Are you trying to be more intentional about living your values? It’s a noble pursuit, one that relies on introspection, mindfulness, and discernment. At the recent congregational retreat, a group of us discussed our values journeys with the help of beautifully-illustrated cards from Lisa Congdon’s and Andreea Niculescu’s “Live Your Values Deck.”

We identified values that play a major role in our daily lives and how those values became important to us. We considered values that are present but are not central to our daily experience, and we chose values that we consider aspirational. The conversation felt open-hearted and honest with participants sharing their vulnerabilities and their strengths.

As we approach Earth Day on April 22, I’ve selected excerpts from eight values from the deck’s 73 cards to motivate your renewed commitment to protecting and preserving this sacred creation.

SERVICE: Remember that honoring your need for service will give you a stronger sense of purpose and meaning, which leads to better mental and physical well-being.”

Initiating and participating in service strengthens our sense of agency and provides a physical outlet for heartfelt aspirations. Saturday morning’s pollinator garden prep (April 22, 9:30 AM, UUCA) is one opportunity, but metro Atlanta organizations offer dozens of other service events each month. A quick search on Hands On Atlanta yielded 25 opportunities through the end of this month!

SIMPLICITY: Consider simplicity as the mind-set of being satisfied with what you have. … Recognize that your individual behavior can inspire others and collectively add up to a significant change.”

Needless consumption, overloaded schedules, and mindless activity don’t help us feel grounded and clear-headed. This set of meditations from The Simplicity Collective may help you identify changes to support you in “downshifting.” And this fun comic from Sarah Lazarovic poses the question: “What are you willing to give up?” 

NON-CONFORMITY: Work to find and honor what brings you joy, even if it seems to go against the grain of mainstream culture or your own family or cultural norms. … Take responsibility for your choices and embrace them as an expression of your own uniqueness.”

Sofo Archon encourages us to doubt beliefs we’ve been given and to stay away from what is keeping us down. For many of us, conforming to the damaging traditions of our extractive capitalist economy has us examining ways to “get off at the next station” so we can reduce the harm caused by our lifestyles. What parts of your mainstream may you be itching to change?

BEAUTY: Keep your eyes and ears open, honing your senses to pick up on beautiful things that you might otherwise miss. … Consider making small changes in your living environment so that everywhere you look, your eye will fall on something you consider beautiful.”

What is it for you: houseplants, art, music? Springtime in Atlanta presents an array of gorgeous new life, but our need for beauty continues year round. Recall the recent feel of crisp winter air, the leaf showers last fall, and the late sunsets of summer. Look up and bask in the gentle flow of clouds and the moon’s nightly beauty. Gently remind yourself to stop once in a while to look, listen, and feel.

CURIOSITY: Be vigilant in your attempt to make discoveries. Curious people continuously find things that spark their interest. Don’t be afraid to show that you don’t know the answer to something: wonder aloud by asking questions.” 

Christy Geiger describes two curiosity obstacles: thinking we already know everything and having a bit of an unchecked ego. “Not knowing can make us feel vulnerable or small,” she writes. “This is what makes curiosity hard. Our ego is not curious. To become more curious, we must become aware of our ego and how it shuts down curiosity.”

RESPONSIBILITY: Accept the consequences of your actions and decisions. … Think clearly about what you have control over and what you don’t.”

This one is hard for many environmentalists because not only do we strive to educate about good choices but we also try to compel others to change their ways. We are infamous for using fear and guilt to manipulate the masses into modifying harmful habits. Our positive actions can speak volumes, though, and if performed with humility and compassion, they can have a powerful domino effect.

OPTIMISM: Aim to have positive expectations, even if it means being proven wrong, rather than having negative expectations and sometimes being proven right. … Acknowledge what you can and can’t control. Focus on what you have control over.”

I am well acquainted with cynicism, and reading dire reporting on climate change fuels my pessimism. Unfortunately, hell-in-a-handbasket thinking suppresses creativity and limits cognitive flexibility. We don’t have to be Pollyannas to benefit from the rewards of positive thinking. It’s an orientation we get to choose.

RESILIENCE: Understand that becoming more resilient empowers you to handle future difficulties more adeptly. … Build connections with understanding and empathetic people or groups so you’re able to accept support when you need it.”

Friends of the Earth defines resilience as “our ability to deal with change safely and effectively, even when it can be distressing or uncomfortable,” and the group suggests five tips for taking care of ourselves: communicate how you’re feeling, know your triggers, practice mindfulness and meditation, exercise and monitor your lifestyle, and learn new things. We need to take our feelings seriously since eco anxiety can lead to anxiety disorders and depression. The Climate Action Team provides some of us a supportive community of like-hearted companions, and we would welcome your participation if it could help you build your resilience – and help fortify ours.

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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team extends a radical welcome to activists, contemplatives, readers, meditators, questioners, tree hugging hippies, scientists, policy wonks, radicals, pacifists, nature enthusiasts, and all who seek community as we navigate our changing times together. Learn all about the group here, and check out our lending library of over 100 titles and Carbon Offset Fund grant opportunity. Contact Nicole Haines to connect to the CAT and join us on Zoom for our next monthly meting on Monday, May 15 at this Zoom link.