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Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living
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Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

4.37  ·  Rating Details ·  6,502 Ratings  ·  247 Reviews
Start Where You Are is an indispensable handbook for cultivating fearlessness and awakening a compassionate heart. With insight and humor, Pema Chödrön presents down-to-earth guidance on how we can "start where we are"—embracing rather than denying the painful aspects of our lives. Pema Chödrön frames her teachings on compassion around fifty-nine traditional Tibetan Buddh ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published August 21st 2001 by Shambhala (first published 1994)
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Nov 28, 2012 Gene rated it it was amazing
I have been (re)reading this book since I bought. Chödrö's presentation of Buddhist teachings is changing my life one moment at a time. From other comments I've seen, Start Where You Are goes better if the reader has some familiarity with Buddhist teachings; it would not be the book to start with if you just want to know about Buddhism.

There are three components to the teaching of this book, all of them traditional Buddhist teachings, and especially tied to Tibetan Buddhism. If you want to know
Ren Leaflight
Mar 29, 2008 Ren Leaflight rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-read
Reading this book is what made me say "hey, this Buddhism thing makes a whole lot of sense to me". Pema is always down to earth and sometimes earthy in her presentation of the ideas and how they relate to our lives. She approaches every subject with compassion and makes you really feel like she understands your struggles and issues because she has gone through them, and because she is still going through them. She lets you know that while the difficulties and the issues will always be there, you ...more
Jul 05, 2007 Suzy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
You don't have to be a Buddhist to appreciate the common sense philosophy in this beautiful book--I found it life-changing. If you want to better live in the present, feel your emotions fully without letting them overwhelm you, and expand your compassion and loving kindness for others, this book is a comforting place to start.
Julie Ehlers
Dec 19, 2014 Julie Ehlers rated it really liked it
While I would be more inclined to recommend When Things Fall Apart to someone who's completely new to these concepts, this was of course still extremely valuable, and funnier than the others of hers I've read.
Feb 28, 2014 Aayla rated it liked it
First let me start by saying that I really love reading some Pema wisdom. This woman knows how to speak ina way that engages your attention.

About half of this book, or a little more, was brilliant and useful to me. Unfortunately, the title is a little misleading.... there are some things that she talks about very briefly, and the lack of detail or explanation makes it difficult for a new practitioner to access her wisdom. Unlike what you may imagine, this book isn't really for beginners in Buddh
Jul 19, 2009 Melissa rated it liked it
I was first introduced to Chodron's work when a friend gave me a copy of When Things Fall Apart, and I was completely blown away. It seemed as if every page contained insights specific to my situation, and I couldn't put the book down. Unfortunately, I didn't have the same experience with this book. I found a great deal of the material to be helpful, but the book didn't flow, and I often found myself flipping back to previous chapters, trying to get a sense of how new topics fit into the overall ...more
Jul 19, 2013 Jenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So I've been a bit frustrated with myself lately. Frustrated with my lack of patience (which has come out of nowhere), frustrated with my easy annoyance with others, frustrated with my temper (also coming out of nowhere) and mostly frustrated with myself for allowing these things to happen. So I found this book and decided it was worth a read. I have zero experience with Buddhism (aside from receiving the occasional mixed drink in a Buddha-shaped cup) and had never heard of Pema Chodron before p ...more
Nov 09, 2016 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
This is a good book overall. A lot of insights into Buddhist teachings, but while they are clearly simplified, they still may be a bit over-our-heads for most readers who don't have any previous experience in the topic.

She explains that we all armor our hearts, our "soft spots" instinctively and that to live well, we have to open that door to others, and that it is one of the most frightening things we will ever do, and that we must do it, like everything we do within ourselves, gently.

I most en
Aug 31, 2007 Cindywho rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Meditators
Shelves: meditation-yoga
I would have had a difficult time with this book if I had not been meditating and reading up on the subject for a while. It seems to have been derived from a series of talks on mind training "lojong", a certain teaching that incorporates slogans to reflect upon. Despite the jargon, she keeps up a friendly, chatty tone while presenting intense ideas about how to approach the experience of having a brain with thoughts and emotions. It's given me some new tools to work with. Thanks, Pema!
Jan 27, 2008 Emily rated it it was amazing
I learned to dig deep into myself, both the parts I like and the parts I don't like, know them and live with them gracefully. I feel like a new, positive, confident person able to say and do what comes from my genuine self, my genuine open-hearted desires. A must read for anyone feeling lost or troubled.
Josh Staab
Aug 31, 2016 Josh Staab rated it liked it
A book that helps remind me that no matter how far I've come, I'm not too far from where I want to be.
Jen Cheaney
Jun 05, 2007 Jen Cheaney rated it it was amazing
this is the coolest book of spiritual advice...not pushy advice...just gentle suggestions that made so much sense to me. life changer fo sho
May 30, 2016 Ladiibbug marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2016-must-read
avail Chico
Oct 11, 2010 Roxanne rated it liked it
Shelves: spirituality
I don't know if I'm going to finish this. I started it a few months ago, and it's interesting and well written, but I was reading it on the train, and it's much more about meditation than I'd thought when I bought it, and "meditation" does not really go well with "train". I'm pretty sure that when Chödrön says to start where you are, she wasn't imagining that where I am is in the quiet ride car crammed up against some businessman and trying not to let my too-big wet umbrella fall over on his sui ...more
Jul 16, 2015 Kevin rated it liked it
Shelves: mindfulness
Some excellent and interesting advice for meditation and general interaction. My favorite part, and the heart of the book, is the early description of tonglen. Specifically I like the exercise of taking the object of desire/anger/frustration/etc., thinking about the emotions it produces, and then considering those emotions in a vacuum - how they exist in you apart from the actual object. An interesting and challenging exercise. I also thought Chodron had some good pointers for regular mindfulnes ...more
Nov 03, 2009 Anna rated it it was ok
Recommended to Anna by: Nobody...
This book has a few REALLY great statements, such as:
"We work on ourselves in order to help others, but also we help others in order to work on ourselves." Oh, wait a second, that's the only one.

A major part of her instruction is to teach the reader how to work with 'slogans'. I find these extremely annoying, especially when they are not in a meaningful context for me and she begins every single paragraph with "Another slogan says..."

I picked up the book b/c she is said to frame her teachings f
Jun 17, 2015 Christine rated it it was amazing
Pema Chodron is my hero. She writes about living according to Buddhist doctrine so simply and clearly, so attuned to the difficulties of being a human being on the planet, that she makes enlightenment appear as it really is: a doable process, not an untouchable goal. This book is especially interesting for its treatment of the lojong "slogans" - little kernals of Buddhist teachings like "Abandon any hope of fruition" - and style of meditation practice that encourages compassion.
Jan 19, 2008 roger rated it really liked it
Shelves: buddhism
Straightforward and simple, I really enjoy Ani Pema's style of explaining Buddhism's concepts and practices. This book is organized in a "daily-lesson" format but a reader doesn't have to follow the book from front to back to glean its contents. There is an emphasis on logong slogans and plenty of insights both into Pema's practice and those along the way she has helped.
Nov 26, 2007 Kendall rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: wanna be buddhists
Chodron gives the reader an extraordinary amount of insight into buddhist practice in simple terms. Her teaching is framed around 59 Buddhist maxims... and looks at them from a western standpoint, without being an idiot. Quite a feat! Anyway, a great book for anyone curious about buddhism.
Sep 04, 2015 Emily rated it really liked it
The meditation practices detailed in the book were a bit beyond me. However, the underlying messages to get in touch with our emotions, to be grateful, and to live in the now were very powerful to me.
Mar 26, 2009 Karen rated it it was amazing
This book is subtitled "a guide to compassionate living," that basically says it all. It is a guide to the Buddhist teachings of opening the heart and mind through tonglen meditation and lojong slogans. All her writings are clear and productive reads.
Dec 30, 2014 Kelsey rated it it was amazing
Pema is always a wonderful, down to earth mindfulness teacher. Excellent reminders to be curious when we feel ourselves resisting and struggling. Thorough introduction to tonglen practice - breathe in the suffering, breathe out a sense of delight, openness.
Jul 15, 2008 Steffy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone.
This book is just so good. It is written very simply and just makes so much sense. No matter where you are at in life, this book as something for you. I would recommend this, or any book, by Pema Chodron. She is way cool.
Aaron Fisher
Jan 17, 2013 Aaron Fisher rated it it was amazing
Really just an incredible book on Tibetan practices. I heard this books originally as a series of talks - and found that at least in this case, the material was much "stickier" in written form. Already, this has been a book I've given several people, and I just finished it
Jim Lengel
Jan 22, 2012 Jim Lengel rated it it was amazing
I keep re-reading chapters of the book, and each time I glean more wisdom. This is a book that will be on my 'currently reading' list for quite some time.
Jul 08, 2012 Valerie rated it really liked it
You know when you pick up a book to read, not know what to expect, and you realize that this is the book you NEED to read, well this is one of them.
Apr 28, 2008 Carly rated it it was amazing
This was my first Pema Chodron book, and I love her honesty. I'll never forget her story of throwing rocks at her ex - She became a real person to me with that one.
Alan Culler
Jan 05, 2008 Alan Culler rated it it was amazing
Also recommended by my doctor to help guide in the rebuilding process of life after letting everything fall apart.
Angie crosby
May 28, 2014 Angie crosby rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It gave me a lot to think about. I learned a lot as well as made a lot of notes to go back over.

I will definitely read this again.
Feb 13, 2008 Hcakes rated it it was amazing
This is my meditation guide. I'm not consistently using the main level of meditation it prescribes, but I'm consistently meditating, which is already improving my life.
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  • A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life
  • Buddha Is as Buddha Does: The Ten Original Practices for Enlightened Living
  • The Great Path of Awakening: The Classic Guide to Lojong, a Tibetan Buddhist Practice for Cultivating the Heart of Compassion
  • Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation
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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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“If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart...” 349 likes
“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that's all that's happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness--life's painful aspect--softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody's eyes because you feel you haven't got anything to lose--you're just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We'd be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn't have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.” 347 likes
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