Meeting the Basics

Scale by Antonietta
Scale by Antonietta

Sometimes, it’s worth being reminded that the challenges I talk about here on the blog are largely “First World” problems. Issues we face only when the basics are mostly taken care of.

If you lacked food or security, basic needs would take a higher priority over musing about your spiritual life.

If you’re reading this article, you also have Internet access. That’s not an option for many people in the world.

You can browse the International Wealth Index if you’re not convinced. Of course, wealth equality is another layer, but this isn’t about economics.

Abraham Maslow modelled a hierarchy of needs, each of which developed on the platform of the prior. I’d argue we can move up the list before prior levels are complete, but they still need to be sufficient. If we’re hungry, we don’t give a tweet about aesthetics or how anyone feels.

Spiritual progress is built on an established platform of biological, psychological, and emotional needs being sufficiently met so that our attention can go higher.

In the same way, we can’t devote ourselves solely to spirituality. We still need to take care of ourselves and our life. Our body-mind is not an impediment to spiritual progress but the platform on which it unfolds.

Let’s not forget how far we’ve come and the benefits we have.
Davidya

Last Updated on August 4, 2020 by Davidya

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17 Comments

  1. Jeff

    When we meditate and act, we establish, then integrate silence. If we value meditation, we can find twenty minutes to meditate. I have meditated in very busy airports. In the early nineties, I meditated after regaining consciousness from an auto accident. The key is intention, not circumstances.

    Ultimately, the silence will heal any flaws that we have accumulated.

    1. Hi Jeff
      Agreed. I used to meditate on the bus on the commute to work. And yes, it can be very healing in sickness or accident.
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      Silence will indeed sooth all if we let go of it. And silence will help us with that too.
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      Then when silence is established, we can support the aliveness of silence and the fullness of the world unfolds.

  2. Lynette

    D, I agree with what you wrote. The message is different for people who have not met basic needs. I have observed from a close friend who was into spirituality, every time she meets someone who is taking pills for mental issues she discourages them and make them stop. Then these people having no job, she preaches them spirituality which I disagree she does, so these people became dependent on her then she is frustrated. No sense on going off spirituality when one has no shelter and constantly hungry.

    1. If you are without the basics, some fundamentals can be helpful so there is hope. The 12 step program in AA would be an example.
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      Helping others is wonderful. However, “helping” others to promote your own agenda is often an avoidance of dealing with your own stuff. And it has consequences.
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      Life will bring them lessons so they learn what it is to be led astray. What goes around comes around. (speaking from experience. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. there are times that try men’s souls no matter how much or well the basics are met – relatedness to others or just plain isolation and disconnection is a huge first world problem that the pandemic has added to and zoom can’t compensate for. I hear what you are saying David as a call to be grateful for what we do have. there is a the poem by Rumi to welcome every guest that comes to your door even the ones that no one would welcome or invite. they are sweeping your home to make room for something new.

    1. Yes, Harrison, and they’re not limited to men. ๐Ÿ™‚
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      The pandemic is not just a first world problem and is much worse in places where there is no way to isolate or connect if we do.
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      Yes, every guest is welcome but some we encourage to continue on their journey. ๐Ÿ™‚
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      Each though brings a gift. It may not be a gift we wanted but it can turn out to be a blessing.
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      There can be difficult times in life when what we built falls away or our loves leave. But so often, the departure makes room for something greater.
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      So much easier to see in retrospect than in the moment though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I agree with you David. Most of us have been fortunate to be able to meed our basic needs (at least until Covid-19) so that we have time to consider more spiritual matters.
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    Some people get carried away with the latter. Emotionally, we cannot be so devoted to divine Love that we neglect to love our family and friends. Mentally, our thoughts cannot be so concentrated on divine Truth that we overlook those many truths about mundane living. Physically, we cannot to be so absorbed in divine Reality that we ignore everyday realities.

  5. K

    I agree with what you say David. One thing which I puzzle over is that I grew up in India until early 20’s. Life was difficult due to abusive family of origin issues (not due to India). Though people could say that I am middle class in both places, what is easier in the US is the concept of space and distance – not just physical but emotional and intellectual space which allows expansion. It was just difficult to grow and expand in India (for me). Life was on you in a relentless way. Even now, when I go home as an adult – I stay in hotels so away from relatives. Nevertheless, when I visit, I find myself boxed into roles and expectations. My cousins who I meet now are lovely people, but in the U.S. I can somehow expand and there is space between my thoughts. It is probably my response to India and my relatives rather than anything to do with India itself. I was thinking about this in the context of your post. Yes – I try to integrate spirituality with my life but life can be too intense (like my experience in India) so that there is no room for spirituality even when basic needs are met. On a one-off one could meditate in an airport. But if one were always in an airport from a very young age – may be harder to find the space to have a firm spiritual practice. Having relationships end has been helpful for allowing spiritual progress due to creation of space in one’s life.

    1. Hi K
      I’d say this relates to karma and the configuration of laws of nature you were born with. That configuration (and birth family) can allow very difficult karma to be worked through. If it’s not fully resolved, such people will continue to treat us in habitual, unconscious ways. (Of course, they have their karma in play too.) Really, it’s not about them, it’s about your history and how the world is responding to it.
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      As adults we develop new options. For one, how we respond to all that. Do we perpetuate it or resolve it in ourselves? It’s amazing the effect the latter can have on family dynamics.
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      We also have the option of moving to other places where the laws of nature are different and thus our life experience changes. That can give us some ‘space’ to resolve things without being forced to be in them as much. Or we can attempt to avoid them.
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      But as Buckaroo Banzai said, “wherever you go, there you are.” You bring yourself with you.
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      And yes, there are those layers in Maslow’s hierarchy between basic needs and spirituality. Emotional dramas can certainly keep us involved.
      https://davidya.ca/2017/01/27/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs/
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      It’s worth emphasizing that it’s not the nature of India or your family to be that way. You’ve mentioned how they are with siblings, for example. The difficulty is in the karmic dynamics (energy) of the relationship. You can’t heal their part of that but you can heal your side.
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      You’ll know the karma is fading when the intensity fades.
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      Don’t be hard on yourself. You wouldn’t be reading this blog if there wasn’t a bright light there. A lot of old souls take on major karma to make a lot of progress, then get a little lost in it for awhile. I spent years absorbed in the details of the time. That was the need of the time.
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      Some find spiritual progress supported when relationship needs are met. Relationship can even be a vehicle for devotion, for example. Others find relationships more problematic and instead culture spiritual friends. This ensures that level of needs is supported and life is balanced.
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      I’ve explored a little about how location affects jyotish. Moving some distance can shift the ascendant and houses and thus the areas of life where challenges arise and that are supported. The US west is almost opposite India. It’s one technique for optimizing life. We can’t avoid difficulties but we can tune them to be in less critical spots.

  6. Lew

    Neem Karoli Baba once said that God comes to the hungry in the form of food… The basics are God… Maharishi always stressed … Water the root! … Engaging in meditation helps to bring about the harmony and intelligence necessary to live life in greater fulfillment… That is a sense is a basic that will lead to ways to provide for the needs of ourselves and others… Saints like Amma through helping people bring the basics as well as spirituality… One thing about the first world internet that you discuss is the availability and access to information, videos, music etc. that can both enhance our spiritual and material development and integrate both… More and more people, hopefully will gain this access and use it to enhance both the individual and collective consciousness of our planet…

    1. Hi Lew
      Agreed, whatever is needed, that’s how support comes. And if we raise our connection, we raise where we’re functioning from. And yes, the Internet brings amazing opportunities not possible previously but we do need discrimination. It also brings people’s pain and delusion. We have to choose what we feed. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. K

        How do you distinguish between something that worsens with feeding and should not be fed vs. something that is coming to the surface of your mind and thoughts because the time has come to resolve it? I feel that there is a specific scenario or circumstance (which has not really happened to me in this life time) does occupy my thoughts and is scary to me. One way is not to dwell on it. But the other is to try to figure out why that is scary and why that is in my attention at all. For e.g. being hurt in a car crash is not particularly occupying my mind but infidelity does. Neither has happened to me and the latter is not currently possible (single). So how to distinguish between what needs to be resolved and what needs to be fed?

        1. Hi K
          That’s where discrimination and attachment comes in. Discrimination allows us to recognize the difference between what is helpful and what is not. Also, what is watching and what is caught up in. What the body or emotions are asking for and what’s old stuff coming up.
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          Attachment is what draws us into things. When we’re drawn in, we’re feeding it with our attention. When we disentangle, we can simply notice what is arising and allow it to process and complete. We’re not sucked in to the drama or emotional charge. When we’re caught up in it, we feed it back and reinforce it instead of resolving it. The mountains of karma grow.
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          An important point – the mind doesn’t like to have emotions on an abstract basis. It likes to have a reason so it feels in control. When old emotional junk comes up to resolve, if we’re not neutral, the mind will associate worries or other random thoughts with the passing emotion. Because of how we’re wired to remember emotionally important things (charges), if that purification is a bigger one, it gets remembered and reinforced.
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          Then the charge gets cycled over and over again, including worry about an event that’s never happened. A passing worry thus gains undue importance.
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          The key then is to recognize that it’s not about the thoughts and worry at all. It’s about the charge. If we feel into the emotion, we can resolve it. When the charge is gone, the story/ worry it ran will fade away.
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          It can take a bit of clarity and practice but once you get this, you can move through your history much more. Of course, there’s degrees too. We can resolve some, then have more come up later.
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          But as we make progress, clarity increases making the process easier.
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          Also by neutral here, i mean to old junk. This process doesn’t make us emotional zombies. It opens things up, making for much fuller and richer feelings. But they don’t bind us.

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