Feeding Your Demons® Study

“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)

Philippe Goldin (UC Davis), Eve Ekman (UC San Francisco) and Amy Braun (Stanford) designed and conducted a study on the Feeding Your Demons process, the quantitative and qualitative results of which were published in two academic journals, Frontiers in Psychology in 2022 and the Journal of Emotion and Psychopathology in 2023.

The summary of both articles are below. 

For the full publication, please follow these links:

Quantitative results: “Randomized Controlled Trial of the Tibetan Buddhist Feeding Your Demons Contemplative Process in Meditation Practitioners”, Philippe R. Goldin et al, Journal of Emotion and Psychopathology; 2023, Vol 1, Issue 1

Qualitative results: “Transforming adversity into an ally: A qualitative study of “feeding your demons” meditation,” Eve Ekman et al. Frontiers in Psychology; Vol 13, 30 November 2022


Randomized Controlled Trial of Tibetan Buddhist Feeding Your Demons® Contemplative Process in Meditation Practitioners

Study conducted by Philippe Goldin (University of California, Davis), Eve Ekman (University of California, San Francisco), and Amy Braun (Stanford University)



Objectives: To investigate outcomes and predictors of a Tibetan Buddhist meditation process called Feeding Your Demons® (FYD) vs. a waitlist (WL) control group of adult meditation practitioners with elevated symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Methods: 61 community-dwelling adults with prior meditation training (70% female; mean age = 44.05, SD = 11.20; 43.5% Caucasian, 39% Asian, 9.3% Hispanic, 8.3% other) were randomly assigned to 1-month of FYD practice or no practice waitlist control groups. Participants completed self-report psychological assessments at baseline and post-FYD and WL.

Results: Our analyses found that, compared to the waitlist control group, FYD practice yielded significantly greater decreases in stress symptoms and increases in self-compassion. Moderator analyses showed that at baseline lesser history of psychiatric problems (but not number of years of meditation practice) predicted greater reduction in depression, anxiety and stress symptoms. Regression analyses found that the number of FYD meditation sessions completed during one-month predicted post-FYD increases in self-compassion and satisfaction with life, as well as decreases in stress, depression, and intolerance for uncertainty.

Conclusions: FYD practice may enhance multiple facets of psychological health in adults in a dose dependent manner. An RCT with an active comparison training is necessary to determine the specificity of FYD related effects and to identify mechanisms of change.


Much has been written about the Tibetan Buddhist chöd practice, its lineage of transmission to the present from the 11th century and its introduction to the West as a contemplative process called Feeding Your Demons (FYD).  However, our study is the first empirical examination of the FYD practice that measures its effect on clinical symptoms and well-being in a randomized controlled trial. This study also begins the process of identifying baseline moderators and potential mediators of the effect of FYD on psychological health. Furthermore, even a short dose of FYD was associated with a shift toward adaptive psychological functioning.

Bullet points of findings for FYD study

Data from 52 participants who completed 1-month of FYD

  • Significant decreases from pre-to-post FYD in:
    • ↓ depression symptoms, 34%
    • ↓ stress symptoms, 14%
    • ↓ intolerance for uncertainty, 10%
    • ↓ suppression of emotion expression, 15%
    • ↓ pre-to-post each meditation session, 53%
  • Significant increases in:
    • ↑ satisfaction with life, 28%
    • ↑ self-compassion, 29%
    • ↑ self-regulation to increase calm, 15%


Transforming adversity into an ally: A qualitative study of ‘feeding your demons’ meditation

Study conducted by Eve Ekman (University of California, San Francisco), Christopher J. Koenig (San Francisco State University), Jennifer Daubenmier (San Francisco State University), Kate Greer Dickson, Vanessa Simmons, Amy Braun (Stanford University), and Philippe Goldin (University of California, Davis)



Objectives: The goal of the current study is to explore qualitative, open-ended responses to two specific FYD meditation diary questions that probed how practitioners (1) made meaning of what occurred in each meditation session and (2) attempted to integrate insights into future intentions and actions in their everyday lives.

Methods: From February to May 2018, 107 potential participants first provided informed consent and then completed an online screener to collect demographics and contact information. Potential participants were given a unique identification number to complete the quantitative measures of self-reported psychological functioning. The first 61 participants who completed the baseline assessments and met the inclusion criteria were then randomly assigned to either FYD (n = 30) or WL (n = 31) groups. Participants included 61 community adults (70% female, mean age = 44.05, SD = 11.20; 43.5% Caucasian, 39% Asian, 9.3% Hispanic, and 8.3% other). One participant dropped from FYD and one participant dropped from WL. There was no group difference, t(58) = 0.57, p = 0.57, 95% CI (−4.33, 2.46), in years of meditation experience between the FYD group, Mean = 7.56 years, SD = 5.73 (range: 0.25–18), and the WL group, Mean = 8.55 years, SD = 7.48 (range: 0.25–27).

Results: The IPA process generated three major thematic dimensions resulting in eight total thematic categories. Participant responses to the first question are described as Meaning-Making, and responses to the second question are described as Steps to Action. The additional thematic elements are described as other qualitatively significant dimensions.

Conclusions: This article explores the benefits of FYD as a unique practice drawing on the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition that integrates mindful attention with imagery and dissolution practices. Results of the qualitative analysis suggest that FYD supports perspective-taking, reappraisal, reduced identification with maladaptive self-schema, and increased compassion for self. Further study is needed to ascertain which elements of the FYD process are most helpful, what doses are optimal for whom, and larger sample sizes to investigate the benefits and risks of FYD.

FYD’s unique blend of the psychological and spiritual also begs the question whether these two aspects of wellbeing require one another, or if they are even separate categories.

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