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Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears

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Best-seller Pema Chödrön draws on the Buddhist concept of shenpa to help us see how certain habits of mind tend to “hook” us and get us stuck in states of anger, blame, self-hatred, and addiction. The good news is that once we start to recognize these patterns, they instantly begin to lose their hold on us and we can begin to change our lives for the better.

“This path entails uncovering three basic human qualities,” explains Pema. “They are natural intelligence, natural warmth, and natural openness. Everyone, everywhere, all over the globe, has these qualities and can call on them to help themselves and others.”

This book gives us the insights and practices we can immediately put to use in our lives to awaken these essential qualities. In her friendly and encouraging style, Pema Chödrön helps us take a bold leap toward a new way of living—one that will bring about positive transformation for ourselves and for our troubled world.

128 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Pema Chödrön

167 books4,551 followers
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 grandchildren.

While in her mid-thirties, she traveled to the French Alps and encountered Lama Chime Rinpoche, with whom she studied for several years. She became a novice nun in 1974 while studying with Lama Chime in London. His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa came to England at that time, and Ani Pema received her ordination from him.

Ani Pema first met her root guru, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, in 1972. Lama Chime encouraged her to work with Trungpa, and it was with him that she ultimately made her most profound connection, studying with him from 1974 until his death in 1987. At the request of the Sixteenth Karmapa, she received the full bikshuni ordination in the Chinese lineage of Buddhism in 1981 in Hong Kong.

Ani Pema served as the director of the Karma Dzong, in Boulder, CO, until moving in 1984 to rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to be the director of Gampo Abbey. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche gave her explicit instructions on establishing this monastery for western monks and nuns.

Ani Pema currently teaches in the United States and Canada and plans for an increased amount of time in solitary retreat under the guidance of Venerable Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 489 reviews
Profile Image for Michele Harrod.
519 reviews47 followers
April 6, 2013
Now this little book took me a while to get into, I started it, got busy, tried again, got distracted - until finally I did take the leap, and put all else aside and read it last week. Why the delay, I wonder? I suspect I was a little reluctant to actually let go of a few old habits.

It's funny how you do make the time for books, right when you are ready to recieve their message.

I loved this one for the introduction to the concept of 'Shenpa'. The emotions that rise up in us (rage, frustration, greed, boredom) and which we usually act on with mindless repetition, and usually with extremely unproductive results. And all it takes is a breath. A moment of recognition, and that split second of turning reaction, into thoughtful recognition, acknowledgement, understanding and finally, choice, instead. I'm spotting Shenpa before it overwhelms me now, and giving it my attention. To find out the story that underlies it, to see if I can't manage it in a different way - and change the stories going forward. Wonderful insights.

Ditto, her story about having to sort out her mother's belongings after she passed away. For someone desperate to achieve some minimalism in my life, this story was also helpful in allowing me to understand the 'stories' we attach to inanimate objects, and how we can allow those to dictate our lives in unhelpful ways.

I definitely want to read more by this author!! But for now, I need to breathe a bit deeper, sit a bit more often, and recognise 'Shenpa' as it arises in my life. And most importantly, remember the one underlying theme that grabbed me the most .... that every other living being on this planet feels emotions pretty much exactly the same way I do. Maybe not at the same time, or for the same reasons, but pain, disappointment and anger - they all feel the same in all of us. There is something about that, that makes me want to give every other person on the planet a hug today.
Profile Image for Talia.
64 reviews
February 14, 2011
I enjoyed "Taking the Leap." It is a quick read, and one that I thought might be helpful in this time in my life.

A few excerpts I found powerul:

"The source of our unease is the unfulfillable longing for a lasting certainty and security, for something solid to hold on to. Unconsciously we expect that if we could just get the right job, the right partner, the right something, our lives would run smoothly...We are never encouraged to experience the ebb and flow of our moods, of our health, of the weather of outer events--pleasant and unpleasant--in their fullness. Instead we stay caught in a fearful, narrow holding pattern of avoiding any pain and continually seeking comfort. This is the universal dilemma."

"...So that's what I learned: take an interest in your pain and your fear. Move closer, lean in, get curious; even for a moment experience the feelings beyond labels, beyond being good or bad. Welcome them. Invite them. Do anything that helps melt the resistance...Then the next time you lose heart and you can't bear to experience what you're feeling, you might recall this instruction: change the way you see it and lean in."

"When we pause, when we touch the energy of the moment, when we slow down and allow a gap, self-existing openness comes to us. It does not require any particular effort. It is available anytime..."

"The next time you're getiing worked up, experiment with looking at the sky. Go to the window...Taking a moment to look at the sky...can give us a bigger perspective--that the universe is vast, that we are a tiny dot in space, that endlessless, beginningless space is always available to us. Then we might understand that our predicament is just a moment in time, and that we have a choice to strengthen old habitual responses or to be free."

Profile Image for Charlotte.
58 reviews13 followers
August 9, 2011
What’s so lovely about this slim book is that it’s light as a feather—Buddhist concepts are relieved of their cumbersome weight for the average Western idiot—but it doesn’t feel silly or condescending. Chodron personalizes every discussion with earthy vignettes from her own life, and her simplicity and directness keep us interested. The large print doesn’t hurt, either. I’d recommend this to people interested in Buddhism, but also to those who might be just a little squeamish.

“Taking the Leap” is basically a meditation on shenpa, which can be translated as obsession or addiction—that feeling of being hooked or triggered or spinning out of control. (Apply this to compulsive eating or drinking, or to destructive thought patterns.)

Psychology would look at this from a different angle, but the Buddhist approach is to simply be present, stop avoiding difficult emotions or crashing into them with your same habitual responses and faulty interpretations. Stay with the discomfort, become curious about it, recognize the ephemeral quality of even the stickiest emotions, and reap the reward of becoming “unstuck.”

Chodron suggests many exercises/meditations for opening up and working with shenpa and ties it all in to the goal of taking what we learn about ourselves and turning outward, to help others, society, the planet.
Profile Image for Experience Life.
46 reviews19 followers
May 19, 2010
Faced with the scope of the planet’s present challenges, not to mention our own day-to-day difficulties, it’s not surprising that we sometimes feel the need to numb ourselves to the world around us. The obvious drawback to this survival tactic, notes Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön, is that we can wind up missing the whole show. The here and now is where life happens, after all. That’s why Chödrön’s latest book teaches the simple art of remaining present with what is and overcoming the attraction to distractions by becoming mindful of ways we become “hooked” by destructive mind-states.

Chödrön uses the Tibetan word shenpa to describe the condition of being triggered — those unconscious moments when our best intentions get steamrolled by angry outbursts or channeled into trips to the refrigerator. Instead of submitting thoughtlessly to shenpa, Chödrön suggests a series of simple interventions (pausing, breathing, reflecting with humor) that interrupt the cycle of reactivity and lead naturally to a more gentle, receptive state of being. When we interrupt aggression at the source, she argues, we are helping to interrupt it in the wider world, as well. This is Pema Chödrön at her best, offering uncomplicated wisdom for complex times.
Profile Image for Lisa.
150 reviews
May 15, 2012
I didn't really find much difference between chapters, they seem to re-iterate the teaching of not getting hooked, which is good, but personally, I found I would like to have read a bit *more* life-experience examples, as that helps me to better take in and understand what I'm reading. That said, Pema Chödrön is good at teaching, and I like her humility and her frankness, about her own pitfalls and experiences (as I said, though, I just wish there were more examples, or something, as I find I learn better that way).

(NB: I didn't really know what to expect with this book; it was a random pull at the library. The subtitle -- Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears -- seems to me a bit misleading, in that, in my mind, I thought there might be a more step-by-step thing, or more emphasis on examples of habits and fears. I suppose I feel as if there could have been a better title for this book, to better advertise what it's about. Maybe: A Brief but Concise Introduction to the Concept of Shenpa?)
Profile Image for Bjorn Sorensen.
136 reviews12 followers
September 15, 2021
It's funny-books of this sort should be friendly, accessible and stand-back-ish, so the reader can maybe see themselves a little in the pages. It's not about the author and their program, or we're hooked again in a different way, depending on someone else instead of going within. Sometimes 100 conversational pages in a big font can be the just the thing you need from a self-improvement title.

One can flow into the message here-of pausing during the day so that we can get out of our rationalizing, repeating, never-ending-to-do list minds. We can let the natural openness, intelligence and warmth (that we have anyway) come through a little more.

Small victories are important. Even if we pause once a day, that's progress that should be celebrated. Even if we avoid beating ourselves up over some big mistake we did in the past-just once-that's a cause to rejoice. Because if we don't, guilt and shame and those unhealthy thought patterns are waiting to flood back in. Then we judge others through more black and white glasses and our unhealthy patterns become even more ingrained.

We're all dealing with stuff, big and small, that we need to get off our chests so that we have less weight to move into new terrain. To suppress emotions means to carry them around. If we can acknowledge and sit with our pain, even a little, we can drop some of it from our consciousness. If we can sit with our pain and not let it overcome us, not get into an unhealthy pattern to avoid it, we can move on a little and maybe see more good in the world. We can see that every single person in our path is going through the same sort of struggles.

I've really only found progress when I start with compassion for myself and whenever I can focus on self-care. Chödrön addresses the challenge:

"We'll say, for instance, that we need to take care of ourselves, but how many of us really know how to do this? When clinging to security and comfort and warding off pain become the focus of our lives, we don't end up feeling cared for and we certainly don't feel motivated to extend ourselves to others. We end up feeling more threatened or irritable, more unable to relax."

Maybe the only weakness in the book is that it doesn't share ideas for techniques. How exactly do we let go? What's worked for others? But it gives you way more than enough to get started. You'll be speaking to the vulnerability you feel inside, drawing like-hearted people to your fold. I find that just being kind to myself can give me new energy.
Profile Image for Stephanie Barko.
187 reviews128 followers
March 10, 2022
This is the March 2022 selection of South Austin Spiritual Book Group.

What Pema is proposing in Taking The Leap are shifts in the way we tolerate ourselves and are then able to extend that compassion to others.

The most encouraging part was at the beginning when she said that we all have natural intelligence, natural warmth and natural openness. The rest of the book gives examples of these qualities and how we exhibit them. Pema emphasizes that any progress with yourself and others is significant and to drop the tendency to focus on what's lacking or not working.

I would say that this is a good book for people who don't even know they're stuck or those who can tell something is wrong, but don't know what it is or how to fix it. In short, the book lays out a useful path for all of us.

If enough people were able to free themselves from the old habits and fears that Pema refers to, we might have a chance at peace on earth.
Profile Image for Diane.
71 reviews18 followers
September 30, 2009
I seriously considered buying this book so I could read it again and again during difficult times! I have considered reading this author before, when I saw this on the NFNR table and it was only 100 pages I jumped on it. I am so glad I did!

It seems to be a culmination of many things I have learned in the past 18 months! It is about being present in the moment and allowing yourself to feel your feelings as a way to get to know yourself and move forward in life. One of the biggest things I learned is that when you experience an emotion it only lasts for about 90 seconds. After the 90 seconds, it is just us perpetuating it! Can you say wallowing?

I have recommended this to at least 4 people already! It is not overly wordy and gets to the point quickly. Read it!
Profile Image for TJ Shelby.
904 reviews29 followers
April 23, 2011
I absolutely loved this book. Maybe it was a combination of timing: me ready to move on from certain things in my past and my current fascination with eastern philosophy. Here are a few of my favorite gems:

* "A Native American grandfather was speaking to his grandson about violence and cruelty in the world and how it comes about. He said it was as if two wolves were fighting in his heart. One wolf was vengeful and angry, and the other wolf was understanding and kind. The young man asked his grandfather which wolf would win the fight in his heart. And the grandfather answered, 'The one that wins will be the one I choose to feed.'"

* "As we change our own dysfunctional habits, we are simultaneously changing society. Our own awakening is intertwined with the awakening of enlightened society."

Profile Image for Aybala Dönmez.
28 reviews6 followers
November 24, 2020

"Pişmanlık hissetme ya da bundan kurtulma fikrini yanlış yorumluyoruz. Trungpa Rinpoche, dünyanın güzelliğini ve hayatta olmanın verdiği iyi hissi asla unutmadan yaşam içersindeki kederleri kalbinizde tutmaktan söz etmiştir.(...) Bence Dalai Lama karşılaştığı zorlukları bu şekilde ele aldığı için muhteşem bir öğretmendir. O, hayatı hiç üzüntü ve pişmanlık yaşamadan geçirmiyor. Ama bunu bizim "suçluluk" dediğimiz şeye ya da bizi aşağı çeken ve hem kendimiz hem de başkaları için dik duramayacağımız kadar güçsüz hissettiren utanca dönüştürmüyor."

"Dalai Lama'nın, kendimize karşı şefkat duymamızın temelinde, başkaları için şefkat duyma isteğimiz olduğunu söylediğini sıkça duydum."

"Baskalarına yardım etmeye hazır olmak, ego baloncuğunu patlamanın en hızlı yollarından biridir."

"Başkalarına, karşılık beklemeden destek çıkmak, bir zorunluluk olmadan yardım etmek, insanın kendi kendine yardımcı olma isteğinin bir sonucudur."

"Shantideva'nın da dediği gibi dünyadaki bütün varlıklar da benim gibi güvensizlik ve acı hissediyorsa, neden sadece kendime önem vermeye devam edeyim?"

"Islevsiz alışkanlıklarımızı değiştirdikçe, bir yandan da toplumumuzu değiştiririz. Kendi uyanışımız, aydınlanmış toplumun uyanışıyla iç içedir. Saldırganlığa ve bağımlılığı karşı kendi kendi kişisel iştahımızı dizginlersek, bunun bütün gezgene faydası olur."

"Dünyamız için hissettiğimiz o gerçek endişeyi asla kaybetmeyelim."♡

2 reviews
January 12, 2010
A very uplifing an useful book. The major points can seem lost in the content, but one could say the content itself is the most important. This is a book I will always have on my coffee table, a reference so to speak, for when I'm feeling out of sorts or like I'm a fish on a hook. It gives great insight into many Buddhist beliefs, the main focus of which is that we must first learn to be compassionate and accepting of ourselves without deception, before we can be compassionate towards others. Pema gives us tools on how to work towards this everyday. An excellent book and reference.
Profile Image for Mj.
515 reviews69 followers
September 12, 2021
Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears is an easy-to-read book about “staying present” and “consciously choosing to be in the moment.” Chodron provides information not only about what this means; but more importantly realistic instructions on “how you actually achieve this.” The language is simple, easy to understand and quite doable. Chodron is very supportive and encouraging throughout.

I love the personal space that Chodron is writing from and hope you will too. She is clearly a humanist, very global in her thinking and believes in the innate goodness of all humans. She also reminds us of our necessity to pay respect to and take care of the earth and all living things that we share that provide for us.

Bhikṣuṇī Ani Pema Chodron is a Buddhist nun. She was born and raised in the United States, but in 1984 moved to rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to become the first director of Gampo Abbey. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, her root teacher, gave her explicit instructions to establish this monastery and to provide a monastery, instructions and retreats for westerners i.e. North Americans who wanted to study Tibetan Buddhism for self-development and possibly to become monks and nuns.

Chodron has written numerous instructional books. I learned a lot from Taking the Leap and see myself reading it again and again; whenever get caught up outside myself in the external world. It will be a helpful reminder to step back, take more time to be present as much as possible and to love myself and others. I also hope to read more of her books. Her writing is excellent, flows well, is informative and so practical and easy to put into immediate practice.

The following are some quotes from the book that should give you a good sense of her writing and its content.

Here is an example of why it’s always important to choose where you put your attention:

“A Native American grandfather was speaking to his grandson about violence and cruelty in the world and how it comes about. He said it was as if two wolves were fighting in his heart. One wolf was vengeful and angry, and the other wolf was understanding and kind. The young man asked which wolf would win the fight in his heart. And the grandfather answered, “The one that wins will be the one I choose to feed.” ”

Here is an example of the bigness of Chodron’s heart and in her clearly evidenced love of all living things and belief in global sharing:

“When I say that the potential for goodness exists in all beings that is acknowledging that everyone, everywhere, all over the globe, has these qualities and can call on them to help themselves and others.

 Natural Intelligence is always accessible to us.
 Natural Warmth is our shared capacity to love, to have empathy, to have a sense of humour. It is also our capacity to feel gratitude and appreciation and tenderness. It is the whole gamut of what are often called the heart qualities, qualities that are a natural part of being human. Natural warmth has the power to heal all relationships - the relationship with ourselves as well as with people, animals, and all that we encounter every day of our lives.
 The third quality of basic goodness is natural openness, the spaciousness of our skylike minds. Fundamentally, our minds are expansive, flexible and curious: they are pre-prejudice, so to speak. ”

The following are the Chapters’ Titles which should give you an excellent sense of what this book has in store for you:

Feed the Right Wolf
Learning to Stay
The Habit of Escape
The Natural Meaning of Life
Getting Unstuck
We Have What We Need
Rejoicing in Things as They Are
Uncovering Natural Openness
The Importance of Pain
Unlimited Friendliness
Epilogue: Taking This into the World

I hope I have piqued your interest. This small book/novella with about 100 pages packs a whole, lot of valuable inspiration and instruction, in a very easy to read format. It is an investment in time that is well worth it…..not only for yourself…..but also for the positive impact it will have on others’ close to you and others around the world. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Sya Barlez.
136 reviews10 followers
September 6, 2021
No one is perfect — not even Buddhist nuns.

Sometimes it's easy to look at "experts" in any area and think they're deities who are naturally above experiencing all weaknesses we mere mortals feel on a daily basis. Chodron never pretends to be that.

Sixty-eight years old—and still her ego got the better of her (in the example where she got angry at a woman)! I don't know when Pema Chodron first became a nun, but this is hopeful. If she can give in to her "shenpa" at 68, I'm sure it's not a terrible thing to do that in your twenties.

I love it when this phenomenally compassionate, insanely insightful Buddhist nun with decades of experience, includes several examples of her "shenpa" in action throughout the book ("shenpa" means being "hooked" into an emotion). Honestly, I don't see that kind of thing often coming from experts, who have forgotten what it was like to be a beginner— so while they're teaching, they're teaching from their current place of expertise.

But Chodron remembers, and she's willing to always include examples of her own slip-ups. They made me feel like I wasn't doing these Buddhist-inspired practices "wrong". That the reluctance, the repetition of negative patterns even after learning these principles, are a natural part of the process of change. It allows me to be more open and compassionate in the process.

Overall thoughts:

“It's as if we've been kicking a spinning wheel all our life and it has its own momentum... This is where many of us find ourselves: we've stopped kicking the wheel, we're not always strengthening the habit, but we're in this interesting middle state, somewhere between not always caught and not always able to resist biting the hook. This is called "the spiritual path.” - Pema Chodron

Worth re-reading over and over again. It's like the Instruction Manual for Life that somehow we all missed at birth. Somebody ought to have handed it to our scrawny little selves! All of Chodron's books touch on similar topics, but this one, for me, has been a game-changer. The simplicity, brevity, and raw, compassionate honesty—they did the trick for me.

Highly recommended for: spiritual readers who are trying to get to know their own emotional lives and undo toxic thought patterns. Especially those committed to doing the deep work of turning inwards and seeing all aspects of themselves.

Rating: 5/5 stars.
Profile Image for Ali Hussein.
112 reviews4 followers
February 8, 2020
The second Pama Chödrön book I’ve read now. I enjoyed it however not as much as the first. Fairly short book with good insights and messages. Essentially teaches compassion and unity etc.
Profile Image for Meghan Burke.
Author 4 books13 followers
July 7, 2018
Pema Chodron could write a car manual and I'd eagerly read it. This was as lovely and helpful as every other.
25 reviews
December 11, 2022
A great read, something to re-read every now and then. My notes:

Top tools:
- surfing the urge not acting out when emotionally charged
- take a pause multiple times a day, take a few deep breaths, step out of the "caught up cocoon"
- accepting our own self completely, true friendship with our bright and dark sides
- experiencing the pain fully, not trying to eliminate it asap
- the goal of meditation is not to achieve a higher peaceful state, but to follow the instructions to the dot without judgement

Whenever given a choice between thinking good of people vs bad, thinking negatively vs positively, doesn’t it make more sense to do the positive thing most of the times? To see the good in people.
The key is SELF AWARENESS. And regulating our own emotions. NOT ACTING WHEN EMOTIONALLY CHARGED. Taking a pause or surfing the urge is one concrete tool to not emotional override take control.

Intelligence, warmth and openness - 3 qualities in everyone naturally. We need to just train them so that they can be called on in the moments as needed.


The author mentions when he was in a retreat, he would like he need to rush through his meditation and do something more important. This is our inability to be fully present. What is the fix? Practice. Practice taking pauses in your daily routine.

2. Staying in present
staying here and right now does not mean zero thoughts. It means being open and aware of everything that we are feeling and thinking WITHOUT JUDGEMENT.
We always try to avoid pain, eliminate discomfort asap, get to a safe zone fast, get instant relief. But this mindset of avoiding suffering and always chasing safety is what causes more suffering.

Instead of distracting ourselves and escaping the reality, we should accept the facts. Taking frequent breaks during the day - 10 deep breaths - is one way of training ourselves to be present.

3. Habit of escape
when someone criticized you or your opinion or something else about you, then we start feeling threatened - we feel our identity or our self worth (even in terms of our opinions) is under threat. But if you catch yourself early in such moments, realize truly what you are feeling, then you can respond much better. Eg if a particular topic makes you act in a weird way, it can be due to any number of reasons - many times it could be because you are INSECURE about that thing, you do not want to talk about it openly, something like that. Instead of being weird, WHAT IF WE ACT WITH CURIOSITY AND OPENNESS. Curiosity means trying to understand why the other person is saying what they are saying. Openness means freely expressing your own thoughts without fear of judgement. Of course you have to be careful in some settings (eg at work) when being open. But you should ALEAYS ACT WITH CURIOSITY. AND IT IS OKAY IF YOU REALIZE THAT YOU HAVE CERTAIN WEAKNESSES AND BAD BEHAVIORS. ACCEPT IT - it means you are making progress. BE A STUDENT OF LIFE.

One good tip for meditation - do not judge your meditation practice. Sometimes you will feel settled and calm, but sometimes you would feel that the meditations session was not that great. The point of meditation is to observe without judgement.

THE ONLY WAY TO EASE OUR PAIN AND DISCOMFORT IS TO EXPERIENCE IT FULLY, instead of trying to escape and get instant relief.

4. Natural movement of life
this world is constantly changing and we are a tiny part of it. When we get stuck in the loop of “i want this”, “I don’t want this to happen”, instead of accepting the world as is, that is when we suffer. It is not to say that we should just accept everything and not make an effort to change things. But the point is have a balance - between what we want and what happens in this world, especially what is out of our control. SO NO NEED TO PANIC AT THE SMALLEST OF THINGS. The world is not a place full of suffering - we suffer because of what we want from it.
It is that simple - although remember - SIMPLE DOES NOT MEAN EASY TO DO.

5. Getting unstuck
lets use overeating as the example here. When I overeat, it is often because i am tired, bored, stressed. Second, after overeating I feel self hatred. Both these patterns are unhealthy. Instead, if we just stay in the moment when we are feeling these things, give ourselves time, breathe and thus, not resort to old patterns; slowly we will not overeat and when we do, we will frame that in a healthier fashion (eg yes, I over ate and failed, but it’s okay to fail, and let’s move on, go back to have the discipline of staying in the moment).

STAYING NON JUDGEMENTAL, NEUTRAL AND NOT PANICKING IS THE KEY. When we stay in present like this, our natural intelligence and warmth will guide us in the right direction.

Steps to take in moments of weakness:
1. Accept that you are “hooked”
2. Breathe. With non judgement, panic, self hate, any negative story line , try to neutrally observe the situation and your self. Experience it fully. This is the difficult part.
3. Move on as if nothing happened. Do not even judge or celebrate how you did in step two.

6. We have what we need
THE GOAL OF MEDITATION IS NOT TO ACHIEVE A HIGHER PEACEFUL STATE, RATHER TO SIMPLY FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS - sit comfortably, precisely but lightly aware of the object of meditation (not a tight concentration) and bring back the mind when it wanders off.

7. Rejoicing in things as they are
When start seeing our own behavior clearly and honestly, it is not something to be considered as an achievement to feel superior about. In fact, a critical part of being present without judgement is to observe with neither inferiority complex nor superiority complex. One can be HAPPY about their ability or progress in seeing oneself more clearly, but one NEED NOT FEEL SUPERIOR.

It’s our own natural intelligence that allows us to see that we have lost it. Can we just have the aspiration to identify with the wisdom that acknowledges that we just harmed someone, or we smoked. This is the spirit in delighting what we see rather than despairing in what we see. ITS THE SPIRIT OF COMPASSIONATE SELF REFLECTION TO BUILD CONFIDENCE RATHER THAN BECOMING A CAUSE FOR DEPRESSION.

When we catch ourselves falling into the old bad patterns and are able to refrain, we can rejoice. Know that we will have relapses. MOST CRUCIALLY, THOSE “SOME TIMES” when are able to catch ourselves and do the right thing, IS GREAT PROGRESS. We need not feel guilty about where we find ourselves - this is the idea of COMPASSIONATE ATTENTION.

8. Uncovering natural openness
When we are going through difficult times we can get so caught up with our own suffering that our perspective becomes extremely narrow. However, if we just give ourselves a break, take a pause, breathe and calm down, we will realize what’s really going on. It will also let our natural openness and warmth kick in, our natural intelligence will guide us. We also realize that there is no need to get worked up or anxious.


It is easy go remain "caught up" throughout the day. This also cuts off our senses - vision, hearing, feeling - thus making us not fully experience the present moment. So, every now and then during the day "take a break from being caught up".

9. Importance of pain
When we feel deep pain, it is natural for us to feel kindness towards others. It is a fact that every human being experiences pain, anxiety, fear, etc just like us. It is also true that most people have similar aspirations, problems, etc, at least the ones we interact with daily. Just know this would two things:
- make use feel more normal and comfortable during painful times because we know that everyone experiences these things
- make us more kind, warm, understanding and open to others; because we know how it feels to suffer

10. Unlimited friendliness
The first step in being friendly towards others is to be 100% friendly with ourselves - in spite of knowing ourselves thoroughly and seeing all the good and bad in ourselves.
I have personally felt that a big reason for being unhappy is an unconscious self hate.

While self care is important, understanding its true meaning is the second step. Self care is not restricted to taking care of your health, exercising, dieting, getting massages, etc. TRUE SELF CARE MEANS ABSOLUTE ACCEPTANCE OF OUR OWN SELVES and knowing our own selves completely. The goal is to have such kindness towards our own self that does not crumble in the face of biggest difficulties.

a different perspective: people say just before buddha attained enlightenment, he stood firm in the face of all the objects of fear, lust, aggression, etc. But may be, he actually experienced all these emotions but had the ability to let them pass, ABSORB THAT DYNAMIC ENERGY.


"tonglen" - an exercise of breathing in suffering and sending out well wishes for other people (including the ones you dislike). It's an exercise of heart, not of intellect or mind.

--> THEN WE WILL HAVE THE COURAGE AND CONFIDENCE TO TRULY BEFRIEND OTHERS. because it is not the others but our rejection of our own self and our continued stay inside our "caught-up cocoon" that make us reject others.
Profile Image for Mark Valentine.
1,815 reviews20 followers
February 27, 2018
One image that connected with me that Chodron writes of involves viewing each of us as a continuous, flowing river. Named, the river appears to be the same, but every day, every moment, it is in a constant state of flux where banks change, levels rise and ebb, and flotsam has passage or dams may appear. I like this analogy because it shows how temporal, fluid and full of movement living life is.

She introduces a Tibetan word, "shenpa," in chapter 3 meaning "attachment" or those habits, feelings, compulsions, and cravings that control our lives, even becoming addictions. She never really says that we need to rid ourselves of all the detritus (although it is certainly implied) as she counsels that we need to embrace them; this is counterintuitive advice, but valuable because the experience of hardship shapes us into our present selves--and living in the moment is the essence.

I also appreciate her advice on abiding compassionately, of breathing in the struggle and oppression of others in order to exhale relief and healing. In this regard, it resembles the Prayer of St. Francis. Finding homeostasis in my life means striving to be a spiritual warrior; my discipline need be for this journey. Loving and having compassion for my traumas will allow me to have compassion and love for those around me. I can live with this.
58 reviews
December 28, 2020
It all begins with the breath. I recently heard of a Jewish couple who were receiving harassing phone calls from a neighbor. He was the leader of a local branch of the klu klux klan. This couple were able to get i. touch with the pain they were experiencing. Through this experience they gained empathy for themselves and were able to extend that empathy to the neighbor. They began treating this neighbor with loving kindness and over time this person was able to find that peaceful place in his heart and abandoned his hateful behavior. To get there begins with self acceptance and loving kindness for ourselves and it becomes a natural extension of directing loving kindness towards others, even those who may be causing our pain. It begins with the breath. In the oft quoted words of Gandi; “be the change you want to see”. This book provides a way to explore the path to self acceptance and loving kindness.
Profile Image for Tommy.
Author 4 books34 followers
February 20, 2011
I would say my only complaint about Pema's book is that it's too short, but at 100 pages, it's not. There are pearls of wisdom on every page, and this slim volume of Buddhist thought - focused on staying with your emotions, leaning into pain, sitting with the hard stuff - is just right. It begs to be reread, to be handed off to a friend in need.

Pema writes with clarity, wit, and sensibility. She speaks to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, focusing on working through our habitual patterns, difficult emotions, and the 'shenpa', or attachments, that continue to lure us into a spiraling pattern of inefficiency with the time we've been given. Fears, addictions, insecurities, and other paralyzing feelings are addressed here honestly and thoughtfully, but never with a heavy handedness. Pema is a gentle voice, and a welcome one in my life.
Profile Image for Julie.
131 reviews
November 21, 2009
I love Pema Chödrön's books (and audio works). Like her others, I find it is best to read it in pieces so that you can process what you've read as you go. Then, when you get to the end, start over, because you will pick up new insights each time and think of new ways in which they apply to your life. Parts of this book cover the same material as her audio called "Don't Bite The Hook." It's helpful for me to hear the information again and again, so I don't mind the repetition. Taking the Leap offers practical advice, delivered in Pema's gentle, loving, compassionate way. I think everyone should own this book and read it periodically.
Profile Image for Brian Griffith.
Author 6 books224 followers
February 10, 2021
There's a similarity to Pema's various books, but she never says it quite the same way twice. She's always fully present as she writes, practicing and demonstrating the openness to actual experience that she writes of. She's never on auto-pilot. It's a good touch that she can bring in a whole chapter from Chogyam Trungpa's "Smile at Fear," like he was a totally relevant guest speaker at this virtual meditation retreat.
Profile Image for Paula Cappa.
Author 14 books484 followers
April 30, 2020
I read this book in one day, 3 sittings. The main thrust of the book, in true Pema Chödrön style, is about opening your heart, letting go of pain and struggling, and living a more peaceful life. Pema instructs that the most effective way to do that is to acknowledge our personal destructive patterns, negative thinking, and negative habits. Pema suggests practical methods to get “unstuck” from “shenpa.” She cites 3 steps: acknowledge that you are hooked by your habitual thinking; pause and take three conscious breaths; relax and move on. Sounds simple and it is, but of course this goes quite deeper than you might expect and does take a bit of practice. In Chapter 8, she explores how looking at an open sky for a few minutes can shift conscious awareness to award us with a larger perspective and a calmer more productive energy. She calls this “natural openness.” I have practiced these “pauses” and can verify they can be highly effective. I found this quotation (page 83) to be especially helpful: “When things fall apart and we can’t get the pieces back together, when we lose something dear to us, when the whole thing is just not working and we don’t know what to do, this is the time when the natural warmth of tenderness, the warmth of empathy and kindness, are just waiting to be uncovered, just waiting to be embraced. This is our chance to come out of our self-protecting bubble and to realize that we are never alone. This is our chance to finally understand that wherever we go, everyone we meet is essentially just like us. Our own suffering, if we turn toward it, can open us to a loving relationship with the world.” Highly recommended. Paula Cappa is an avid book reviewer and an award-winning supernatural mystery author.
Profile Image for Jane.
677 reviews25 followers
August 9, 2017
First I read "The Untethered Soul" and I was very inspired. I kept feeling like I understood what why I needed to "let go" but I was still fuzzy on the "how to" portion. Somehow this book got on my list and it was just what I needed. It filled in the gaps for me. I already do Transcendental Meditation but this book added an element of addressing thoughts feelings when I'm not meditating. I may need to reread this one though because it is not the kind of learning that happens from just one read! Highly recommend this one for major life improvement!
Profile Image for Leslie Ann.
1,419 reviews31 followers
June 25, 2019
A lovely little tome that encourages us to step back, be present, and uncover our three basic human qualities: natural intelligence, natural warmth, and natural openness. Chodron argues that such personal transformation can help change the world. Unlike Christian doctrine, one does not pray to a higher being for such transformation, but instead remembers that the power lies within oneself.
Profile Image for Todd Toussaint.
13 reviews4 followers
October 14, 2019
Has a distilled quality? Her writing is warm a little spare, like she’s boiled off extraneous thoughts. Sometimes I wanted to muck around in the weeds a little more, but there are other books for that. Each short chapter could be reread at random, like some sort of booster shot of clarity & perspective.
Profile Image for Ajay Sambhriya .
28 reviews5 followers
September 18, 2020
Crisp, concise, simple and profound.

Take a pause
Stay in the moment
Acknowledge what you see

...... E𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺 𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘭𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘩 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭𝘴 𝘪𝘯𝘴𝘦𝘤𝘶𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘱𝘢𝘪𝘯, 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘐 𝘥𝘰, 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘸𝘩𝘺 𝘥𝘰 𝘐 𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱 𝘱𝘶𝘵𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘦𝘮𝘱𝘩𝘢𝘴𝘪𝘴 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘰𝘯 𝘮𝘦?
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