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When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

Chodron's book is filled with useful advice about how Buddhism helps readers to cope with the grim realities of modern life, including fear, despair, rage and the feeling that we are not in control of... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Incredible

This book is so wonderful. I read a chapter a day every day. They’re short chapters, about five pages, but this work is brave, inspiring, insightful, and such a resource for all times in life, not just when things fall apart. Everyone should read this.

Life changing wisdom.

I will read this book again and again. It is on the short list of books that changed my life.

It works for me...

This book does not promise short term, quick fixes but encourages a way of life that will make living more joyful and meaningful - pain, change and all. This is not a book of "thought" filled advice from the mind, but a book (as the subtitle states) of heart advice. Pema openly shares some of her own experience as things fall apart, when her old way of doing things was no longer working. I bought it to give to my (fully grown) son when he was going through some difficult times. It wasn't what he needed or related to, so I read it myself. I like the way she points out that when things fall apart, that usually means we are on the brink of a change of some kind. My usual practice is to try to hold on to the familiar ways, but as I am finding out, that just doesn't work. And if it does, I am usually even more miserable. Depending on the kind of change you are experiencing, allowing it to happen with less resistance, without fear, can ease the opening to a new way. This is a disturbing thought to many of us. Give in? No way. Why, what if your spouse is cheating and you lose your job and you have a fatal illness and the sky is falling and you don't resist? (Ah, well -- most probably your spouse will still have cheated, that job will be lost, you will still have the illness and the sky will continue to fall.) On page 10 she says, "To stay with that shakiness -- to stay wth a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge-- that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic-- that is the spirtual path." This book reminds us again, that going with the pain, confusion, disorder of those falling apart times is necessary. Eventually we can get to a place where the pain does not seem so big or so deep, where we are no immersed in our own dramas but see everything on a larger world wide scale. I liked her section on "It's Never Too Late", which is about not hating ourselves -- and not really condoning ourselves, but observing ourselves -- 'when we buy into disapproval, we are practicing disapproval. When we buy into harshness, we are practicing harshness...The trick then is to practice gentleness and letting go. We can learn to meet whatever arises with curiosity and not make it such a big deal." This is a truly helpful book, if you can read it expecting a deeper, long-term change in how you experience the unexpected and unwelcome turns we find in our lives. I realized after reading this, that what I perhaps need to do with my son is not to buy him a book to read, but to be there for him as needed but to allow him to have his own experiences.

A book to read and reread, always new

I was just finishing this book in September 2001 when the events of 9-11 turned the world upside down, and things truly fell apart. There suddenly were all the vulnerable feelings that Pema Chödrön encourages us to embrace: fear, sorrow, loneliness, groundlessness. And in the days of shock and grief that followed, there was that brief and abundant display of "maitri," or loving kindness, which emerged in waves of generosity and compassion for one another. For a while, we were in the world that she points to as an alternative to the everyday routine of getting, spending, and constant activity.It is nearly impossible to summarize or characterize this fine book. In some 150 pages it covers more than a person could hope to absorb in many years, if not a lifetime. We may know the Buddha's famous insight that human pain and suffering result from desire and aversion. But few writers have been able to articulate as well as Chödrön the implications of that insight in ways that make sense to the Western mind. As just one example from this book, her discussion of the "six kinds of loneliness" (chap. 9) illustrates how our desires to achieve intimacy with others are an attempt to run away from a deep encounter with ourselves. Our continuing efforts to establish security for ourselves are a denial of fundamental truths, which prevents our deep experience of the joy of living. Our reluctance to love ourselves and others closes down our hearts.Chödrön invites us to be fascinated, as she is, by paradox. On hopelessness and death (chap. 7) she writes: "If we're willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation. This is the first step on the path." She gets us to acknowledge our restlessness (even our spiritual restlessness) for what it is, something we do instead of simply paying attention to ourselves in the moment and to what happens next, without judgment or preconceptions. In addition to this book, I recommend acquiring one or more of her audio tapes and hearing her voice as she speaks before audiences. For all the high-mindedness that may come across in descriptions like the one above, or what you might take away by reading the cover of her book, Chödrön is down to earth and unpretentious, speaking in her American accent (don't let the appearance of her name fool you) and with a self-effacing sense of humor. Her message is in her manner, as much as it is in what she says. This is a book to buy and read, and reread at intervals, for it is always new, always speaking to you exactly where you are, right now.

Leaning into life's sharp points.

Life's difficult times may be inevitable, but they're not a prerequisite for appreciating the 146 pages of wisdom found in this book. Pema Chodron is the director of Gampo Abbey in Pleasant Bay, Nova Scotia. WHEN THINGS FALL APART pays respect to her teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. We learn in the book's title essay, before becoming a Buddhist nun, Chodron survived the anger of a failed marriage. In truth, she writes, it saved her life (p. 10).Chodron's experience illustrates the point of the 22 "teachings" contained within this book: "Life is a good teacher and a good friend" (p. 10). Life, Chodron observes, "is like riding a train sitting backwards" (p. 143). Leaning into the sharp points along the way is the kind of instruction we can apply to our lives to bring about "revolutionary changes in how we perceive things" (p. 139). The thorny path through hope, fear, death, loneliness, opinion and chaos should not be avoided. It is the goal.I have now read Chodron's book twice. It is like a heart-to-heart encounter with an insightful friend. Thank you, Pema Chodron.G. Merritt

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