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When Things Fall Apart
Cover of When Things Fall Apart
When Things Fall Apart
Heart Advice for Difficult Times
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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
  • 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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    Excerpts-
    • From the cover

      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...

    About 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 also the author of many books and audiobooks, including the best-selling When Things Fall Apart and Don't Bite the Hook.

    Reviews-
    • Publisher's Weekly

      March 2, 1998
      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.

    • Spirituality & Health "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."
    • Publishers Weekly "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."
    • Natural Health "This is a book that could serve you for a lifetime."
    • Alice Walker "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."
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      Shambhala
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    Heart Advice for Difficult Times
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