Stay watchful of gluttony and desire, and the demons of irritation and fear as well.
The noonday demon of laziness and sleep will come after lunch each day, and the demon of pride will sneak up only when you have vanquished the other demons.
(Evagerius as quoted in A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield)
I have avoided putting a name to my “demons,” those every day “physical energies, emotions, and thought patterns [that I meet] within my relatively ordinary state of consciousness.” (Kornfield). My resistance was that I confused naming or recognizing these demons with attaching to them.
Mine is not to disassociate but to experience, or in the wise words of Rosanne Rosannadanna, “It’s always something.” I might as well name my emotions so I can recognize them immediately.
This recognition both “honors and nurtures” the demons as I look beneath these emotional states for the pure energy that is at their core (Kornfield). In that energy is the experience they offer me. The emotional states are familiar but every occurrence is a new experience of them.
The naming of the familiar whether it is mental anguish or bodily pain opens us to the experience without attaching to the drama of it. Rather, we recognize the feeling and face the sensation as it occurs.
We might say to ourselves, “I know that feeling,” and we do. If we recognize that naming the feeling is the first step in freeing ourselves from its drama, we are more apt to open ourselves to the experience at hand. We face the familiar with a fresh being.
All of the spiritual traditions have a practice for facing the demons in our lives. For the Sufis they are the Nafs; some 2000 years ago, there were the Christian Desert Fathers, of which Evagerius was one; Buddhism knows these difficult forces as either Mara (God of Darkness) or the Hindrances to Clarity.
Naming our demons allows us to explore our body’s reaction to our emotions. Recognizing a familiar emotion without its drama allows our body a fresh and new experience of the familiar without the baggage.
As long as you have all sorts of ideas about yourself,
you know yourself through the mist of these ideas. To know yourself as you are, give up all ideas.
You cannot imagine the taste of pure water,
you can only discover it by abandoning all flavourings.
Pure emotion is pure energy. Naming it gives us the green light for a familiar yet fresh experience. Our emotions are our greatest allies, if we recognize them as a yet another way to experience any moment.
We feel our emotions with all of our being, in every cell of our body. When we are mindful of these sensations, and as Pema Chodron says, “make friends with them,” we come to recognize that mindfulness opens us to options.
Blind determination walls in what we want and walls out what we fear. It digs a ready rut. In mindfulness, we name the feeling so that we may experience it anew. We do not experience the same scenario or emotional state twice, similar maybe but not exactly.
Whether we open to life as it is or whether we try to confine life to our way is the measure of our peace of mind. In every grain of sand there is yet another view.