As a farewell gift, Theo handed me an audio tape the evening he and Dana were to head back to their mountain home in Colorado. The subject was Chöd, translated as Feeding Your Demons, an ancient Tibetan healing practice; the woman teaching it was Lama Tsultrim Allione, one of the first American women to be ordained as a Tibetan nun.
Allione had been given her monastic vows by the Karmapa of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism; she’d given back her vows four years later in order to marry. In 1993, she had founded Tara Mandala, a retreat center in southern Colorado. Her book Feeding Your Demons explores an approach based on the Chöd lineage of Machig Labdrön that Allione has practiced since 1973. “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,” Allione quotes Jung, “but by making the darkness conscious.”
The practice of Chöd teaches us how to work with our demons. What, in the first place, are these demons? Machig Labdrön, the brilliant Tibetan woman who inspired the practice of Chöd, defined a demon as: anything which hinders liberation. No matter our personal beliefs about the supernatural, no one can deny that our thoughts and emotions can be like relentless demons who drive our behavior into harmful channels. Most humans confronted with heavy emotions like anger, sadness and fear either suppress them, or act them out. Continue reading