The ultimate compassion is to nurture and love, rather than resist and destroy our enemies, obstacles, and demons.Lama Tsultrim Allione
*What follows is taken partly from Feeding Your Demons, a lecture by Lama Tsultrim Allione, recorded in October 2014.
Going towards that which you would normally avoid — dialoging with it and feeding it — is counter-intuitive.
It just doesn’t seem to make sense: our survival reflex is to preserve our physical and psychic integrity, by pushing away from darkness; certainly not by merging with it.
The symbolic practice of feeding one’s demon speaks to something else than the everyday mind, and allows the energy locked inside your demon to transform and become an ally.
It is based on the idea that when you let go of dualistic fixation and the clinging to self — there’s a liberation that comes with that.
What’s a Demon Anyway?
A demon is anything that takes your energy, anything draining you — a worry, a concern, fear, illness, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, grief, financial worries.
Our demons are not external to us and they manifest in a variety of ways.
It’s what’s dragging you down.
In a relationship, the other person is not the demon! With this practice, you work with your reaction to that relationship instead.
In this video, Lama Tsultrim Allione shares the teachings and practices of Feeding Your Demons, a five-step process that enables one to compassionately engage with one’s demons, rather than continue the cycle of struggle and suppression.
When you offer your body as food for your enemies, you transform them into allies.
Tsultrim Allione also talks about 2 different fables on how we deal with our problems and difficulties, by moving from fighting to feeding, transforming demons in allies. She tells these fascinating stories in the first half of the video.
My Own Demon-Feeding Experience
When I followed the guided meditation myself, I chose to summon the demon of substance — in the form of recreational drugs, weed and alcohol; and also by extension, anything outside myself that I seek to soothe myself.
Like the internet, for example.
You know what I’m talking about: the compulsive habit of checking Instagram, Facebook and emails on your phone, in that order.
Being mostly extroverted, I’m used to turn to the outside, sometimes mindlessly seeking distractions, excitement, activities, etc. And like so many, I experience tensions and difficulties staying still, meditating, being present and not giving in to addictions and compulsive behaviours.
Sometimes, even seeking the company of friends can be used as an avoidance strategy. By over-socializing, I may avoid issues I unconsciously chose not to deal with: getting in contact with feelings of discomfort, dullness, sadness, emptiness, etc.
Awakening the Demon
In the Feeding Your Demons guided meditation exercise, my nemesis took the form of a semi-aroused, half-male, half-female reptilian beast. It was also giving me a weird infantile energy: something helpless, needy and never satisfied.
If makes sense that the urges that have power over me would be associated to some reptilian self — an energy of going after immediate gratification.
Visualizing my personified demon, I was trying to connect to it through sensual (less mental) modalities: imagining its texture, volume, weight, density, colours, temperature, etc.
During the meditation, I watched it suck the life out of me — as if being vacuumed by it — my physical body appeared empty like a dried fruit. I accepted that this thing wanted to get rid of me, to destroy me.
Further in the process, the image of my ally emerged, appearing as some alien being made of shining ultra-violet light.
The Day My Ally Showed Up IRL!
Not so long after going through this enthralling ritual, I experienced a crucial moment when my ally showed up in real life (IRL), so to speak.
I was spending a beautiful sunny day at a beer festival with friends. One of whom offered me to try out his weed vape pen. I welcomed the extra and enjoyed a rather nice buzz.
So there I was, medium-high, sampling a diversity of beers and local products with my buddies, having a great time.
Not so long after the first intake, the same friend offered me a second round. Not missing a beat, the vision of my ally popped out in my mind’s eye. It just stood in mid air, like some sci-fi holographic alarm system.
It made me ask myself: Is this a good idea?
I heard myself reply no thanks and there was nothing to it — no back and forth, no negotiation with myself, nor regret. I was not battling with temptation, as I would have normally.
Whether or not this was a good move not to cross that line isn’t the issue here.
That trick acted as a reminder that I’m here. It made me pause for a moment and realize that I am present, I can take a closer look at what I need in the moment, and simply choose to be kind with myself.
I’ve Got The Power
I have not seen my surreal guardian angel afterwards.
However, that experience helped me shape a more concrete sense of personal power, self-control and healthy boundaries.
What is exciting to me about this is this from an 11th century yogini, but it’s offering us a new paradigm. That has relevance — great relevance in changing the way we deal with our problems.
Both personally and then moving out from there to our communities, our organizations, our schools and our government and so on.
And so if we move — from fighting to feeding, from fighting to nurturing that which is problematic. Then we can transform the demon into an ally.Lama Tsultrim Allione
Yogini is a Sanskrit term for a female master practitioner of yoga, as well as a formal term of respect for female Hindu or Buddhist spiritual teachers in Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Greater Tibet. — en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yogini
Lama Tsultrim Allione is a Western Buddhist teacher, as well as founder and spiritual director of Tara Mandala Retreat Center. Lama Tsultrim’s teachings arise from her studies with numerous Tibetan Buddhist teachers, her forty-year dedication to the Buddhist path, and her experience as a Western woman and a mother. Recipient of the Outstanding Women in Buddhism Award, she is the author of Women of Wisdom and Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict. Naropa University
- Éric Bolduc, Reptilian Soldier, after a cover of a game-book « in which you’re the hero », circa 1990, photocopy, collage on paper
- Shane on Unsplash
- Éric Bolduc, Awakening the demon, 2010, ink and watercolour on paper
- Chirag Saini on Unsplash
- Found on sopherielspeaks.tumblr.com
- Éric Bolduc, Hakini (detail), 2009, ink and watercolour, after the work of Harish and Isandeep Johari
- Éric Bolduc, Pour Nadia, Yeshe Tsogyal, 2015, ink, watercolour and gouache on paper