What do we mean by needs in Empathic Communication?
Let's first get clear what do we mean by "needs" in Empathic Communication. By needs we mean something radicallly different than the economy we currently have tries to convince us "needing". Indeed, even by classical economic definitions, it’s not needs that the market attends to, it’s “effective demand” because there is no flow of care.
"Need" is the word we use in Empathic Communication for the deepest motivations behind anything people do, say, or think - behind any action or reaction.
We are all born with essential physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and the innate resources to help us fulfil them. These innate needs are common to all humans, whatever our social-cultural background.
Needs are a-scriptive, it is difficult to put words on what is also described as "the divine energy that connects all of us". Need-language is probably the closest we can get to verbally describe this divine energy. We can also call them values, or something that matters, or something that is important.
Whatever we call them, we are looking for something that is:
Do needs have a hierarchy in Empathic Communication?
When we think about human needs, we may recall Abraham Maslow, who presented the concept of needs in a hierarchy. His pyramid starts at the bottom with physiological needs, then safety needs, followed by needs for belonging, then for esteem, and finally at the top, needs for self-actualization.
In Empathic Communication, there is no hierarchy of needs (apart from the basic need for subsistence or survival), as postulated by Maslow. Needs are dynamic, and there may be many needs simultaneously present. All human beings share the same needs, but we perceive them with varying intensity and use different strategies to meet them. Recognizing our own and others' needs means connecting with what is alive in other people or us at a particular moment, and this is where bridging seemingly unsolvable differences become possible.
"Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura mentions that we have material as well as spiritual needs, and to progress smoothly on the spiritual path, both types of needs should be addressed."
Can needs be elevated?
So, in this regard there are no "lower" or "higher" needs or question of "elevating" needs - all needs are life serving. Like in Krishna Consciousness, there is no higher or lower devotional service. Pujari's service on the altar or sweeper's service on the street are equal when done with devotion.
In another hand, elevating needs can be understood what we're doing in Krishna consciousness. For example, when I am hungry and I'm taking prasad, I am not satisfying so called "lower order" need for food. It's actually the devotional service - honoring prasadam.
When I am going for exercise, the gym or walking it is not just meeting my need for physical movement, but it is a service in devotion because I am doing it in Krishna consciousness. I am doing it for maintaining the body that belongs to Srila Prabhupada and is meant to be used in his service. So, it's fully bona fide devotional service. In this kind of consciousness it doesn't no longer feel like a "lower order" need because it is already elevated, it is devotional service.
For example, when Srila Prabhupada was taking a massage he was not enjoying the massage at a bodily need level, he was fully absorbed in Krishna and is conscious that his body needs maintenance for service. So it's no longer "a lower order" need. When we dovetail all our needs in Krishna consciousness they're elevated.
"The devotees think of Krishna, act for Krishna, eat for Krishna, sleep for Krishna and work for Krishna. Thus everything is engaged in the service of Krishna. A total life in Krishna consciousness saves one from material contamination."
Another thought is that it is true that the so called "lower order" needs do disappear or diminish. For example, the Six Goswamis could survive on a cup of buttermilk because of elevation of consciousness. So it is true that by being fully Krishna conscious, they almost didn't need sleep, they ate very little and they didn't have a need for recreation other than their devotional service.
"One should learn how to dovetail everything in the service of the Lord, for everything is connected to Krishna. That is the real purpose of life and secret of success."
Joyfully in your service,
Sri Radhika devi dasi and Madhuri Radhika devi dasi