The Process


What is a Demon?

“With a loving mind, cherish more than a child
The hostile gods and demons of apparent existence,
And tenderly surround yourself with them”

— Machig Labdrön (1055 – 1145)

Demons in the sense that we are using the word are not ghosts, goblins, or minions of Satan. When Machig Labdrön was directly asked by her son Tönyon Samdrup to define demons, she replied this way: “That which is called a demon is not some great black thing that petrifies whoever sees it. A demon is anything that obstructs the achievement of freedom…. There is no greater devil than this fixation to a self. So until this ego-fixation is cut off, all the demons wait with open mouths. For this reason, you need to exert yourself at a skillful method to sever the devil of ego-fixation.”

Machig’s understanding of demons was remarkably sophisticated. She asked, What is the real evil? What are the real demons? Isn’t egocentricity, whether on a personal or collective level, the real demon?

Fears, obsessions, addictions are all parts of ourselves that have become “demonic” by being split off, disowned, and battled against. When you try to flee from your demons, they pursue you. By struggling with them, you become weaker and may even succumb to them completely. For example, someone who struggles with the demon of alcoholism may eventually die of liver disease. Someone who struggles with the demon of depression may eventually commit suicide. We need to recognize the futility of this struggle and begin to accept and even love those parts of ourselves.

An Example of a Demon and the Demon Process

The following example is an excerpt from the book:

Kate had very critical parents who, indirectly, were always telling her she was not worthy of love. Not surprisingly, she began to hate herself. Although she grew up and married, eventually her husband left her. Kate couldn’t keep a job. She felt deeply unworthy of love, and acted self-destructively. Her inner voice constantly told her she was not good enough, that she was a loser, and that she should just give up on life. This was her “self-hate demon,” which was running rampant. Although she remained unaware of how much it influenced her, it disrupted everything. The voice did, however, provide a kind of negative security, familiar but toxic. Here, in brief, is how Kate dealt with her self-hate demon.

Step 1. Find the Demon

After generating an altruistic intention for her practice, Kate closes her eyes and sinks into awareness of her body, trying to locate the feeling of worthlessness and self-loathing. She remembers an intense attack of negativity that triggered her self-loathing. After being fired from a promising job, she had called her mother hoping for sympathy, but instead of supporting Kate, her mother blamed her for losing the job. Filled with anger and self-hatred, Kate had cut her arms for the first time. Recalling this event she suddenly feels an intense sensation in her heart. She experiences it as cold, blue-purple, and lacerating, like a shard of shattered glass. It’s piercing and painful. Her heart aches.

Step 2. Personify the Demon and Find Out What It Needs

Kate now imagines the embodiment of this feeling. It takes the form of a tall, thin male figure. He’s ice blue and his bony arms end in claws. He’s looking at her with disdain. His teeth are pointed and yellow, and his mouth opens as if he’s going to bite her. His eyes are small and fierce. When she takes a second look, she notes that the surface of his body is covered with fine, spiky blue thorns.
Kate asks him aloud:

“What do you want?”
“What do you need?”
“How will you feel if you get what you need?”

Step 3. Become the Demon

Before he answers, she changes places with him, occupying the chair opposite her own, and takes a moment to become the demon, to live in his skin. She pauses a moment to share what he is feeling before answering the question. Inhabiting his body she realizes that he’s incredibly bitter, and he feels threatened and battered himself. To the question, “What do you want?” he replies, “I want you to suffer, because you are so worthless and stupid.”
To the question, “What do you really need?” he answers, “I need you to be with me, and to stop trying to escape from me. I need you to accept me and love me.”
To the question, “How will you feel if you get what you need?” he answers: “I’ll be able to relax. I’ll feel love.”

Step 4. Feed the Demon and Meet the Ally

Returning to her original seat Kate sees the self-hate demon in front of her. She now knows she needs to feed him love. She imagines her body melting into an infinite ocean of loving nectar, and then imagines that the demon takes this nectar in through every pore of his icy blue body all at once.
As he absorbs the nectar, the demon’s appearance changes. His body softens and his color fades. After a while he turns into a gray horse with soft nostrils and gentle, dark eyes.
Kate asks the gray horse if it is the ally. When it nods its noble head she asks how he will help her in the future, how he will protect her, and what pledge he will make to her. She then changes places with him, and becomes the gray horse. She hears herself reply, “I will carry you to places you haven’t been before, where you can’t go alone. I will lend you my strength to do things in the world. When things are difficult, come see me and rest your head on my neck. I will protect you by giving you strength in yourself.”
Kate returns to her seat and, gazing at the horse in front of her, receives his strength and takes in his pledge. As it flows into her, she feels joy rising inside her heart. Eventually the horse itself dissolves into her completely, and she feels a vast surge of strength within herself. Then she and the ally both dissolve into emptiness.

Step 5. Rest

At this point Kate feels peace. She rests, allowing herself to relax in that state of open awareness. She doesn’t need to “practice” the fifth step, even though she doesn’t normally meditate. This is not a state that she thinks herself into; it is the natural spaciousness that comes with the dissolution of the demon and the integration of the ally.

An Abbreviated Version of the Five Steps of the Feeding Your Demons Process

Nine Relaxation Breaths

Take nine deep relaxation breaths with long exhalations: for the first three breaths, breathe in and bring the breath to any tension in the body releasing it with the exhalation. For the second three breaths, inhale into any emotional tension, feel where you hold it in your body and release it with the exhalation. And lastly, breathe into any mental tension. Feel where you hold nervousness, worries or mental blockages in your body and release them with the exhalation

Motivation:Generate a heartfelt motivation to practice for the benefit of one’s self and all beings.
The Five Steps

Step 1. Find the Demon

Decide which demon, god or god-demon you are going to work with.
Locate where you hold it most strongly in your body.
Become aware of the qualities of the sensations in your body including:

  • color
  • texture
  • temperature

Intensify the sensation.

Step 2. Personify the Demon and Find Out What It Needs

Personify this sensation as a figure with arms legs, and eyes and see it facing you. If an inanimate object appears imagine what it would look like if it were personified as some kind of being.

Notice:

  • color
  • skin surface
  • gender
  • size
  • its character
  • its emotional state
  • the look in its eyes

Notice something about the demon you didn’t see before.
Ask the demon what it wants.

What is it that you want from me?

Ask the demon what it needs.

What need to you have that is behind what you want?

Ask the demon how it would feel if it gets what it needs.

If you get what you need how will you feel?

Having asked the questions, immediately change places with the demon.

Step 3. Become the Demon

Face the chair or cushion you were seated on and become the demon, allowing yourself a little time to “sit in its shoes.”
Notice how your normal self looks from the demon’s point of view.

Now answer these three questions:

What I want from you is…
What I need from you is…
What I would feel if I got what I need is…

Step 4. Feed the Demon and Meet the Ally

Feed the demon

Come back to your original position. Take a moment to settle in and see the demon in front of you.
Dissolve your body into nectar that has the quality of the feeling that the demon would have if its need was satisfied (this is the answer to the third question in step 3)
Feed the demon to its complete satisfaction, imagining the nectar entering the demon any way you wish. Keep feeding until complete satisfaction is reached (if the demon seems to be insatiable, then imagine how it would look if it were completely satisfied). At this point you can go directly to step 5 or meet your ally.

Meet the ally

If there is a being present in place of the demon when you end the fourth step, ask this being if it is the ally. If it is not, invite an ally to appear. If the demon has dissolved completely then simply invite an ally to appear.
Notice all the details of the ally: its color, its size, and the look in its eyes.

Ask it one or all of these questions:

How will you help me?
How will you protect me?
What pledge do you make to me?

Change places, becoming the ally, and answer the question(s) above.
Return to your original position, then take a moment and feel the help and protection coming from the ally to you and then imagine the ally is dissolving into you. You and the ally dissolve into emptiness, which naturally takes you to the fifth step.

Step 5. Rest

Rest in the state that is present when the ally dissolves into you and you dissolve into emptiness. Let your mind relax without creating any particular experience. Rest as long as you like without filling the space, trying not to make anything happen or rushing to finish.

Download Taking and Waking Practice here.

 

 Feeding Your Demons tracking forms:

Abbreviated Five Steps for Solo Work

Abbreviated Five Steps for Partner Work

Demon Tracking Form

Extended Ally Process Steps

Extended Ally Process Tracking Form

German Abbreviated Five Steps for Solo Work

German Abbreviated Five Steps for Partner Work

German Demon Tracking Form

German Extended Ally Process

German Extended Ally Tracking Form

Italian Versione abbreviata dei 5 stadi di Nutri i Tuoi Demoni per pratica individuale

Italian Versione abbreviata dei Cinque Stadi per Nutrire i Demoni per pratica partner

Italian Scheda per mappatura del demone

Italian Pratica estesa per l’alleato

Italian Scheda per mappatura estesa dell’alleato

portuguese Demon Tracking Form

portuguese Extended Ally Process Steps

portuguese Extended Ally Process Tracking Form

portuguese Five Steps and partner script

portuguese Five Steps for solo work