One of the main points of this blog is to map out the tools I’m using to do this whole whatever-the-fuck-it-is-I’m-doing thing (conscious evolution into harmonic oneness via attunement? Ugh.)
So, toolkit 1: Needs.
If oneness with the whole universe is contained within our uniquely expressed selves. If we live in harmony with that oneness when we act as our unique selves from a place of oneness. If the path to living in harmony is attunement to our true nature as expressed in every moment. If the essence of our true nature is in meeting our true needs. If our ability to perceive our true needs can easily be clouded by bullshit stories we believe, discordant meanings we won’t relinquish, belief in disunity, threats and coercion, false understandings. Et cetera.
Then it follows that the first step towards living in harmony is figuring out what the fuck it is we actually need.
First, A Brief Critique of Maslow
So I do totally get why Maslow put his needs in a hierarchy, because it is hard to focus on, say, feeling at one with the trees when you’re actively starving to death. But I’m not sure I like this idea that needs are always in a hierarchy. There are tales of yogis fasting for days or weeks on end, or of people experiences long trance states without sleep, or finding God in the throes of terrible illness, or whatever.
Say what you will about the veracity of those stories – even if they’re all false, what still stands is this: survival might not be your primary goal at all times. Take jumping in front of a bullet for a loved one. Keeping your body alive usually comes first, but it doesn’t absolutely have to.
For the most part, if survival is itself necessary for meeting your needs, then the needs of your physical survival will have to be met first. But you must first ask: Is survival one of my needs?
Anyway. Down to business.
Here are the tools I’ve come up with so far, not necessarily in an order that they need to come, just in the order I felt like putting them today.
Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this?
Is this serving my needs? Is this serving my needs? Is this serving my needs?
What are my needs? What are my needs? What are my needs?
You’ll never know if you don’t ask.
To figure out what you need, you first have to ask the fucking question.
You, like me, are maybe probably a human being (the title of this blog notwithstanding). If whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish in any given moment requires you to physically survive, you pretty much always need the following:
- Adequate warmth (and livable temperatures in general).
- Basic health.
- The ability to piss and shit (just try finding God with a full bladder.)
If you’re asphyxiating, starving, grossly dehydrated, freezing to death, ill, exhausted – figuring out what you need is pretty damn easy. And that feeling of intense satisfaction you get from serving your needs is nicely physical and obvious. Think of a big meal after a long trek through the wilderness. Diving into cool water on a sweltering day. The sheer joy of pooping.
You feel me.
2) Feel Safe
Needing safety seems fairly obvious, but I’m talking about something more subtle than physical safety. Dangling off the edge of a cliff or standing before an enemy with a loaded gun pointed at your temple – those are more in the realm of “survive” than “feel safe.” Because part of your body’s survival is not getting murdered, or mauled by a tiger, or falling off the top of the Empire State Building.
But the feeling of safety — that’s what I’m talking about here.
A dear friend told me that on a dark, cold night, he made himself a list of things that make him feel safe. I think this is one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard, so I’ve blatantly stolen it and made my own. This may seem irrelevant to your life, but I’m including my list as an example. Note: it’s not a list of people or places, just things and experiences I can get pretty much anywhere.
- Being in hot water. Specifically, sitting alone on the floor under a hot shower.
- The Fellowship of the Ring. Mostly the film, sometimes the audiobook. I don’t even watch it. I just put it on in the background, on a flight or falling asleep or during a dark night of the soul.
- Nooks, crannies, corners of rooms.
- Speaking English.
- Wearing large headphones.
- Non-stagnant bodies of water. Oceans, seas, rivers, and recently, canals. Despite the greater feasibility of crossing land than crossing water, being far from water makes me feel trapped.
- Functioning wifi and/or cellphone service.
- Ridiculous hipster cafes and health food grocery stores.
- Genuine smiles.
- “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show, or any twangy guitar folk song I know all the words to.
- Friendly dogs.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve felt in the throes of an existential or emotional crisis simply because I didn’t feel safe and didn’t realize that the only issue was that I was lacking a feeling of safety. The same goes for not meeting some kind of physical need. Sometimes you’re not depressed or anxious. Sometimes you’re just cold. Sometimes you just need something familiar, safe, protective, welcoming, that feels like home.
And it can be really, really hard to figure out any other needs when you feel unsafe. Like eating and drinking, you have to feed your safety need too.
If you’re not used to exercising your “what the fuck do I really need” muscle, start small. Start simple. Take as much noise and pressure and complication out of your life as you can.
Tuning in to our own needs is at once the most natural thing we can do, and something we’re so conditioned not to do, to do the opposite of. If you want to consciously figure out your needs, it’s a hell of a lot easier when you simplify your life.
4) Get Away from Other People
Speaking of how your ability to perceive your needs can so often get clouded, oh my god, other people. Constant judgment, constant expectations and assumptions, constant power struggles, taking their shit out on you, assuming you’ll deal with their shit, using you without consent for their needs, believing you’re responsible for fulfilling their needs.
I can’t tell you enough how necessary it is to get away from other people sometimes. Lots of times. Especially when you’re trying to tap into your own intuitive needs. Block out the outside world. Ignore everyone else. Turn your phone off. Go sit in the woods, or alone in a room, go for a hike, shut off the noise. Barricade yourself if you have to, for as long as you have to.
Don’t worry about explaining yourself. Don’t worry about what they think. Just, ugh. Fuck them. They may be the most wonderful people ever, but this isn’t about them just now. You can come back for them later. For now, do you boo.
Side note: Be very, very wary of perceived needs that hinge on other people conforming to your desires of them. This is not to say that other people can’t serve your needs. Just that if and when they do, it almost certainly won’t go down the way you think it ought to.
5) Shut Up
Sssssshhhhhh. Quiet. Meditate. Shut off other people’s bullshit, then shut off your own.
Quick review: How do you do that? You recognize it as bullshit. How do you do that? It starts with asking why.
Turn off the buzzing in your own brain. Your own narratives, stories, unhelpful beliefs. Take space, silence, peace. Tune in. Listen. If you don’t, you’ll drown it out. What is it? Erich Schiffman calls it the “traffic helicopter in your soul.” I call it the harmonious oneness of you and the universe manifest in your unique presence. It’s in there, but for the most part, we’re not actively trained to listen to it. Quiet down the other stuff, it’ll help you hear it.
6) Break the Habit
Do you not know what’s worth fighting for, or why you have to scream? Or why you instigate? Or say what you don’t mean?
Here’s an idea:
A. Lot. More. Of. Your. Life. Is. Habit. Than. You. Probably. Think.
Routine, compulsion, autopilot, addiction, following rules, obeying social norms, believing in unnecessary narratives. Doing what you think you ought to instead of what you actually need to. We’ve established that if you don’t question why you’re doing something, anything, everything, you stay stuck in the bullshit loop. But then, when you identify that something isn’t serving your needs, or even just maybe isn’t, or sounds necessary but might just be a compulsive habit or an unhelpful story you’ve bought into, or is keeping you from recognizing your needs – STOP DOING IT.
You don’t have to stop forever. Just long enough to test whether it was habit or need.
Get out of your comfort zone, actively. Break some rules. Do something different.
7) Trust What Feels Right
Not what anyone else tells you is right. Not what sounds like it ought to be right. Not even what you think is right.
Follow what feels right. You know when stuff just feels right? You do. It’s innate. You probably made some of the best decisions in your life because stuff just felt right. But we doubt it, over and over and over again. We can’t see the full picture immediately so we assume we got it wrong.
But like, maybe we didn’t. Your gut knows you better than your head does. Even better than your heart does. The conscious mind is the tip of an iceberg, the subconscious picks up thousands and thousands of cues you can’t possibly process on the surface. Maybe destiny’s a thing, maybe precognition is a thing, maybe it’s just unconscious recognition. Whatever. Who cares. Sometimes, things just feel right.
And “it just feels right” is a perfectly valid answer to “Why?” In fact, maybe the most valid. On countless occasions, what just felt right (before I could even begin to put a reason to it) came around to make sense for a myriad of incredible reasons I never could previously have anticipated. So I’m just going with it now.
Okay, then what?
Those are the tools I’ve got so far. I may add to this more later, but I feel like I’ve covered the bases.
So, what now?
Does this mean you’ll always figure out your needs? Does figuring out your needs get faster and easier? Does doing all this definitively lead you into harmony with the whole universe? What does that harmony feel like? Do you ever come back for everyone else? Does the way in which serving your needs serves the whole universe get more obvious?
Shit, man, I don’t know yet. I’m just trying this out myself. I’ll keep you posted though.