Praise for the Book
“In Feeding the Demons® Tsultrim Allione has performed a remarkable feat of cultural translation and offered the western world a new treasure. She has taken a great and relatively unknown ancient lineage of practice and rendered it into accessible modern form without compromising its essence or losing its power. In this she brings to bear the depth of her forty years of vajrayana training, her skills as an accomplished lama and a visionary, her sophisticated understanding of the western psyche and her fearless consciousness, steeped in the two worlds of classical Tibet and modern life. “
—Jack Kornfield author of Path with a Heart
“Feeding Your Demons® offers an original and powerful approach to challenging the forces at work in the shadows of our psyche. Tsultrim Allione has done a masterful job of translating ancient—and fascinating—methods to heal modern emotional troubles.”
—Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
“Feeding Your Demons® is a bold, beautiful, and original work, a book that Carl Jung could only have dreamed of writing. Tsultrim Allione shares the accumulated fruits of her own deep understanding in a completely accessible way, taking the most profound insights and rendering them simply and straightforwardly without compromising them. This is an extraordinary accomplishment, a gift to all who read it.”
—Mark Epstein, M.D., author of Thoughts without a Thinker and Psychotherapy without the Self
“Tsultrim Allione shows us what life could look like if we were not struggling, not hating ourselves for our problems and frailties, but rather were relating to these challenges with awareness and compassion. She illuminates a clear and practical guide to transformation.”
—Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness
“In Feeding Your Demons® Tsultrim Allione offers us a powerful and transformative practice…one that can heal the deepest wounds and reveal profound spiritual truths. What is so striking is how, through her own tremendous clarity and heart, Allione brings this practice alive and renders it truly accessible. This book will serve all those who want to untangle the tangles with wisdom and love.”
—Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance
At first glance, some people may misunderstand what is meant by feeding rather than fighting your demons, as one woman said to me recently, “I am aware that I am constantly feeding my demons by indulging in negativity, I don’t need a book about it.” But feeding your demons as taught by Tsultrim Allione is not a method that increases your patterns of suffering, it is a direct way to free ourselves from psychological paralysis by making conscious that which festers in the unexamined regions of our hearts and minds. I feel immensely grateful to Tsultrim for her exalted clarity and deep care in translating and offering this yogic practice of liberation in such an accessible yet profound form. We are all so fortunate to have such a genuine yogini among us.”
—Sarah Powers, International Yoga Teacher and author of Insight Yoga
Feeding Your Demons was recently elected one of The Best Spiritual Books of 2008 on SpiritualityandPractice.com. Here is the accompanying review:
“Tsultrim Allione was one of the first American women to be ordained in the Tibetan tradition. After studying and practicing for several years in the Himalayas, she returned to the U.S., left the monastic order, married, and raised a family. She also wrote Women of Wisdom. In 1993, she founded Tara mandala, a retreat center in Colorado.
In this substantive work, Allione focuses on a spiritual practice developed by an eleventh-century female Buddhist teacher named Machig Labdron. This five-step ancient meditation practice is called Chod which means “to cut through” and it doesn’t require any knowledge of Buddhism or of any Tibetan principles. Allione has been teaching it for the past 25 years at her retreat center. She calls it the art of feeding our demons to make friends with that which we would most like to avoid: this “strategy of nurturing rather than battling our inner and outer enemies offers a revolutionary path to resolve conflict that leads to psychological integration and inner peace.”
We in the West are used to another mythology — the dragon-slaying hero. It is predominant in our literature, movies, and everyday life. In the battle between good and evil, we identify with the hero and project all evil onto our opponents in an effort to justify their elimination from the earth. This leads to an escalation of violence and cancels out any possibility of knowing our own demons or seeing them as spiritual teachers. The idea of engaging and communicating with the evil-doer rather than destroying it is viewed as heresy.
The demons in this spiritual practice are not ghosts, goblins, or minions of the Devil. They are, according to the author, our present preoccupations, the issues in our lives blocking our experience of freedom. Fears, obsessions, and addictions become demonic by “being split off, disowned, and fought against.” Here is the five-step process of feeding your demons:
1. Find the Demon
2. Personify the Demon and Ask What It Needs
3. Become the Demon
4. Feed the Demon and Meet the Ally
5. Rest in Awareness
Allione suggests keeping a demon journal, feeding your demons with a partner, using the five steps with other meditation practices, and working with your demons through art and maps. The process of Chod can be effective against the four kinds of demons originally described by Machig Labdron:
1. Outer Demons (illnesses, relationships, family demons)
2. Inner Demons (anger, anxiety, shame or depression)
3. Demons of Elation (the obstacles we face when we seek success, whether worldly or spiritual)
4. Demons of egocentricity (all challenges stemming from self-importance and ego inflation)
After covering a wide variety of demons, Allione concludes:
“Normally we empower our demons by believing they are real and strong in themselves and have the power to destroy us. As we fight against them, they get stronger. But when we acknowledge them by discovering what they really need, and nurture them, our demons release their hold, and we find that they actually do not have power over us. By nurturing the shadow elements of our being with infinite generosity, we can access the state of luminous awareness and undermine ego. By feeding the demons, we resolve conflict and duality, finding our way to unity.”
The author is correct in her assumption that we need a new paradigm that encourages us to stop battling with ourselves and making war on others. In a chapter on “Demons in the Wider World,” Allione notes that if we continue to think of other groups, countries, or races as evil, we will only succeed in escalating the violence and hatred in the world. The best place to begin is by resolving inner conflict. This is a wise and helpful resource in the quest for inner and global peace.
– Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
(Authors of Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life and Directors of www.SpiritualityandPractice.com)
I have used this book to deal with prostate cancer. It has been the most effective treatment in dealing with the emotional dis-regulation that comes from having something physically wrong within you, and from having no easy path to deal with it . There are many demons surrounding illness, but the unknown remains the most troublesome for me. This technique of feeding the demons has gotten me through some long nights. As a psychotherapist I find I can drop right into the visualizations without much effort. As a former Zen monk, I can realize the message behind Tsultrim’s teaching. I find it easier to move my ego out of the way, but still have enough executive functioning to attend to my cancer treatment. I like the fact that healing comes from within and is processed in a receptive feminine way. Western medicine goes looking for a cure, grabs it, and takes a masculine stance. I find both approaches to be compatible. I attended a one day workshop with the author in NYC, and wish her Dharma Center were closer. I would love to study with her. I have met many of the well known teachers of meditation in the US, and the author appears to me to be the real thing. I have watched her grow with her practice. During a recent trip to Tibet, she sent descriptive emails back to her students. Her insight and transparency were evident in those letters. I don’t think anyone needs a Buddhist background to access her techniques. All that is required is a willingness to try.
-Terry L. Parke
Testimonials for the FYD Process
Demon work has fascinated me ever since I was introduced to it first. It has continued to support my personal development and my spiritual practice. Furthermore it is of immense value in my therapeutic work. It facilitates development and healing and opens up doors to the peace of nonduality for people, who have not been familiar with Buddhism before. I remember one demon work with a client that has particularly impressed me. My client had suffered from a spider phobia for several years. Physically he was very tall and slim and experienced his body as disgusting as the spiders he was afraid of. He refused inhabiting his body and hence felt very unlively. His demon emerged as a huge spider, almost two feet big. He needed warmth, security, and contentment from him. As he fed the demon, the spider transformed into a cocoon, out of which a beautiful butterfly arose. By being accompanied by this butterfly, his liveliness and his personal radiation increased a lot. For the first time in his life he felt at home in his body. That is only one example for the numerous instances in which I have found demon work to be helpful and supportive for my clients.
-Dr. Barbara Staemmler, Würzburg, Germany
The addition of the Ally in the process has drawn an even richer symbolic language into concrete participation in my life. Even though the Inquiry Process has greatly influenced the dissolving of attachment to beliefs and stories over the years, I notice that Chöd and the Demon Practice has significantly reduced reliance on “thinking”. There is such an immediate noticing of either “connection” or “disconnection” in the practice, as if it invites a complete paradigm shift. What I am noticing is a loss of interest in ” understanding” and a deeper trust in the process itself. What it brings up in that moment is a playfulness that had been unfamiliar and feels very alive. This experience is also really impacting my own work. Clients and students are actually commenting on that. I certainly sense it, but cannot really describe the shift words. So exciting!