“When you know what you need, you can ask for it, or you can work toward it, or you can invite it….”

Well, that seems simple enough, right? But how do we actually know what it is that we need? Is it a flash of insight, an appetite, a color, a feeling? A collection of words? What is it that awakens you in yourself, and tells you what you need, or what you want, to continue to become… you?

Transcript and notes:


Recorded 16 January 2023.


Hey everyone, thanks for tuning in.

How do you know what you need? Like, how do you know-know what you need? Where does it come from, deep inside you- that feeling, that recognition? That moment? How do you know?

I have some dearly beloveds who don't know. Or who didn't know. Or who have had to do a lot of trauma work to figure out how they could know. And then to learn to listen. And at first, my insistence that it was possible to know at all, was met with resistance.

"No," they said, "it's impossible. I don't have that kind of unworldly perception. Somehow, you know, but I don't know. I can't know. It was beaten out of me. I have no idea how I know."

But, yeah. Yeah. You know. How do you know? How do you know what you need? And how do you know what you need for everything? Not just... what kind of bed? What kind of shelter? What kind of space to sleep and think and work? And be? Not just what kind of clothes? Are you like me that you can't stand tags or scratchy... Do you like that sensation because it keeps you awake? What kind of music, or no music, or speech do you need to listen to to get your brain working?

How do you get your brain working? How does anything work really any way at all? How do you work? How do you know? How do you know that it works? And it's not just the best bad patch of a pile of bad patches? What does really working feel like? How do you know? How do you become aware? What awakens that in you? What awakens you in you?

And the problem with becoming aware, as I have had reported back to me by several of these same people, is that once you're aware, it's distracting. You have to do something about it.

It's insistent and persistent and disruptive to the push and pull of daily life. You can't just do whatever you have to do, what you need to do: you have to fulfill those needs, you have to fulfill those desires. Desire becomes a driving force instead of just a background hum. You realize how much even the background hum is important. How much it scratches at the back of your brain. A constant itch.

How do you know what you need? How do you know what you want? How do you know? How do you know yourself, after all?

For so many years, I was driven by cortisol and desperation. And those are effective. But there's more than that. And underneath that, for many years, I had this other layer. And when the cortisol and the desperation dropped away, I was able to feel other kinds of wanting and needing: beauty and softness and sex and joy. And these last few years, it just feels like feeling those things has either become too much or impossible.

Like the itch has become a gaping wound. Like I can't. Like I don't want to. Like the nerves have been severed. Like something had to be cauterized for me to keep getting up in the morning. And so I did and I kept going. But now I'm wondering which limb I lost and whether that was my femoral artery actually, and....

And yet, I have such a strong sense of knowing what I need. And so often the barriers are so tied to capitalism and other things that end in -ism, and I'm so tired of them. I'm so tired of uphill. And so what do I do? What do we do when we know that we could know what we want and what we need, but when we are aware of it, it disrupts our ability to survive? How do we make those things meet in a way that is enlivening?

And the answer- I was talking to someone recently about writer's block- and the answer turns out to be that your pipes are clogged. And that you have to give yourself some small thing that you want, even if it's an extravagance or unexpected. Even if it's something you have to be inventive about how to acquire. Even if it's not a thing at all. Even if it's touch. Something.

Find something that you can say yes to. Find some way of saying yes to your own inner self. Because that's the part of you that will tell you, or not tell you, over and over again; and if it tells you too many times, and you ignore it too many times, it just shuts up and sits in the corner and sulks. But also, also, it siphons off three quarters of your energy and half of your joy and you don't know where it went. And then it starts to break the connection, so that you can never get back to them until you go back and stitch those connections by hand, one stitch after another. And that's hard.

And if you're already feeling overwhelmed, finding the time and the energy to sit down with a needle and thread and your heart and your spirit and your skin and sew them back together is almost impossible. It can be done, but it's very difficult. And the less resourced you are, the harder it gets. And the harder it gets, the less resourced you are. So I'm not pretending any of this is easy or simple or straightforward. But sometimes it's the tiniest thing.

Like one day when I was in college, it was walking outside onto a warm, clean, dry, sunny sidewalk with my bare feet for the first time. Stopping and following the impulse to take off my shoes just to put my feet on that warm concrete. In spring. It changed my relationship to being barefoot. Sometimes....

Sometimes it's deciding to savor something you were going to eat anyway. Sometimes it's lighting a candle because you can't light a fire. Sometimes it's lighting a fire in the fireplace because you don't have a woodstove. Sometimes.... Sometimes it's burning a little bit of oil, and a little tiny homemade diya with a stretched out cotton swab for a wick. Make sure it's really cotton. Because that's all you got, is a little dish and a wick and some oil and a match.

Sometimes it is literally that light one candle. And sometimes it's something else. Sometimes it's petting the rosemary or the lavender as you walked by it and letting it release its scent onto your fingertips without actually harming the plant. Sometimes it's watching the birds in the trees. Sometimes it's watching the ants on the concrete. Sometimes it's a sensation of breath going through your mouth or your nose into your body. Or the sensation of breath leaving.

Sometimes, if you're having a really hard time, it's pressing your nail into the palm of your hand just to feel something specific that you did yourself. Sometimes that's what you need.

And sometimes it's stuff. And sometimes it's help and sometimes it's hope. And sometimes it's someone with a piece of knowledge or a connection that you don't have. Sometimes it's the actual act of asking. Sometimes it's the unexpected surprises. Or the synchronicities. Or the feeling of a cheap ballpoint pen on 89 cents spiral bound, lined paper. Probably gone up by now, I haven't bought one of those notebooks in a while. Or those slightly more expensive black and white marbled composition books, that had a stronger binding that wouldn't lose their pages or get squished in your backpack.

Sometimes it's asking someone on the internet, if they would read your poem so you can hear it read by somebody else. So you can know what it feels like coming out of another brain, another mouth, another heart.

You feel that desire rising up and you have to be able to conceive of it, but only so much, only so far, only a little bit. Just, if you can conceive of it just enough, you feel it rise up in you and you know that that's the thing you want. That's the thing you need.

And you know, and you know and you know.

I've learned to make lists periodically because I end up with these long, impossible feeling, freight trains of desires, pulling around my brain in circles at night. And it's much easier if I put them down on paper and then I can let them go in my head. And when I put them down on paper, it's amazing how many of them eventually get I met, somehow. Somehow.

But for me, it's the feeling. It's the feeling rising up through my gut. It's a feeling rising up through my feet. It's a feeling that makes my heart feel like it's blooming. I know that that is the thing that is one of the things that I want or that I need. For other people, it's a thought. For other people, it's a flash of insight. For other people, it's a color. How do you know? For intensives, it is a feeling. It is a gut feeling of some kind.

Whether it's a physical sensation, or a kind of knowing, or a collection of words, knowing what you need. Because when you know what you need, you can ask for it, or you can work toward it, or you can invite it. You can hope for that miracle, whatever it takes, but it's much harder to get where you're going if you don't know where that is. And it can change. But it may be that the only way that it will change is for you to approach the first thing and then discover the second thing just over the hill.

That's how I think about the world we're working for too. Approach the first thing, and the second thing is right over the hill. And that's how we know where we're going. Not because we can see the destination, but because we can see that next thing we're doing, we can get to the next thing we're doing. We can feel it rising. We can know we have to get there in order to get there. We know it's in the distance. We can get there. But first we have to know where we're going.

Thanks for tuning in. Talk to you soon.