfriend. And imagining writing my blog. And creating client treatment plans. All in the space of a breath or two.

This is what mind does when sitting, as you attempt to simply observe your breath. ONe reason to meditate is to notice this mental process. Our minds, in a sense, never shut up—what with judgements, aversions, attractions and lusts, games and projects.

And all of this is just what happens.

As you notice, return to observing the breath, in and out. In and out. Notice the pause at the top and the bottom of the breath. Bring yourself back to your breath. Let go, for a moment, to clinging to your mind’s chatter.

4. Let go of your identifications—

Make a game of it. When asked a question, lead with “I don’t know.” When feeling trapped, ask, “What am I trapping myself in?” When thinking, “I can’t do that,” immediately do it, or do the first step of it, whatever it is. When you notice yourself comparing yourself to another, say, “I am in many ways identical to that person.” Say this seriously.

When attracted to a thing—“Boy, will driving this car, wearing this outfit, really make an impression!”—have a breath, and acknowledge the rightness of your words. People will either think you are special, a jerk, or won’t think about you at all (attraction, aversion, neutrality.) So, whatever you do, others “see it.” You just havbe no control over how they see it.

No matter what you do, people do what they do. You have no influence on others—they decide from within their own judgments.

So, ask yourself—am I clinging to this thing, or simply enjoying it and putting it down?

5. Clean out your junk—

A friend wrote a while back about cleaning out all of her stuff—old clothes, unused stuff, piles. She also cleaned out her dysfunctional relationships, (Hey! I haven’t heard from her in a while so I guess I’m a dysfunctional relationship! I always wanted to be one of those!) and things that she found draining.

Great idea. Start a pile reduction project. Fire people who are into clinging, piles, judging. Fire the part of you that is into this stuff, too. (In other words, stop letting this side of you run the show. Send it off to clean the toilets or something…)

If you haven’t used something in 6 months, throw it out, or donate it. Get into the habit of letting go.

Then, look at things you would find helpful, but are ignoring. Meditate. Sit. Breathe. Move. Get Bodywork. Dance. Engage and release your passion. Come into “present moment being.”

And in each case, allow what emerges to emerge,
to persist, to fade, and to cease, clinging to nothing.
Clinging to no thing.

Lastly, feel your self. Literally and figuratively.

Get in touch with your energy—the flow of chi within you. You can use the Bodywork section of our site for hints, or do yoga, tai chi, or Qi Gong. (We’re working on a dvd of this.)

Or, go see someone who can help you direct your attention ever inward, to the core of you, to the rising and falling of your energy, your breath, and your experience.

Notice how all of this flows like the tides of the ocean, coming and going. Be in this flow.

See how this sits with you.

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

2 thoughts on “Unstuffing from Stuff”

  1. Hi Wayne

    I guess your bodywork CD is a part of one of my piles. In the process of letting go of a lot of junk it seems to have become unnecessary, like lots of self-help books etc.

    Isn’t there something delightfully ironic about that? The more effective you are the less need there is for your service.

    Life is full of such beautiful irony and paradox.

    Kind regards, Peter

    • Hey Peter,
      Ain’t that the truth. Ultimately, all that’s necessary is a good breath and a slight smile…
      I continue to write for those who think the answer is in one of the piles… and if only they could remember which one!
      Unnecessarily yours, with gratitude and a smile,


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