What Is Clarity?
When people ask Habib what it means to have clarity, he asks them to imagine themselves making a cup of tea. What do you need to make tea? The answers he usually gets are hot water and, of course, tea leaves.
These two things are certainly necessary for making tea, but they aren’t the only requirements. They aren’t even the most important. When making tea, the first thing you need, before anything else, is a cup. You need a container in which to place the tea leaves and pour the water.
Clarity is that cup. The experiences we have and the things we do are the tea leaves and water that go into the cup. Together they can make a wonderfully tasty and nourishing tea, but it doesn’t work unless you have a cup. Imagine what would happen if you tried to make tea without a cup. When you poured water over your tea leaves, there would be nothing to contain them, so you wouldn’t get a nice cup of tea at all. All you would get would be a mess.
The Process of Creating Clarity
Clarity is a process, meaning it isn’t something you snap your fingers to bring about. Along the way, be curious! This process is meant to stir you up and poke you in order to reveal your weak points so they can be brought into the light. Acknowledge whatever surfaces, even if you don’t yet know what it means or what to do with it. Resist the urge to turn away from discomfort or pain and instead be inquisitive. The more you’re willing to ask questions and explore, the more clarity you’ll find.
Let’s get started.
Step #1 Take Responsibility for Your Emotional Waste
As the saying goes, shit happens. There’s no escaping it. Most of the time we interpret this phrase as referring to the big problems that arise in our lives, but small negative situations bombard us every day too and are in fact more dangerous and toxic to us because they occur so frequently. These little assaults on clarity need to be neutralized on a daily basis lest they build up and become yet one more big problem that we imagine “just happened.”
Any real estate agent will tell you that a house with a faulty septic system is virtually unsellable. Left abandoned and at the mercy of the elements, it will simply break down into a pile of rubble. Without the ability to fully process and eliminate dangerous emotions, the same happens to us. When we neglect our emotions by avoiding or burying them, we begin to break down mentally and physically. The best guarantee we can provide ourselves for robust health and emotional wellbeing is to build our own internal emotional waste management system and continually care for it so it stays in good working order. This is how we start bringing clarity into our lives.
Step #2 Cleanse the Body
To cleanse your body, you will spend five days on an eating plan that Habib calls the Intentional Unsaturation Diet, or IU Diet. The IU Diet is designed to remove the physical residue of repressed negative emotions by cleansing and reducing congestion in the organs that are most affected by feelings like resentment and anger. These include the liver, gallbladder, lungs, kidneys, and pancreas.
The IU Diet is what’s known as a monodiet. Monodiets involve consuming a large amount of a single or limited number of foods in order to provide the body with a therapeutically significant amount of whole nutrients. The foods that will be ingested in high quantities during this diet are sardines, brown rice, and apples. These foods have been chosen because of their following properties:
Sardines: Most people don’t realize that these little fish offer the most complete nutrition per ounce of any food available. They also contain a high dose of B12, a vitamin that supports neural plasticity or the capacity of the nervous system to regenerate and reorganize in response to learning new information, having new experiences, or following an injury. Because we’re working on rewiring the brain to view and do things in new ways, neural plasticity is important. It can help us embrace the Clarity Mindset.
Brown rice: Like sardines, this common grain offers a high dose of B12, as well as other B vitamins and minerals the body needs. Just as important, brown rice is the easiest to digest of all the whole grains and has the lowest glycemic index (so you don’t get that “peaked blood sugar” effect). Because our intention is to clear out the body, easy-to-process foods are an important component, which is why Habib recommends eating at least a cup or two of brown rice each day of the cleanse.
Apples: All red fruits—like apples, cherries, and strawberries—have a sugar content made up almost entirely of fructose as opposed to glucose. This is important because fructose doesn’t need insulin to enter cells, whereas glucose does. As a result red apples are easier on the pancreas and easier to digest overall.
Step #3 Cleanse the Mind
Things come up in our lives all the time. We lose a job. Our friend rejects us or our partner leaves us. Or, more simply, we get stuck in traffic, have an argument with our son or daughter, are overwhelmed at work, or feel stressed when we look at our jam-packed calendar. Any number of situations can call up negative emotions on a daily basis. Purge Emotional Writing, or PEW 12 as Habib often refer to it (the 12 stands for the twelve-minute time period you will give yourself to write), is an easy way to start processing your emotional waste. It’s also an effective ritual to return to anytime your psycho-spiritual terrain is becoming clogged.
EXERCISE: Purge Emotional Writing (PEW 12)
This exercise works best if you just keep writing and don’t stop to think about what you’ll write next or self-edit. Forget about punctuation or making your handwriting pretty, even legible. In fact you may get to the point where your emotions are flowing so fast and furiously that you can’t even write real words. That’s great. Just keep the pen in contact with the paper and let the thoughts roll out of you. This isn’t a time to be polite or fair. This is your side of the story. Also, at the end of the exercise you’ll be destroying the pages you’ve written, so as you write there’s no reason to worry about anyone else reading them.
- Before you begin, get a notebook and pen and find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Sit down and set a timer for twelve minutes.
- Open your notebook and simply start writing about whatever is disturbing your peace. It could be your health, job, finances, personal relationships, or anything else. Don’t think about it too much—just start.
- At the end of twelve minutes, stop writing. Immediately take the pages to a secure, nonflammable area like a concrete patio, your driveway, fireplace, or barbecue and set them on fire. Don’t just tear them up. Fire is transformative and cleansing. Your goal is to neutralize the negative energy, and fire does that by changing the chemical composition of the paper to ash.
Things to Remember
- As you finish each writing session, don’t read over what you’ve written! To do this is to reinfect yourself with the negative energy.
- Don’t do this on a computer or other electronic device. You want a physical energetic connection between you and the materials you’re using—the pen and the paper—so that you can expel as much of the emotional charge as possible. That’s why this exercise must be done in your own handwriting.
- You may use lots of powerful, negatively charged words during this process to discharge pain, but remember to never direct them toward yourself. Be kind to yourself and know that you have every right to feel what you feel.
Do this every day for five days before moving on to the next step. Even after five days, it’s a great thing to work into your morning ritual as a way of regularly purging negative energy and maintaining clarity. Think of it as practicing good psycho-spiritual hygiene in the same way you practice good physical hygiene by bathing, grooming, and brushing your teeth.
Step #4 Recognize the Mechanisms of Repression
Patterns of emotional suppression are instinctual and become habitual for many people. If a pattern is ingrained, we can disrupt it in order to bring about greater emotional clarity by becoming more aware of the ways in which we repress our emotions and thus kick-start the pattern. As the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi once wrote, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
This step is about focusing so that we are able to identify the barriers we erect against becoming clear. When we repress our emotions, they have nowhere to go but inside. This is how we internalize our misunderstandings, misinterpretations, misidentifications, and misperceptions. They then unconsciously direct our behavior and get in our way. They can even alter our sense of reality, convincing us that a trauma we experienced happened in a different way or didn’t happen at all. Since to maintain them requires a great deal of effort, they also siphon off a lot of energy. This energy drain leads to anything but clarity. But if we can spot an act of repression, we can do something about it. We can even learn to disrupt old patterns that don’t serve us before they can start again.
For now your task is to simply notice which of the mechanisms you may be using in your life or may have used in the past, so that you begin creating an awareness of your patterns and habits. Bringing awareness to your relationship with your emotions may sound like a small step, but it’s actually huge. Once you can spot a pattern, you can work to change it. Knowing that you are judgmental in certain situations gives you the opportunity to change your approach.
Step #5 Follow the Signs
Searching for clues and asking the kind of questions that will bring buried emotions to the surface isn’t always easy. You may find that when you try the exercise of asking open-ended questions, you don’t get very far. That’s all right. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed or that the process isn’t going to work for you. Remember, it’s important to go slowly and be kind to yourself along the way.
You should always keep asking questions. If it doesn’t work today, try again tomorrow. If you’re persistent, one day the answers will find their way to the surface. The more you do this, the easier it will get to access your feelings and process them. If this isn’t reason enough to keep at it, know that the source of your pain or discomfort won’t go away until it has been dealt with properly, which is why Habib encourages you to try and try again.
The ultimate goal here is to get to a place in your life where you don’t have to wait for a major illness or crisis to get your attention. There’s a state of consciousness in which you can process and clear your emotions while they’re happening, and that’s what you’re aiming for. You don’t have to wait for more pronounced signals. Each time you take the opportunity to follow a signal to its source and process what you find with care, you clear more space inside you. What’s more, the process of creating clarity becomes more familiar, less scary and daunting, and easier to work through the next time you need it.
Step #6 What to Do with Doubt and Fear
Doubt in and of itself isn’t bad. In fact there is a form of healthy self-doubt that’s essential for clarity. To understand the difference between unhealthy and healthy doubt, imagine you’re a warrior going into battle. If you’re absolutely certain your enemy is going to advance in a particular manner and from a particular direction, you leave yourself open to a sneak attack. The warrior who uses his uncertainty to be ready for anything can adapt to changing and unforeseen circumstances, which means he lives to see another day.
Healthy self-doubt comes from accepting a situation as it is without needing to fill in all the blanks or know all the answers right off the bat. It’s allowing for uncertainty and accepting you don’t know everything. It’s being okay with the unknown, which allows you to move forward rather than being stuck in indecisiveness or held back by your fears.
Doubt will never be completely absent from our lives. Think of it in terms of a spectrum. On the left you hold a lot of unhealthy self-doubt, whereas on the right you enjoy a state of being in which you embody healthy self-doubt. The latter is like being in the eye of a hurricane, where it’s completely still. It’s in the still place within you, where healthy doubt resides, that you are able to make conscious decisions to improve your circumstances.
Of course, this is a lifelong process and no one can truly stay in this state permanently, so the goal is to continually move in this direction. The more you can let go of unhealthy self-doubt and live comfortably with a sense of healthy self-doubt, the greater the clarity you will have.
Step #7 Embrace Suffering
Like a diagnostician’s hands or an acupuncturist’s needle, we’re searching for the blockages of energy inside ourselves. It’s not an easy or comfortable process, but it’s necessary for finding out where our internal fractures lie. The primary thing to keep in mind is that the pain won’t kill you. The secondary point is that each of these moments is an opportunity to practice being okay with pain and suffering so that we can move forward and grow from the experience.
All too often we miss these opportunities. We’re too busy avoiding or repressing the negative feelings that arise from unwanted experiences to take the time to explore the lessons they have to teach us. Our basic instinct tells us to either ignore or run from suffering for the simple reason it feels bad. But keep in mind that when we choose not to ignore or run from it, we give ourselves the chance to fully feel our feelings so that the negative energy doesn’t build up inside us.
Suffering allows us to keep the momentum of our lives moving. As we work through the catabolic or breaking-down phases of our lives that suffering inspires, we can use what we learn from our difficult circumstances to build our lives back up so that they are better, and we are better, than before our problems occurred. This is how our lives evolve, how we evolve as people.
Step #8 Give Meaning to Suffering
Not all judgments limit or hold us back. In fact we need to be able to make conscious judgments in order to move our lives forward. For example, if we own a business, we may need to hire people to help us. To do this we might post an ad and receive a variety of résumés in response. We have to be able to look at these résumés and judge who would be best suited for the position based on his or her experience and character. The trick is to base this judgment on the information we have in front of us rather than on some preconceived idea about how a certain type of person might perform. After all, another name for preconceived judgments could be bias or prejudice.
When we allow ourselves to make conscious judgments rather than reacting to our preconceived ones, we give ourselves the gift of choice. The answer to what we will do in any given situation isn’t predetermined by a past experience. We get to choose whether to look more closely at that garden snake or let it be. We get to choose who we wish to work with on a daily basis.
People often throw around the word judgment as if it’s a bad thing. We call someone “judgmental” when we want to accuse him or her of treating us wrongly or unfairly. However, as we make our way toward greater clarity, we will be best served if we remember that judgment isn’t inherently right or wrong, good or bad. There are judgments that limit us and there are judgments that help us move our lives forward. Our job is to try to catch ourselves when we gravitate toward the first kind and instead move toward making more conscious judgments whenever possible.
Step #9 Forgive
The biggest mistake most make is to assume that forgiveness is for the benefit of the other. In fact forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person and everything to do with the one doing the forgiving. Forgiveness doesn’t let the other off the hook, doesn’t grant absolution to the perpetrator. It grants freedom to ourselves so we can flourish.
When we jump to forgiveness, or when we are begrudging about it, it’s because we’re uncomfortable with the negative feelings we have to hold in order to make forgiveness possible. So we resort to those old mechanisms of repression. We emotionally posture, pretending something isn’t as difficult as it seems, and forgive quickly but not fully. Or we emotionally armor or shut down, which stops forgiveness in its tracks. We need to take the time to find the middle ground between rushing to forgiveness and rushing past it
Step #10 Restore Your Life Force
We don’t live in a physical body disconnected from what we think and feel. We exist in a mind + body system where both parts work synergistically. Therefore the best approach as we work toward restoring ourselves is to treat both mind and body together
To give an example of how intimately the mind and body are connected, we need only to think of what it feels like when we’re frightened by something and our fight-or-flight response kicks in. When this happens, we feel our heart rate rise, our breath quicken, our bodies start to perspire, and perhaps experience a heightening of our senses so that we become hyperaware of our surroundings. Inside our bodies, the stress hormone cortisol rises rapidly, while much of the blood that feeds our organs is diverted to our arms and legs, preparing us to run to safety or fight for our lives. Resources are diverted from bodily functions that aren’t absolutely necessary in an emergency, such as our digestion and immune function. When running for your life, digesting your breakfast can wait. In moments of fear, these biological changes happen instantaneously, and they’re all triggered by our thoughts and the feelings these thoughts generate
Keep in mind that there are countless ways to restore. Some people meditate or practice yoga. Others listen to music, and in fact numerous studies link music and health.
Step #11 Mind + Body, The Complete Clarity Cleanse
Purge Emotional Dialogue (PEW 12-D): This exercise is similar to Purge Emotional Writing except that the D stands for dialogue. Instead of writing about your emotions, you’re going to speak them aloud in a directed way.
- Begin by finding a chair (or chairs) and imagining the person (or people) associated with your pain sitting in it. Some find it easier to address a photograph of the person while others simply use their imagination.
- Set a timer for 12 minutes. Then begin telling the person you are picturing how deeply hurt you feel and how you have suffered as a consequence of their behavior. Completely unload your pent-up emotions as if the person were sitting right there in front of you.
- Let your rising energy guide you and move you around the room. The more you engage your body, the more negative energy you will expel, so don’t be afraid to raise your voice, wave your arms, hit a pillow, or perform any other gestures that come naturally to you.
- Continue in this way until the timer goes off. At the end of the allotted time, it’s important to reset your emotional frequency and replenish your positive energy. Do this by listening to some beautiful music, going for a walk in nature, or doing something else that brings you peace. (See step ten if you want more ideas on how to restore.)
Things to Remember
- You may use lots of powerful, negatively charged words during this process to dispel pain, but remember to never direct them toward yourself. Self-judgment isn’t an act of self-love and will only cause you to internalize more of the negative energy this exercise aims to release.
- Although forgiveness is an important part of the clarity process, it’s a separate step. (You can return to the exercises in step nine following this cleanse if issues come up that call for forgiveness.) This exercise is about purging negative emotions, so don’t censor yourself. Remember that you have every right to feel whatever you are feeling. To rid yourself of those feelings is an act of love and self-care. Be kind to yourself by allowing yourself to be in your own truth in every moment of this process.
Step #12 Clarity for Life
The following is a list of things you can do to make creating clarity a habit you engage in for the rest of your life.
- Make the ten-day Intentional Unsaturation Diet an annual event: Habib recommend doing it at the beginning of a transitional season, either spring or fall. Transitions are the times in our lives when we are most likely to become clogged and could do with a bit of spring-cleaning, so to speak. Most illnesses, including cancers, come about in the spring or fall for this reason. They are also likely to arise at times of transition in our lives: after a divorce, when a loved one has died, and so on. Cleansing can help us through times of transition.
- Return to the PEW 12 exercises on a regular basis, particularly when you’re going through a trying time in your life: PEW 12 is a quick and easy enough exercise that you could even make it part of your morning ritual, as a means of practicing good emotional hygiene on a regular basis. Each morning you might get up, brush your teeth, and sit down for twelve minutes to write in your notebook before starting your day. If every day seems like too much, aim to do it three to five days a week.
- Distance yourself from people who tell you that you can’t have the things in your life you believe clarity will bring: By this Habib means people who urge you to be “realistic” about your odds of recovering from illness, getting that coveted job, having a relationship that’s truly fulfilling, or achieving whatever it is you truly desire.
- Search out opportunities to make clarity an active rather than a passive process: We can take our psycho-spiritual hygiene into our own hands by looking for creative ways to address negative past experiences and bring deeper clarity to them. As we do, Habib suggests starting with what will have the greatest impact on your life—the macro-to-microcosm approach Habib talked about earlier. Of course, as we call up difficult memories from our past, we always need to have compassion for ourselves and remember that we did the best we could based on what we knew at the time.