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4.7 out of 5 stars
Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears
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257 of 259 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I have long admired the writings of Pema Chodron, and I think she has done it again with this book. She excels at making teachings from the Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhist tradition of her root teacher Chogyam Trungpa accessible to anyone and relevant to daily life. In this book she presents teachings on 'shenpa', which is often translated as 'attachment' but which she suggests might better be understood as "what it feels like to get hooked." As she puts it:

"Somebody says a harsh word and something in you tightens: instantly you're hooked. That tightness quickly spirals into blaming the person or denigrating yourself. The chain reaction of speaking or acting or obsessing happens fast. Maybe if you have strong addictions, you go right for your addiction to cover over the uncomfortable feelings."

The focus of Taking the Leap is how we can learn to recognize when we are hooked, and how we can work with and transform the energy generated when this occurs. Instead of judging or battling within ourselves, we can learn to see each occurrence of shenpa as an opportunity - an opportunity for awakening. This process is about more than just our personal happiness, for shenpa is the source of bigotry and violence in our world. Ani Pema says:

"Each of us can be an active participant in creating a nonviolent future simply by how we work with shenpa when it arises. How individuals like you and I relate to being hooked, these days, has global implications."

The key to working with shenpa in a different way is to remain open and even curious about the energy that arises when we are 'hooked', instead of acting out or seeking to distract ourselves. Pema Chodron references a Tibetan metaphor of a peacock, whose feathers become more brilliant and glowing when it eats certain plants that are poisonous to other animals. If we can learn to simply accept the energies that arise in us, without judgment, we can explore them, and ultimately transmute them. This is the true essence of the Tantric Buddhist approach.

Pema Chodron always keep her writings straightforward and personal, referencing stories from her own life and those of people she has known. One particularly powerful story for me was about a Jewish couple who befriend an elderly Ku Klux Clan member who has been harassing them, and transform the situation, the man, and themselves in the process. She describes several specific techniques for working with shenpa, including some sitting meditations, but an individual certainly does not need to be Buddhist or even be familiar with Buddhist writings to understand this book. In fact, if I have any criticism (and it's not really a criticism) it's that I find her writings are always deceptively simple - they are so digestible it's easy to underestimate the transformative power of the teachings within them.

So I highly recommend Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears, and suggest working with it for some time. It is a small book, and appropriate for both non-Buddhists and Buddhists of any lineage.
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143 of 150 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Pema Chodron is always superb, but this book is merely a compilation of some of her previous writings; in particular, it takes from her wonderful audio CD "Getting Unstuck." So why buy the condensed version when you can buy the real thing? Try "The Places That Scare You" or "When Things Fall Apart." These are rich, textured writings that you can read over and over. If you want a CD, I think "Getting Unstuck" is far and away her best.

On the other hand, if you like to keep things simple, this book might be just the thing.
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88 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is another important book by Pema. I have heard the story of the two wolves before and always find it moving: A Native American grandfather and his grandson talk of two wolves fighting in our hearts, one is vengeful, hateful and angry, the other is kind, understanding and compassionate. The grandson asks "who will win the fight"? .... and grandfather answers "the one that we feed" . Clearly Pema's message is that we have a choice in how we live, we have a choice in which wolf we feed. We can honesty face what's happening in our lives "by looking compassionately and honestly at our own minds". Time to stop blaming others and look into our own habitual thoughts. Pema talks of "shempa" or "being hooked" similar to Tolle and the "pain body" and states "how we relate moment to moment is all there really is" . "Can we learn to drop those limiting story lines and narrow perspectives and see what is happening with new clarity, wisdom and compassion"? This book, and others by Pema, teach that this is day to day, hour by hour training. It doesn't end once we step off the meditation cushion -
I am a big fan of Pema and her teachings. I have had a couple of similar experiences she discusses in this book and undoubtedly that's made her someone I closely relate to. One being the death of her mother, for me it was the death of an Aunt. All these possessions we treasure .... will be just boxes of "stuff" to someone else one day. Similarly as Pema states, "all the labels, judgments, values, likes and dislikes we hold so tightly are - all much to do about nothing... and we suffer from it".
I highly recommend this book -
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
While flowing from the Buddhist worldview, this deceptively simple text contains a practical formula for tapping into what the author calls our natural openness, natural warmth, and natural intelligence. As a practicing Catholic with deep familiarity with Buddhist theory and practice, a PhD in Theology, and four grandchildren, I found exceptionally helpful spiritual direction in the wise and warm words of Pema Chodron. She draws equally from a discipline of meditation that is as close to religiously neutral or 'portable' as possible, and a life filled with the vicissitudes that most of us face---marital struggles, care and concern for family, moral weakness and bad habits, illness, aging. What she offers is a simple, honest,jargon-free way to meet these challenges that works---regardless of one's religious or philosophical standpoint.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Like the reviewer above, I have long admired Pema Chodron's books. She has the ability of using simple language to explain profound meanings of Buddhism. A lot of Buddhism books are poetic or translations which requires one's own interpretations and sometimes loses the precision. This is a short and kinda expensive book which focuses on the work of oneself, the first step to walk on the Buddha path. A general term of Buddhims like attachment is reworded to 'hooked' or 'stuck'. I like her views and writing from a western's point of view, a more mondern approach to the religion that is ancient. BTW, a person with some psychology background like me will find it very psychological and insightful. It writes about self blind spot, feeling for others begins with acceptance of ourselves without deception and etc! I love the fact that she's the author offers to a borader audience than just Buddhists. Congrats Pema! I am waiting for you next book already! May Buddha be with you!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This was a selection for my book group and was unavailable at the library. Luckily it was well-priced at Amazon so I purchased it without reading it beforehand. I have read other Pema Chodron books and am familiar with her lovely voice, her understandable descriptions of Buddhist practices and her gentle message; she does not admonish or point fingers -- except at herself. This is a small book -- and probably could have been smaller. Her message is a good one but doesn't lend itself to multiple chapters. I read it to discuss it -- and wouldn't recommend it for a book group as there's not much to discuss. This would be a great book as an introduction to Pema's work; it would be a great book as a gift to someone desiring to learn more about Buddhist meditation.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Another enlightening book from a wonderful teacher. Whether or not you are Buddhist, read anything she's written and you will learn that even the smallest change in attitude can make a significant difference in your life and the in the lives of those around you...think "the ripple effect."
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is another winner from Pema Chodron, my Buddhist and life teacher, though we've never met. This short book is profound in its depth and practical in its application. As with Pema's other offerings, it's meaning grows with contemplation, repeated readings, and, of course, application of the teachings in one's own life. This is, as Pema has said, "news you can use." BTW, I bought my own engraved dog tag. It helps me remember to stay present and feed the right wolf. Read the book if you want to know what that's about. You won't regret it.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I do enjoy reading Pema Chodron's books and find them truly inspiring and helpful. They are inviting and not preachy - much like a spiritual advice from a friend. It is also encouraging to see that a lot of people are open to reading Buddhism books and spiritual books to gather more insights into their own challenges in life, and not be too bothered by the labels. Sometimes the labels become the barriers to our very own growth, development and learning. Taking The Leap speaks to me in many ways, because it encourages us to find the courage in ourselves to face our own demons. If we do not free ourselves, who will? Also, we must also believe that we are worth all the effort, in the very first place. If you are truly reading to find your own path, and interested to discover deeper, then this is what I would suggest - I find that it helps me a great deal to read Pema Chodron's books along with another favourite authorof mine, Tsem Tulku Rinpoche. Tsem Tulku tackles taboo subjects in his own unique signature style. My most all time favourite is "COMPASSION CONQUERS ALL" AND "GURUS FOR HIRE". These books provide literally step by step methods in countering our own self-cherishing mind" and explains what a Guru is really all about. I love the way Tsem Tulku starts his books with a poem. Don't miss those poems. I am only recommending these books for those who are really interested in furthering their own spiritual journey. Happy reading and enjoy your journey.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I feel as though this piece of genius was written just for me. I appreciate the personal anecdotes as anyone who knows this woman and respects her learns she has acted out just like me. The bit about the Dali Lama and his experience with regret is moving.

I am so very grateful for this work as it defines ways to control reactivity. If one doesn't have acting problems or any kind of reactive disorder and this relates to overeating, drinking, etc. not just verbal aggression then I can understand a lack of interest. Very timely for me with useful tips how to stop ugly and destructive patterns in one's life.

As good as it gets! Thank you Pema Chodron!
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