After feeding the demon, will it be gone forever?
No, probably not, but there’s a line in the Chöd that says, “Demons of self-clinging continue to arise, but through love and compassion they gradually evolve.” Though you might receive immediate relief from going through the practice, the demon might not disappear entirely. For example, I had to keep working on my demon of abandonment over time. In each instance, going into my body to see where I was holding it, I noticed that each time the demon looked and felt a little different than the time before. After about a month of doing the practice daily, I realized that things in my life had changed and that this had evolved through love and compassion. So instead of unconsciously listening to the demon and then submitting, I would recognize it and say to myself, “Oh, it’s you again. Time for a snack.” I noticed that the demon gradually lost its power and I was able to enter into my relationship with David without the demon of abandonment dominating our lives. Eventually it evolved to the point where I rarely experience this demon in my life. Through this experience I also learned to bring other issues to awareness through the five-step technique.
Can you work with dreams with the five steps of ‘Feeding Your Demons ®‘?
Yes, definitely, if you have a nightmare or a repetitive dream, it can be very useful to work with the figures in these dreams. In this case, you don’t need to find the personification, you already have it. You can also work with a god in the sense of a figure you long for in a dream. In either case, you begin with step three and carry on from there. It’s good to use the most intense dream figures and see what they need because there is something trying to communicate itself this way. This method can also be used by therapists to help clients work with dreams.
Can I integrate this practice with a sitting meditation practice like vipasana?
Absolutely, in fact some vipasana teachers also use ‘Feeding Your Demons®‘ with their students. There’s a couple of ways you can do this: one is to go into vipasana after the fifth step. This can be particularly useful when you want to meditate and some demon is eating at you. Otherwise just do the five steps separately and do vipasana in the way you usually do it.
Why would I want to feed a demon that is already consuming me?
The demon will find a way to eat, so if its not being fed consciously it will be ‘eating you’ as it has been. For example remember when Ayu Khandro was asked to stop the domestic animal epidemic. She invited that demon to eat the nectar of her transformed body in the Chöd practice, therefore it stopped eating the animals. So if you feed the demon what it really needs it can stop consuming you. Sometimes its hard to feed something we hate. In this case, start try offering it a little something, then gradually more, until you can really open to generosity. One of the main ways demons get stuck is in our cold refusal to deal with them, in this way they can take over completely. He had to begin to feed it gradually overcoming his resistance. The other thing to remember is that the demon lives on the energy of the fight. For example in a tug of war, if one person lets go the energy of the struggle is gone. If we are fighting against the demon its getting stronger, it eats the energy we give it in the struggle.
What if I don’t know the name of the demon or what demon to work with?
If you can’t identify a demon or a god-demon, go to your body. If you are just having feelings or unexpected outbursts of emotions, starting with the body is helpful. Without naming what you are working with, scan your body. Notice where you feel the emotion most strongly. When you feel some tension or stress, start from there. Personify the feeling and ask it to take form and in the dialogue about its’ needs, it will become clear. You can also ask it which god-demon it is, once it is personified.
What if I can’t visualize things? I’m not very visual.
Sometimes “visualize” is an intimidating word. If you think, “I don’t know how to visualize,” then try using the word “imagine” instead, so its not such a big deal. If I say, “Go get the apple from the kitchen,” you get a visual image of the apple and the kitchen. Taking it a step further, when I say imagine the apple in the kitchen exploding, you can imagine that, even though it’s not happening. That’s visualizing. We all use visualization all the time to follow directions, listen to descriptions, and so on. Sometimes turning a physical sensation in the body into a form is more difficult, a bigger leap. But if you start with the sensation and then gradually give it a color, a temperature, and a texture, you have the seeds of a personified demon. From there, ask yourself if the color, temperature, and texture were a being, what would it look like? I think you’ll find that, if you let yourself drop into your body and follow this gradual process, then the personification in step three will happen naturally, allow yourself to play with it, don’t make a big deal about it. However, if this doesn’t work, you can use a sound or a smell in step two and ask, “What sound does this sensation in my body make?” or “What smell does it have?” Then go from there.
What do I do if I can’t feel my body?
When I say: notice where you hold this emotion in your body and you can’t connect to anything in your body there are a couple of options: you can skip step two and just imagine the form the demon would have in step three. However, I encourage you to practice connecting to your body. Here’s one way. Touch the middle of your chest. Close your eyes and notice any sensations in that area. Become as aware as possible of those sensations. Pinch your arm, keep your eyes closed, and become aware of that sensation. Gradually touching various places, identify colors, textures, and temperatures for these sensations. Then work up to noticing sensations without touching your body. Then think of something that provokes a very strong reaction in you, either positive or negative. For example think of something really upsetting then see if you can locate a sensation in your body, then think of something positive like someone or a pet that you love, try to notice this sensation. This will help with step two.
Don’t the demons just get bigger and more powerful if we feed them?
Paradoxically it’s quite the opposite. It is our resistance to them, our repression of them, and the battle with them that makes our demons grow larger. When we pay attention, give them what they need, and most importantly stop fighting, the projected enemy disappears. The more we fight with them to get them to be quiet, the louder they become. But if we stop struggling with them and attend to their needs, they relax and integrate themselves into the rest of our life. Dealing with demons can be a bit like caring for children: if we do not pay attention to them they get completely obnoxious and take over. But if we sit down with them and ask them what they need, then they tend to relax and stop being so difficult. Even something very draining like depression, when it’s fed, stops depleting you. It depletes you when you don’t feed it. I don’t mean you indulge it and just lie in bed. I mean feed it by practicing the five steps. When the demon is unconscious and feeding on you constantly, you get depleted. It’s like having a leech sucking on you. If you actually take it outside, give it a form, see what it looks like, consciously pay attention to it, and feed it, it will change. Depression, for example, makes you more and more unconscious. It sort of pulls you into a state of semi-sleep. The depression is working in you but you don’t know what it looks like. It just completely sucks you down into an abyss. By actually giving it form and beginning to pay attention to it, you rob it of its ability to suck your strength.
Sometimes I just feel like I’m making this whole thing up, seeing the demon and all this. Is it real?
No, it’s not real, it’s your imagination, but so is most of what we experience. We are living in our own dream. This life of ours is a product of our imagination. When we feed our demons, we are using our imagination consciously. The process of giving form to emotions that are affecting us all the time allows us to use our imagination to make a pattern conscious that is otherwise floating around inchoate and unarticulated. Giving form to and dialoguing with the demon is a transition step in transforming unconscious emotions into awareness.
If your visualization isn’t a real thing, it’s an imaginary mock-up, so why would it be satisfied when you feed it?
The imaginary form of the demon is an articulation of thoughts and emotions that are held in the body-mind complex. If we think about the practice as ways of moving energy around then the form of the demon is the form of for example the anger you hold in your body mind, by then feeding it with another energy, like the nectar, then that body of the demon is energetically impacted in a positive way which creates a change in its structure and may allow the rage to dissolve. This goes back to the idea that our supposed solid reality is not solid at all. It is a unified system, which — when analyzed through science — has no actual solidity and is governed by an intelligence that is distributed throughout the interconnected systems. So in a sense nothing is more real than anything else.
“Modern science has subtilized its projections to an almost unrecognizable degree, but our ordinary life still swarms with them. You can find them spread out in the newspapers, in books, rumours, and ordinary social gossip. All gaps in our actual knowledge are still filled out with projections. We are still so sure we know what other people think or what their true character is”.
What happens in the mind impacts the cells in the body and vice-versa. A visualization that brings an emotion out of the unconscious impacts the cells. It’s all connected. It’s a system guided by awareness on all levels. This intelligence or awareness or presence is what we would call the nature of mind, as opposed to the functioning of mind. The demons are energy that is blocked in various ways., so working with the power of the mind through imagination we liberate that blocked energy.
Is there a short way to do the five steps, a kind of emergency version? What if you are lying in bed tossing and turning, worried about something. You aren’t going to get up and do the five steps. What can you do?
Once you have done the five steps for some time, you can learn to do them very quickly. The process gets accelerated and the demon starts to be satisfied almost instantly. It may seem too fast because the minute you start feeding it, it becomes satisfied. Don’t worry about that. What is happening is that you are so attuned to the process that the minute you start feeding it to complete satisfaction, it is satisfied. It is near-instant liberation.