“Needs come from the ego.”
“Needs are the result of a belief in lack. But a belief in lack leads in the wrong direction.”
“If you are truly awakened, you no longer have needs.”
How do you feel when you read these statements?
We often hear these or other things when the topic turns to the questions whether needs are compatible with a spiritual journey.
The issue seems to have an explosive tendency. So we could choose to avoid it. Yet there lies a big danger to our spiritual progress if we refuse to look at our needs (as well as our feelings). This is why we will address it anyway.
So, what is it really about needs, and is there a “spiritually correct” way of dealing with them?
First, I would like to invite you to check with yourself for a moment what you associate with the word “needs”.
(To clarify: With needs I mean universal human needs such as food, shelter, community, support, belonging, connection, being heard. Not strategies like “chocolate, smoking, travelling, TV” 😉 ).
What is your first reaction?
Do you see needs as something positive or something negative?
And what images or words come up for you in regard to needs?
For most people, needs are something negative. Needs are linked to weakness and immaturity.
There is an idea that needs are something we will or should grow out of.
At least needs are seen as interfering with daily life. We are supposed to function, and we fear that we will no longer be capable of functioning if we give room to our needs. Would we, for example, still be able to do our job? Wouldn’t we just spend our day sleeping or lazily swinging in a hammock?
I personally believe that our suspicion towards is deeply anchored in our achievenment-driven culture, and that it has not necessarily originated from spiritualiy. Rather we took this suspicion with us into our spiritual life.
No wonder we find the same idea of needs as as annoying disturbance in the context of spirituality: Needs seem to be in the way of our connection to God and of our awakening because they keep us stuck in the human realm – or something like that.
At first, this sounds logical. It makes sense.
But there is a catch: With this idea we create a form of separation.
And any form of separation undermines our awakening, because awakening is closely connected to the realization that there is no separation!
Applied to needs this means: If we see needs as a problem, we will take an adverse attitude towards them. This again means, that we are taking an adverse attitude towards a part of ourselves! The part in us, that has needs, is perceived as “wrong”, as something that must change or leave.
So voilá – there we have made a separation within ourselves!
How are we supposed to experience ourselves as all-encompassing, unconditional love, when we don’t love certain things in us, but try to get rid of them?
You could argue now that we are not trying to get rid of our true self, but only the ego self that is not real anyway. I agree with the ego not being real anyway, but I see the potential danger in wanting to get rid of anything. Because, if there is no ego – what are we trying to get rid of?!
Besides: Try to get rid of your needs and you will find yourself in a constant battle with yourself.
The illusional nature of the ego leads to the other reason why there is no reason to want to toss needs overboard, and why it in fact could be a counterproductive idea.
Let’s take a moment to look at the definition of “ego”.
The ego is a distorted perception of reality. The reality of God is love.
(Because it would exceed the size of a blog article I want to leave the question, why we see so much bad if only love is real, to another time.)
God can not be anything else but love, because otherwise at some point He would self-destruct. Love creates and builds up, its opposite destroys. God cannot have both qualities – imagine what would happen long term. It just wouldn’t work out.
The ego has no power in and out of itself. It doesn’t have substance or a source.
It is just an attempt to distort reality, a theater, a “Let’s pretend that evil is real.”
So what is left? Everything that is, comes from God, whether directly or indirectly. Nothing can come from the ego. The ego can only hijack things from God and mask them as something other than they are.
Why is that relevant in relationship to needs? Well, it tells us that needs also cannot be from the ego. They can only be wrongly used and interpreted by the ego. This is exactly what happens in our world, because this is what we have been taught.
Let’s turn around the old logic, according to which needs are something bad, and let’s look at the whole thing with some spiritual logic.
Everything comes from God = needs also come from God, or, in other words, behind what we perceive as needs in this world must be a divine impulse.
The ego distorts what comes from God = the ego judges needs as bad and interprets them as expression of lack.
If the ego is the opposite of truth, then needs have nothing to do with lack but are are impulse of abundance that wants to share itself.
When we look at needs thinking we lack something that we need to get at any cose from the outside, we are in ego and are using needs in a destructive way. We look for fulfillment outside ourselves and ruin our relationships through our demands.
But if we see needs as impulse to bring love into the world, expressed in a certain way according to the situation, then they become a nourishing power that makes life more beautiful for all of us.
Example: In a certain situation I become aware that I have a need for appreciation. According to the paradigm of the ego I would on the one hand feel embarrassed about having this need while at the same time be trying to get appreciation from other people (mostly subconcsiously).
I would annoy others with my neediness and would often be frustrated, because I perceive a lack of appreciaton for myself everywhere.
Within the paragidm of abundance, the situation would look differently: “Oh, I see that this situation would be a lot nicer with some appreciation! Appreciation is the form, in which love would be helpful here. And if I am the one who notices it, then there must be the wish to show love in the form of appreciation in me. So, lets see – how can I express appreciation here, to myself and to others?
When I start letting myself know what I appreciate about me, and also tell the people around me what I appreciate about them, the love inside of me starts to flow and I can experience myself as love. As an enrichment to others, as a gift to the world and to other people.
This way a need that I perceive and that I respond to with love turns into a direct experience of love and oneness. A step into exactly the direction that we are aiming at with awakening, isn’t it?
Hereby it doesn’t make a difference whether I sense and answer a need within myself or someone else. There is so separation. We are one :-).
I feel this hunch inside that life could be a nicer through that. A lot, lot nicer.
Thank you for reading. What do you need today? 🙂
P.S.: If you find this article helpful, then please share it with your friends. Thank you from my heart – we could need support ;-)!