The beauty of needs

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.                     (John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn, 1819)

The ‘beauty of needs’ and ‘the living energy of the needs’ (LEN) are concepts introduced into the NVC world by the work of Robert Gonzales and his colleagues.  In classical NVC the needs focus is on lack or deficit versus satisfaction or fulfilment, and the struggle is often around how to ‘meet’ one’s needs, typically from the outside. The ‘beauty of needs’ teachings take the opposite approach and say that needs are not so much a longing which can be satisfied or frustrated, as a constant living energy inside us. The longing we experience is to reconnect with that life energy. Usually of course we are not attuned to the life energy at our deepest core. If we do bring our consciousness to that place, however, we can switch from experiencing lack to experiencing fulfilment without taking any external actions at all.

My understanding of how this shift is possible is that when we ‘go inside’ to sense a need, it is not like remembering a ‘fact’ or retrieving an object from a store. Nor is it a matter of re-creating an emotional state by thinking the same thoughts we habitually associate with the emotion. It’s not even like sensing into a part of our body, although this can be a step towards the needs.  Nobody seems to be able to say how we actually know what our needs are and can name them. We just know! I conclude that needs actually exist on a deeper level than the feelings they evoke.  It is our consciousness itself which shifts in order to align with our needs. Feelings therefore represent the movement of energy from the realm of needs into the physical body-mind experience, guided and modulated by mostly unconscious thought processes.  If we track the movement backwards to focus on a pure need, before its manifestation in the external world, we actually re-align our perceptions away from their habitual attachment to thoughts and feelings and towards something very constant and beautiful, which is simply the life energy of that need as it flows within us.  At this point, if not before, the word ‘need’ begins to get in the way of the reality it’s referring to, and this is also where NVC ceases to be a communication tool and becomes a mystical experience. The LEN or Higher Self, or whatever we want to call it, is there all the time, and in it all our ‘needs’ are ‘met’, it’s just that we’re not connected with it when we’re identified solely with the outer levels of feelings, thoughts and actions.

Thus, if we go back to the source and meditate on our longing for ‘connection‘ (for example), the longing can resolve into an actual awareness of connection, for example with the chair we’re sitting on and the air we’re breathing, with our own bodies, with the other people present and absent, and/or with the world around and beyond us. You can’t actually imagine, say, ‘appreciation‘ as such (separate from how we think it ‘should’ manifest in a specific situation), without ‘being’ that qualitt and tuning in to its energy. One amazing aspect of the beauty of the needs is that they are in reality always ‘met’, always ‘fulfilled’, for as long as we stay present with them. It’s only our ‘stories‘ which tell us that there is a ‘lack’ somewhere. We already have exactly what we ‘need’, in this moment!

In an even more esoteric sense, the connection between beauty and the needs is that the needs are the bridge between the human experience as incarnated, or more accurately ‘ensouled’ beings, and the abstract spiritual identity of Love=Truth=Beauty, which represents our highest available perceptions of reality: energy (or divinity if you prefer) seen through the emotional, intellectual or physical centres respectively. Thus, connecting on the deepest level with our needs is a transcendental experience of beauty, and equally it’s an experience of truth and love. A crude representation of the ‘descent’ through the planes of existence or experience (which actually don’t form a hierarchy at all, except in an ontological sense, but exist simultaneously on different levels of consciousness!) might look something like:

Tao (unnamable and indescribable Absolute)

Pure Energy

Love / Truth / Beauty

different Qualities or aspects of life energy = ‘Needs

Feelings (arising from identification with the needs or disconnection from them)

Action (movement to express or reconnect with the energy of the needs).

The classic method proposed by Robert Gonzales for connecting with the beauty of the needs is to simply pick a need and ask the question, “How does (need) live in me?”  This works well done in pairs (dyads), with a listening partner asking the question. You can go really deep with this if you stick with the same need for 10 or more minutes of repeatedly asking the same question.

Robert Gonzales and Susan Skye also developed an exercise for experiencing the beauty of needs by processing the thoughts and fears which normally get in our way, an exercise which Gina Lawrence and Bridget Belgrave developed further into a ‘dance floor’, or moving exercise. It goes by the name of  ‘The transforming the pain of unmet needs into the beauty of needs NVC Dance Floor‘, which is not a snappy title but does have the merit of descriptive accuracy. I recommend it warmly. See the NVC Dance Floors website for more details.

For those who enjoy an even more kinaesthetic approach, Desmond McNeill-Moss has laid out his garden at the Rainbow Mill in Norfolk as a symbolic journey through the stages of the same Dance Floor, relating them to the Chinese five-element system. Des has also produced the same allegorical journey as a board game and now as a short story, offering a more portable and narrative format.

Kåre Landfald, working in Norway and Sweden, has a more direct, Zen-style approach which has the same result of connecting with the LEN, without the processing.

Vajrasara Rankin and Penny Spawforth have devised a mandala-type diagram of the Living Energy of Needs model, which places the LEN in its rightful place at the centre of experience.