Being mindful of our needs is a path to greater awareness and compassion, always useful and especially handy when times are challenging. If your life is already peaceful and nonreactionary, filled with compassion and acceptance, without being aware of exactly what needs you might be meeting at any one time, there may not be any reason to be mindful of your needs in the way I am describing here.
If, however, you would like more compassion and acceptance in your life, having a needs based consciousness–in other words being aware of and connecting to the needs that are alive in you at any moment–has tremendous advantages. Here are a few other tests that may help you decide if this practice is for you:
- If you see a baby or a puppy that is not yours and you do NOT smile or at least have the urge to smile, you could probably benefit from the open heartedness that comes with a needs based consciousness. I know this might sound a little outrageous to some, but it is probably the best test I know of.
- If you explode into rage–anger that is so intense there is a loss of control–you probably inner pain or loss that can benefit from some healing. How often we feel irritation is another helpful barometer.
- Having the appropriate response in a given situation is another way to see whether we could use some added awareness of our inner life. Like with the Buddha’s Four Immeasurables, there are responses that are more appropriate or desirable than others. For instance, in the face of another being’s suffering, compassion is the appropriate response. When we learn of someone’s success, hopefully we feel joy for them. If in a challenging situation our reaction on a scale of 1-10 is more than 6 but the appropriate response might be 2, we could probably use the healing that comes with a needs based consciousness.
Of course, just because we start becoming aware of our needs and values and the needs and values of others does not mean that we won’t have negative moments. But for sure, they will start to diminish in number and we will have more compassion for ourselves and others when they happen..
Here’s a partial list of how awareness of our needs can benefit us, some obvious, some not so much:
- Increase our awareness
- Increase our ability for empathy (towards both ourselves and others)
- Have more compassion for ourselves and others
- Bring us into the present moment
- To better take care of ourselves
- To get free of stories and judgments
- To change the inner dialogue
- To empower ourselves
- To better understand ourselves and others
- To deepen our intimacy with self and others
- To better manage our lives
- To connect to our humanity
- To open our heart
- To help heal childhood wounds and trauma
- To align ourselves internally and with what is
- To meet our need for self connection
- To have more choice in our life
- To see things more clearly
- To help us uncover and connect to our truth
- To help us take responsibility for our lives, including our feelings and choices
- To help us act more skillfully and wholesomely
I believe that one of the most important reasons to be aware of our needs is to increase our awareness in general. Without awareness, there can be no healing, no growth, and no freedom. When we are operating outside of our awareness—in our “shadow” as Carl Jung called it—we lose the ability to make skillful choices, and often can create all sorts of havoc.
An equally important reason to connect to our needs is to open our heart and be more compassionate. When I focus on WHY someone did something rather than WHAT they did I have more compassion for that person or myself because all needs are universal and beautiful manifestations of life. When I get angry and resentful toward someone, I am still trying to meet needs. Possibly needs for consideration, justice or protection from harm. All three of those needs are positive and life serving. When I connect to them I feel compassion for myself. I can give myself some empathy. When I do, the resentment or anger usually diminishes. If I add trying to guess what needs the other person was trying to meet, I often end up with compassion for that person.
When we connect to our needs, at least for that moment, we are in the here and now. It is not possible to be mindful of our needs and be lost in thought at that same time. Sometimes we don’t even need to identify the need. We can just notice, “I have unmet needs,” or “I have met needs.” Sometimes that is all it takes to bring us into the present moment and have more peace in our lives. At whatever level you choose, you will most likely find an improvement in how you feel.