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When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  36,809 ratings  ·  2,250 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
Paperback, 160 pages
Published September 26th 2000 by Shambhala (first published December 24th 1996)
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Average rating 4.29  · 
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 ·  36,809 ratings  ·  2,250 reviews

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Sep 13, 2008 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
Sep 26, 2007 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'
Nita Shoyket
Apr 04, 2012 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 of the ho ...more
Lorraine Lesar
May 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
As a practicing Buddhist, this certainly fell apart for me.
Did I learn anything new, see something from a different perception? The simple answer is, no. Personally I thought the author preached and was rather detached in the deliverance of her wisdom, it verged on the depressing rather than uplifting optimum I was expecting.
David Peirce
Apr 22, 2013 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
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
May 21, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, kindle
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
Sleepless Dreamer
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
It's the Jewish new year now. During the Jewish month of Alul, I usually try to spend time evaluating the last year and figuring out what's next. 

And man, this year. 

This year wasn't good for anyone, I realize that. And yet, I'm finishing this year feeling thoroughly disappointed with myself in practically every aspect. Without getting to deep into my own life, I didn't manage to achieve nearly every goal I set for myself. Somehow, it feels like I lost myself this year. I stopped doing things th
Aug 15, 2015 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 w ...more
Jan 06, 2009 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
Virginia Cavanillas
A pessimistic message but a very honest one. I don’t know how to rate it tho... I guess if you’re able to extract one single thing from it and apply it to your life that’s a success itself and it deserves all the stars. But I’m very divided here because were these Buddhist advices helpful? Well, I’m not sure about it. I don’t know if I can deal better with pain or death now than before reading it but it was interesting enough to keep me invested and make me think a bit, and that’s always a good ...more
Apr 21, 2012 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
Aug 30, 2013 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
Sondra Jones
Dec 10, 2013 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
Paul Ivanov
May 29, 2012 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
Jul 23, 2016 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
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
Originally published on my book blog,

In the midst of anxiety and uncertainty, I turned to Pema Chödrön and her 1997 book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. Truthfully, I should probably listen to it on an unending loop right now. Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun, and has been writing and speaking for decades. This is a compilation of a variety of talks, and strong editing brings them together with clarity and flow.

Every topic Chödrön discusses feels
Jun 05, 2008 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
Mar 15, 2008 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
Julie Ehlers
This was wonderful. Pema Chodron expresses Buddhist ideas in such a joyful, irresistible way. Everyone should read this book.
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Buddhism is just so not my jam. It's a language which I simply don't understand.
Dec 18, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Julie C
Apr 29, 2007 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
Heidi The Reader
Chodrun's writings challenge me to approach my practice and life situation with more humor and kindness than I believed possible. Her words are simple but powerful.

I don't know what else to say about this book except: read it. And may you and all beings be free from suffering.
Dec 26, 2009 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
Blair Hodgkinson
May 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
I was warned away from this book early on in therapy due to its reputation as a victim-blaming book. For this reason, it's considered unsuitable reading for victims of rape and other traumas. It may have benefits for those who have not been subjected to truly difficult times, but it has been linked to suicides and has been suggested as a book that grooms additional victims. Some of the portions highlighted by my therapist reinforced this view. Approach with caution.
C.E. G
Dec 17, 2013 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
Michael Cabus
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The revelation of this book is how powerful it is to embrace and experience uncertainty and difficulties as opportunities to grow.

These moments have mystery and purpose. And running from them only means we miss that experience.

There is a sense of urgency. An emphasis on the idea that we do not have all the time we think we do. It's a true approach to meditation, which on the surface seems passive.

This is because if you live life as a present moment person you begin to see every moment as impe
Sara Budarz
Jan 28, 2015 rated it did not like it
No. Just no. I am not sure why so many people have recommended this over the years? Any love of buddhism I had was squashed by Chödrön's tone and general pessimism. Admittedly, there were a few insightful ideas or quotes, but overall, I would never recommend this to anyone.
Reja Janaki Joy Green
Mar 02, 2011 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:
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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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