Shifting to Needs Consciousness

Practice ~ Meditating on Needs:


The 2 Parts and 4 Components of NVC

NVC Model

empathetically listening:





honestly expressing:





NVC Model | NVC concepts | Feelings List | Needs List | NVC Chapter One

Kashtan – Universal Human Needs

Wanting Fully Without Attachment – Tikkun Magazine

By Miki Kashtan

We are at least familiar with the ideal of "wanting fully without attachment" in sports, where we are taught that fair play in a hard fought, enjoyable game is more important than who wins. A fine example this year was the graciousness with which Elena Dementieva (left) conceded defeat to Serena Williams in the Australian Open semifinal in January. Art by SUZANNE SHERMAN

We are at least familiar with the ideal of “wanting fully without attachment” in sports, where we are taught that fair play in a hard fought, enjoyable game is more important than who wins. A fine example this year was the graciousness with which Elena Dementieva (left) conceded defeat to Serena Williams in the Australian Open semifinal in January.

Tikkun Magazine, January/February 2010

The origin of suffering is attachment. – The Buddha

The Talmud tells us that in the world to come, everyone will be called to account for all the desires they might have fulfilled in this world but chose not to.  The things we desire—the desires themselves—are sacred.  Who put them in our hearts if not God?  But we have been taught to be ashamed of what we want; our desires become horribly distorted and cause us to do terribly hurtful things. – Alan Lew, from This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared

If you have had a spiritual practice or have experience with personal growth workshops, you have no doubt heard many times that letting go of attachment increases happiness and well-being. The principle is simple, but exactly what does it mean to let go of attachment, and what do we do to get there?

Sometimes it appears as if spiritual traditions suggested that the only way to let go of attachment is to give up on what we want. But is this the only way to interpret the old traditions? Is wanting really inseparable from attachment? Or is it possible to want what we want with full passion without the constriction of being attached? Can we remain genuinely relaxed about whether or not we get what we want? And if we can do this in our personal lives, what about as social and political beings, as we relate to the state of the world? Why would we even want to release attachment when our passion is for the world—be it for social justice, peace, sustainability, or any other cause?

The challenge arises primarily when we experience tension between what we want and what is or what seems possible. We frequently respond in one of two ways. Externally, we might try to force what is to conform to what we want by outright coercion and threats or by using more subtle forms of demands. Internally, we might try to suppress or give up on what we want. Both of these strategies lead to suffering. Neither of these paths engages with life openly. In both we are forcing others or ourselves instead of being in a dialogic relationship.

What follows is an attempt to outline a new path, different from forcing or giving up; a path that affirms who we are and accepts what is; a path that allows creative strategies to arise from a quality of connection that recognizes and affirms our own and others’ needs, aspirations, and dreams.

And what about social transformation? you may wonder. To begin with, if we are unable to tolerate the world as it is, we will be at war with the world, putting ourselves in danger of re-creating the very same structures we are seeking to transform. The path of wanting without attachment supports our work for change in two key ways. Internally, as we grow in our capacity to want without attachment, our inner peace increases. Externally, our capacity to release attachment and continue to want and work toward our deepest dreams provides a foundation for an entirely different approach to working toward change in the world: we can then work without urgency, with less burnout, with more capacity to dialogue with those we encounter along the way, and with a sense of clear vision instead of opposition… (continues here:  Tikkun Magazine)


Kashtan:  “If you have ever participated in meditation of any kind, you probably know that most forms of meditation involve returning attention to an object of focus whenever attention wanders. Some meditation practices focus on the breath (many forms of Buddhist and Yogic meditation), some on certain bodily sensations (some forms of Vipassana meditation, for example), some on specific words (mantras in transcendental meditation), and some on specific sequences of ideas and images (some forms of Jewish meditation).

In an entirely similar manner, you can develop a meditation practice that focuses on connecting with needs. The object of focus is the line “I have a need for ____.” Just as with any other form of meditation, your mind will likely wander. You will likely hear internal responses, such as: “But this need cannot be met; why bother?” or “Yeah, but this person is not going to change,” or “I should just grow up and get over this petty wish of mine,” or “This is not just about some personal need of mine. This is about everyone’s right to dignity.” The aim of the practice is to bring your attention back to the need you are meditating on—without harshness. Rather than punishing yourself for wandering, just gently bring your attention back.

Encountering and connecting with needs is different from naming them as checklist items. Whenever we do this practice, we can take a moment to breathe, to really experience the flavor of that need being inside of us—exactly what it feels like, what the sensations of having this need are, and what this need means to us…”  (continues)


BayNVC’s Facets of Self-Connection

Needs: Facets of Self-Connection

Purpose: This guided reflection is intended to support you in experiencing a variety of ways to connect with your needs, which you can use at any time in your daily life. People resonate differently with these different ways. You may want to explore each of these to see which support you in gaining more self-connection and inner freedom.  You can use these reflections as a series or separately from each other.

1. Focus your attention on a need that is not met to your satisfaction in
your life. Put your focus specifically on the unmet quality of this need. You can say to yourself: “My need for ____ is not met,” and repeat this phrase until you are fully connected with the experience of the unmet need. (You might want to close your eyes and focus inwardly while you do this.) What sensations do you notice in your body? What feelings arise?

2. Now shift your attention to the need itself. Not to the idea of having the need met, but to the need itself; to the fact of having a need. You can say to yourself: “I have a need for _____,” and repeat this phrase until you are fully connected with the experience of having the need. (You might want to close your eyes and focus inwardly while you do this.) What sensations do you notice in your body? What feelings arise?

3. Now shift your attention to the met quality of the need. What is it like for you when this need is met? You can imagine this need met, and say to yourself: “My need for _____ is met,” and repeat this phrase until you are fully connected with the experience of having this need met.  (You might want to close your eyes and focus inwardly while you do this.) What sensations do you notice in your body? What feelings arise?

4. Lastly, shift your attention to the need as a presence you want to
encounter (another meaning of “meet”). This is similar to focusing on the need without it being met or unmet, but may be experienced differently.  Focus on what it is like to meet this need in the sense of encountering it fully.  You might say to yourself: “Hello _____. Welcome,” and repeat this phrase until you are fully connected with the experience of having encountering this need. (You might want to close your eyes and focus inwardly while you do this.) What sensations do you notice in your body? What feelings arise?

5. Note any insight from the shift in focus, and or any needs met by the

6. Consider: when would you want to engage with each of these different
focuses on your needs? How might each serve you? What needs would you
want to meet through this focus?

7. Do you have any requests of yourself?

Buddha Rosenberg

Sven Hartenstein’s cartoons:


NVC Empathy: Self-connection meditative exercise on Needs

Sven Hartenstein’s cartoons:



Needs Wheel

Words (contained in Needs Wheel – link above) that point to needs are grouped based on Radical Compassion’s integration of the work of Marshall Rosenberg, Spiral Dynamics, and Manfred Max-Neef.

Additional ‘shifting’ resources: Radical CompassionMatrix & 3 Layers of Empathy


Trainer Tips

Miki Kashtan re: How to Differentiate Between Needs and Strategies

Kashtan: “Needs lists, how to say this, is intrinsically an approximation, and the reason for that is because it’s isolated concepts, and life is fluid — so whether or not something is a need, some people start getting into kind of hairy conversations about whether this is a need or not.  And, for me, what matters is two things, one is to ensure that what I’m talking about is clearly not attached to specific strategies.  And there is an acronym that someone came up with that helps with that distinction.  The acronym is Plato.  Like the philosopher Plato and it stands for…


If you have any one of those five in what you are imagining is a need, you know that it is a strategy, because it is in material reality. So that’s one thing.  Once you’ve taken all of those things out, you know that you are not in a particular strategy and you’re more likely to be in the energetic, spiritual, gestalt of the need, and then  — from there on — the second question is — “if this is sufficiently deep to find the self-connection that I want?”  So, for example, I can say that Comfort is a Need, but for me personally (I’m not saying for anyone else), most of the time (not even always) if I look inside to understand myself and what I come up with a need for comfort, it doesn’t feel like the end of a journey, it’s not really something I can go like ‘oh, yes that’s it I feel connected’ — than I keep inquiring and go deeper, but if it is sufficient than it’s a need, I don’t care what anyone else says, but in this moment it is a need.”

See also:  BayNVC

Meeting Our Needs

with Mary Mackenzie

In blocking off what hurts us, we think we are walling ourselves off from pain. But in the long run, the wall, which prevents growth, hurts us more than the pain, which if we will only bear it, soon passes over us . . .Walls remain. —Alice Walker

Discovering the unmet needs that drive our feelings is only part of the solution. The other part is to understand what it will take to meet that need and make a request that will accomplish this.

Let’s say your friend told a racist joke at your party last night and you are annoyed. Understanding that your needs for respect and consideration weren’t met is just the starting point. The next step is to decide what could be done to meet those needs. You might consider talking to your friend about it by, saying, “When you told that racist joke last night at the party, I felt hurt and annoyed because I value respect and consideration for all people. I also felt embarrassed because I like people to feel safe in my home. Would you be willing to refrain from telling racist or sexist jokes when I’m around from now on?”

Not making such a request of your friend limits your choices. You might decide not to invite him again. Or you might invite him but worry all night about what he might say. Worse yet, you could end up resenting him for years about this incident, and he would never have the opportunity to understand why your relationship has changed.

When we make requests, we can resolve situations before they escalate. Everyone benefits when we are clear about what we would like.

Notice if you have unmet needs today, consider what it will take to meet them, and make a request of someone.

This trainer tip is an excerpt from Mary Mackenzie’s book Peaceful Living, available from PuddleDancer Press.

Stivers Cartoons: The Hierarchy of Needs

Puppetmaster Rosenberg

Marshall Rosenberg, who views conflict as a tragic expression of unmet needs, often brokers a mediation by asking parties what they need.  So what qualifies as a need (verses a ‘want’ etc.)?

Rosenberg developed a list of needs under headings: connection, physical well-being, honesty, play, peace, meaning and autonomy.

He also draws on the work of Chilean economist, Manfred Max-Neef who has developed an economic system based on meeting human needs. Max-Neef defines nine needs.

Max-Neef: Human Needs

1.         Sustenance:  food, shelter, and water – the basic, physical needs.

2.         Safety: protection

3.         Love

4.         Understanding

5.         Community

6.         Recreation: play, rest

7.         Autonomy (Rosenberg says this is one of the most important needs)

8.         Creativity

9.         Meaning: purpose in life. According to Victor Frankl, probably the most important need of all

A giraffe

Manfred Max-Neef explains the Human Needs Matrix

Beneath via: Reducing Violence: Applying the Human Needs Theory to the …

Table 1: Human Needs, as presented by various theorists

Maslow [15]

Burton [16]

Rosenberg [17]

MaxNeef [18]

Food, water, shelter (1)

Distributive justice

Physical Nurturance


Safety and security (2)

Safety, Security



Belonging or love (3)


Love Integrity


Self-esteem (4)




Personal fulfilment (5)

Personal fulfilment





Celebration and mourning



Cultural security

Spiritual Communion

Leisure, Idleness









John Kinyon discusses what brought him to NVC

John Kinyon shares what NVC means for him

Mediate Your LifeNVC-Feelings-Needs-Sheet

Beyond Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

 Why did you develop “Barefoot Economics”?

Manfred Max-Neef, Father of “Barefoot Economics” – Keynote at Zermatt Summit

Manfred Max-Neef on Barefoot Economics

 Manfred Max Neef – From knowledge to understanding

Manfred Max Neef Barefoot Economics Part 1

Manfred Max-Neef Barefoot Economics Part 2

Chilean Economist Manfred Max-Neef: US Is Becoming an “Underdeveloping Nation”

Shows featuring Manfred Max-Neef | Democracy Now!

PEACE TALKS: Nonviolent Communication with Marshall Rosenberg

ROSENBERG: Let me give you all nine of them, because, according to the Chilean economist, Manfred Max-Neef, we only have about nine needs. Needs are very important to Max-Neef, because his whole, economic system is based on human needs. How do we measure them, so we really gauge our economy, its success, on the meeting of human needs – and not the tragic way we have been measuring it?

The first one he calls, “sustenance:” food, shelter, and water – the basic, physical needs. Next, “safety:” protection. Next, “love.” Next, “understanding.” Next, “community.” Next, “recreation:” play, rest; he lumps those as one. Then, one of the most important needs of all, “autonomy.” Look in the newspaper on any, given day and see how many wars are going on over that need. Human beings have a strong need to be in charge of their own lives, to not have somebody claiming to know what they have to do or should do. Anybody who says that to them, it threatens his or her autonomy. You see all the wars going on between nations. Listen in on any family with children. You will hear autonomy wars. “It’s time to go wash up for bed.” “No, I don’t wanna.” “Did you hear me?” “No!” See? An autonomy war. Another need, “creativity.” Then, according to Victor Frankl, probably the most important need of all, a need for “meaning:” purpose in life. How sad, how few people on the planet are getting that need met. They are educated to misrepresent needs, according to Michael Lerner. We have been educated to misrepresent our needs. We have been educated to think we have a need to consume, a need for money, a need for status – not realizing those are not needs.


Manfred Max Neef’sFundamental Human Needs

Human Needs






physical and
mental health

food, shelter

feed, clothe,
rest, work

living environment,
social setting



social security,
health systems,

plan, take care
of, help

social environment,


respect, sense
of humour,

with nature

share, take care of,
make love, express

intimate spaces
of togetherness


curiosity, intuition

teachers, policies

analyse, study,meditate

schools, families


sense of humour

duties, work,

dissent, express

parties, churches,



games, parties,
peace of mind

relax, have fun

intimate spaces,
places to be alone



abilities, skills,

invent, build,
design, work,

spaces for


sense of
belonging, self-

religions, work,
values, norms

get to know
oneself, grow,
commit oneself

places one
belongs to,


passion, self-esteem,

equal rights

dissent, choose,
run risks, develop


One Response to Shifting to Needs Consciousness

  1. luccia says:

    Wow — you have really put alot of work into this site! So much info! Thanks for all your efforts. I have much to harvest here!

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