When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times [NOOK Book]

Overview

The beautiful practicality of her teaching has made Pema Ch?dr?n one of the most beloved of contemporary American spiritual authors among Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. A collection of talks she gave between 1987 and 1994, the book is a treasury of wisdom for going on living when we are overcome by pain...

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When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

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Overview

The beautiful practicality of her teaching has made Pema Chödrön one of the most beloved of contemporary American spiritual authors among Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. A collection of talks she gave between 1987 and 1994, the book is a treasury of wisdom for going on living when we are overcome by pain and difficulties. Chödrön discusses:


  • Using painful emotions to cultivate wisdom, compassion, and courage
  • Communicating so as to encourage others to open up rather than shut down
  • Practices for reversing habitual patterns
  • Methods for working with chaotic situations
  • Ways for creating effective social action



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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chodron believes that by attending ourselves, we heal ourselves. Her clear call for this root serenity has already won this book over one hundred thousand readers.
Publishers Weekly
Pema Chodron, a student of Chogyam Trunpa Rinpoche and Abbot of Gampo Abbey, has written the Tibetan Buddhist equivalent of Harold Kushner's famous book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. As the author indicates in the postscript to her book: "We live in difficult times. One senses a possibility they may get worse." Consequently, 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 our lives. Through reflections on the central Buddhist teaching of right mindfulness, Chodron orients readers and gives them language with which to shape their thinking about the ordinary and extraordinary traumas of modern life. But most importantly, Chodron demonstrates how effective the Buddhist point of view can be in bringing order into disordered lives. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Pema Chodron, a student of Chogyam Trunpa Rinpoche and Abbot of Gampo Abbey, has written the Tibetan Buddhist equivalent of Harold Kushner's famous book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. As the author indicates in the postscript to her book: "We live in difficult times. One senses a possibility they may get worse." Consequently, 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 our lives. Through reflections on the central Buddhist teaching of right mindfulness, Chodron orients readers and gives them language with which to shape their thinking about the ordinary and extraordinary traumas of modern life. But, most importantly, Chodron demonstrates how effective the Buddhist point of view can be in bringing order into disordered lives. (Jan.)
Library Journal
An American Buddhist nun and author (Start Where You Are, LJ 6/1/94), Chdrn here passes on the teachings of the Venerable Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, advising a loving kindness toward oneself and awakening a compassionate attitude toward our pain and the pain of others. The readings allow us to reconnect with a truth already known or to find a new way of looking at everyday chaos. Throughout, we are shown basic Buddhist beliefs and given instructions in discovering one's true nature through asking questions, facing one's fears, and dealing with the present. The instructions can be taken as meditations, affirmations, or simple reminders of how to transform our minds and actions into nonaggression, which benefits ourselves and society. Popular reading recommended for all libraries; Chodron is donating the proceeds of this book to the Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada.-Leo Kritz, West Des Moines P.L., Ia.
Tricycle Magazine
There are few Dharma voices as clear as Pema Chodron's, and few people who know more about things falling apart than mothers.
From the Publisher
"Pema Chodron is one of those spiritual teachers who brings ancient wisdom to bear upon our daily triumphs and tragedies. . . . Incredibly wise and poignantly practical."—Spirituality & Health

"Chödrön'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 our lives . . . Chödrön demonstrates how effective the Buddhist point of view can be in bringing order into disordered lives."—Publishers Weekly

"This is a book that could serve you for a lifetime."—Natural Health

"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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780834821002
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/14/2010
  • Series: Shambhala Publications
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 23,784
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa. She is resident teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, the first Tibetan monastery in North America established for Westerners. She is the author of many books and audiobooks, including the best-selling When Things Fall Apart and Don’t Bite the Hook.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter
2:
When
Things Fall Apart

When things fall apart and we're on the verge of we know not what, the test of each of us is to stay on that brink and not concretize. The spiritual journey is not about heaven and finally getting to a place that's really swell.

Gampo
Abbey is a vast place where the sea and the sky melt into each other. The horizon extends infinitely, and in this vast space float seagulls and ravens.
The setting is like a huge mirror that exaggerates the sense of there being nowhere to hide. Also, since it

is a monastery, there are very few means of escape—no lying, no stealing, no alcohol, no sex, no exit.

Gampo
Abbey was a place to which I had been longing to go. Trungpa Rinpoche asked me to be the director of the abbey, so finally I found myself there. Being there was an invitation to test my love of a good challenge, because in the first years it was like being boiled alive.

What happened to me when I got to the abbey was that everything fell apart. All the ways I shield myself, all the ways I delude myself, all the ways I maintain my well-polished selfimage—all of it

fell apart. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't manipulate the situation. My style was driving everyone else crazy, and I couldn't find anywhere to hide.

I
had always thought of myself as a flexible, obliging person who was well liked by almost everyone. I'd been able to carry this illusion throughout most of my life. During my early years at the abbey, I discovered that I had been living in some kind of misunderstanding. It wasn't that I didn't have good qualities,
it was just that I was not the ultimate golden girl. I had so much invested in that image of myself, and it just wasn't holding together anymore. All my unfinished business was exposed vividly and accurately in living Technicolor,
not only to myself, but to everyone else as well.

Everything that I had not been able to see about myself before was suddenly dramatized. As if that weren't enough, others were free with their feedback about me and what
I was doing. It was so painful that I wondered if I would ever be happy again.
I felt that bombs were being dropped on me almost continuously, with self-deceptions exploding all around. In a place where there was so much practice and study going on, I could not get lost in trying to justify myself and blame others. That kind of exit was not available.

A
teacher visited during this time, and I remember her saying to me, "When you have made good friends with yourself, your situation will be more friendly too."

I
had learned this lesson before, and I knew that it was the only way to go. I
used to have a sign pinned up on my wall that read: "Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us." Somehow, even before I heard the Buddhist teachings, I knew that this was the spirit of true awakening. It was all about letting go of everything.

Nevertheless,
when the bottom falls out and we can't find anything to grasp, it hurts a lot.
It's like the Naropa Institute motto: "Love of the truth puts you on the spot." We might have some romantic view of what that means, but when we are nailed with the truth, we suffer. We look in the bathroom mirror, and there we are with our pimples, our aging face, our lack of kindness, our aggression and timidity—all that stuff.

This is where tenderness comes in. When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something. We might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way.
We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch in on that throbbing quality. There is definitely something tender and throbbing about groundlessness.

It's a kind of testing, the kind of testing that spiritual warriors need in order to awaken their hearts. Sometimes it's because of illness or death that we find ourselves in this place. We experience a sense of loss—loss of our loved ones,
loss of our youth, loss of our life.

I
have a friend dying of AIDS. Before I was leaving for a trip, we were talking.
He said, "I didn't want this, and I hated this, and I was terrified of this. But it turns out that this illness has been my greatest gift." He said, "Now every moment is so precious to me. All the people in my life are so precious to me. My whole life means so much to me." Something had really changed, and he felt ready for his death. Something that was horrifying and scary had turned into a gift.

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

When we think that something is going to bring us pleasure, we don't know what's really going to happen. When we think something is going to give us misery, we don't know. Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. We try to do what we think is going to help. But we don't know. We never know if we're going to fall flat or sit up tall. When there's a big disappointment, we don't know if that's the end of the story. It may be just the beginning of a great adventure.

I
read somewhere about a family who had only one son. They were very poor. This son was extremely precious to them, and the only thing that mattered to his family was that he bring them some financial support and prestige. Then he was thrown from a horse and crippled. It seemed like the end of their lives. Two weeks after that, the army came into the village and took away all the healthy,
strong men to fight in the war, and this young man was allowed to stay behind and take care of his family.

Life is like that. We don't know anything. We call something bad; we call it good.
But really we just don't know.

When things fall apart and we're on the verge of we know not what, the test for each of us is to stay on that brink and not concretize. The spiritual journey is not about heaven and finally getting to a place that's really swell. In fact, that way of looking at things is what keeps us miserable. Thinking that we can find some lasting pleasure and avoid pain is what in Buddhism is called samsara, a hopeless cycle that goes round and round endlessly and causes us to suffer greatly. The very first noble truth of the Buddha points out that suffering is inevitable for human beings as long as we believe that things last—that they don't disintegrate, that they can be counted on to satisfy our hunger for security. From this point of view, the only time we ever know what's really going on is when the rug's been pulled out and we can't find anywhere to land.
We use these situations either to wake ourselves up or to put ourselves to sleep. Right now—in the very instant of groundlessness—is the seed of taking care of those who need our care and of discovering our goodness.

I
remember so vividly a day in early spring when my whole reality gave out on me.
Although it was before I had heard any Buddhist teachings, it was what some would call a genuine spiritual experience. It happened when my husband told me he was having an affair. We lived in northern New Mexico. I was standing in front of our adobe house drinking a cup of tea. I heard the car drive up and the door bang shut. Then he walked around the corner, and without warning he told me that he was having an affair and he wanted a divorce.

I
remember the sky and how huge it was. I remember the sound of the river and the steam rising up from my tea. There was no time, no thought, there was nothing—just the light and a profound, limitless stillness. Then I regrouped and picked up a stone and threw it at him.

When anyone asks me how I got involved in Buddhism, I always say it was because I
was so angry with my husband. The truth is that he saved my life. When that marriage fell apart, I tried hard—very, very hard—to go back to some kind of comfort, some kind of security, some kind of familiar resting place.
Fortunately for me, I could never pull it off. Instinctively I knew that annihilation of my old dependent, clinging self was the only way to go. That's when I pinned that sign up on my wall.

Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don't get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It's a very tender, nonaggressive, open-ended state of affairs.

To stay with that shakiness—to stay with 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—this is the spiritual path. Getting the knack of catching ourselves, of gently and compassionately catching ourselves, is the path of the warrior. We catch ourselves one zillion times as once again, whether we like it or not, we harden into resentment,
bitterness, righteous indignation—harden in any way, even into a sense of relief, a sense of inspiration.

Every day we could think about the aggression in the world, in New York, Los Angeles,
Halifax, Taiwan, Beirut, Kuwait, Somalia, Iraq, everywhere. All over the world,
everybody always strikes out at the enemy, and the pain escalates forever.
Every day we could reflect on this and ask ourselves, "Am I going to add to the aggression in the world?" Every day, at the moment when things get edgy, we can just ask ourselves, "Am I going to practice peace, or am I
going to war?"



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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 68 )
Rating Distribution

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(15)

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(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 68 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2001

    Buddhist Teachings for Western Ears

    How many times have you heard a Buddhist intellectual relate a teaching by saying, 'this reminds me of a Gary Larson cartoon I saw once?' Ane Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist Nun, truly knows how to bend the Western ear toward Eastern thought. Further, she does so with honesty, humor and clarity in this amazing book. I purchased this at a time when for me things seemed to be 'falling apart.' It reminds one of the need to attend to and, indeed, love one's self as a path to attending to and loving others. Pema Chodron is truly someone I would love to meet one day.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2000

    Very Powerful

    This is a very powerful book. I am a Christian and a therapist but she raised some questions and issues that I wished I had studied many years ago. This is the most impactful book I have ever read

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 30, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    When things Fall Apart They Really Fall Apart so Let them

    I had to read this book for one of my english classes as Saint Norbert College and it isn't really a self help book but it sure has helped me. Now I have this little pema that sits on my shoulder when I start to panic and she just tells be let it fall apart it will go back and fall apart again and again there is no use freaking out about it. I really like the stories in the book that she uses to get her point across as well. One book from school I don't mind hanging onto

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2006

    Helped me at a difficult time

    I bought this book after my mother died, and it did help me. Specifically, I found helpful the concepts that suffering connects us to other humans, not just today but who have suffered down through history, and that such events can be viewed as a gift, to 'wake us up' and help us become enlightened. Nobody wants pain, but it is better to face it and have a way of dealing with it positively.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2009

    We all need to read this in these difficult times!

    I highly recommend this book to help us all survive these difficult times with loving kindness toward one another instead of blame and "me-first" mentality. It helped me "lean into" difficult times instead of running to the refrigerator or the mall. Just READ IT!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2012

    Life Changing - perhaps the only book you ever need to read

    I’ve read a plethora of “self-help” books over the past years – most of which had at least some useful nugget. This book was different. When I finished I commented to a friend “I don’t think I need to read any more books – I just need to read this one over and over.” Of course, the key is that it’s not just about reading but about doing what’s suggested – that’s the hard part.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Good tool for improving meditation practice

    I think this audio book was helpful to me in learning more effective ways to use meditation in my life. It's definitely a must read for those who are interested in improving and refining their meditation practice. Pema Chodron reminds us, however, that there is no right or wrong way to practice meditation but there are some useful suggestions you can incorporate into your practice. I enjoyed several concepts she discusses and the references she makes are helpful. One important point she makes is about the challenge we face in making changes in our lives. Pema explains that our lives are similar to the rotating mill wheel that we decide needs to reverse it's rotation. She reminds us that at first, it takes a lot of effort and energy to begin the process of reversing the wheel's direction, but once you make the commitment and invest that time it then starts spinning in the other direction almost effortlessly. She also talks about fear and how we have to learn to face it in order to overcome it. She gives the example of a Buddhist monk visiting a Monastery where a fierce dog ready to attack is chained to a gate from which he breaks free and starts running towards the group. While the others run away in fear, the monk runs towards the dog with an equal fierceness that stops it in its tracks. I like that analogy in terms of how we must learn to face scary things in our own lives. We can either choose to run away from them or face them and defeat them. It's a profound read and not for the faint of heart. It definitely is a book I'll need to go back to often, because there is a lot of deepness to it that can't be fully absorbed in one setting. I find myself reflecting and journaling on many of the key points. I love the audio version because I can pause the CD where I need to and then go back to it when I'm ready for the next major point. I think I'll be re-reading it (or listening to it) soon. There's always something new to absorb each time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    When things fall apart

    This is a good book because things will fall apart, even this book. Everything in the universe falls apart. We should learn and know how to deal with it. Pema Chodron expresses this truth wonderfully.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2010

    Interesting Take/ Refresher on Buddhism for Experienced Meditators

    Pema Chodron reminds us that the only way to get through life's difficult moments is to go through them. Not to escape, to hide, but to face them head on, face them consciously. If we do this, she proves, we will get richness from our difficult experiences, even if we do not get comfort.

    Her take on the powerful and often misunderstood practice of tonglen is first rate. She shows us how to use tonglen to make our difficulties digestible, instead of pennances to be endured.

    In her view, spiritual progress is a move down to profundity, where we can find compassion to relate to others no matter what we --or they -- they are called to do. Much more satisfying than a climb to the peak where we stand alone, as if that would make us "better than others." Maybe at the profound bottom, other readers will find her promise of "the love that does not die," something I can't yet claim.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2009

    Great reading

    Thoroughly enertaining and enjovable. If you didn't love Charleston before you will after reading this book.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent insight into utilizing Buddhist traditions

    There is a gentleness to the way Pema Chodron writes. Clearly, she comes from the Buddhist perspective - she is a Buddhist nun. However, she is also an American woman who has come to this spiritual tradition and represents it in a way a Western reader can easily relate to for their use in daily life.

    Great stuff!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2001

    Nice book

    This is a nice book for anyone, not just for those who feel that things are falling apart. It offers insight into accepting life just as it is, in this moment. The author shares her 'wisdom mind' in this concise and compassionate book about finding peace within the fundamental groundlessness of life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 17, 2014

    This book calmed the fear that lives in me sometimes.  Thanks to

    This book calmed the fear that lives in me sometimes.  Thanks to Pema I remember to love for the sake of all livings things and live my life by that code.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2012

    Police road block

    Everyone must be serched

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2012

    Drake to "Jade"Or Whatever she or her calls herself

    Im done rping so if we're still "together" or whatever then its over.Becase honestly i think your a liar.And frankly i dont have time for your games.I have a rl gf and i dont have time for a rp one.Especially a sneaky b i t c h like you.Im still in love with jess but i don really think it matters now that shes dating that tyler/you guy.Thats why im quitting rp unless i can get jss back.But i guess that will never happen and she will never know how deeply i really feel for her.So goodbye and have fun with your games.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2012

    Jade

    Rolls eyes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2012

    Life changing

    If youre sad, scared, angry, hurt or alone read this book. It will change your life. I always come back to this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2012

    Simply great.

    Pema Chodron is the best!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2011

    Wonderful advice

    Very helpful in putting things into perspective

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 68 Customer Reviews

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