Dharma Topic: Our Need for Mindfulness

Dharma Topic: Our Need for Mindfulness

Discussion date: Thu, Mar 17, 2005 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

Our program topic this Thursday evening, March 17,will be: Mindfulness Practice is the Answer. What is the Question?

Two weekends ago many Still Water regulars attended aNonviolent Communications workshop with Pat Arcady, an NVC trainer from Boston.According to Pat, the core of NVC consists of connecting with, naming, andunderstanding needs, in ourselves and others.

A handout Pat used emphasized that in the context of NVC,’needs’ refers not only to our physiological survival needs, but also “towhat is most alive in us: our core values and deepest human longings.” InNVC, needs are contrasted with strategies: Needs “describe shared humanexperience rather than … particular strategies to meet those needs.”

In the language of mindfulness practice, although we don’tusually phrase it in terms of ‘needs,’ we often talk about becoming more aware,through mindfulness, of our intentions and deep desires. Mindfulness is anenergy that can help us to be more aware of the energies pushing us in this orthat direction. Through mindfulness we can nurture the intentions which webelieve will bring us ease and joy, and give less energy to the intentions whichwe believe will bring suffering to ourselves and others. The Buddhist traditionagrees with NVC in saying that many of our difficulties come from confusingintentions (needs) with strategies. Thich Nhat Hanh writes in The Heart ofthe Buddha’s Teachings:

Everyone wants to be happy, and there is a strong energy in us pushing us toward what we think will make us happy. But we may suffer a lot because of this. We need the insight that position, revenge, wealth, fame, or possessions are, more often than not, obstacles to our happiness. We need to cultivate the wish to be free of these things so we can enjoy the wonders of life that are always available — the blue sky, the trees, our beautiful children. After three months or six months of mindful sitting, mindful walking, and mindful looking, a deep vision of reality arises in us, and the capacity of being there, enjoying life in the present moment, liberates us from all impulses and brings us real happiness.

This Thursday evening we will practice identifying andsharing the various underlying needs (deep longings and desires) that draw us toand are satisfied by mindfulness practice. Both NVC and mindfulness tell us thatwhen we are clearer about our needs and intentions, we will be clearer aboutwhat actions we should do or refrain from doing.

A fuller excerpt from Pat Arcady’s handout is below. If NVCis new to you, you may also wish to look at the list of needs the NVC communityhas created to help people identify the primary needs that might be active atvarious times in our lives. The list can be found at http://cnvc.org/needs.htm.

You are invited to join us for our meditation and programthis Thursday evening. The best times to join us are just before 7 pm; at 7:25,at the beginning of walking meditation; and, at 7:35, at the beginning of thesecond sitting. (To allow others to maintain concentration and continuity, weask that Thursday evening participants not enter during the walking meditation.)

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher

Excerpt from NVC: Living in Harmony with Ourselves

Our needs are an expression of our deepest shared humanity.All human beings share key needs for survival: drink (hydration), food(nutrition), sleep (rest), shelter (safety), companionship (connection). We alsoshare many other needs, though we may experience them to varying degrees and mayexperience them more or less intensely at various times.

In the context of NVC, needs refer to what is most alive inus: our core values and deepest human longings. Understanding, naming, andconnecting with our needs helps us improve our relationship with ourselves, aswell as foster understanding with others, so we are all more likely to takeactions that meet everyone’s needs.

The key to identifying and expressing needs is to focus onwords that describe shared human experience rather than words that describe theparticular strategies to meet those needs. For example: “I want you to cometo my birthday party” may be a particular strategy to meet a need for loveand connection.

Whether or not our needs are met is the direct cause of ourfeelings in that moment. By connecting with our needs, therefore, we take fullresponsibility for our feelings, freeing us and others from fault and blame. Andby expressing our unique version of a shared human reality of needs, we createthe most likely opportunity for another person to see our humanity and toexperience empathy and understanding for us.

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Mar 17, 2005


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