When things fall apart : heart advice for difficult times

by Pema Chödrön

Paperback, 2002




Boston : Shambhala, 2002.


Describes a traditional Buddhist approach to suffering and how embracing the painful situation and using communication, negative habits, and challenging experiences leads to emotional growth and happiness.

User reviews

LibraryThing member manadabomb
Chodron is an American Buddhist nun and is apparently a prolific writer. Going through some difficult times now, this book called to me from the Border's book shelf.

I'm going to admit that I started off reading this book thinking "What the hell are you talking about?" Leaning into the sharp points, facing your demons, embracing suffering - all sounds well and good but HOW do you do it? Buddhism is all abut guidelines and rarely ever says "Here is how you do this"

The more I read, though, the more I got it. I need to be kinder to myself. Less critical, less admonishment. The underlying factor here is if you can't have compassion for yourself, it's going to be difficult to be compassionate towards others. There is no right or wrong, no good or evil. Things just ARE. We're all here for a short time, so why not give yourself a break and lighten up a little?

I'm a classic case of escapism. When things are difficult, I do my best but I always retreat; into books, classes, knitting, what have you. Chodron encourages us to not reach for comfort when things go rotten. That's going to be mighty hard to do.

There's a really good chapter about not harming others. While you may not deliberately harm people, chances are you are doing harm when you're upset, embarrassed, angry, etc. Words, actions, emotions all mean the world and you have to be aware of what you say, do and feel. Being aware of how you react to things is even applauded as a great first step.

I'm going to try to put these things into practice. We'll see how it goes :)
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LibraryThing member shawnd
This book has twenty two chapters related to different aspects of healing from pain and how to handle difficult situations. The text bounces from philosophy to self-help/encouragement, to Buddhist fables, to meditation and though techniques, and the like. The structure of the book as that each chapter in itself has many of these thematic elements. As such, one could decide to read just one chapter and it would likely touch on some key thoughts and changes in approach that would lead the reader to get loose from some emotions (or in some cases get closer to emotions) around their situation. As Chodron is in vogue in contemporary Western Buddhist practice, the book perhaps predictably fits with some of the philosophies from others in press in the early 2000's like Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach.

I did not particularly find the book helpful. It's very scattered and very 'jumpy'. It does not explain points or particularly back them up as much as put out a stream of thought which then jumps to another in the very next paragraph. Imagine speaking by phone to a guru with limited time, where they are introducing instruction and concepts about how to relive your suffering within a set time limit. So the pacing is not at all relaxed. It also introduces more than a little Tibetan or Sanskrit words, which is not uncommon occasionally, but the frequency is alarming when the Western reader has more use for the concept than the definition and the word--and unlike other authors she does not dwell on the concept, but per the pacing, jumps to other somewhat repetitive ideas. Alas, this is a personal interpretation, and perhaps reading this as a man I don't mesh with the style as I would if I were a woman, or of a different age. Many seem to like the book. If you are a fast-paced person who isn't going to read this cover to cover, it could be very helpful and rewarding when situations are tough.
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LibraryThing member heidialice
A collection of lectures by one of the most accessible writers on Buddhism. Chodron gets to the heart of human pain and gently instructs on how to simply be with it, while introducing basic Buddhist concepts. It helps me to connect with others' spirituality when there is a personal component, so I greatly appreciated the references to Chodron's life, especially pre-Buddhism. Her humility, great compassion and straight-forward style make for an easy if thought-provoking read. Essential for when one is at wit's end with life.

A good introductory work on the practice of meditation, best supplemented by other works and in-person teachings for those who want to seriously practice and meditate.
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LibraryThing member rayski
Buddhist teachings on dealing with troubled times. Book is probably better read in sections as you need it rather than cover to cover. Not as good as Lama Surya Das.
LibraryThing member annafdd
Despite the title, this is not a good book for when you are feeling crumbled into little pieces. The Wisdom of No Escape is better in those conditions.
LibraryThing member lepapillonvert
Once again, I am grateful for the wisdom of this gifted teacher and healer. If you are going through or have ever been through challenges in your life or have questioned your spiritual views, read this book. It will assist you.
LibraryThing member beau.p.laurence
I refer to this book as "my bible" I've given it away about 14 times because it is so relevent to the human condition
LibraryThing member zenhead
Chodron does it again. Interpreting the often difficult to transmit wisdom of Buddhist ideas into practical application for our every-day life. Things fall apart, but we can learn to see this as an opportunity for growth and expansion.
LibraryThing member hafowler
I read this book when my favorite pet was dying of cancer. It really helped me find some peace.
LibraryThing member Mary_Overton
Self-Help for those trying to transcend Self. The ultimate in ironic advice. By not striving, we strive to discover the "bodhichitta" within, a Sanskrit word that means "noble or awakened heart." (86) Such an awakened heart can become a servant of peace. "The word 'bodhisattva' refers to those who have committed themselves to the path of compassion." (98)
"Underneath our ordinary lives, underneath all the talking we do, all the moving we do, all the thoughts in our minds, there's a fundamental groundlessness. It's there bubbling along all the time. We experience it as restlessness and edginess. We experience it as fear. It motivates passion, aggression, ignorance, jealousy, and pride, but we never get down to the essence of it." (34)
"His Holiness the Dalai Lama describes two kinds of selfish people: the unwise and the wise. Unwise selfish people think only of themselves, and the result is confusion and pain. Wise selfish people know that the best thing they can do for themselves is to be there for others. As a result, they experience joy." (88)
"This is all the path we have." (141) "This path has one very distinct characteristic: it is not pre-fabricated. It doesn't already exist. The path that we're talking about is the moment-by-moment evolution of our experience, the moment-by-moment evolution of the world of phenomena, the moment-by-moment evolution of our thoughts and our emotions." (143)
In the end, "our thoughts and memories, 'good and bad, happy and sad,' all 'vanish into emptiness like the imprint of a bird in the sky.'" (131)
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LibraryThing member Hanuman2
I'll try to summarize this sometime, but just read it, for the love of god, read it!
LibraryThing member chersbookitlist
Another compassionate, comforting and inspiring book by Pema. She appeals to people of all religions who are looking for ways to connect with love and tenderness to their own hearts, and the hearts of others
LibraryThing member margaret.pinard
Another pick-up-and-read. I guess that's all I have time for these days. BUt I like this lately- while not a substitute for human interaction, which i have been missing, it is a good thought-provoker and meditative text.
LibraryThing member viviennestrauss
This is now marked as "finished", however, this book will remain eternally on the end table where I drink my coffee. This is a book that can be opened up and read anywhere and what is discussed seems to apply that day. Better than any self-help book I've ever read. Obviously this is a lifelong path rather than a goal set and attained. This book has provided such comfort in a "common sense" manner in the most difficult time of my life thus far.… (more)
LibraryThing member mdoris
This is a library book When Things Fall Apart that has been renewed by me many many times and today (finaly) I got to the end...... but really there is no such thing, as I think I would be well advised to start back at the beginning of it. The thinking in it is very good but a little hard to hold onto once back in habitual life and the book covers are closed. I buy few books but this is one that would be good for purchase. It is a book written by a Buddhist nun (a renowned mediation master) with thoughtful and real intent, glimpses of what mediation can realize once practised. I think more of her books are in order!

"There is a fundamental opportunity for happiness right within our reaach, yet we usually miss it- ironlically, while we are caught up in the attempts to escape pain and suffering".
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LibraryThing member dawndowney
Like many others, I came to this book during a crisis, so long ago I don't remember which crisis it was. Pema made it clear it wasn't my fault, I wasn't crazy, I was just human. It took several years of retreats, dharma talks, books, and sangha conversations, for me to even begin to see the underlying messages in the book: things fall apart for everybody; things will fall apart again. And every time they do, this book will still be relevant.… (more)
LibraryThing member MargaretPinardAuthor
Another pick-up-and-read. I guess that's all I have time for these days. BUt I like this lately- while not a substitute for human interaction, which i have been missing, it is a good thought-provoker and meditative text.
LibraryThing member BookNeurd
Then Things Fall Apart is the third book I've read by Pema Chödrön, including The Places That Scare You and Living Beautifully. I also have the Compassion Cards, which I pull every few days. I am obviously reading these books for a reason, haha! I found the teachings that she shared in this book extremely poignant for this time in our world, but less easy to follow than the others at this point in my life.

The edition that I have is the 20th Anniversary Edition and is still completely relevant today. Actually, since this book was written, I think that the world has only become more obviously uncertain and groundless, making it an excellent choice for insightful advice right now!

This book is much more like the cards; little nuggets of wisdom connected by the theme, but not necessarily flowing one into the other. The Places that Scare You and Living Beautifully are formatted as manuals for living fearlessly and for the three commitments required for working with groundlessness, respectively. When Things Fall Apart is a series of short perspectives for the times in which we live. They are indeed pieces of advice and because they are curated from talks she gave, have a random sort of quality to them.I typically use her books as a daily reading in the morning, which works well for this format.

At this point in my journey, though, I think the level of randomness is a little too challenging to take in. I resonate more strongly with the books that have a sequence to the teachings and lead me to a particular way of looking at things. I still don't really understand the basic concepts of buddhism, and I'm still trying to get a picture of how they form the teachings. If I had the foundation to anchor this advice too, I think it would be a lot more poignant for me, so I'm probably going to come back to this book in the future, when I'm looking more for reminders of what I've heard before.

For now, I'm rating it a 4 out of 5 starts, and I would probably give it a 3.5 for where I'm at personally. I think I'm going to look for her book on meditation next.
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LibraryThing member Karen.Helfrick
I found this book to be full of ideas and theories that I was not familiar with. It is a collection of talks and teachings that Chodron had given throughout her life as a Buddhist Nun. I am not as familiar with this style, so I found them slightly difficult to read and very redundant. Maybe her style is just to talk in circles, but it feels a lot like a transcript for a TED talk, and I think ultimately i would get more out of an audiobook than I did this. It will take a few re-reads go let it all sink in.… (more)
LibraryThing member ghr4
There is certainly great wisdom and valuable Buddhist teachings in Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times; however, this is not a book to assist one trying to cope in the midst of life's crisis episodes. This requires multiple readings over an extended period of time for the lessons, which often seem counterintuitive, to take hold. I'm looking forward to future readings, which will inevitably provide further insights.… (more)
LibraryThing member jmoncton
Pema Chodron's sage wisdom can be applied to so many situations. I picked up this book because it sort of feels like we're at war in this country. Every one is so angry and there is a strong us vs. them mentality that is shouted at us, whether it's reading the news or browsing the web. Even so many of the hot titles this year have been polarizing. So the title of this book seemed like this would be a perfect choice to read right now.

What I discovered wasn't advice on dealing with the election and red vs. blue, but wisdom on handling conflict, whether it's external or from within. This book is pretty short, but there is a lot packed into it. I found myself really slowing down as I read this. Rather then going from one chapter to the next, I would pause and spend a few days of reflection thinking about her words. This is a book that you can (and should) read repeatedly. Excellent for anyone on their own personal growth journey.
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LibraryThing member cavernism
A must-read for those interested in or practicing Buddhism. I know I'll be reading this many more times throughout my life.
LibraryThing member fsmichaels
An interesting book, thought-provoking. One to return to again and again at different times in your life.



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