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Customer Review

483 of 497 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to read and reread, always new, October 7, 2002
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This review is from: When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Classics) (Paperback)
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.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 29, 2009, 1:17:02 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 29, 2009, 1:17:24 PM PDT
busy teacher says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Dec 26, 2011, 12:03:04 PM PST
Emma Savage says:
This review is truely encouraging and even moving.
Thank You!

Posted on Sep 22, 2016, 3:16:23 PM PDT
Nanoarcher says:
An excellent review. And with which I highly agree. On all points and clarifications made.

In my own humble opinion, Chodron is among the most authentic and effective of teachers on such elemental and profound life matters. She is, yes, unpretentious, bravely honest, necessarily self-honest, and refreshingly, delightfully self-deprecating in her warmth of humor.

Fundamental integrity comes through her every word, pause, voice, and bearing. Yet with zero false ego. Desperately seeking (easy) 'enlightenment', folks? Or a 'spiritual New Age guru' who'll tell you everything you want to hear? You might wish to look elsewhere.

Because Chodron pulls no punches. Offers no crutches. No deceptions or self-deceptions that point to 'easy (false) answers'. Rather, what she does offer are guideposts for what each of us must do, in ourselves, and which are, of course, THE hardest things for us to do -- each in our own individual lives. This is about getting real, in the deepest, truest, most unadulterated, most truly and bravely loving sense. Which is to say, Chodron doesn't deal self-deceiving b.s. She leaves that freely to you -- if that's what your thoughts, desires, and actions manifest.

This woman teaches honesty. With oneself, and all that that implies. For anyone who truly means to be free, from within, Chodron's book (and, yes, her audiotapes which actually feature her own voice, not a stand-in's) respects that embodied spirit into healthy action.

Peace.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 24, 2016, 5:33:05 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 24, 2016, 5:35:38 AM PDT
thank you busy teacher, for your helpful comment: "Another good option is "Exercise Beats Depression""

I don't know why it rec'd thumbs-down; people must have been clicking that in mistake. Heading to this book now. The other comments so far are really helpful also. Nanoarcher's in particular. Just reading their comment made me feel better; centered and whole. Now I HAVE to read this book!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 26, 2016, 8:50:14 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 26, 2016, 8:51:17 AM PDT
As I see it, Buddhism is based on avoiding suffering by accepting what is because suffering is caused by discontent...it follows from the experience of the prince who left the shelter of the castle and confronted the real life of the peasants outside the walls and realized he could do nothing for them...but western cultures are driven by discontent and capitalism is based on converting luxuries into necessities...there are a few tribal cultures left on earth that avoid discontent and they live a very primitive life as hunter-gathers...so I find the concept of inner peace through contentment inner and outer to be difficult if not impossible to adapt to our culture...except for those souls who are disenfranchised and do not share in the spoils of discontent...Chodron admits to entering Buddhism to accept the desertion by her husband which she could not avoid...like facing death of yourself...therefore I cannot really praise this book or any Buddhist dogma...God help me..IMO..
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