It's not often that I get to the end of a book and feel I want to start it again immediately from the beginning. That is how I feel this morning. I have just finished Brene Brown's 'Braving the Wilderness' and it had a huge impact on me. At first, I thought my eyes were watering from my inability to put this book down, but then realised I was feeling quite emotional soaking in what she had to say. To be honest, I am sure I have only taken in a third of it (hence wanting to begin again).
I am not going to try and summarise the content of Brown's book as I could never do it justice. Get a copy and read it for yourself. However, I will attempt to capture my immediate reactions, as raw and uncalculated as they may be.
1. Brown's talk about polarisation in our world and her use of the wilderness image gave me a new language for trying to make sense of the crazy world in which we are living. Questions about why I get so passionate and angry and then withdraw completely found answers in her eloquent way of describing our need to belong and what that could look like.
2. My own times of experiencing loneliness all of a sudden made sense. My most tangible experience of this was while meditating in the Garden of Gethsemane. A strange combination of the loneliness of the journey, but at the same time feeling completely at home was overwhelming. Reading Brown's description of being wild at heart brought some clarity to that experience and others.
3. It was like holding up a mirror to my life. Although some parts were affirming and encouraging, others were exposing and revealing. The discomfort in realising some of my own patterns and ways of 'creating' belonging was confronting. Brown's way of sharing her own stories and being vulnerable with her readers brought reassurance that it was okay. In all the seriousness that this inner work brings, there is also the space to laugh at our own imperfections and name them as realities of life.
4. The chapter titled 'Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.' was particularly relevant for me in the changes ahead of me this year. This journey seems to have been a constant cycle of doubt and courage. Developing a strong back has been a crucial part of this learning and I am sure will continue to be in the years that follow. According to Brown, perfecting, pleasing, proving and pretending get in the way of a strong back. There is still a lot of work to be done here!!
5. One of the aspects of the book I struggled with throughout was a recurring theme. Here it is in one of its forms.
"When we are willing to risk venturing into the wilderness, and even become the wilderness, we feel the deepest connection to our true self and to what matters the most."
I could grasp the venturing into the wilderness, but what did this becoming the wilderness mean? The answer came in the last sentences of the book.
"There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary, and we'll doubt our abilities to make our way through the uncertainty. Someone, somewhere will say, 'Don't do it. You don't have what it takes to survive the wilderness.' This is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, 'I am the wilderness.'"
There is so much more I could say about 'Braving the Wilderness', but I will leave it for you to discover yourself if you so choose. Let's just say, I am now a believer that sometimes a book finds you at the right time.