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

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  11,745 ratings  ·  814 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...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published September 26th 2000 by Shambhala (first published December 24th 1996)
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Community Reviews

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Kristy
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...more
Kermit
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'...more
Miv
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
David Peirce
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...more
Sienna
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...more
Cult
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
Leslie
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
Nita Costello
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
Ron
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
Paul Ivanov
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...more
Julie C
Jun 05, 2007 Julie C rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Catherine
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
Helynne
Pema Chodron is a wife and mother-turned Buddhist nun. (I didn't even know there were Buddhist nuns!) Her book is filled with interesting and useful advice such as connecting ourselves to the suffering of ourselves and others, overcoming our fear of suffering, awakening the compassion that is inherent in all of us, "no matter how cruel or cold we might seem to be" (93) She describes a fairly well-known meditation technique: "If we know a person who is being hurt, we breath in with the wish to t...more
Anf
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...more
Cooljoe815
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...more
Amy Vernon
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.
Christina G
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...more
Melissa
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...more
Nancy
I bought this book over a year ago, when my mother's health issues intensified. The back cover, quoting Publishers Weekly, calls it "the Tiberan Buddhist equivalent of Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People..." While I knew much of the information (thanks to my former yoga teacher, Lesli and other readings), it is information that bears repeating and expansion. The author, Pema Chodron, explains in the introduction that the book is primarily transcripts of lectures that she has g...more
Connie  Kuntz
Aug 15, 2013 Connie Kuntz rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Janet
Jun 22, 2012 Janet rated it 5 of 5 stars 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...more
Walter
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...more
Nobies57
This is not the type of book you just read. It's a study of Buddhist philosophy and a shifting of how one perceives the inherent struggles that make up life. Chondron's anecdotes are helpful, and her exercises worked for me. I am not a meditator per say, but I do look for inner peace particularly while walking, and have practiced the breathing exercises as mentioned in this book. Here is what I remember and take away with me from this reading:
Pain and suffering are a part of life and it is our c...more
Maya
Jan 27, 2008 Maya rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Reja Janaki Joy Green
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:...more
Julia
Oh, Pema. The trick to what she writes about is that it is so easy to understand intellectually, and so incredibly challenging to know emotionally, much less to actually pull off in the mess of day-to-day living. But that's the point, really: to keep trying. To let things be messy (and there's good messy and bad messy) and be in the messiness and know that the messiness isn't what we're supposed to escape from to our real lives, the messiness IS our real lives. Which we're constantly trying to r...more
Jill
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
Erin
I love Chodron's work because it's deep but relatable. I could read chapters over and over for them to truly sink in, but her language, while lovely, isn't flowery or unreachable--she uses concrete words and examples to explain complicated Buddhist ideals. I picked this up after a breakup, and it brought me a lot of comfort. Her biggest theme is when pain/change/transition/trauma comes toward you, move into it. Don't fight it, don't resist it, don't mask it by doing other things, don't run away...more
Lindsay
I truly value this book. Chodron clarifies and redefines some of the main obstacles I've come to in trying to "understand" Buddhism, which mainly surround my perception of its seeming negativity. Perhaps it's because she's a woman (I've only read male Buddhist perspectives so far), maybe it's because she's an American (I've only read Asian Buddhist perspectives), or maybe it's because she's just a good writer. Either way, Chodron focuses more on the journey and less on the destination, which mak...more
Lonnie Bruhn
I am not in the habit of reading self help books, but this isn't your typical self help book. This book was more about learning to look at yourself with complete honesty and not judging yourself once you start to wake up. This book gave me company in one of the most difficult times in my life. While I am currently still struggling, it is what I needed and has helped me shed some of the habits we tend to lean towards when in a crises. It was so helpful I bought a hard copy for my 14 year old boy...more
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8052
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
More about Pema Chödrön...
The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living The Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears

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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.” 306 likes
“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.” 248 likes
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