Meditating with Demons: How to Work with Your Dark Side.

Via Benjamin Riggs
on Mar 1, 2012
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Meditating with Demons: How to Love Those Wounded Aspects of Your Self Back into the Present Moment.

Our ego, according to the Buddhist teachings, is nothing more than an undeveloped aspect of experience. It is fragments of our person, a personality. Furthermore, an ego is not a noun—they certainly present themselves as if they were solid characters, but, in fact, they are systemic processes of repressed energy orbiting around a fixed idea about how “I” should be.

“The ego” is a manufactured misunderstanding. Everyday we cycle through an astonishing number of worlds. We have dozens of egos, and every one of them are shards of our true self that were shaved off by an inability to relate to some dimension of our journey. “The ego” is always seen as the bad guy, so to speak. It is the classically selfish personality that is blamed for all of our troubles.

It is like the devil. But, like most devils, “the ego” is just a scapegoat. If we are willing to reconnect with these undeveloped personalities through non-judgmental awareness, we will see that “the ego”—how I should be—is just a shell. It is the container that is used to conceal the one thing we fear most, fear itself.

Every ego is a limited expectation of the Self inspired by fear. The fixed ideas about how we should be, by themselves, are insubstantial. They are validated by fear, which dates back to some historical event that was traumatic or unacceptable—an experience we were incapable of relating to. We literally couldn’t accept it. We did not know how. While the fear may have its origins in our past, it continues to be a governing force in our lives. This force is the dark side—the personification of those underlying threads of paranoia and insecurity that perpetuate the vicious cycles of repression and ignore-ance we can’t seem to escape. It is fear—how things shouldn’t be—that supplies the gravitational center of an ego centric world with it’s density.

Our worlds are orbiting around karmic impressions—energetic and emotional charges that are associated with the historical events we failed to relate to. These energies remain entangled by somatic tension and ignore-ance—physical oppression and obsessive brands of entertainment that anesthetize us or attempt to wrap our deepest, darkest fears in a pretty package. I am not speaking of a particular fear, but fear in-and-of itself. We may be afraid of intimacy, loneliness, success, or failure, but all of them share this basic element of fear. I am talking about primal fear. It is not actually intimacy that we are afraid of; we are afraid of fear—the inability to relate, which at some point in our past intimacy introduced us to.

Primal fear is the basic premise, upon which the ego’s story is constructed—the belief that if we were to open up and relate we would be swept away by a flood of energy. The ego resists the energy because it does not know how to relate to it. So, it tries to repress the energy or bottle it up. This energy is translated as fear, because when we try to bottle it up or try to control it, the situation becomes explosive. The energy is too much for a container. It begins to appear aggressive. It is the way we are relating to the energy that is creating the appearance of aggression.

“Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light but making the darkness conscious.” ~ Carl Gustav Jung

The spiritual path could be defined as an endless process of individuation, in which we change directions and begin to explore this inner universe—a recollection of the basic energy that constitutes Life. We have to reconnect with these undeveloped personalities and breathe space into their hearts. Space is the spring, from which, the waters of eternal life flow. So, reconnecting with these personalities and defending the space they need to continue their development means being willing to sit, unmoved or completely grounded, and watch as these monstrous visions of our dark side emerge from and return to space.

There is no reason to fear this energy—it is the quality of space that gives birth to our life. But knowing this in theory is not enough. We have to feel the fear. We have to taste it. It is like licking honey off of a razor blade. Licking that honey off of the razor’s edge is a great demonstration of love and courage. It takes an immense amount of courage to sit through fear. This courage to be in space is the basic principle of meditation practice. If you sit until you want to get up, but just continue to sit and watch the desire to get up without being moved one way or the other, you will soon be initiated into this dark space and develop a profound appreciation for the haunting silence of your radiant mind.

If we turn the impartial eye of fearless honesty towards even the darkest and most hideous personality in our wardrobe, we will see that it is characterized by the emotional maturity of a neglected youth and we will be inspired to act compassionately by defending the space it needs to liberate itself—we will gladly offer our conscious self up as nourishment and openly receive the return of our misplaced self. In order to do this, we have to reconnect it with the earth.

“Too often, people think that solving the world’s problems is based on conquering the earth, rather than touching the earth, touching ground.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Meditation is the willingness to put aside all aggression and judgment and simply see the union of space and energy—our true Self—at the core of the most vile and terrifying shard of our Self. Then, just as the Buddha did, we have to touch the earth. We have to love that wounded aspect of our Self back into the present moment. That is individuation. That is awakening.


Editor: Waylon L.


About Benjamin Riggs

Ben Riggs is the author of Finding God in the Body: A Spiritual Path for the Modern West. He is also the director of the Refuge Meditation Group in Shreveport, LA and a teacher at Explore Yoga. Ben writes extensively about Buddhist and Christian spirituality on Elephant Journal, and his blog. Click here to listen to the Finding God in the Body Podcast. To keep up with all of his work follow him on Facebook or Twitter.


13 Responses to “Meditating with Demons: How to Work with Your Dark Side.”

  1. integralhack says:

    Very nice, Benjamin. After all this bliss stuff and Anusaramania it was nice to read something more grounded. Great linkage between the work of meditation, individuation and archetypes (egos plural).

  2. quietus says:

    there is a frequent use of the word "is". So, you are sure tings ARE so certain? A lot of proof that "ego" exists lying around? Weird thing on this site, everyone so sure of their answers…

  3. Roger Wolsey says:

    Outstanding and Oh. So. Needed. So many of us in the spiritual community tend to minimize, and even deny, our shadow sides. Here's a piece I wrote for Elephant a while back that speaks to this from a progressive Christian perspective.

  4. threedeelife says:

    Wow, I love this article. Great job Ben. I have to chew on this for a while. One particular phrase I keyed in to: "Primal fear is the basic premise, upon which the ego’s story is constructed—the belief that if we were to open up and relate we would be swept away by a flood of energy." I FEEL that fear, contraction when I meditate . . . then I feel the rush and energy and movement when I let go and relax into the present moment. I also feel this struggle when dealing with a particular historical hang-up. It amazing to crack the ego's shell and get to the real energy underneath that is powering the limitation. Are you familiar with soul retrieval work of shamans? The way you described the "frozen" bits of ego energy reminded me of it.

  5. Hilde Stone says:

    Bless you as I sit here, right now, in the vortex of my fear, for posting this.

  6. BenRiggs says:

    To say that "egos" do not exist is theoretical unless it is substantiated by direct experience. On the spiritual path, theory is not enough. You have to see that "egos" are the result of a misunderstanding.

  7. BenRiggs says:

    Thanks, Nicole. Good to hear from you. I am on my phone right now…can you email me that link?

  8. BenRiggs says:

    Bless you, Hilde.

  9. BenRiggs says:

    Hey, Roger. Thanks for reading…how have you been?

  10. Ariana says:

    Beautiful! Refreshing. Thank you. Touch the earth indeed…

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  13. Mindy says:

    I have read this over and over. First I read almost the whole article, but stopped, because I realized there was way too much here to take in at one time. Then I read the first paragraph over and over until I understood it and felt it. Over the past week, I have repeated the process, paragraph by paragraph, until just now, I finished it. I was able to understand and feel it all. I will continue reading it–who knows how many times. I am just beginning to be able to create space…and I am so grateful. Thank you, Ben, for this amazingly clear vision into evolutionary life.