Midweek Blog: All the Feels

When I was getting ready for my sabbatical I had a list of books directly related to my topic (creativity and spirituality) that I was looking forward to diving into during those months away, but in the end it was a book that wasn’t on my original list that has stuck with me the longest. It was one that caught my eye while my husband and I were browsing a bookstore during our visit to NYC and which I instantly started to devour on our subway rides around the city. 

I know I’m really late to the Brené Brown bandwagon, but there was just something about her book, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, that jumped out at me. Maybe it was that it includes lots of beautiful photos and diagrams and even a few cartoons, or maybe it was that Brown attempts to tackle the wide-ranging, highly subjective, and ever-shifting topic of human emotions from an analytical, ordered perspective. It’s probably a little bit of both. 

One of Brown’s goals with this book is to help readers have more nuanced and accurate language for the wide range of emotions that we experience.  In the introduction she writes,

“Language is our portal to meaning-making, connection, healing, learning, and self-awareness.  Having access to the right words can open up entire universes. When we don’t have the language to talk about what we’re experiencing, our ability to make sense of what’s happening and share it with others is severely limited.”

I did not initially pick up this book as a direct tie-in to my sabbatical topic, but it became clear pretty quickly that the way Brown talks about language and expression were tracking closely with what I was learning about creativity and spirituality as meaning-making endeavors.  Words are not the only language of expression, but I would agree with Brown that having access to the right tools for expressing ourselves–no matter what form that takes–can open up entire universes. 

The deeper we get in touch with ourselves and our experiences with the world, the greater our ability to express ourselves to others and make meaning.  And the more we engage with the world through expression and creative meaning-making, the deeper we are able to understand ourselves. It is an ever-evolving cycle. And, as Brown points out to readers, in the end, the goal is always about connection.  We express ourselves with words, music, art, dance, or any other “language” as a way of connecting with others, of sharing our experience of the world and inviting others to do the same.

I’m going to have the opportunity to reflect more on my sabbatical themes and learning during worship on September 18, but for now suffice to say that I recommend Atlas of the Heart for anyone interested in learning more about how understanding ourselves, our emotions, and our experiences of the world can help us make-meaning and more deeply connect to others.