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The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  18,554 ratings  ·  756 reviews
We always have a choice, Pema Chodron teaches: We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us and make us increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder. Here Pema provides the tools to deal with the problems and difficulties that life throws our way. This wisdom is always available to us, she teaches, but we usually block it with h ...more
Paperback, 187 pages
Published March 27th 2007 by Shambhala (first published 2001)
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Sep 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, adult
As I was brushing my teeth this morning after finishing this book, this line came into my head:

When I find myself of times of trouble, Pema Chodron calls to me, speaking words of wisdom: Let it be...

Corny, huh? Totally true. I read When Things Fall Apart over a year ago when I was going through a really rough time, and when I hit a serious road block nearly two months ago, I picked this'n up. In similar fashion with my reading habits of late, I only just finished this wonderful morsel. I won't b
Jun 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I was at B&N looking for some other book when I mistakenly picked up this one so I placed it back on the shelf and thought nothing of it. The next day I went back to B&N to purchase a different book and I accidently pick this same book up AGAIN. SO I placed it back on the shelf (the top shelf) and continued looking. Then out of nowhere the books from the top shelf fell on my head. When I looked at the pile they were all books by Pema Chodron. So, I began picking them up and when I looked at the ...more
Apr 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
In the current age of anxiety, Pema Chödrön is both a refreshing and challenging voice. Basically, she encourages us to see problems as spiritual opportunities. Instead of trying to run from discomfort, she advocates staying put and learning about ourselves. Instead of habitually reaching for whatever palliative gives relief -- always temporary -- she suggests feeling and observing our discomforts, becoming more fully present in our lives, learning how to be truly here now. Only through this pro ...more
Esra Bestel
Sep 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The most important part of this book is the last one, being in between. That is the place where I find myself over and over again.
Here how Pema explains it;
"We are told about the pain of chasing after pleasure and futility of running from pain. We hear about the joy of awakening, of realizing our interconnectedness, of trusting the openness of our hearts and minds. But we are not told all that much about this state of being in-between, no longer able to get our old comfort from outside but not y
Sep 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
took this book to read on my first jury duty summons... Didn't realize I was reading a "self-help" book until I was done. Uplifting and encouraging... like a little Yoda in my backpack. ...more
Roy Lotz
Authentic joy is not a euphoric state or a feeling of being high. Rather, it is a state of appreciation that allows us to participate fully in our lives.

In my life, times of crisis or great change, though painful, have had the power to reawaken me. I remind myself of what is important and what is trivial; I take joys in simple things and appreciate everyday good fortune; I empathize more readily and react more kindly; I feel fully myself and fully aware.

But such elevated states quickly fade.
Mar 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed

"We cling to a fixed idea of who we are and it cripples us. Nothing and no one is fixed. Whether the reality of change is a source of freedom for us or a source of horrific anxiety makes a significant difference. Do the days of our lives add up to further suffering or to increased capacity for joy? That’s an important question."

Not much to say about this one: Pema has a great way of explaining concepts relating to meditation, but I would not recommend this book to someone who is new to Budd
Caidyn (he/him/his)
I really needed this book. I checked this out before the election because we read the first four chapters of the class and I wanted to read the rest. However, when the election hit, I wasn't expecting the results. Hate won and the place that scared me is now a reality. Basically, I needed this to calm my brain down and find a way to make sense of things.

I'm very familiar with Buddhism. My mom is very well practiced in teachings, especially ones to do with love. She taught me my whole life to be
Peter Landau
Jun 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I hate self-help books almost as much as I hate sentences that begin with I. It’s the writing, which is uniformly poor, at least I think so. Bad writing is hand-holding writing. I’m not a dog in a collar being taken for a walk on a leash. But maybe I should be.

My wife gave me THE PLACES THAT SCARE YOU: A GUIDE TO FEARLESSNESS IN DIFFICULT TIMES by Pema Chödrön as a Father’s Day gift. I read it right away, snapping the neck of my routine reading schedule to hang by its own anxiety until dead.

Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always been leery of the self-help genre. I'm mistrustful of anyone who tells me how to think, feel, act. I've also seen people read self-help books like serial novels, always chasing some specter of an ideal self with the assumption that their current self is somehow inadequate or broken. These two perspectives have always repelled me from most anything self-help. Pema Chödrön's The Places That Scare You came in a time of personal need and it's been a medicine I've enjoyed taking for deal ...more
Jun 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is the first Chodron book I have read, though I have always been drawn to her titles. For example, I have been generally uncomfortable with uncertainty, and thought "I should read that book".

What I love about this book is the way she describes the practices both for moving towards compassion for ourselves and others and finding a true connection with ourselves and the world around us by training in acceptance of what is. This book could be comforting or terrifying depending on one's perspe
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I got this from interlibrary loan after really enjoying When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. I would say I have the same struggles with this one - feeling rather overwhelmed by much of the Buddhist lingo that permeates the text, lacking any context of it other than the explanations provided in the book.

But there are some parts I really liked. Chapter 4, "Learning to Stay," discusses living with discomfort, whether that is physical, emotional, etc. I just kept thinking of a
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
As clear and unpretentious, as insightful and helpful, as compassionate and witty, as all of her work.

Lots to consider and work on for many years to come.
Feb 28, 2013 rated it really liked it

“Patience is the training in abiding with the restlessness of our energy and letting things evolve at their own speed.”

What are the places that scare you?.

For me, I had preconceived notions of places I was scared to go to, but want to go to, and need to visit now and again in order to be balanced and at peace. Mainly, with the recent death of my mom, I know am afraid to visit the biggest parts of the grief but know I have to and in a big way, because I am the type of person that must look deepl
Jan 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I have only started this short book but I am already blown away. It was recommended to me years ago, but just now picked it up when I saw it at the library. The thing about Buddhist texts is that I often find myself reading something and thinking, "wow, I have missed that point all these years!" I don't know if I have missed them, or if I just forget and then come back to them or if I just wasnt ready to hear them the first 5 times, but no matter there are some potent thoughts in this little boo ...more
Oct 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A really beautiful book that makes ideas about Buddhism and meditation and the like very accessible. There are a thousand quotable lines and I've scribbled most of them down in my notebook, wanting to remember them by pressing a pen down to form the letters. A great read for someone going through a tough time but also just a generally great read for anyone? Because we've all been through tough times at some point? Unless you're a robot. But that's besides the point and I'm using humour to cover ...more
This book was not really what I was expecting, which was a practical self-help Buddhist guide to dealing with fear. It felt to me more of an introduction to many different Buddhist concepts with an emphasis on their aspects that address fear and fearlessness but also all of life's other nasty stuff.

At times the ideas felt opaque, despite Chödrön's simple, straightforward writing. A lot of the content is presented at a theoretical level with no concrete applications provided. I also found it rep
Jul 06, 2017 rated it liked it
2.5 stars. Feeling kind of "Meh" about this one. As much as I like Pema Chodron's writing, this title seems a bit deceiving. I was hoping to get a more hands-on, practical guide to meditation in daily life, but in "Places," she seems more interested in telling us all how to heal the world through loving-kindness and compassion practices -- not that it's a bad thing, but a bit broader topic-wise than I'd thought I was getting. Worth a read if you are interested in mindfulness meditation and wider ...more
Stephanie Barko
Jun 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is the July 2021 selection of South Austin Spiritual Book Group. We have read Chodron before and she never disappoints.

The Buddha's teachings are, for most of us, me included, beyond understanding.

However, while reading this book I was able to use some of its wisdom to guide me through a situation in my work life. Although I'm still not certain the action I took was the correct one, maybe that's right in line with the teachings of groundlessness and remaining open to what may be different i
May 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
If you're looking for a short book with basics on Buddhist teachings for how to cope with afflictive emotions like fear and anger, this book is fine. That's really all I wanted, some reminders of what can be easy to forget. It feels like a list of Buddhist platitudes. Nothing new or interesting here.

My gripe about this book is the same one I often have about Buddhism in general. It feels like they "throw out the baby with the bathwater." In this book, Pema talks a lot about "fearlessness." That
Jan 16, 2013 added it
Shelves: dnf
I've been reading this for a while (5 months!) and really can't get into it, although I love the author and her ideas definitely resonate with me. I keep reading a few chapters, putting it down for a few weeks, picking it up again and finding myself lost, having to start all over. I think this is a book that you come back to and read when the mood strikes, not a read all the way through book for me. Definitely good, but not right for me at this time. I might try it again years from now...

My inab
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
While at first glance this book might seem to be aimed towards those who have a problem with phobias, that isn't the case. The places that scare us aren't necessarily actual things, but are, in fact, found in ourselves. It seems that what we fear the most these days is something that simply can't be avoided- a loss of security and stability. We cling to things that make us feel stable, from not traveling to creating strict routines to eating pizza when we're depressed, even though we really can' ...more
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012

"Do I prefer to grow up and relate to life directly, or do I choose to live and die in fear?"

"Thus we become less and less able to reside with even the most fleeting uneasiness or discomfort. We become habituated to reaching for something to ease the edginess of the moment. What begins as a slight shift of energy - a minor tightening of our stomach, a vague, indefinable feeling that something bad is about to happen - escalates into addiction. This is our way of trying to make life predict
Chintan Sheth
Feb 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
Thanks to the book club at my work, I finally dipped my toes into Buddhist teachings. The apt message of the book states to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, we are too caught up in our comfy lives and usually run away from the places that scare us, Pema talks about how to face them straight ahead, without judgment, and find our peace within. Personally, for me, the last chapter was the most profound, 'the in-between state', the anxious state when you have left behind your habitual comforts ...more
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality, 2017
This is a book that needs time to ponder, percolate, and wonder. Sometimes it gets rather thick and then I needed to reread. Pema Chödrön guides you to think about yourself and what scares you and she also has you go outside of yourself and think of people you care for and people you don't care for and those you do not know. I'm glad I bought this book because it is full of highlights that I will refer back to for a long time to come. ...more
Sean Goh
Aug 15, 2013 rated it liked it
The central question of a warrior's training is not how do we avoid uncertainty and fear (we can't), but how we relate to discomfort. A warrior accepts that we have no control over what will happen to us next.

Experiencing ourselves as apart from everyone else eventually becomes a prison of mistrust. We become unnerved by the possibility of freedom, and when the walls come down we don't know what to do.

3 Strategies we use to provide the illusion of security, to avoid life as it is.
-The lord of fo
Brian Johnson
Jan 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.”

“It’s up to us. We can spend our lives cultivating resentments and cravings or we can explore the path of the warrior—nurturing open mindedness and courage.”

: “Acknowledging that we are all churned up is the first and most difficult step in any practice. Without compassionate recogni
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
While I have read another of Pema Chodron's books and therefore knew what to expect, this was a thought-provoking, mind-altering experience, and perhaps, I can hope, a life-changing one as well. One of the tenets of the book is that we experience everything that happens to us through our egos, and therefore do not experience anything clearly and unfiltered. Our egos are trying to limit or control the uncertainty and ambiguity in the world around us. Every experience, every conversation, every in ...more
Smitha Murthy
Pema Chodron's wisdom shines through every page of this marvelous book. I have been turning to her profound words to help me during difficult times. A wonderful book. ...more
Jan 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
This book, a gift from my friend Taylor, surprised me a bit. Its about balancing your inner self through a series of compassionate exercises. The book talks about buddhicitta, a way of awakening yourself by walking a middle path. It shows you how to sit with yourself and accept all the things that make you an individual-- the good and the bad. Just sitting around is something I don't do often and I know I need to face up to what I am rather than just being a human doing. I know I've picked up so ...more
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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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