Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.
- (Sufi Poet Rumi)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Desire: Distinguishing the Universal from the Particular

My spouse and cominister, Rev. Meredith Garmon, incorporated the theory and components of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) in a recent sermon he delivered to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville on January 17, 2010. I was pleasantly surprised with the novel approach for the component “need” in NVC. His thinking relies on the difference between a universal desire and a particular desire. A universal desire is life seeking to flow in all humans. You desire something because it is how our species evolved and how we may flourish. In NVC language we often call this universal desire a “need.” A particular desire is the specific strategy you might employ to respond to the universal desire. The reason to say “desire” and not “need” helps us see how we can decrease the urgency for any of our strategies. This allows us to be more open to alternate strategies that might meet the desires of ourselves, others, and our communities.

Here’s how it works.

  1. Think of something you’d really like to happen for you, or that you’d like to do. Perhaps it is something that you long for, or it’s absence causes you sorrow or stress. Maybe it is something that you think someone "should" be doing, or you "should" be doing.

  1. See this as a particular desire, a kind of strategy for meeting a universal desire you share with the human species.

  1. Now discover the universal desire behind the particular desire.

Example: Particular desire = Wanting your children to clean up their room or the house

Universal desires = order, beauty, support, ease

  1. Next see how you might “let go” of the particular desire in that there are many ways to respond to the universal desire.

Example: You might think of making a game of cleaning so that the children are having fun (meeting their needs) or you might consider hiring a house cleaner, or sharing house cleaning with other families. Perhaps you take a different track all together, for order, beauty, support, and ease can be met in so many ways. You gain a sense of freedom in that your house doesn’t have to be clean right now or that your children have to do what you say. You also gain a connection to life because you are connecting to the validity and presence of universal desires in your life which connects you to all the earth and her beings.

  1. Open yourself to let go of any urgency to meet the universal desire because the

freedom of choice offers you a chance to be fully live and powerful as you

embrace reality.

Example: Feeling connected to your own desires and perhaps that of your children, you are thinking of how important beauty is to you, and ease. Validating this gives you a sense of belonging in the world and of your interconnection and openness to others, even if they don’t do what you’d like them to do. One day you might come home and see how you don’t mind the house in disarray, and rejoice in the beauty in the people around you, and in yourself.

6. Celebrate or mourn the desire fulfilled or unfulfilled. The hope is to let go of

strategies, but to hold dear the life affirming desires.

May it be so!

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