What do I mean by saying needs are not natural? At its core, it means that in our natural state we don’t need anything, other than the obvious like food, water and shelter. We are fine, complete and okay inside in our natural state.
Your reaction might be, “Sure, we don’t need anything other than food and shelter, but come on. What kind of life is that? I need to hang on the couch with my chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and watch my Netflix shows. And drink my Grey Goose dirty martinis. And go to Cabo San Lucas twice a year. And watch college football in the fall. I’d be bored to death if my life was just about surviving.”
The point is that a life lived without lots of needs is head and shoulders more satisfying and joyful than the life of Netflix, martinis and football. How so?
Why do we have needs?
Before getting to that, let’s ask a basic question: What is the origin of our needs? Most people would go straight to something like, “I don’t know. I really like chocolate cake. And sushi. And IPA’s. And playing Clash of Clans. I just like having that stuff in my life. Does there have to be some big reason I’m into those things? Or an origin story?”
What I, Mickey Singer and the Buddhists would say is that we have all these needs because we aren’t okay inside. In other words, “I think I’ll go out for sushi. That will make me feel better because I feel a little off right now.”
Of course, none of this is going on in the forefront of our minds. We aren’t thinking, “I feel sad or unfulfilled, so I’ll go get some sushi to make me feel better.” But that is what’s going on.
Inner peace is the ultimate aim
All of this hinges on what I am postulating is the overall goal for humans: To attain peace inside.
To get to a place where we feel unconditionally good most of the time. Not because we just bought a Ferrari or got promoted to sales manager. Just because.
Many reading this may disagree with that overall goal. You might say you’d rather lead a more varied life, full of cool vacations and activities that push the envelope, even if that means feeling inner tumult most of the time.
But I come down squarely on the side of the late, influential Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, who said:
“Many people think excitement is happiness. But when you are excited you are not peaceful. True happiness is based on peace.”
Not helping matters is the fact that much of our world, especially America, places a premium on pushing needs on people. It’s all about:
– “Get the iPhone 14 Pro. It’ll make you feel better.”
– “Buy this ridiculously expensive skin cleanser and you can look as beautiful as this one in a million model…which will make you feel better.”
– “Read my bestselling book Ten Steps to a Thriving Business, so your business will thrive…so you’ll feel better.”
It’s constant. Always coming at us. “Get this. Get that.”
The problem is, it doesn’t work. It can for a while. But inevitably the proverbial ‘new car smell’ fades and we go back to trying to fulfill more needs.
People with specific, picky tastes
Another aspect of this surrounds tastes; and being particular about what we like.
You know what I mean. It’s looking at thirty different shades of white you’re considering for painting your kitchen. And you get stuck. Why? Because it has to be just…the right…one…
Or you try on ten pairs of jeans at Nordstrom, checking out each one from seven different angles in those crazy mirrors they have. You work yourself into a tizzy trying to find the pair that makes your lower half look its absolute best.
And here’s the thing: Society lauds us for that. “He has really sharp, definite, unique tastes. I love that about him.”
Specific taste or neurotic?
But check under the hood and the reality is someone saying, “Unless this car/paint color/wine satisfies my stringent, particular tastes, I’m not going to be okay.” It’s saying that the world has to be a certain way for me to be okay inside. And again, it doesn’t work.
The question then becomes: If needs aren’t natural, what is natural and how do we get back to that state? Our natural state is one of upward flowing energy that brings us unconditional well-being.
Getting back to our natural state
How do we get back to that state? First, we don’t get down on ourselves for having lots of needs. We don’t shame ourselves. Every one of us has these needs, to varying degrees, and it does us absolutely no good to berate ourselves about that. It’s 100 percent counterproductive.
Second, we don’t try to curb our needs. We don’t say, “Okay, needs aren’t natural. They spring from my not being okay inside. So let’s start by cutting out ice cream and watching Succession on HBO.”
Working at the roots
The Buddhists say to work at the roots. Trying to curb your needs would be working at the leaves on the branches. The needs are just the symptoms. Like the leaves.
What would working at the roots look like? Working on why we’re not okay inside.
Why we’re not okay inside
So, why aren’t we okay inside? I subscribe to the Mickey Singer teachings on this. We’re not okay inside because we’ve had a bunch of experiences in our lives, good and bad, but mostly bad, that we’ve held onto. That we didn’t let go of when they occurred.
The result is a s*#t ton of blocked energy inside. How do we release that energy? We relax and let it go when it comes up. Like what?
When your 75-year-old mom tells you you need to send your potty-mouthed son Michael to etiquette school, you relax…and let it go.
When you’re running late and hit a few red lights, you relax…and let it go.
When your significant other criticizes you for being lazy and not contributing around the house, like your dad used to, you relax…and let it go.
None of this means you don’t drink your martinis or watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Again, those are just symptoms.
Awareness is the key
Mostly, it’s about increasing our awareness of how much we need. And using that to spur us into letting go of our egoic stuff.
Because I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found that the people who need less are usually the happiest. My mom was a prime example. She’d have a fried egg on toast for breakfast. Lunch was a sandwich that always seemed to contain copious amounts of annoyingly crunchy green peppers!
She expended most of her energy doing for others and not needing much. And she had a great life.
If there’s any takeaway from this article, it’s simply to take a look at the needs in your life. Don’t judge yourself. Or be critical. Just take a look.
Awareness is always the first step on the spiritual path.