Tea time with a demon

A statue of a baby demon

When the Buddha spent a month under the Bodhi Tree pursuing enlightenment, he was challenged by the evil demon King Mara—bringer of death and desire.

Mara’s army rushed toward the Buddha, but he did not plea or run away. Instead, he placed his hand on the ground and calmly stated that the seat beneath the tree was his and that they were welcome to join him.

The sword of each soldier fell to the earth and turned into a flower.

The moral of the story? LSD was strong even in 500 BC.

Kidding.

Negative thoughts and emotions are omnipresent. For the vast majority of us who don’t plan on spending years training to be a monk…anxiety, doubt, envy, longing, depression…these are things we must battle with almost every day.

The problem is: Many of us approach these demons by vigorously wishing them away.

A few years ago, when I was struggling with suicidal thoughts and depressing episodes, I refused to take action until the demons left me alone.

But they’ll never go away.

As of right now, I’ve never been happier with myself or my life…and the demons are still around.

The only difference? I have a healthier relationship with them.

By following the Buddha’s example, by inviting the demons in for tea with open arms, they become laughably weak. Their swords disappear.

It’s analogous to when a bully is making fun of your shoes. The second you join her and start talking shit about your shoes too, her words become utterly powerless.

Today, the thing that brings me the most mental pain is my anxiety over money. It has crippled and even paralyzed me at times.

That’s my demon. I handle it in two steps:

1) Clearly identify the demon

Not in the Western sense of tracing it back to its source from some childhood memory. There’s validity in that, but in the moment it’s not my priority.

For this, I note each thought, feeling, and physical sensation.

• “I feel tightness in my chest.”
• “I see images of me getting evicted.”
• “I can hear the disappointment in my friends’ voices.”

By simply articulating each and every thought and feeling, I get a sense of clarity and lightness.

2) Invite the demon in for tea

This can take practice.

As stated above, the demon isn’t going anywhere. So you might as well become friends and get the most out of your time with him.

The obvious caveat here is that I’m not a therapist or psychiatrist. These are just strategies that have lasted millennia and can help you the next time a demon knocks on your door.

You can try to slam that door in his face, but he’ll just grow bigger and stronger.

Make him a cup of tea, and he’ll shrivel down in strength and size.

I hear they prefer Chamomile.