Pema Chödrön may have more good one-liners than a Groucho Marx retrospective, but this nun's stingers go straight to the heart: "The essence of bravery is being without self-deception"; "When we practice generosity, we become intimate with our grasping"; "Difficult people are the greatest teachers." These are the punctuations to specific teachings of fearlessness. In The Places That Scare You
, Chödrön introduces a host of the compassionate warriors' tools and concepts for transforming anxieties and negative emotions into positive living. Rather than steeling ourselves against hardship, she suggests we open ourselves to vulnerability; from this comes the loving kindness and compassion that are the wellsprings of joy. How do we achieve it? Through meditation, mindfulness, slogans, aspiration, and several other practices, such as tonglen
, which is taking in the pain and suffering of others while sending out happiness to all--emphasis on the all
. Chödrön introduces each of these practices in turn, backing them up with succinct practical reasoning and a framework of ideas that offers fresh interpretations of familiar words like strength
, and groundlessness
. Chödrön is the type of person you'd like to have with you in an emergency, and to deal with the extremes of daily life. In her absence, The Places That Scare You
will do nicely. --Brian Bruya
From Publishers Weekly
American Tibetan Buddhist nun Chodron (When Things Fall Apart) teaches an intense form of meditation in which readers are encouraged to become "warrior-bodhisattvas," those who courageously confront suffering. Warrior-bodhisattvas, according to Chodron, are willing to have their inner selves broken, while keeping their minds and hearts from shutting down. They take on suffering with compassion and loving-kindness, working through their own emotions of fear or anger to help alleviate others' pain. Chodron highlights six traditional paramitas to model (generosity, discipline, patience, enthusiasm, meditation and unconditional wisdom) and cautions that ego, self-deception, unforgiveness and a grasping for permanence all present barriers to compassion. True meditation cultivates the qualities of steadfastness, clarity of vision and attention to the present moment. Despite the title, this book is more about generating compassion than facing fears. A few humorous vignettes are interspersed with the deeply philosophical text, such as when Chodron describes discovering her boyfriend in an intimate embrace with another woman. She tried to throw something at the couple, but the thing she picked up was a priceless piece of pottery that belonged to their millionaire host. "The absurdity of the situation totally cut through my rage," she explains, noting that many times "wisdom is inherent in emotions." Moments such as these mitigate the intensity of this highly cerebral book, which will offer meaty reflections for the serious practitioner, but less guidance for the mere bookstore Buddhist. (Sept.)Forecast: This title will receive some terrific exposure this fall. Shambhala Sun will excerpt two chapters and feature Chodron on the cover of its August/September issue, and New Age Journal will run an excerpt in September. In the piece de resistance, O magazine will run a substantial profile on Chodron in the October issue.
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