As you review this list of needs, read both the word and its definition out loud. Take your time as you go. Be slow. Notice what each of these needs incites within you, whether it’s a physical sensation, a feeling, a memory, or anything else.
Write down your own definition and any other thoughts, ideas, and experiences that come up around that idea. Don’t edit. Don’t judge. Just let it flow. Another way to work with these needs, reinforce them, and internalize their wisdom is to commit to working with one per week over a twenty-eight-week period (as you’ll see, I added one of my own in addition to Montagu’s twenty-seven) and to go deep with it. Begin by similarly writing the definition and your thoughts and ideas about it, but then go deeper by practicing the need, talking about it, and maybe even creating a Women’s Gathering (see here) built around a discussion of and working with this particular need. Get inside that need, and allow it to get inside of you, to become you.
MONTAGU’S TWENTY-SEVEN BASIC HUMAN NEEDS Photo Gallery
Montagu highlights love as the standout essential need that should be central to our life. We need outlets to share and show our love in the ways that we individually know how. We also need to receive love in the form we require. Love, in its truest, most unconditional form, is the best and most powerful variety of medicine. As you read this blog and think about love, think about the ways in which you need to express your love, and the ways in which you choose to be loved. “Out of the learning of love grows the love of learning. It is the consistent exercise of the ability to love that humanizes us, that makes us human.”
Another form of love, friendship is important for the development of “good human relations.” Think about the type of friend you are or would like to be and what type of friends you would like to have. List your tribe of friends and think about the ways you nurture those friendships. Friendship is something to be cherished and nourished; we must weave the threads of trust together. Maybe you are someone who is very social and has a lot of friends, or perhaps you only have a few very close friends. Maybe you are your own bestie, or maybe your partner is. Perhaps, as was the case with poets Mary Oliver and Walt Whitman, nature is your trusted friend. Whatever form friendship takes for you, it’s all wonderful.
We live in a world where we’re often told we’re too sensitive, yet sensitivity is key to experiencing the depth of life. This need is being challenged in today’s world, where we are so caught up in profits and the bottom line, at the expense of the health and happiness of human beings. We need to go deeper with our experience of self, others, and life. “Sensitivity deepens the experience of what life has to offer and enlarges our apprehension and appreciation of it.” Next time someone says, “You are too sensitive,” be sure to thank the person, because you are exactly what the world needs right now, at this very moment in time.
We are moving at such a fast pace that we have forgotten the importance of observation, analysis, and experimental thinking. We are overly focused on instant results, instant answers, and instant responses. How quickly and thoughtlessly do you respond to texts, e-mails, and Instagram comments? It’s important to slow down and be self-reflective. We need to set some boundaries to
keep the distractions that are preventing us from thinking soundly at bay.
To be deeply involved in your passion leads you to knowing. This knowing has profound implications on your mind, body, and spirit. It gives you a foundation upon which to expand your sense of authentic self.
Play to learn and orient yourself to always be learning. You can learn something from everyone and every situation, every day. Waking up with the thought “What will I learn today?” will keep you in an ongoing state of mental and consciousness expansion. It is when we have the false belief that we already know everything that we become stagnant. Learning is life. A lifelong love of learning keeps the mind flexible, youthful, and enlightened.
We learn the most about ourself from the work we do. We should think of our work as a work of art versus just a job or a way of paying our bills. Find the art in your work. And if you do not find it, then find the work that contains the art for you. Being content in your work lights up your life and illuminates you. Do work that allows you the chance to really get to know yourself and what you are made of.
* All Montagu quotes in Part One excerpted from Growing Young by Ashley Montagu.
We need organization for clarity of mind, focus, and intention. An organized mind is an enlightened mind. When our mind becomes cluttered with distractions and overburdened by too many choices, it’s a signal that it is time to slow down and shrug off some of our mental clutter.
This need speaks to the vigor of the mind, and its unquenchable need to explore. Curiosity is something to be encouraged and celebrated. Ask questions, probe, turn over stones, look under rocks. Be relentlessly inquisitive.
A sense of wonder deeply corresponds with life itself. It is an interest, an awe that contains the essence of excitement and possibilities. Wonder is a need that holds expectation, and “participation in the known and unknown.” Wonder opens the door to the mysteries of life, to the invisible, eternal, infinite inner workings of life.
Playfulness is where joy resides. Play leads to innovation, it propels us beyond our habits and our comfort zones. There is an element of surprise, spontaneity, and imagination in play. This concept of the “inner child” is not a cliche, but a real, valuable need to be emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy. Play with your thoughts, your ideas, your words, your exchanges with others, and your movements. Approach life through a lens of playfulness. Play in your friendships and with your loves. Be playful with yourself. Play to stay young for eternity. Play to keep life fresh and alive.
Creativity is why we need to express ourself. When we are satisfying this need, we are healthy When we are creative and encouraged to create, we are in a process of becoming we are fluid, in movement, engaged, and enriched. When we create, we embrace change. We flow with the current of life instead of flailing against it.
We need this to maintain a healthy relationship with all of humanity. When we are open-minded, we become free from prejudice and rigidness, and we are more respectful to the ideas and concerns of others. With an open mind, we are able to connect to our self and others in much deeper and more meaningful ways.
A flexible mind is a mind that extends itself in all directions. It is a mind always in pursuit of growth. It grows through deep listening and consideration of opinions. When new evidence presents itself, the mind flexes to adapt, rethink, and reconsider. It is a mind that is both respectful of tradition and open to the new. Flexibility requires us to challenge all prejudices, and pursue beauty and truth in the name of self and life itself.
What type of thinker are you? When you think experimentally, you become an observer, setting up
hypotheses and then testing them to see whether they are true. When you are an observer, your range of life experience is larger it has more longitude and latitude, more texture, and more sensuality.
Being an explorer of life is being alive. When we explore we are engaged, we care, we are aware, we are deeply interested, and we are intrigued. Exploration has no boundaries; we can explore nature, culture, blogs, architecture, all expressions of art, and so much more.
How long does it take you to bounce back from a challenge or something that has rattled you? This time frame will give you an idea of how resilient you are. Resilience encourages us to make that “bounce back time” as short as possible. We want to process those stresses that show up in our daily life quickly so we have more freedom to enjoy the fullness of life.
This is joie de vivre, literally “joy of life.” Enthusiasm is excitement and exciting. It is infectious. It gets things done, motivates others to get things done, uplifts, and energizes. Enthusiasm is real, authentic, and earnest.
SENSE OF HUMOR
Find ways to laugh at yourself. A sense of humor loosens and frees us from the harsh realities of suffering and banality. It adds texture, color, shape, and taste to what is otherwise boring and stagnant. A sense of humor lightens the load and colors what is otherwise dull and gray. Humor erupts at the intersection of the unexpected and incompatible.
Joy is a quintessential need most connected to the spiritual realm It is an essence that is fluid, creative, regenerative, and enduring. Joy is vital. Joy is always young and always an access point to growing young. With joy there is no chronological aging, it is boundless, and without boundaries. Joy is pure life.
LAUGHTER AND TEARS
Laughter is the realest of the real. It is a glorious outburst of authenticity. The smile that accompanies laughter is the personification of friendliness and warmth. Laughter is healing. And so are tears. Tears cleanse, rebalance, recalibrate, restore, soften, and open a hardened heart. Laughter and tears enjoin feelings of goodness, wholeness, and renewal. We rejoice in the freedom to laugh and to weep for our mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Eternal optimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy of one success after another. When we are oriented toward an optimistic outlook, anything is possible. Optimism is freedom and goodness not only good for the individual, but also for the group at large.
HONESTY AND TRUST
We need to be honest, trusting, and trusted. Often, we are not honest with ourself or others because we are fearful. We need to move beyond these fears to honest expressions of what our
needs are, and trust ourself to express those needs. When we build a foundation of trusting ourself by expressing our needs and leaving situations that do not support those needs, it becomes easier to trust others and the world at large.
We need to care, nurture, nourish, support, and sustain others through this combination of strength and loving kindness. Compassionate intelligence sees potential and helps people rise up. When it sees weakness it does not trample, it reaches out a hand and lifts up. There is no hate, only empathy. There is no fear, only fearlessness to recognize that what we see in others is a part of us too, no matter what. This need reaches across lines, boundaries, fences, and borders. It says, “I understand you,” “I am here for you,” and “I hear you.” It never makes fun, destroys, or knocks down. It smiles, builds up, and puts back together.
To just let go and dance is the most amazing feeling. To dance is to be in tune, it is to speak the language of the body, the language of the eternal. When we try the different dances of various world cultures, we better understand who they are because it is in the subtlety and nuances of the movement where their truth lives. There is also a door to freedom in dance, an opportunity to completely relinquish control, fear, rigidness, judgment, and prejudice. Dance loosens all of that and sets us free. When we give ourself permission to really dance, we are dancing with the cosmos, with eternity, with the infinite, with the source. Dance is therapy, renewal, and replenishment. “There is a release and a replenishment of psychic energy that leaves one with an oceanic feeling of freedom from which all constraint has fallen away, in which the free play of the emotions in disciplined response to music has its way. One is infused with lyrical joy.”
Singing is the only true way to understand the power of our voice. When we sing, really sing, we know our range. When we know this it comes with us wherever we are, allowing us to express clearly what our needs are and what needs to be expressed through us and by us. We need to sing and to hear our voice. We need to know our voice and to love our voice.
And a twenty-eighth need that I can’t help but add…
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