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Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  8,600 ratings  ·  343 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 ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published August 21st 2001 by Shambhala (first published 1994)
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Average rating 4.34  · 
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 ·  8,600 ratings  ·  343 reviews


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Gene
Nov 14, 2012 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
...more
Suzy
Jul 05, 2007 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.
Ren Leaflight
Mar 29, 2008 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
Sarah
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Aayla
Aug 13, 2012 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
...more
Julie Ehlers
Apr 26, 2014 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.
Anna
Nov 03, 2009 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
...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
My notes from Start Where You Are:

Lighten up.
It's all a dream.
Make friends with ourselves.
Start where we are.
Follow our breath.
Label our thoughts. Observe.
Be grateful---all situations teach us.
It's practice.
Whatever you meet unexpectedly, rest in it.
Soft heart.
Abandon hope of change.
Loving-kindness for self, for others.
Patience.
Train whole-heartedly.
Jenny
Jun 29, 2013 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 ...more
Jonathan
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Exceptionally good. Clear and very helpful. I will be re-reading this many times I think
Christine
Nov 17, 2008 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.
Emily
Jan 27, 2008 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.
Landon Shaw
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a gift when I began my Buddhist practice, and I can't recommend it enough. Being an American, Pema Chödrön's writing is extremely approachable for other western readers.
Kavitha
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I still have a couple of chapters left to read but here are my key takeaways so far. I would recommend this book to everyone but I think it would be more useful if you already have some introduction to the Buddhist principles. I listened to this book on audible during my morning commute to work or while exercising on the elliptical. It filled me with positive feelings. I read it very slowly, often pausing the audio to reflect upon the teachings and some times even rewinding a whole chapter to ...more
Iona  Stewart
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The author informs us in the preface that the book is a guide to awakening your genuine compassionate heart.

When we find that “we are closing down on ourselves and to others, here is instruction on how to open”.

These teachings are called the lojong teachings and include a supportive meditation practice called tonglen.

“Lojong” means “mind training”. The Lojong teachings contain 59 slogans that remind us how to awaken our hearts. The crux of the book is working with these slogans, which belong to
...more
Robin
I've been reading several books about Buddhism, mindfulness, and meditation recently, and this one gets referenced by other self-kindness books that I've read. Pema Chodron is a Mahayana Buddhist (as opposed to a Theravada Buddhist), so this book definitely sticks to the Mahayana belief system in vocabulary and suggestions for practice.

I think the most important messages in this book aren't the slogans per se, but rather the underlying message of self-love and self-acceptance. The catch, really,
...more
Barrie
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Ahhhh, after reading the kinda entertaining 10% Happier that basically said the same thing, but in a normal human person tone this book just reeked of frou frouness. Why are there so many mantras to follow? She describes Metta without calling it Metta, and then proceeds to overcomplicate everything. Maybe I missed the point, and while she made some excellent ones--it felt like a slog of sameness repeated on every page. I do love to meditate and just sit and reflect, but this will not be the book ...more
John Stepper
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"I think that all of us are like eagles who have forgotten we know how to fly."

When I read Pema Chödrön's books, I feel I'm looking at long-long instructions for how to make the most of life, how to realize our human potential, how to get along with each other and with everything.

She is a genius of a teacher, able to take the most arcane texts and ideas and make them accessible to me. Even better, she gives me the confidence to try, and fail, and try again. I may never attain what she has
...more
Chava
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
A prolific author once said, "I have no written 50 books; I've written one book 50 times." After listening to Pema Chodron and reading several of her books, the message is always the same: compassion and lovingkindness. Don't get me wrong; this is an important message, but there is nothing new in this book: the same methods of tonglen and lojong; the same exercises of breathing in and out.

Even the "Oy Veys," which at first were funny coming from a Buddhist nun are just... the same.
Cindywho
Aug 31, 2007 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!
Kendall
Nov 26, 2007 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.
Karen
Mar 26, 2009 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.
Emily
Sep 04, 2015 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.
Kelsey
Dec 17, 2014 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.
Josh Staab
Aug 31, 2016 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.
Alan Culler
Jan 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Also recommended by my doctor to help guide in the rebuilding process of life after letting everything fall apart.
David Warner
Apr 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
The books is ok--I like the basic idea of embracing the negative and adversity in your life and learning from it. However, the book seems to say many of the same things over and over.
Jen Cheaney
Jun 02, 2007 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
Michael Lawrie
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was deep. I took a long thoughtful read through that coincided with a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. I found much that I was taught in class was mirrored in Pema's book - a helpful synchronicity.

There are times when Buddhism books can be poetic and indirect and ultimately frustrating. There are times when these books are intellectually or even emotionally stimulating but in the end don't stick. At least that's been my experience.

Pema's book, however, offered some
...more
Laura
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In the continued theme of 2018 and 2019, I keep finding the teacher I need.

“The Buddha within is bad and good coexisting, evil and purity coexisting; the Buddha within is not just all the nice stuff. The Buddha within is messy as well as clean. The Buddha within is really sordid as well as wholesome - yucky, smelly, repulsive as well as the opposite: they coexist.”
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2,850 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
...more
“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...” 430 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.” 379 likes
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