Feeding the Demons Practice, Process & Theory

The Theory

British (and Judeo-Christian) history and mythology are filled with great stories of heroes slaying demons to restore peace and order in their worlds, so no wonder that at first it might seem counter-intuitive to 'feed' a demon.


Isn't a demon something scary, something malicious and ultimately evil?  (Indeed, as we move into the practice aspect, rather than using the word 'demon' I will instead use the sanskrit term 'Mara', in order that these preconceptions of the languaging do not become a barrier at the outset.)


A demon then is described not as some red-eyed ghoul lurking in a dark spot under our bed (although we may visualise them that way in the meditation sometimes!) but as a an unresolved aspect within ourselves.


 A judgment made on limited evidence. 


A response formed from a defensive reaction, or similar that now warps our vision and as such limits our best intention. 


The idea of giving these energies a form, that could then be worked and dialogued with, appeared somewhere roughly around the 11th century with the teacher Machig Labdron, her chosen name Chod (pronounced 'tchuh') means literally "to cut through." 


Rather than continue to battle, we cut through the ignorance of our situation and seek integration and peaceful resolve. 


These ideas have repeated and developed throughout history (Western & Eastern), for example in Jung's psychotherapeutic investigation of the shadow, or repressed self. Ultimately we see that the act of bringing awareness to an aspect releases the life energy that previously has been bound into it. 


This of course does not mean that there are not real and tangible external factors involved, there may well be, and perhaps, through the insight received from this meditation a resolve there may also be found, perhaps a new way of communicating with a hostile colleague, although it should be said that is not necessarily the aim of this practice (where necessary support here should be sought from the appropriate authority), this practice pertains only to the inner work.


To summarise for the purpose of this short course we will define a demon as "an inner enemy or imprint that undermines our best intentions, binds a portion of our total energetic resource, and prevents us from reaching inner freedom and peace."


Although in her book "Feeding your Demons' Tsultrim Allione differentiates between Demons, Gods and Hydras, here we will use only the collective term to refer to each. 


For completeness however,

Demons are bound by fear, repression & anger.

Gods are bound by hopes, obsessions & attachments. 

A God-Demon then alternates between states of fear and hope. 

A Hydra  refers to a demon with many heads, and specifically, wherein the 'removal' of one, reveals more underneath.  British (and Judeo-Christian) history and mythology are filled with great stories of heroes slaying demons to restore peace and order in their worlds, so no wonder that at first it might seem counter-intuitive to 'feed' a demon.


Isn't a demon something scary, something malicious and ultimately evil?  (Indeed, as we move into the practice aspect, rather than using the word 'demon' I will instead use the sanskrit term 'Mara', in order that these preconceptions of the languaging do not become a barrier at the outset.)


A demon then is described not as some red-eyed ghoul lurking in a dark spot under our bed (although we may visualise them that way in the meditation sometimes!) but as a an unresolved aspect within ourselves.


 A judgment made on limited evidence. 


A response formed from a defensive reaction, or similar that now warps our vision and as such limits our best intention. 


The idea of giving these energies a form, that could then be worked and dialogued with, appeared somewhere roughly around the 11th century with the teacher Machig Labdron, her chosen name Chod (pronounced 'tchuh') means literally "to cut through." 


Rather than continue to battle, we cut through the ignorance of our situation and seek integration and peaceful resolve. 


These ideas have repeated and developed throughout history (Western & Eastern), for example in Jung's psychotherapeutic investigation of the shadow, or repressed self. Ultimately we see that the act of bringing awareness to an aspect releases the life energy that previously has been bound into it. 


This of course does not mean that there are not real and tangible external factors involved, there may well be, and perhaps, through the insight received from this meditation a resolve there may also be found, perhaps a new way of communicating with a hostile colleague, although it should be said that is not necessarily the aim of this practice (where necessary support here should be sought from the appropriate authority), this practice pertains only to the inner work.


To summarise for the purpose of this short course we will define a demon as "an inner enemy or imprint that undermines our best intentions, binds a portion of our total energetic resource, and prevents us from reaching inner freedom and peace."


Although in her book "Feeding your Demons' Tsultrim Allione differentiates between Demons, Gods and Hydras, here we will use only the collective term to refer to each. 


For completeness however,

Demons are bound by fear, repression & anger.

Gods are bound by hopes, obsessions & attachments. 

A God-Demon then alternates between states of fear and hope. 

A Hydra  refers to a demon with many heads, and specifically, wherein the 'removal' of one, reveals more underneath.  


Different Demons

Often we consider that demon's would only be a "negative" expression/emotion, however, it is important here to be clear that within the schools in which this practice originated our modern conception of good vs bad, or perhaps better phrased as desirable vs undesirable was considered purely subjective, even perhaps illusory, and the purpose was not to remove the parts we didn't like and cultivate the parts we did, but to gradually align ourselves with our universal purpose through incrementally breaking through the patterns of thinking/being/believing that held us back from an ultimate truth.



Here then a 'demon' might be more accurately described as anything that warps our vision, or to mix philosophies, the samskaric and karmic roots described in yoga. 





Tsultrim Allione groups these different experiences into a hierarchal series;



1. Outer Demons.  

This might include demons created as a result of fear, or conversely out of love. The imprints of addictions, abuse and our family lives and upbringings. Demons that are created as a result of our interactions. 

(Note, here we are not aiming to attribute blame, or postulate retribution, rather work only the transform the hold that energy has over us from debilitating into something ultimately nourishing) 



2. Inner Demons.

This second category then, is created not by our interaction with others (although they of course may contribute) but interactions within ourselves. Demons we might experience here could be created from anger, our own feelings of inadequacy or perfectionism, depressions, states of anxiety, of shame and regret, and fears/beliefs about our own inauthenticity, or superficiality. 



3. Demons of Elation.

This category becomes more tricky at first to identify, as many of the components of this category are often praised in a competitive and capitalistic modern society where achievement and accumulation are seen as signs of progress and success rather than bondage in a different form. 



Demons of elation can be split broadly into two categories;

Worldy; wherein the person is bound by pride around their successes in this lifetime, such as accumulation of wealth, business success etc. 



Spiritual; wherein the person is bound by the status or auspicious signs that arise along their spiritual path. This might be the inflated ego of an abusive guru, or it might be the sensation seeking spiritualist who claims epiphany in drug induced states and brags of their vision.





You might have noticed already, that the power of all demons relies on one element in particular, which takes us to the final, and ultimate demon to be transformed; the Demon of Egocentricity. To quote Tsultrim Allione, 

"Through clinging to our ego, the mind becomes afflicted by all kinds of emotional ups and downs, thoughts are fixed upon, and karma is created via the actions that result. The real root problem is clinging to notions of self versus other, not realising how much of what we consider to be external reality we ourselves project."



The Set Up:

You will need: 

  • 1 candle

  • 2 cushions (or chairs)



Arrange the cushions facing each other, with the candle placed directly in the centre. As the meditation moves to the embodiment stage you will literally move from one cushion to the other so ensure there is adequate room to do so, and that the candle is placed on an appropriate surface, suitably far from any potentially flammable materials. 



Cleansing Space

If cleansing space is part of your practice, prior to commencing and at the conclusion of this meditation is the perfect opportunity to do so. 



For those unfamiliar with the notion please see the following resource on the YogaTherapies website; 

blog 1.


Creating an Anchor
Creating an anchor can also be referred to as creating a safe space.



This first of the guided audio tracks will encourage you to create an anchor, either in the preparatory breathing practice, or by cultivating your 'inner resource' (a term taken from IRest Yoga Nidra) in order to create such a place that you can return to at any point in the process that you feel the meditation is becoming too intense, or simply to fully ground yourself at the end of the practice. 



Please familiarise yourself with these practices first before proceeding with the fuller practice.

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Self Practice Instructions

Feeling ready to progress?

As you become familiar with the practice, the capacity to take it into your personal sadhana (and your own time frame) becomes essential for exploring the depth that cannot be held in the template instructions of a guided meditation.





FEEDING DEMONS PRACTICE.



1) Set Scene

Allow approx 30 minutes. Encourage practitioners to bring a candle to sit between them. Opposite seats. 

 

9 abdominal breaths. 

3 - release physical tensions, 3 emotional and 3 mental. 



create a heartfelt desire (sankalpa)/ generate intention. 





2) Find the Demon/God.



What is draining me? /dragging me down or eating me/disturbed me recently.

Locate the demon in the body.

Observe - colour, temp & texture.



3) Personify the Demon.



3qs. 

What do you want from me?

What do you need from me?

How will you feel if you get what you want?



4) Become the Demon

answer. 



5) Feed the demon (and meet the Ally).

melt body into a matter consisting of what the demon needs.

imagine your consciousness leave the body.



Animal may take many forms. - animal/totem. Human, god as friend.

Sometimes there is no ally, only an absence. 





OPTIONAL 6) Ask further questions?

How will you help me?

How will you protect me?

What pledge or commitment do you make to me?



---- HOW CAN I GAIN ACCESS TO YOU WHEN I NEED TO.



--- absorb ally and dissolve into emptiness.

 

7) Rest in Awareness.

Transcendence of the self & its fixation.

Slipping into "The Gap".





"We become afraid of the space that may open after our demon dissolves." 


Considerations for Self Practice

Timing can often be a distraction when first beginning a self-directed meditation practice.

We recommend that you set a timer or alarm for the maximum time you have with the meditation process, minus 5 or 10 minutes (just in case there's some wrapping up to do when the alarm goes off!) to allow the mind to settle fully into the process.



Anything else then that would be a distraction is worth removing from the space you are practicing in where possible to facilitate your process (see 'set up' for more).


Further Reading

Feeding Your Demons, Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict. Tsultrim Allione. 2009.

(Available on amazon; https://www.amazon.co.uk/Feeding-Your-Demons-Resolving-Conflict/dp/1848501730)


There are also a wealth of resources on Tsultrim Allione's webpage www.taramandala.org



The preparatory breathing exercise was adapted from teaching by Reginald A. Ray, who was also a student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in the Tibetan Tantra lineage. 

We will be releasing a detailed course exploring some of these meditations further in the future, however we highly recommend reading broadly from both of these teachers vast catalogues of work.

CM3Chris JacksonComment