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Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion

4.34  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,006 Ratings  ·  216 Reviews
This book offers short, stand-alone readings designed to help us cultivate compassion and awareness amid the challenges of daily living. More than a collection of thoughts for the day, Comfortable with Uncertainty offers a progressive program of spiritual study, leading the reader through essential concepts, themes, and practices on the Buddhist path.

Comfortable with Unc
Paperback, 222 pages
Published December 30th 2003 by Shambhala (first published 2002)
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Siddhartha by Hermann HesseThe Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama XIVZen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu SuzukiWhen Things Fall Apart by Pema ChödrönThe Heart of the Buddha's Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh
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66th out of 686 books — 861 voters
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Community Reviews

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Jeannie Mancini
Mar 07, 2012 Jeannie Mancini rated it it was amazing
Years ago while in a period of personal turmoil, a dear friend of mine recommended a book titled ‘When Things Fall Apart” by female Buddhist monk Pema Chodron. I remember reading it and feeling connected to this woman’s words, and enjoying her writings of introductory Buddhism for the lay person. Now many years later I find myself yearning and seeking more out of life, and am interested in delving deeper into the practice and philosophy of Buddhist thought. I picked up a copy of the author’s boo ...more
Jan 09, 2013 Ruth rated it liked it
Have you ever heard the adage, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

This book is like that for me. I have had it for a few months now, and dipped into its very very short chapters from time to time. But recently I read it fully and it lifted a blind in my window.

Of course I had to get past the “Four truths of enlightenment” and the “Six beliefs of compassion” and the “Three ways of feeling pain“. The trite phrase “be here now” that I see in management training seminars and the seemi
I've been so reticent to take this back to the library that I finally just bought a paperback copy. I'm also the world's worst library employee because... I dog-eared some pages. What delighted me about that, though, is that all the pages I turned down had been turned down previously. Kindred spirits, I guess.
Nov 14, 2010 Bonnie rated it it was amazing
A multifaceted jewel and game-changer.

When I was in DC this summer my friend Stephen gave me this book. I wasn’t even able to glance at it until we got back to Negril, but I loved the title. I recall checking out When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron years ago, but at that time I wasn’t ready to dwell deeply on these ideas.

I read this book slowly, a couple of pages a day. It consists of 108 short chapters excerpted from Pema’s previous books. This is all about how to live our lives better on a
Jun 24, 2015 Sally rated it did not like it
A super nice, amazing person gave me this book to read as I was in the fetal position over my husband's fifth bout of unemployment in eight years. I tried to get into this book.I can see its wisdom. However, what I really want is a different book, titled something like "Taking Bite-Sized Pieces of Ragged Flesh From the Bodies of Those Who Have Wronged Me" or "I Will Burn You And Your Entire Career To The Ground, Oh My Enemy."
Frank Jude
Jul 18, 2010 Frank Jude rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: every student of Yoga/Dharma.
This is a great, little book: 108 pithy teachings and instructions forming an integrated course of practice of vipassana, lojong, the four brahma-viharas, tonglen and the bodhisattva paramitas. The first year it came out, I read it through, one teaching a day for 108 days, reflecting on the teachings and following the practices. Then, I began again and did it two more times as an almost year-long practice. Since then, I've encouraged several of my students to take up that practice and they have ...more
Tim Niland
Jun 01, 2011 Tim Niland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011-reads
This book takes a look a how we deal with our uncertain lives and times. Chodron is a Buddhist nun and she uses the teachings of Buddhism to illustrate her points throughout the book, which is actually excerpts of lectures she has given around the world. This is far from doctrinaire religion or self-help as possible, in fact she gently chides religious thinking as just another way for a person to escape from what is truly real and look for a "hand to hold" which isn't really there. The idea of w ...more
Apr 05, 2015 Monica rated it really liked it
You pick up a book like this with the expectation to emerge more enlightened in the end, when in fact the main thing it teaches you is to drop all expectations and just face whatever comes openly.

The three ideas I'd like to embrace from this book are mindfulness, facing your fears and that the path is the goal.

The three shortcomings that I found are the lack of responsibility for one's choices, disregard for goals of personal growth and most importantly the idea that only the present moment ma
Nov 07, 2012 Kristin rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
In this book Buddhist nun Pema Chodron explains basic ideas of Buddhism, such as being alive in the present moment, staying open to suffering and strong emotions instead of shutting down, and learning to relax in the middle of chaos. She emphasizes honesty, gentleness, curiosity, interconnectedness, and being compassionate towards ourselves and others. These concepts are an antidote to the stereotypical American strategies of denying and repressing feelings, focusing on the future, using technol ...more
Nov 28, 2011 Clara rated it really liked it
This is the third or fourth book by Pema Chodron that I've read in the past five-or-so years. I'd be hard pressed to differentiate among them. That's not a negative comment, though. In every book, Pema's basically telling the same story: she's sharing the messages of the Buddha on how to alleviate dukkha (suffering, dissastisfaction) and live more sanely. Like any good teacher, she makes her points in various ways so that we're more likely to get the message: maybe understand more clearly, catch ...more
Sep 17, 2013 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone looking for a daily devotional
Recommended to Stephanie by: Janet Conner
Pema Chodron was already one of my favorite authors and teachers before bestselling journaling coach/author Janet Conner recommended this title to my Book Group. I liked that Pema's book was 108 short entries that could be read at the start of each day. The glossary helped me understand Buddhist terminology better.

Some of Chodron's passages are so well crafted that they could be epitaphs and signature quotes.

Chodron is one of the great teachers of contemporary times.
She is that wounded warrior w
Feb 24, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I really enjoyed this book. This is an example of a passage from the book that I found conveys the basic message of the book:

"The central question is not how to avoid uncertainty and fear but how we relate to discomfort. How do we practice with difficulty, with our emotions, with the unpredictable encounters of an ordinary day? For those of us with a hunger to know the truth, painful emotions are like flags going up to say "You're stuck!" We regard disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, jea
Jan 12, 2013 Shelley rated it it was amazing
A compilation of 108 short lessons. This book has made it's way from my bookshelf to my bedside table numerous times over the years. Each time I read it, I find new meaning. Basic Tibetan Buddhist concepts, presented in layman’s terms, applicable to anyone’s life - regardless of what your belief system is. This is a beautiful little book which I will never really be finished with. I am not sure if there is anything more important than becoming comfortable with uncertainty. It is thought provokin ...more
Jun 25, 2012 Willette rated it it was amazing
I discovered Pema Chodron through a link on facebook by Marty Howes (thanks, Marty!!!). I have been reading about Buddhism for awhile now because I don't believe in conventional religion. Buddhism is about peace, love, and co-existing (I know, I sound like a 60's hippie). It's helping me embrace Tonglen -- taking in sufffering and sending forth compassion. Working with the Wounded Warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan allowed me to employ this practice daily. A great read especially if you're stru ...more
Jelle Derckx
Jun 22, 2016 Jelle Derckx rated it it was amazing
Shelves: life
Één van mijn eerste boeken over het Boeddhisme en wat een Boeddhistische openbaring. Veel praktische tips en zo leerzaam voor het dagelijks leven. Ik wil mijn hele leven dansen met het oncomfortabele. Bijna het hele boek heb ik gemarkeerd. Meest inspirerende quote uit het boek: "Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already".
Mar 12, 2014 Mia rated it it was amazing
This is actually my second time reading through this book and it still inspired and opened my eyes to other options for viewing and interacting with the world.

From the book:

A big burly samurai comes to a Zen Master and says, "tell me about heaven and hell."

The Zen Master looks him in the face and says, "why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you? A worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?"

Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword and raises it to cut off
Sep 08, 2009 Karen rated it really liked it
The goal isn't really to become comfortable with uncertainty but rather to embrace the fear . . . the discomfort and relax in the moment of "uncomfortableness". As the summer of reflect comes to an end my goal is to embrace the fear and discomfort-- to relax in the moment. I'm on the path each moment each day. I'm me again.
Jeff Cannon
Nov 26, 2012 Jeff Cannon rated it really liked it
A wonderful bedside book. It's not necessarily an eye opener, but it is a wonderful way to remind yourself of some of Pema's thoughts and lessons. Each is just a page or two. Easy to read and soul stirring.

Thank you for yet another reminder on living a life in balance.
Oct 02, 2008 Glenna is currently reading it
this book is absolutely amazing! It teaches so much about learning to live with fear and pain and how those things actually make life worth living and...I don't even know how to begin to expain it but it's based a lot on buddhist principles...check it out, really!
John Stepper
Jun 12, 2016 John Stepper rated it it was amazing
When I first read this wasn't new work but rather "teachings gathered from the works of Pema Chödrön," I was disappointed. Yet after just a few selections, I quickly recovered.

The woman who compiled and edited the material, Emily Hilburn Sell, did a brilliant job. Each selection is 2 pages, and there is a coherence and flow that is, well, beautiful.

The book reminds me of "Your True Home" by Thich Nhat Hanh. It's best to read the book slowly, a section at a time. It might take a few months, but
Nov 28, 2012 Colleen rated it it was amazing
I read one of the teachings each day, starting the book over once I reach the end. Despite this, they are new each time, and, very often, precisely the lesson I needed to hear.
Heather Finlayson
Mar 22, 2014 Heather Finlayson rated it it was amazing
Beautiful. Each chapter a gem. This is a book I will return to for inspiration. Short, clear summaries. According to the editor's preface: "108 pith instructions on leading our lives in the spirit of mahayana Buddhism."

And from the chapter on the Heart Sutra: "Form is that which simply is before we project our beliefs onto it. The prajnaparamita represents a completely fresh take, an unfettered mind where anything is possible. 'Form is emptiness' refers to our simple, direct relationship with th
Thomas Ruddy
Feb 13, 2015 Thomas Ruddy rated it it was amazing
It is not a book you read once but a book you read over and over. Start in the middle and finish at the beginning if you want.
Jul 11, 2009 Colin rated it it was amazing
If I knew everything contained in this little book, I'd be wise enough to last me a lifetime.
Feb 26, 2014 Priti rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not at all a practical book for someone who reads the title and thinks, uncertainty, yeah, maybe this will help me get more comfortable with it. It's more of a catalog of Buddhist teachings in small bursts and doesn't seem to be written such that you read it cover to cover. Some of the philosophy of being in the present moment, and focusing on now and starting where you are seems helpful, but I have heard that elsewhere. Her stories that go along with those few messages were nice. I would recomm ...more
Sep 13, 2009 Bri rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 03, 2015 Saskia rated it it was amazing
What do we habitually do when we are afraid, uncertain, unhappy or in difficulty? We turn away from it, we distract ourselves, we avoid those feelings.

Pema invites us, with many practical and always kind suggestions, to lean into what's uncomfortable. To be with what is. To keep our hearts open. To use meditation, loving kindness and other practices to fully live our life.

Fearlessness is enlightenment!

A wonderful book!
Aug 06, 2015 Caitlin rated it really liked it
Beautiful compilation. Pema has become my favorite teacher as of late and this latest book solidified that for me. She speaks directly to my soul. Her language, as always, is simple yet poetic. Her metaphors are simple yet brilliant. Her books are short yet stuffed with soul food. I'm a voracious reader and it takes me weeks to make it through her short books. There's simply too much to absorb.
Apr 08, 2016 Alane rated it really liked it
This is one to read several times. Pretty standard Buddhist teachings but in accessible format. Many good suggestions for exercises. Unfortunately became offensive on the subject of monotheism. When I want Dawkins, I'll read him. Her limited view of the breadth of monotheism has no place in a book like this. Her jab stuck out in an otherwise flowing and compassionate work.
Aug 13, 2015 Allyson rated it really liked it
I read this in one day, probably not her intended method but as with her previous book, so many interesting ways to be different in my head. Different ways of being which I will feebly attempt to put into practice. I am not nor do I expect to be a Buddhist but I find many teachings and ideas completely applicable to my life and lifestyle.
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Ani Pema Chödrön (Deirdre Blomfield-Brown) is an American Buddhist nun in the Tibetan tradition, closely associated with the Kagyu school and the Shambhala lineage.

She attended Miss Porter's School in Connecticut and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. She taught as an elementary school teacher for many years in both New Mexico and California. Pema has two children and three g
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“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” 68 likes
“Be grateful to everyone" is about making peace with the aspects of ourselves that we have rejected... If we were to make a list of people we don't like - people we find obnoxious, threatening, or worthy of contempt - we would discover much about those aspects of ourselves that we can't face... other people trigger the karma that we haven't worked out.” 37 likes
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