- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Shambhala; 20th Anniversary ed. edition (June 7, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1611803438
- ISBN-13: 978-1570621604
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (926 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (20th Anniversary Edition) Paperback – June 7, 2016
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“Perhaps what makes Pema’s message resonate so strongly with people, no matter what their religion or spiritual path, is its universality. Each of us has experienced heartache; how we interact with that feeling, Pema says, can create the possibility of a more joyful life.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“As one of Pema Chödrön’s grateful students, I have been learning the most pressing and necessary lesson of all: how to keep opening wider my own heart.”
—Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize–winning author and activist
About the Author
Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa and resident teacher at Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in North America. She is the author of numerous best-selling books, including The Places That Scare You and Living Beautifully.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
When I attended a Pema Chodron lecture some years ago she announced that her favorite manta is "Om, grow up!" It takes great courage to meet life on life's terms and accept responsiblity for our actions. And since life invariably brings challenges associated with disappointment and loss, the work continues to the moment of death. In our addicted society, that is a message all too readily rejected. Pema is not for the faint of heart! But if you intend to claim your aliveness, to risk intimacy, to share joy, her words are worth attending to. Namaste.
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.