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When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
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When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

4.29  ·  Rating Details ·  21,187 Ratings  ·  1,203 Reviews
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 c
Paperback, 160 pages
Published September 26th 2000 by Shambhala (first published December 24th 1996)
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Sep 13, 2008 Kristy rated it it was amazing
I read this book over and over again. I LOVE her and her simple, straightforward way of talking about really deep spirituality. What initially attracted me to this book is kind of a funny story actually, I was going through a rough breakup and happened to be wandering through the stacks at the ICPL. I pulled this book off the shelf, just by chance.

So she begins the book by telling the story of how her marriage ended, when her husband drove up to their house one day and announced that he had met
Apr 08, 2014 Kermit rated it it was amazing
My therapist recommended this book when I was dealing with the end of my 11-yr relationship. She introduced it to me saying that often, when things seems the darkest, it just means we on the verge of breakthrough. I was like "OK, that makes some sense." Then it sat on my book shelf for 8 YEARS! Then my roommate Anya read it and told me it was a MUST READ. So I did. Wow! No, really ... WOW!

I have never heard Buddhist philosophy laid out so clearly and accessibly for the Western mind. And you don'
Jan 03, 2008 Miv rated it it was amazing
I first read this book nearly 10 years ago when I was going through a difficult, painful divorce. This book set me on a path of healing that has continued to the present day. I have recently gone through an even more devastating loss - the death of my daughter - and I went back to this book, and found its gentle wisdom helped me go through my grief and find my sanity. I recommend this book to anyone going through loss, or, for that matter, for anyone going through LIFE, since we will all inevita ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book has come up multiple times in conversation in the last year so I decided to get it from the library. This will be a book I will buy to keep in my collection, to pull off the shelf and read bits of when I'm having a rough time. I actually wish I had it a couple of years ago when things really did fall apart for a while. More typically, life is full of moments where minor things go wrong, when you get angry or sad about a particular situation, or when you get bogged down with the shoulds ...more
David Peirce
Apr 23, 2013 David Peirce rated it it was amazing
Pema Chodron is one of the first Buddhist writers I found as I began to explore Buddhist philosophy, along with Tara Brach and Thich Nhat Hanh. These are writers who understand the disconnection of Western culture.

She writes and talks primarily about dealing with both the subtle undercurrent of fear and the rushes of fear from turbulent events that we all face in life from a Tibetan Buddhist perspective. This is my favorite book by her of the 4 or 5 that I own, and I've read it at least 10 time
Nita Costello
Apr 04, 2012 Nita Costello rated it it was amazing
It was divine intervention that I found & read this book. I had just hurriedly packed a trailer full of stuff & moved out of my house. I was in a bad place. I lost my job. My marriage was a huge disaster. And at age 30, I had to move in with my parents along with my son, 12. I was so wrecked, I often went into the bathroom to cry. I didn't want my son to see me in this state. Broken. I stayed in a depression for months. Seeing this, my mom suggested we go to Half Price Books to get out o ...more
May 21, 2012 Sienna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, 2012
This is the sort of book that enters your life precisely when you need it, when you're living the title and not much else. Or, more precisely, this is the sort of book you don't pick up until you need it — when your husband hands you his copy, your mother extols the virtues of the author and your best friend nods sagely from the other side of the world because if there's no wisdom in love, where are you going to find it? Take another look.

There's so much to admire in Buddhism, and so little, I'v
Oct 08, 2012 Survivors rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Quite possibly the most impacting book I have ever read in my life. I picked this up when I thought things were going wonderfully. I had no idea how much more there was in life. "As I become more wholehearted in my journey of gentle honesty, it comes as quite a shock to realize how much I've blinded myself to some of the ways I've caused harm. My style has been so ingrained that I've not heard when others have tried to tell me, either kindly or rudely that I am causing harm by the way I am or th ...more
Jun 08, 2016 Thomas rated it really liked it
A thought-provoking book about embracing pain and approaching our struggles with openness and curiosity. Similar to Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, When Things Fall Apart encourages us to accept our fears to better understand them, instead of running away from our doubts or distracting ourselves in unhealthful ways. As someone who has had his fair share of traumas and heartbreaks - as well as joys and privileges - I loved Pema Chodron's continued emphasis on appreciating times of pain as wel ...more
Apr 21, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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 s ...more
Sondra Jones
May 19, 2014 Sondra Jones rated it it was amazing
In this book, Chodron calls us to "an unconditional relationship with reality".

Here are two quotes that capture this book's essence for me.

"When we are training in the art of peace, we are not given any promises that, because of our noble intentions, everything will be ok. In fact, there are no promises of fruition at all. Instead, we are encouraged to simply look deeply at joy and sorrow, at laughing and crying, at hoping and fearing, at all that lives and dies. We learn that what truly heals
Mar 15, 2008 Leslie is currently reading it
This is one of those great keepers you read, reread and then loan to friends in times of need. Though I was baptized an Episcopaelian, I appreciate the philosophy and spirituality of most religions. This I first read after my mom was killed before Christmas the year I got my B.A., when I devoured everything from Thich Nhat Hanh to Mother Teresa to Gandhi and the Bible and even Dr. Phil. The great message is remembering that we need to learn to live with this sort of groundlessness, when the worl ...more
Paul Ivanov
May 30, 2012 Paul Ivanov rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, borrowed
This was my first Buddhist-related read for a decade, now, and I was able to reflect on how large chunks of my overall attitude toward life was shaped by the few sources I read back then. Reading this now not only helped that sink in, but also provided much needed advice for difficult times, as advertised by the subtitle.

Useful read. It was recommended by and borrowed from my therapist (reading some reviews, I see at least one other person who got the same recommendation from his). I did not car
Aug 30, 2013 Cooljoe815 rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended to me because during this time, I lost my dad and I was grieving. I am not familiar with the teaching of Buddha. I never read or study it. When Things Fall Apart is not the kind of book I would normally read. But I was curious and I respect and admire the person that recommended it.

The book goes against the grain of what we are taught about suffering and pain. Chodron says that life is suffering and that through suffering we get closer to enlightenment. I don't know, su
Julie C
Jun 05, 2007 Julie C rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone ready to transform his/her perspective
this book was a refreshing look at how we deal with the not-so-good things in life, and what tools we have within ourselves to help navigate those times. one of the most important things i came to understand is that things like sadness, anger, frustration, feelings of instability, etc. are not inherently bad things. rather, they are challenging. they can present themselves as obstacles. but in reality, they are incredible teachers within our own personal experience that help us to grow. sometime ...more
Aug 05, 2016 Katie rated it it was amazing
This is easily one of the most important books I've ever read. I've been dealing with a lot of stress lately and I think somehow this book found me at just the right time. Chödrön explores an incredible number of useful lessons in empathy, compassion, and patience in such a short number of pages. This is one of those books you could read a chapter of every day for the rest of your life and you would always find something new, something useful to help you live your life in a better way. She talks ...more
C.E. G
Dec 17, 2013 C.E. G rated it liked it
Don't worry, I'm not going through "difficult times" right now, but despite this book's title, it had a lot of good insight for not-falling-apart lives, too. I was less interested in some of her discussions of meditation, so I skimmed some parts.

This is where the review ends and my shamefully public journaling begins.

One of the ideas that I want to remember - maybe get tattooed? - is the idea of life situations as sand castles. Chodron talks about how we might put a lot of time and pride into so
Dec 26, 2009 Anf rated it it was amazing
I was first introduced to Pema Chödrön's work when I was on the road, traveling from Toronto to Vancouver via Recreational Vehicle with five other travelers. It was a trip full of lessons but I'll save that story for another time.

Recently I was dealing with the challenges of letting go, an attachment. I'm still working through it. So it was timely that I came upon this work and weeks after placing it on hold at my local library I finally got a hold of it. It is well written and I like how Chödr
Julie Ehlers
This was wonderful. Pema Chodron expresses Buddhist ideas in such a joyful, irresistible way. Everyone should read this book.
Jun 22, 2012 Janet rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Janet by: The Universe
In my "perfect little world", everyone would own this book...and, read it annually. Kinda silly of me to say this being that the whole point of the book is that, not only is life not perfect, it's not even safe and secure.

I found this book shortly after the love of my life made a (necessary) choice to let me go. I held myself together just long enough to walk through my front door...28 hours after leaving Europe. A couple of days later, I was looking for a quote to hold on to. I ended up at Goo
Reja Janaki Joy Green
Mar 02, 2011 Reja Janaki Joy Green rated it it was amazing
This book is a very gentle guide for every one of us. We need not wait until we experience problems in holding everything together before we benefit from this wisdom. Just being alive in a body and breathing qualifies us! The authoe tells us that she is merely passing on the teachings of Trungpa Rinpoche, telling us: "May these teachings take root and flourish for the benefit of all sentient beings now and in the future."

I just now opened the book up at random and noticed what I had underlined:
Amy Vernon
Aug 03, 2013 Amy Vernon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never read self-help type books. Read this one and it really helped me out in a stressful time. Very simple, logical advice on how to look at things.
Mar 23, 2011 Barb rated it really liked it
When I read the title WHEN THINGS FALL APART it sounded like the book would give advice and steps to follow in order to handle life when a loved one dies, when you discover you have cancer, or when you are faced with a divorce, etc. It does that, at least to some extent, but it mostly gives words of wisdom for use in our daily lives. In short, in order to handle the difficult times, you must prepare by meditating, and indeed, by changing you life today and every day hereafter.

I found some words
Dec 30, 2011 Melissa rated it liked it
Shelves: religion, non-fiction
With everything that's happened in my life this year, my mom found this book and thought it would be a good read for me. And indeed, the title was very very fitting, however, actually applying what is in this book could prove to be very difficult.

Pema Chodron is an American Buddhist and as such, this book is mainly about Buddhism and its practices. And maybe its just because I know barely anything about Buddhism, but I found this to be a very high level book. She talks about using dharmas, lonel
Connie  Kuntz
Aug 15, 2013 Connie Kuntz rated it really liked it
Recommended to Connie by: Eithne McMenamin
I thought this was going to be a fast read. I was wrong, and that is fine. I had to take at least a day to process each lesson, which is also fine. Great, actually. I enjoyed the lessons very much, especially the one about breathing in the bad and letting out the good.

For years I have never understood how people can benefit from taking a deep breath when they are upset. I always thought they were exhaling the negative. I have never been able to do that. How does one "let it all out?" Gag.

But i
Sep 04, 2011 Jill rated it it was ok
I couldn't more strongly disagree with a lot of Chodron's "teachings." For example, that if you'll just accept that theism is a crock and accept hopelessness as the "proper motivation for an insightful and compassionate life," you'll be much calmer and happier. Poppycock. There is a whole lot of focus on how all of us are afraid of death and that we will do anything to "ward off the sense of death, no matter what." Making blanket statements about the fear of all humanity is pretty off-putting to ...more
Oct 23, 2010 Walter rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book! I was vaguely familiar with the author due to my interest in Buddhist wisdom and happened to pick this volume up thinking that it could be a guide during a challenging time of transition in my life. It turns out that it's a piercingly insightful guide to all of one's life experience, equally instructive in blissful times as well as challenging ones.

Pema Chodron is a Buddhist nun who's affiliated with Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia (which is apparently the first Tibetan Buddh
Michelle Covey
Mar 03, 2013 Michelle Covey rated it liked it
"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." Ok....that makes sense. Pain and insecurities can not be avoided. The rest of Chapter 8 - Hopelessness and Death goes on to tell us pretty much not to have hope in anything. That nothing in this world will ever bring us security and that if we go on doing things with any hope, especially the hope of se ...more
Maya Rock
Jan 27, 2008 Maya Rock rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ben, but really everyone, but esp people who want to relax.
First, I would love to be writing tons of really private notes to myself and then have them all exposed by some internet accident. That would be crazy.

I've now had the lovely experience of reading this book when feeling like things were falling apart and then reading it again when it felt like things were pretty normal. Both times were good. Pema Chodron has a crystal clear writing style, concise and beautiful. Her writing is a pleasure to read and I almost feel honored to get to read it.

I almo
Jun 16, 2009 Catherine rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009, spirit
I'm not sure I fully understood everything Chödrön had to say in this book - at the very least I need time to digest the ideas. At its most basic level, there's much I admire and appreciate here: the idea of loving-kindness; of viewing the self (and others) with compassion; of abdicating our obsession with the future; of pausing in difficult moments; of welcoming feelings, no matter their type, rather than running away or trying to distract ourselves with whatever is at hand. What I need to pars ...more
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The Breakup 6 144 Nov 04, 2011 05:11AM  
  • Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness
  • After the Ecstasy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path
  • Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience
  • Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart: A Buddhist Perspective on Wholeness
  • The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness
  • Turning the Mind Into an Ally
  • It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness
  • Nothing Special
  • The Practice of Lojong: Cultivating Compassion through Training the Mind
  • Taming the Tiger Within: Meditations on Transforming Difficult Emotions
  • Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be: Lessons on Change, Loss, and Spiritual Transformation
  • Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness: Walking the Buddha's Path
  • The Way of the Bodhisattva: A Translation of the Bodhicharyavatara
  • It's Up to You: The Practice of Self-Reflection on the Buddhist Path
  • Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha
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
More about Pema Chödrön...

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“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” 599 likes
“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.” 418 likes
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