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I need ease!

Updated: May 7

» The NVC framework can sometimes reinforce a contracted sense of Self; getting in the way of true healing when it requires YOU to collude with MY needs.. So what is the subtle art to naming our needs? «


What spiritual practice has as its essence is the practice of knowing our Self more fully, more clearly, and more truly. This means any aspect of our life can become a contemplation towards our true nature. With this orientation, our life becomes the Petri dish of soul lessons. 

An essential questions that serves this path is the quintessential; 'who (or what) am I?' More practically, that translates for me as; can I let my present moment experience inform me of how I view my Self and thereby how I operate in the world.

As I make this a living enquiry, the subtle (and yes, even the surprisingly overt) ways that I reinforce my sense of self become more apparent.

There are so many layers that I can dive into this enquiry- we are multidimensional beings after all!- but recently this process of getting my needs met became an open enquiry when I was thrust into the frontline of deep honest self exploration during a very definitive rupture with a friend. We had the classic cocktail of competing needs, counter-supportive protection strategies and profound rawness.

I'm getting more and more conversant with the 'needs' languaging thanks to the Non-Violent Communication (NVC) skills I'm fortifying, and no doubt about it, this way of communicating is really effective at defusing conflicts.  

Yet, something struck me in our 'conflict of needs'. As I was explicitly naming my needs, so too was I subtly fortifying the conditions I wanted in order for her to engage with me. And likewise, she was strengthening her position of needs for engagement also. And our needs of engagement were clearly not in alignment.

While we were genuinely honouring and respecting each other's needs, we were, quite logically, creating an impasse for trusting our compatibility as friends.

Ultimately that conclusion isn't true, but it requires the deeper path to counter it.

So I shifted lanes; I wanted to untether, for a moment, the contracted version of my Self and my needs, and see if this could dispel the energy stuck in our rupture.

It was a game-changer for me, and it went like this...

​I have a big need for ease in my life. Largely because, as a mum with a highly sensitive feeling-type boy in my immediate orbit​, he feels my distress and acts it out so counter-intuitively to how I do, that it requires a double-dose of patience and calm and endurance to ride out his big emotions.

So orienting my life around ease has become both my antidote and strategy.

Admittedly ease can be a double-edged sword; one can't wield it on another and ask them to be more easy-going when clearly they have different needs that they want attending to; that would logically create the opposite effect. So oftentimes, it sits uncomfortably alongside my needs matter, speaking up, being heard, taking up space... all those edgy bits that require negotiation of my "internal committee" (as Karla McLaren terms it, in 'The Language of Emotions') .

I'm aware also that aligning with ease can seem a bit like a cop-out when it comes to being in the fire of relational work and showing up for someone else. It can lead to avoidance and ambivalence. I am familiar with these strategies also.

It arose in my awareness; as the rupture consummated; can my asking for ease in this moment bring about some kind of resolution?

It certainly created a pause and disrupted the catalogue of complaints coming my way at the time.

But the more essential question for me ended up being; can ease be a quality that is unconditionally available within me, that can neither be added to or subtracted from by any other person?

Well, initially no. 

I discovered I had a very contracted version of 'inner ease'. It required containment in the form of retreating and withdrawing from the conflict. 

As I entered back into my home life, I noticed how much distress there was in my body. I could feel myself contracting around this, and needing to protect some part of me that felt very fragile. I hunkered down into my cave, so as not to incur any further volleys from 'the other side'.

Agreed; this was not an expanded state, nor would it be able to provide an opportunity for any repair.

But what this did provide, and became essential to my budding inner-ease-self, was that I had space to deep dive into my own psychic and emotional turmoil that had been touched. 

I built up my resilience to be with the highly charged and distressing sensations in my body without acting on them, without needing to find resolution, but just to be with them. I dug deep, breathed through it, and didn't try to follow any thought patterns, but rather, let them fade out. 

This process was aided by the Buddhist lineage wisdom of Pema Chödrön, who shared her advice around 'don't bite the hook' and to aspire towards the bodhisattva path. I could feel the bodhisattva aspiration pull me in equal measures to the pull and burn of my unmet needs in that rupture. 

I was aware that I needed to deconstruct - not fortify - my defences. I was determined not to feed the jackal with my thoughts, and every time a self-inflating thought arose, I chanted mantra.

My retreat into my cave also bought me time to dissolve any expectation of how my friend ought to have acted other than the way she did. This didn't neutralise or anaesthetise the rawness of what I was feeling, but it did free my psychic space, and I started to find clarity. I had clear sightedness as to what the thought forms were that created the initial trip-wires of rupture, for both of us. 

What's more, I didn't need to offload this onto her. This was my mahi. And it felt liberating and expanded. Yes, even ease-ful.

But what of actual person to person relational repair... had I gone anyways to meet that? And could ease support that process?

Well... No. Not yet. I'd got myself into a bit of a tangle see, with a very convincing part of my psyche (that obviously cherishes ease) telling me not to be a "problem", that I was being "overly sensitive" and advised me not to "provoke" her with my "stuff", and that I didn't have enough time/energy/fortitude to hold the process (these are well worn tracks in my neural-pathways).

Hardly an effective strategy for connection, but it was compelling, and I laid low and didn't attempt a connection. Weeks later, my friend sent an email, sensing by this stage, that there had been a larger than she'd realised rupture between us. 

Well, this is where my learning to be in ease went next level!!

What I had in my kete at this point was a willingness to favour ease over 'being right' or 'being validated', (needs that typically arrive with a sense of urgency and anxiety for me). This was oh so needed in order to help me not bite the psychic hooks that showed up in the subsequent chain of emails.

In choosing to communicate via email, it gave me the pause I needed to bring ease into our joint process. I knew that each time I hit 'send', there would be a splash into her psychic field, and that would create ripples, that would hit my shores. I set out to choose the words and the messages that would create the smallest of ripples, to offer my self honestly into her world, but stay true to my process.

We each had a long list of needs that hadn’t been met. It was starting to feel like a losing streak of the card game “Go Fish”. I could rationalise that she had no capacity to meet my needs at that time, and-- subsequently-- I had no capacity to meet her needs while I was so activated. But to land that in my body-Self knowing, that took time.

With ease as my guide, I got there. In a strange way, I felt the ok-ness of our competing needs.

As I named this for myself, I felt a dropping in to the unconditional field of ease; there was nothing I needed or wanted from my friend in order to make me feel better. I felt psychically clear. The whole process felt easy. I felt free and light about whatever would show up in my inbox next from her.

The following morning I saw a big long email from her in my inbox. I didn't have time to read it before I dropped my boy to school, but I saw it's length and the opening sentence which was laboured in tension and pain and fatigue. I was reminded of the necessity the mind has to defend its position, to assert its needs, to strengthen its rightness. 

And how much energy that consumes within our system. Like running a marathon with a shifting finish line.

On my morning sadhana beach walk that morning, as I chanted the mantra Amaram Hum, Madhuram Hum, and letting the wisdom of this expand my perception of who I am really, I asked myself; well, what am I defending? 

And I couldn't come up with an answer!! 

It crumbled all my resistances.

So I decided to be undefended, to validate my friend's experience with no 'buts' and offer the most sincere apology I could.

And from that place, I decided to compose an email back to my friend before reading her email (hey, so I'm still new to this, I wanted to avoid any hooks that might still snag me!).

In writing my reply, I felt the eeeeaaaase of life.

I hit 'send'.

I felt set free from the paradigm of met or unmet needs that some other person shoulda/woulda/coulda fulfill. The ease was inside of me; I had given me that.

In writing this , I feel the ease of being with what is (still) unresolved. While I feel the tenderness of grief and loss of our connection, I have no urgent pull for a resolution to happen on my timeline. In its place is a trust that the healing impulse will someday bring us back into connection again. In that I trust, and that feels easeful.

Stabilizing my thoughts and actions around the eternal Self (as the mantra points to) unmasked my strategies for protecting a Self that must necessarily contract in order to be protected.

Thank you Ease, you taught me a wise truth. I feel I have just learned a hard-won lesson; one of those lessons that reaches up beyond what I thought I was capable of actualising, and expanded my awareness around the subtle art of getting our needs met.

Unconditionally met, regardless of who's playing in my field at the time!

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