“Inscendence” as a Human Need

Revelations from an Earth-Rooted Flower

· NVC,Wild Heart

As I completed the first level of the Animas Valley Institute’s Wild Mind Training Program, I was motivated to read foundational books by Thomas Berry “The Dream of the Earth” [1] and “The Great Work” [2]. Berry states that in order to save the Earth, we don’t need transcendence, a connection to spirit/universe beyond ordinary experience where we’re all one, but rather “inscendence” as “the descent into our pre-rational, our instinctive resources”— our unique human way of connecting with “revelatory dream experience,” “vision,” our own “inner shaping tendencies,” “the numinous powers of the phenomenal world,” and the “cosmic mystery.”

In reading, wandering, and pondering Berry’s words, I recognized Inscendence as a fundamental human need that was previously invisible to me. Perhaps, in finding it, I’m waking up to a deeper pattern of an emerging awareness. Acknowledging Inscendence as a unique need, seeking fulfillment, highlights my innate desire to find my unique place in the world – supporting what Maslow called “self-actualization,” and what Bill Plotkin and others see as “Soul.”

This is important because the more people that self-actualize, living their soul-connected life purpose, the more resources and capabilities will be available in our communities – as they are desperately needed at this particular point in time. Shifting our lives to be aligned with Soul will create the conditions necessary for living in harmony with the Earth and the other beings on it. We willingly co-create a world in which the needs of the Earth and all beings are considered when making choices for our own lives. Not only will we survive, but we will thrive, individually energized with purpose as a species, along with all other Earth beings in the environment that nourishes and sustains us all.

Additionally, it is important to name that in noticing the spaces where the possibilities for Inscendence are absent (even violently so, in the case of many modern scenarios, like debt-slavery, for instance), we can also evaluate those spaces and situations to be especially pernicious and therefore worth working to confront, eradicate, and/or transform [3].

Strategies vs. Needs in Nonviolent Communication (NVC)

As NVC practitioners are aware, the difference between a need and a strategy is a key principle. Strategies (aka. satisfiers) are specific ways in which we meet our needs, related to a Person, Location, Action, Time, Object (PLATO). For example, I could meet my need for nourishment through the strategies of an apple, carrot or an egg. By contrast, needs fuel our intrinsic motivation independently of PLATO – they are the core life energy in us seeking fulfillment.

For example, autonomy, connection, community, authenticity, reciprocity, meaning, sustainability, beauty and well-being are all needs. Conflict most often arises in confusing strategies with needs – i.e. when conflating specific people, locations, actions, times or objects with needs. NVC invites a “letting go of" strategy to engage in a conversation for connection.

Acknowledging Inscendence as a need guides our personal development, supports our life journey toward self-actualization, and helps us to make ecologically-connected choices while creating life-affirming systems that support our home planet as a whole.

The Lens You Look Through Colors What You See

Marshall Rosenberg, the creator of NVC leveraged work on fundamental human needs by Manfred Max-Neef, a Chilean economist who used needs as a basis for measuring well-being [4]. The nine fundamental needs listed by Max-Neef:

  • subsistence
  • protection
  • affection
  • understanding
  • participation
  • leisure/idleness
  • creation
  • identity
  • freedom

The lens through which you look at the world has an impact on what you see. When looking through the lens of an economic model, Max-Neef came up with the nine needs shown above. NVC Trainers Jim and Jori Manske transformed Max-Neef’s list into the ten categories represented in the Needs Wheel through the lens of NVC [5].

The Manskes include “Transcendence” as a need, associated with Presence, Inspiration, Evolution, Beauty, Harmony, Flow, Space. Maslow writes: “Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general.” [16]

My flavor of Transcendence motivates me toward spiritual growth, to go beyond ordinary experience, to connect with the mystical force that made the cosmos and started the Big Bang — some call this God, Spirit, Mystery, the great “I Am” – giving a sense of oneness and belonging in the universe.

In studying the Manske’s Needs Wheel for my own personal development, a natural symmetry emerged. In 2014, I had the intuition to redraw the wheel as a flower; many years of research and personal development resulted in this version of the Earth-Rooted Needs Flower [6].

As I tried to accurately look at needs through the framing perspective of a flower, new categories began to emerge. Transcendence more naturally was represented near the sun, and Survival (which became Sustainability in my model) was represented near the stem of the flower, and Life itself was shown in the center of the flower. All of the physical needs were represented by the Earth. In consideration of the parts of the flower that were underground, I placed Embodiment near the roots, as they are the connection point between the flower and the Earth [7].

Awareness of Needs Opens a Door to Abundance

Before discovering NVC, I wasn’t aware I had needs; back then, I viewed the world through the lens of strategies to be used/exploited without considering the impact. For instance, I had a habit of buying things that provided tangential value to my life; buying something new gave me a hit of short-lived pleasure. The pattern repeated itself to the point of my home and garage filling to capacity with stuff [8]. The financial, material and ecological cost was huge to me personally, and as I look back, I wish I had made different choices. I imagine this pattern of consumption is repeated in a large majority of households in my home country the United States. We seem to be literally consuming ourselves to extinction.

As I grew in awareness and experience, I became more and more aware of the breadth and depth of needs. In broadening my understanding, I simultaneously became more resourceful at meeting them — learning eventually that connecting with my needs created space for an abundance of strategies, more options for living. Having trust that many options exist to meet needs allowed me to hold my preferences lightly; I could find strategies that met needs for all (or most) beings involved, making relationships easier to navigate and connection more likely [9]. Needs were indeed a valuable abstraction that simultaneously supported my taking personal responsibility for my experience [10], and gave me a clearer perspective that supported better choices – in meeting more needs at less cost.

There was a point at which I became interested in strategies that were essentially free and took up no space. For instance, the practice of self-empathy helped me to find inner peace, sharing with others through an NVC practice met my needs to be seen, heard, for understanding, authenticity, community and eventually skill. No items were purchased other than educational materials. Hikes, meditation and wandering in nature satisfied transcendent needs at minimal cost and a very low carbon footprint.

After discovering Inscendence as a need, and remembering more of why I’m here, I’ve been exploring ways to contribute to the world by valuing connection on all levels – connection within, connection to nature, connection to other people and the more-than-human.

Some of My Strategies in Transpersonal Journey


  • Wandering through a wild or semi-wild place, noticing all details in the more-than-human world, singing words of praise for their beauty and the source of their existence (God, Spirit, the cosmic mystery as revealed through the expanding universe)
  • Mindfulness and Zen sitting meditation practices
  • Tai Chi Chuan, Tai Chi Chih, Qi Gong
  • Really slow walking in nature with a conscious focus on one's senses of smell, sound, touch, color, composition, movement and behavior of animals


  • Going on a four-day water fast while camping alone in the wilderness as part of a vision quest
  • Creating a soulcentric dreamwork practice, which includes wandering in nature while reliving key aspects of the dream
  • Participating in a shadow-work intensive to discover and get to know potential shadow figures, mining for any gold hidden underground [11]
  • Integration sessions following plant medicine journeys with experienced guides
  • Creating art, composing poetry following deep imaginal journeys
  • Daily reading of poetry passed down from community elders
  • Engaging in any “Soulcraft” practices in the book of that name by Bill Plotkin, PhD.

The journey of Inscendence includes self-healing and cultivating wholeness through Wild Mind practices; check out my 10-week online series “Wild Heart” or travel to a Wild Mind Intensive through the Animas Valley Institute.


My shift in perspective from social connection into exploring the mysteries of spirit and soul [12] started a period of letting go of the identity of an engineer that I spent my educational and professional career developing – in favor of a rewilded being who is guided by visionary dreams while listening for and to my personal mythos… dreaming Earth-rooted flowers for the village.

Satisfying our need for Inscendence is a journey of self-discovery — a multi-dimensional remembering of why we’re here [13].

As more and more of us pay attention to our need for Inscendence, connecting more deeply within ourselves to listen for the still and quiet voice that knows why, we will deepen our connection to the global community, to the natural world, and be motivated to adopt strategies that contribute to life to the full for everyone — including the trees, rocks, and squirrels.

Our discovering Inscendence is part of the Earth’s becoming aware of itself. It took me a while to digest its significance, and how it fits into my current understanding of needs in my practice of Nonviolent Communication (NVC).

By expanding our breath/depth of needs, the practice of NVC supports the journey toward a Self-Actualization of Soul through Inscendence [14], and the Earth-Rooted Needs Flower becomes a map for wholeness [15].

Request to Comment Below

I’d love to hear how this post has landed for you! Would you highlight below an excerpt or idea that has intensity for you, along with how you felt and what meaning that feeling holds for you?


Special thanks to Taylor Johnson for her keen editing help and insight.




[1] Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth, (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988), pp. 211-212.

[2] Thomas Berry, The Great Work: Our Way into the Future (New York: Bell Tower, 1999), p. 163.

[3] Point added by Taylor Johnson.

[4] Max-Neef estimates Quality of Life based on the satisfaction of needs.

[5] Jim and Jori Manske’s Needs Wheel available at https://nvcnextgen.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Needs-Wheel.pdf
[6] Earth-Rooted Needs Flower available at https://www.compassionateconnecting.com/blog/earth-rooted-needs-flower 

[7] Embodiment will be introduced as a fundamental need in a future post.

[8] what Bill Plotkin calls an ego-centric developmental stage 3a “Conforming and Rebelling”-- Bill Plotkin, Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2008)

[9] which supported my development into eco-centric stage 3 “The Thespian at the Oasis”

[10] Instead of blaming others, or appeasing to the cultural norms.

[11] Shadow in this context are things that we don’t see about ourselves and would deny if accused of them.

[12] a shift toward Plotkin’s soulcentric stage 4 “The Wanderer in the Cocoon"

[13] The transition from soulcentric stage 4 to stage 5 “The Apprentice at the Wellspring'' is what Bill Plotkin calls “Journey of Soul Initiation” described in a book by that name.

[14] Bill Plotkin, The Journey of Soul Initiation: A Field Guide for Visionaries, Evolutionaries, and Revolutionaries (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2021).

[15] Another map of wholeness can be found in “Wild Mind: Field Guide to the Human Psyche” by Bill Plotkin, PhD.

[16] Maslow A. H. (1969b). Various meanings of transcendence. J. Transpers. Psychol. 1 56–66.

© 2023 Jaime L. Prieto, Jr., CompassionateConnecting.com, All Rights Reserved.