An important piece to the puzzle of living a life grounded in the present moment is knowing what our values are and working to live according to them. This is something we have heard many times before, and in fact many of us would just assume that we are doing this naturally. But as we cultivate a deeper relationship with our selves and begin to observe our feelings and emotions we may realize that there are patterns in our lives that are causing us to live in ways that don't align with our values and cause us stress and anxiety as a result. In my experience sitting down and just "thinking" about our values doesn't necessarily come easily to us or even reveal what they actually are. I believe that the art we love carries significant messages about who we are and what our values are, so I have created an activity to help you learn about your values inspired by the art you love!
If our emotions, feelings, and sensations are the waves in the sea consider our values to be the body of water you are sailing in. We can choose to sail in turbulent seas because thats what we have always done, or we can steer our ship to calmer waters. We can't stop the waves of our emotions, only change our relationship to them while trying to put ourselves in a calm and supportive environment. Reflecting more deeply on our values helps us to see the actions and choices we make from moment-to-moment and how they may, or may not, align with our values.
For example, many of us would say that we value our families but when we take an honest look we see that we spend lots of time working, lost in digital devices and other distractions leaving quality time with our families scant. Having an honest conversation with ourselves about what our values are and how we act on them is an important piece to the puzzle of living a full life. So how can the arts help us with this? Art has a magical ability to awaken any soul. I truly believe this. Even those in the throws of depression, darkness, and the horrors of trauma can often still find moments of connection with themselves through a song, book, or image. We have all had the experience of being moved by a work of art, a song we can't get enough of, or a movie that touches us deeply each time we see it. These are the works of art that are speaking to our core. They tickle little bits of ourselves that often go untouched. They enter us and ignite passions, interests, feelings, and make us feel alive. I believe that the things that move us so deeply are the things that represent our deepest values. Although you may have some ideas already about what your core values are, looking at the art that moves you can help reveal more depth and nuance to these, as well as uncover new ones you haven't quite made sense of yet!
I will give you an example...
if you were to ask me what my favourite book is I would tell you it's the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Now if you were to ask me what I love about this book, I would passionately begin telling you about the closing scene being the greatest example of humanity and connection I can think of. How the struggles of the family against systematic oppression is a testament to family bonds and connection, as well as the importance of agency, voice, and doing what's right together in the face of hardship. The Grapes of Wrath is a book that speaks to me about humanity and dignity and the power of people coming together. So what does this say about my values? I think it is saying that I value humanity and care deeply about the voices of marginalized people, that I value connection, family, and community. Some of this is very obvious to myself and those that know me, but as I write these words, the strength of these values and just how important they are to me feels so much deeper. So the question is how am I living the values that the Grapes of Wrath represents for me. If I only feel and care about these values in the land of fiction then they aren't fully realized yet? Naming your values is the first step I will offer ideas on actually living your values through the arts in another post. But for today lets begin to name them.
Try it out.... 1. Grab a pen and paper. Take some time to think of all of the creative works that you LOVE. Something you really, really love. Not just something that you are kind of into right now, but the ones that keep you coming back to the well for more. Spend 10 minutes writing these down and what it is that you love about them.
For example I love the band Radiohead and I wrote down that I love them because
they have layers and textures of sound, they are rhythmic, innovative, emotional, there is something wonderful about the uncertainty in their music, they fit things together in ways that seem incongruent etc.... 2. Now move to a new page and begin rewriting what you have written down in your own voice. Use the prompt I am_______.
I am layers and textures, I am rhythmic, innovative, emotional. I am wonderfully uncertain. I fit incongruent things together etc... 3. Now look at this and underline 2 or 3 key points that really resonate with you. 4. Write these 2 or 3 key points out again now but as values now. Here you may need to make some additions and\or omissions. Look at the core of what is there and work to bring it into a value. Use the prompt I value_______.
I value complexity. I value innovation. I value emotion. I value being in a place of uncertainty. I value bringing incongruences together. 5. So now you will have a very big list of things that you value. Take a look again and distill it into 3-5 that stand out for you as most important. 6. Now look at these values. If you were to take them off the page and into the world how might you do that? Is there an image, action, or sound that represents them? What could you create that would represent these? If you have an idea, do it. This is your new values art project. Your painting, your installation, your song, your play, your cartoon, your story, your whatever. Bring it into the world in a creative form and see how it deepens your understanding of your values. If nothing is coming to you, no great burning art project waiting to be, then here is my suggestion.... Find an object that represents each one of these values. Look around your home for things your already have or how you can bring together things you already have in new ways. Take a photo of each object. From here you can create a collage of the images, work on recreating a visual representation of each object or bring the printed images into a mixed media project.
This is all I ask.... Please bring them into the world! Please create something that brings them to life as your own unique values! Once your project is complete I would love to see it and witness it. Whether that is in one week or one year from now reach out and share it. I want to know what it's all about and how you came to your creation. I want to know what your values are and whats important to you.