Listening to our needs

Since summer is really taking her time to arrive, I’ve been biding my time with some *light* reading, namely the book, Living Nonviolent Communication: Practical Tools to Connect and Communicate Skillfully in Every Situation, by Marshall Rosenberg. Not only is it helping to quell my meteorological impatience, but I’ve been finding its lessons – of listening and how to ask for one’s needs – to be sage and perennially relevant.

Much yogic wisdom espouses that the solution to our problems coming from within. Angry? Let go of your anger. Need to reduce stress? Take deeper breaths.

Certainly, we can do a lot for ourselves. And we do do it! I am grateful to witness and support one form of this do-for-ourselves-ness, in the classes we share both in-person and online.

And yet through this, we must tread with care.

The concept that an individual is the sole arbitrator of one’s needs can become twisted. For instance, when it places all responsibility (i.e. blame) on the sufferer and conveniently sidesteps any critique of the instigator’s responsibility. (E.g.: if only you didn’t get so upset when they slapped you. You must’ve done something to deserve being hit.)

It can justify a sort of pseudospiritual apathy, because apparently the magic (or…magick?!) of your glorious self transcends all economic, social, and climate factors, rendering these issues ultimately meaningless, and if only you took some deeper breaths, you would realize that belly breathing would dissolve all your problems.

Worse, it can justify a self-centredness that believes that everything in the world exists to serve you. It’s all about you, Dear One! Sigh, if only you could transform the pain into lessons, and then into a self-help book / brand / speaking tour, you’ll find freedom and bliss – !

We must remember another aspect of yogic wisdom: awareness.

When does our can-do attitude cross into ableist tyranny? Where does our drive for evolution / improvement come from: self-loathing, or generative faith in our ability to flourish? What is it, exactly, at the root of our actions and words?

In Rosenberg’s book, he states that our goal is to always be attuning for the question, “What are the needs here?” When you speak, you are stating your needs – consciously or not, skillfully or not. When I speak, it is the same. In life, our conversations and actions are a constant relay of “I want” with some “thank you’s” thrown in every so often.

Challenges arise when we don’t hear the needs of others. Maybe we are rigidly wed to our worldview, or taking things personally, or simply not paying attention. Whatever the case, the insularity of our lives means our needs go unmet and the suffering persists.

In some ways, the pandemic has made us more individualistic and isolated from eachother’s needs. When summer finally arrives and brings its energy of light, heat, and movement, my hope is that we can gather again and begin to really see and listen to one another.

So I’m really looking forward to summer! To the sunshine, the cleansing rain, the local produce. To nourishing conversations with friends, to watching the sunset with my partner, to feeling less anxious. To the possibility of a war ending, to us all learning our lessons and not forgetting them. To taking the time to ask myself what are my needs. To asking for help. To listening. What are your needs?

With deep gratitude for you,