I had been reading Lama Tsultrim Allione's book, Feeding Your Demons, for over a month. I followed her practice and one by one began acknowledging and feeding my demons. Her work is extraordinary and her book is life-changing. Her process is simple enough that I can do it at the very moment one of my demons – be it anger, frustration, intolerance, resentment, pride or another energy that keeps me trapped in a habitual cycle of reactivity – arises.
At first it occurred to me I could spend every minute of the day meeting these energies and feeding them. Then it was one or two per day and then one every few days or so, then one a week. The early ones were deep-seated and I knew them well. I fed those first and generously, transforming demon to ally. The later demons emerged when I was around others. On my own, life is simple. It is in the company of others that challenges arise. And one morning I realized why this is important.
Stillness on the Porch
The clock read 6:30am. It was dark in my room and I could make out the faint sound of rain on the roof. I slipped out of bed and into my slippers. I grabbed my meditation cushion and blanket from the front door bench and headed out the door. Sitting on the front step, I wrapped myself in my blanket and sank into the stillness. I was up before the neighbors. Meditation would be sweet in the insulation of the rain clouds.
I closed my eyes and followed my breath for several minutes when a truck pulled up, parking opposite my house. The fellow proceeded to pull equipment from his vehicle for the construction work on my neighbor's home. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that this was part of the practice, if not the practice.
A tiny part of me kept a running comparison of my practice before the arrival of the stranger and after. Yes, it was easier to slip into ease before my construction companion arrived. I continued with my meditation, through the unloading of equipment, opening and closing of truck doors, and even a brief conversation between the fellow and the homeowner.
Seeing My Demons
At some point I forgot about the fellow as I travelled deeper into the core of my practice. When I began the process of coming back from my meditation, gratefully acknowledging a long line of people and influences in my life, I smiled as I included the fellow in my gratitude.
Taking a moment to bless my unknowing morning companion, I suddenly realized he had shown me more of my demons that day. When we are told that everyone is our teacher, often we don't feel the fullness of that statement.
As I included the fellow in my blessing I saw how he had drawn out frustration and annoyance that morning, and a desire for perfect practice. I realized how others pull my demons from me so that I may see them, acknowledge and nourish them. And so I thanked him again. And I thanked Lama Tsultrim Allione. And I thanked Machig. And I thanked Tara.
Because every time I feed a demon, I feel freedom.
...the harder we fight our demons, the stronger they become. If we want to liberate ourselves from the fight once and for all, we must reverse our approach and nurture our demons.