Asking Myself: What Are Your Needs?
Vani Murarka, a software professional runs an online library, cohosts a Hindi poetry site and shares an intimate questioning process in an introspective series. This is part one.
Befuddled. We get into this state of mind at times, do we not? I sure do.
Clarity can feel like nectar, a balm at such a time. Actually, clarity feels like nectar any time. I have found that asking myself explicitly for an answer, can be a wonderful way of getting clarity. I call it Explicit Self-communication. I write down an explicit life question in a notebook and then write the first answer that comes to me. If the answer does not seem to be coming from my authentic self, I just write exactly the same question again. Such an exercise helps me tremendously.
I think the first time I communicated with myself in this manner was when I asked – What is my deepest intent? I do not remember exactly what I wrote first as a response, but for the first few times I kept writing things that did not ring true to me. To be happy or to contribute to society, quite possibly might have been some of them. So I kept repeating the question again and again to myself, in writing. Finally what came out, I knew it was the complete answer for me, at least at that moment. The answer that came out was this:
now I am in the middle of the forest
I want to call out to me
I don’t want to use the name the world has assigned to me
yet, I want to call out to me.
here in this forest
I am there somewhere
I can sense myself
yes, that is my deepest intent
to meet me
to embrace myself
The actual physical writing of the question and answer, in a notebook is crucial. For most of us, our mind is not well trained, dancing about everywhere every second. There is just so much we can hold in the RAM of our brains, in trying to fix our life problems, only by thinking. More so when we are overwhelmed with emotions. Explicitly writing the question and the response gives a satisfying sense of conversation. It gives the feeling that the answer is flowing from somewhere through me, through my arms, fingers and pen onto the paper. It also prevents the mind from gallivanting. It feels one has been heard, understood and guided. Heard, understood and guided by one’s own self, how wonderful is that!
How do you know the right answer?
While in the example I cited above, I kept repeating the question to myself, often it is also a matter of accepting the first answer that comes. What is the best choice? We alone are the best judge. This is an exercise that is totally personal. There is no one else involved to say what is right or wrong. I suppose the best indicator of such an exercise is, if ultimately it leaves one feeling comparatively much more peaceful and settled than before starting the exercise.
Trust the process
This exercise is friendly, filled with an environment of trust and support. It is almost always carried out due to some frustration, struggle etc., so those feelings are there in the environment of the exercise. But someone [me] is accepting those feelings. In general, it is not easy to accept my frustrations and struggles in a friendly, trusting, supporting manner – when I am trying to just deal with them in my mind. But turning to the notebook, for a conversation with myself, somehow changes the dynamics and atmosphere. So that was about explicitly communicating with myself. A life tool, I have found to be immensely helpful.
One day I also asked myself: What are your needs? The motivation for asking myself this question was because I was at a particular stage of life, at a career crossroad. It brought its own generous share of the unknown. The second motivation was an excellent interview I read. I am quoting the relevant passage of the interview below:
Pancho: … is finding out what is enough? Once you find what enough in your life is, then the rest is abundance.
AC: … you have to set limits to have a surplus. Our culture does everything it can do to prevent us from defining what enough is in our lives. Because if we don’t set limits, then we always feel like we need more.
AC: Actually abundance is created by limits. Most people don’t understand that. If you don’t have limits, you’ll never have abundance, because you’ll always need more. Whereas if you take time to actually sit down and think about, okay for me, personally—and for my family—what is “enough?” Once you can be clear about that, then anything you get beyond that, you don’t need. At that point, right then and there, it becomes more than enough—by definition. And when you have more than enough, it’s a surplus—and you can share that, which is wonderful. Right? It actually makes it quite clear.
RW: I’m guessing that “enough” isn’t some stringent kind of austerity, but includes, let’s say, happiness, some kind of meaningful feeling.
AC: Well, yes. I would say “enough” is some way to meet our fundamental human needs. And our fundamental human needs include community and belonging and beauty and spaces that bring us to life—and an engagement with the world that is responsible and healthy. All these things are fundamental human needs, not just “did I eat something today?”
So after reading this illuminating conversation, as a positive trigger, I asked myself, in a notebook:
What Are Your Needs?
And this is the answer that flowed out –
a comfortable pleasing place to live
good food to eat
decent clothes to wear
a sense of belonging
fulfilling work to occupy my hands and mind
connection and interaction with people.
a feeling of having made some satisfying contribution
color – means to travel and do things that bring color and music to my heart and life
security – an assurance that my needs will be fulfilled – that what I need will come to me
freedom – to do what my heart says, freedom to be myself
freedom – from resentment, self-doubt, what-will-he-say/think and other mindsets that prevent me from moving
a fulfilling exchange of love and respect with the people in my life
connection to nature
connection to an internal ठहराव(peace)
For the reader who does not know Hindi, the best way I can translate “connection to an internal ठहराव” is: a connection to an internal place of stability / an internal home. My intention is not to share what my needs are with the world. I shared this actual list here (and all the other examples here), because I feel authentic examples are important. It is about a true communication from me to you. But they are merely examples. Your needs dear reader, how you answer this or any other question to yourself, may be somewhat similar or different. Explicit self-communication is totally about our own self. I share this exercise and the experience of it with you, because I found it very worthwhile. Kind of like, I ate a tasty nourishing mango – maybe you would like to eat one too? Or, there is this nice place I visited and here is the travelogue.
When I finished writing, it felt good, full and complete. There is nothing that I wished to change. Over the course of my life, 2 months 2 years later, it might change, but at that moment it was full. It just made me feel so okay to express all my needs explicitly. Rather than live with a constant fuzzy grating sense of not-having and neediness, to know clearly, explicitly, what are my needs. A sense of satisfaction filled me. The reward was received. Explicit self-communication in this manner gives this satisfaction because one expresses oneself freely to someone in a trusting environment and feels the assurance of having been understood. That is something we all seek. The specialty is, one expresses and feels understood by one’s own self. Now that sure is a nice place to be!
And to know with clarity, what are my needs, an even nicer place to be. Now I was in a position to see where I stand with each of my needs. If any seemed unfulfilled, I could connect my mind and heart to that area of my life and see what my internal wisdom had to tell me about it. If I felt a need is fulfilled, I had explicit reason to feel a sense of abundance.
Knowing how much is enough is an asset. Clarity is strength.