Saturday, May 8, 2010

NAMING THE DEMONS adapted from the work of Jack Kornfield

Starting to get comfortable with the enemy

“When we become skillful at naming our experience, we discover an amazing truth”
In ancient cultures shamans learned that to name that which you feared was a practical way to begin to have power over it.

We have words and rituals for many of our great outer world events, birth and death, war and peace, marriage, adventure, illness, but often we are ignorant of the names of the inner world forces that move so powerfully through our hearts and lives.

Naming and acknowledging our experience allows us to investigate our life, to inquire into whatever aspect or problem life presents to us. Give each problem or experience a simple name, and note; “This is a mind filled with joy," or "This is a mind filled with anger,” acknowledging each state as it would arise and pass away. In the space of such awareness, understanding grows naturally. Then, as we clearly sense and name our experience, we can notice what brings it about and how we can respond to it more fully and skillfully.


Begin by sitting comfortably, focusing awareness on your breathing. As you feel each breath, carefully acknowledge it with a simple name: "in breath, out-breath," saying the words silently and softly in the back of your mind. This will help you keep track of the breathing, which gives your thinking mind a way to support awareness rather than wandering off in some other direction. Then as you get quiet and as your skill grows, you can notice and name more precisely, “long breath,” “short breath,” “tight breath,” or “relaxed breath.” Let every kind of breath show itself to you.

As you continue to develop your meditation, the process of naming can be extended to other experiences as they arise in your awareness. You can name the bodily energies and sensations that come up, such as “tingling," "itching," "hot," or "cold." You can name feelings, such as "fear" or "delight '. " You can then extend the naming to sounds and sights, and to thoughts such as "planning" or "remembering."

In developing the naming practice, stay focused on your breathing unless a stronger experience arises to interrupt your attention. Then include this stronger experience in the meditation, feeling it fully and naming it softly for as long as it persists-"hearing, hearing, hearing" or sad, sad, sad." When it passes, return to naming the breath until another strong experience arises. Keep the meditation simple, focusing on one thing at a time. Continue to name whatever is most prominent in each moment, being aware of the ever-changing stream of your life.

At first, sitting still and naming may seem awkward or loud, as if it interferes with your awareness. You must practice naming very softly, giving ninety-five percent of your energy to sensing each experience, and five percent to a soft name in the background. When you misuse naming, it will feel like a club, a way to judge and push away an un¬desirable experience, like shouting at "thinking" or "pain" to make it go away. Sometimes, in the beginning, you may also feel confused about what name to use; looking through your inner dictionary instead of being aware of what is actually present. Remember, the practice of naming is much simpler than that; it is just a simple acknowledgment of what is present.

Soon you will be ready to bring the practice of naming and inquiry directly to the difficulties and hindrances that arise in your life. The five most common difficulties that the Buddha described as the chief hin¬drances to awareness and clarity are grasping and anger, sleepiness and restlessness, and doubt. Of course, you will inevitably encounter many other hindrances and demons, and will even create new ones of your own. Sometimes they will besiege you in combinations, which one Stu¬dent called "a multiple hindrance attack." Whatever comes, you will need to begin to see these basic difficulties clearly as they arise.


Grasping and wanting are two names for the most painful aspects of desire. Because our language uses the word desire in so many ways, it is helpful to sort them out.

There are beneficial desires such as the desire for the well being of others, the desire for awakening, the creative desires that express the positive aspects of passion and beauty. There are painful aspects of desire-the desires of addiction, greed, blind ambition, or unending inner hunger. Through meditative awareness we can bring an attention that can sort out and know the many forms of desire. As William Blake stated:

Those who enter the gates of heaven are not beings who have no passions or who have curbed the passions, but those who have cultivated an understanding of them.

In beginning to name the demons, we can especially look for the difficult sides of desire, the grasping and wanting mind. When the wanting mind first arises we may not recognize it as a demon because we are often lost in its allure. Wanting is characterized as a Hungry Ghost, a ghost with an enormous belly and tiny pinhole mouth, who can never eat enough to satisfy his endless need. When this demon or difficulty arises, simply name it as "wanting" or "grasping" and begin to study its power in your life. When we look at wanting, we experience the part of ourselves that is never content, that always says, "If only I had something more, that would make me happy"-some other relationship, some other job, some more comfortable cushion, less noise, cooler temperature, warmer temperature, more money, a little more sleep last night-" … then I would be fulfilled." In meditation the voice of wanting calls to us and says, "If only I had something to eat now, I'd eat, then I'd be satisfied, and then I could get enlightened."

The desire of wanting is the unconscious voice that can see an attractive mediator sitting nearby and imagine a whole romance fulfilled, a relationship, marriage, and divorce, and only half an hour later remember that we're meditating. For the voice of wanting, what is here now is never enough.


As we work to observe the wanting and grasping without condemning it, we can learn to be aware of this aspect of our nature without being caught up in it. When it arises we can feel it fully, naming our experience "hunger," "wanting," "longing," or whatever it is. Name it softly the whole time it is present, repeating the name every few seconds, five, ten, twenty times until it ends. As you note it, be conscious of what happens:

o How long does this kind of desire last?

o Does it intensify first or just fade away?

o How does it feel in the body?

o What parts of the body are affected by it … the gut, the breath, and the eyes?

o What does it feel like in the heart, in the mind?

o When it is present, are you happy or agitated, open or closed?

As you name it, see how it moves and changes. If wanting comes as the demon hunger, name that. Where do you notice hunger ¬in the belly, the tongue, and the throat?
When we look, we see that wanting creates tension, that it is actually painful. We see how it arises out of our sense of longing and incom¬pleteness, a feeling that we are separate and not whole. Observing more closely we notice that it is also fleeting, without essence. This aspect of desire is actually a form of imagination and accompanying feeling that comes and goes in our body and mind. Of course, at other times it seems very real.

Oscar Wilde said, "I can resist anything but temptation."

When we are caught by wanting … it is like an intoxicant … we are unable to see clearly … it has us … we don’t have it.

In India they say, "A pickpocket sees only the saint's pockets. "

Our wanting and desire can become powerful blinders limiting what we see.

Do not confuse desire with pleasure. There's nothing wrong with enjoying pleasant experiences. Given the many difficulties we often face in life, enjoyment is wonderful to have. However, the wanting mind grasps at the pleasure.

We are taught: “If we can grasp enough pleasurable experiences quickly one after another, our life will be happy.”

I.e.: By following a good game of tennis with a delicious dinner, a fine movie, then wonderful sex and sleep, a good morning jog, a fine hour of meditation, an excellent breakfast, and off to an exciting morning of work, happiness will last. Our society is masterful at perpetuating this ruse.

But will this satisfy the heart? (said with a Brooklyn Accent)
What happens when we do fulfill wanting? It often brings on more wanting. The whole process can become very tiring and empty.

George Bernard Shaw said: “What am I going to do next? Well, I'll just get some more.” followed by “There are two great disappointments in life. Not getting what you want and getting it.”

The process of such unskillful desire is endless, because peace comes not from fulfilling our wants but from the moment that dissatisfaction ends. When wanting is filled, there comes a moment of satisfaction, not from the pleasure, but from stopping of the grasping.

As you name the wanting mind and feel it carefully, notice what happens just after it ends, and notice what states then follow. The issue of wanting and desire is a profound one. You will see how often our desires are misplaced. An obvious example is when we use food to replace the love we long for. To explain this, one teacher, who works with eating disorders, wrote a book called Feeding the Hungry Heart (G Roth). Through the practice of naming, we can sense how much of our surface desire arises from some deeper wanting in our being, from an underlying loneliness or fear or emptiness.

“But This Is The Necessary Process Of Unmasking The Grasping Mind”

o Plse Note: Often when people start their spiritual practice, the wanting mind will become more intense. As we take away some of the layers of dis¬traction, (Activities) we discover that underneath are powerful urges for food or sex, or for contact with others, or powerful ambition. When this happens, some people may feel that their spiritual life has gone awry, but this is the necessary process of unmasking the grasping mind.

o Plse Note: We get to face it and see it in all its guises, so that we can develop a skillful relationship to it.

o Plse Note: Unskillful desire causes wars, it drives much of our modern society, and as unknowing followers, we are at its mercy.

o Plse Note: Few people have ever stopped to examine desire, to feel it directly, to discover a wise relationship to it.
If one studies Buddhist psychology, we discover that desire is di¬vided into many categories. Most fundamentally these desires are then separated into painful desire and skillful desire, both aspects stemming from a neutral energy called the Will to Do.

o Painful desire involves greed, grasping, inadequacy, and longing.

o Skillful desire is born of this same Will to Do but directed by love, vitality, compassion, creativity, and wisdom.

With the development of awareness, we begin to distinguish unhealthy desire from skillful motivation. We can sense which states are free from unskillful desire and enjoy a more spontaneous and natural way of being without struggle or ambition.

When we are no longer as caught by unskillful desires, our understanding grows, and both healthy passion and compassion will more naturally direct our life.

Understanding, freedom, and joy are the treasures that Naming the Demon of desire brings us.

We discover that underneath unskillful desire is a deep spiritual longing for beauty, for abundance and completeness.

Naming desire can lead us to discover this truest desire. One old teacher said,
"The problem with desire is that you do not desire deeply enough! Why not desire it all? You don't like what you have and want what you don't have. Simply reverse this. Want what you have and don't want what you don't have. Here you will find true fulfillment."

By study¬ing desire, we begin to include all of its possibilities in our spiritual life.

NDT:Adapted from Path With a Heart ...
If I can understand what I am up against then and only can I begin to doing something about ... even if I am afraid ...

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