Frequently Asked Questions regarding Feeding Your Demons®
Lama Tsultrim Allione answers common questions regarding Feeding Your Demons® (FYD):
Why would I want to feed a demon that is already consuming me?
The demon will find a way to eat, so if it is not being fed consciously it will be ‘eating you’ as it has been. So if you feed the demon what it really needs it can stop consuming you. Sometimes it is hard to feed something we hate. In this case, 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. 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, it is getting stronger. It eats the energy we give it in the struggle.
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 is fed, stops depleting you. It depletes you when you don’t feed it. This doesn’t mean you indulge it and just lie in bed. It means you feed it by practicing the five steps of FYD. When the demon is unconscious and feeding on you constantly, you get depleted. Itis like having a leech sucking on you. If you actually project it outside of yourself and 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 in the 4th step of FYD, that body of the demon is energetically impacted in a positive way. This 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.
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.
*Traditional Tibetan Buddhist practice which inspired Feeding Your Demons