5 Steps of Feeding Your Demons®

The Process

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)

What is a Demon?

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 Feeding Your Demons (Little & Brown, 2008):

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.

Photo credit: Deborah Howe

The Five Steps of the Feeding Your Demons® Process

Nine Relaxation Breaths

Close your eyes and keep them closed as much as possible until the end of the process. You will be taking nine deep relaxation breaths. 

For the first three breaths, breathe into any physical tension you are holding in your body; then, hooking that tension with the breath, release it with the out breath. 

For the second three breaths, breathe into any emotional tension you are holding, notice where you are holding emotional tension in your body, then hooking that tension with the breath, release it with the out breath. 

For the last three breaths, breathe into any mental tension or worries you are holding, notice where you are holding mental tension in your body, then hooking that tension with the breath, release it with the out breath.


Generate a heartfelt motivation to practice for the benefit of yourself and all beings.

The Five Steps

Step 1. Find the Demon

Decide which demon or god you want to work with. 

Thinking about the demon you have chosen to work with, perhaps remembering a particular time or incident when it came up strongly, scan your body and locate where you are holding this demon most strongly in your body. 

Notice the following:

  • Where is the demon held in your body?
  • What is its shape? 
  • What is its color?
  • What is its texture? 
  • What is its temperature?


Now intensify this sensation.

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

Now allow this sensation, color, texture, and temperature to move out of your body and become personified in front of you as a being with limbs, a face, eyes, and so on. (If an inanimate object appears imagine what it would look like if it were personified as some kind of animate being).

Notice the following about the demon:

  • Size
  • Color
  • Surface of its body
  • Density
  • Gender, if it has one
  • The look in its eyes
  • Its emotional state
  • Its character
  • Something about the demon you did not see before

Now ask the demon the following questions:

   What do you want?
   What do you really need?
   How will you feel when you get what you really need?

Switch places, keeping your eyes closed as much as possible.

Step 3. Become the Demon

Take a moment to settle into the demon’s body and feel what it’s like to be the demon.

Notice how it feels to be in the demon’s body.

Notice how your normal self looks from the demon’s point of view.

Answer the questions, speaking as the demon:

   What I want is….
   What I really need is….
   When I get what I really need, I will feel… (Take note of this answer)

Now return to your original seat.

Step 4. Feed the Demon and Meet the Ally

Feed the Demon

Take a moment to settle back into your own body.  See the demon opposite you. 

Then dissolve your body into nectar (or, if you are working with a demon that causes you to dissociate, instead imagine you are generating an infinite amount of nectar from your body). The nectar has the quality of the feeling that the demon would have when it gets what it really needs (i.e. the answer to the third question). 

Notice the color of the nectar.

Feed the demon this nectar and notice how the demon takes it in.

Feed the demon to complete satisfaction.  This can take some time.  If the demon seems insatiable, imagine how it would look if it were completely satisfied.

Meet the ally

Notice if there is a being present after the demon is completely satisfied. If there is a being present in place of the demon, ask this being if it is the ally. If it is not, invite an ally to appear.  Likewise, if there is no being present after feeding the demon to complete satisfaction, then invite an ally to appear. 

Notice all the details of the ally: its color, its size, and the look in its eyes.

When you really feel connected with the energy of the ally, ask these questions:

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

Change places and become the ally. Take a moment to settle into the ally’s body. Notice how it feels to be in the ally’s body. Notice how your normal self looks from the ally’s point of view.

When you are ready, answer the questions from above, speaking as the ally.

Return to your original seat.

Take a moment to settle back into your own body and see the ally opposite you. See the ally in front of you, look into its eyes, and feel its energy pouring into your body. 

As you feel the energy of the ally coming into your body, it spreads all the way down to the soles of your feet, to your fingertips and throughout your whole body. 

Now imagine that the ally dissolves into light. Notice the color of this light. Feel this light dissolving into you, integrating this luminosity into every cell of your body. Take note of the feeling of the integrated energy of the ally in your body. 

Now you, with the integrated energy of the ally, dissolve.

Step 5. Rest

Rest in the state that is present after the dissolution, just rest. 

Pause until discursive thoughts begin again. Now gradually come back to your body recalling the feeling of the energy of the ally in your body.

Now as you open your eyes maintain the feeling of the energy of the ally in your body.