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 in the form of ‘requests‘. Students often pick up the idea that needs are somehow elusive or hard to attain, or even that they may be in conflict with other needs. 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 which underpins our experience of being alive. The longing we experience is simply to reconnect with that life energy. Usually of course our attention is more on the outward manifestations and we are not so attuned to the inner energetic realities. 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 consciousness.  Nobody seems to be able to explain 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 attention, our consciousness itself which shifts in order to align with our needs. Feelings, in turn, represent the movement of energy from the realm of needs into the body-heart-mind experience of the physical plane.  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 transient thoughts or emotions and towards something very constant and beautiful, which is simply the life energy of that need as it flows within us. Wonderfully, all of our ‘needs’ both meet and dissolve in this one vibration of energy.  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 with the ‘ten thousand things’ of the outer manifestations.

Thus, if we go back to the source and meditate on our longing for ‘connection‘ (for example), the longing will 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 a need as such (separate from how we might want it to manifest in a specific situation), without tuning in to its energy. and finding its quality within us; try it, for example, with ‘appreciation’. 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 memories of the past and our worries about the future 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

                          ↓ (incarnation)

different Qualities or aspects of life energy = ‘Needs

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

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

The 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, interwoven with symbolism from the Chinese five-element system. Des has also produced the same allegorical journey as a board game and 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. Sadly I cannot explain what he does; when I experienced it myself, it felt like magic!

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.