Heart Advice

Heart Advice

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Hard Times

Chodron, Pema





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 to cultivate wisdom, compassion, and courage
•  Communicating so as to encourage others to open up rather than shut down
•  Practices for reversing habitual patterns
•  Methods for working with chaotic situations
•  Ways for creating effective social action


Publishers Weekly

Pema Chodron, a student of Chogyam Trunpa Rinpoche and Abbot of Gampo Abbey, has written the Tibetan Buddhist equivalent of Harold Kushner’s famous book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. As the author indicates in the postscript to her book: “We live in difficult times. One senses a possibility they may get worse.” Consequently, Chodron’s book is filled with useful advice about how Buddhism helps readers to cope with the grim realities of modern life, including fear, despair, rage and the feeling that we are not in control of our lives. Through reflections on the central Buddhist teaching of right mindfulness, Chodron orients readers and gives them language with which to shape their thinking about the ordinary and extraordinary traumas of modern life. But most importantly, Chodron demonstrates how effective the Buddhist point of view can be in bringing order into disordered lives.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


This book has resided on the shelf next to my bed for many years and has been read often. Reading through a few reviews at this site it is clear many people are willing to listen to Pema Chodron’s uncompromising words about the challenges of being human. For those people seeking a few comforting bromides, who expected a self-help book, this material must surely be unwelcome. But it is far from trite and certainly not depressing. Tibetan Buddhists practice in the charnal grounds not because they’re depressives, but because life ends in death for all of us. And charnal grounds in Tibet were places where hacked up bodies were fed to circling vultures…no quickly slipping a deceased body into a casket to avoid confronting the withered body or the odors associated with illness and death for these Buddhists.
When I attended a Pema Chodron lecture some years ago she announced that her favorite manta is “Om, grow up!” It takes great courage to meet life on life’s terms and accept responsiblity for our actions. And since life invariably brings challenges associated with disappointment and loss, the work continues to the moment of death. In our addicted society, that is a message all too readily rejected. Pema is not for the faint of heart! But if you intend to claim your aliveness, to risk intimacy, to share joy, her words are worth attending to. Namaste.

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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 someone else, had been having an affair and their marriage was over. I was feeling rather bitter that day because of my own situation and remember thinking, oh great. She’s going to go on about how Buddha Lovingkindness flooded her soul at that moment and she just released the whole thing and her soul became lighter and a chorus of Tibetan angels started chanting and it was so great blahblah (like I said, I was bitter). But instead she said she was still for a moment, and it was one of those moments where you can’t for the life of you tell if it was a second long or an hour long, and then she picked up a rock and threw it at him. It was then that I knew that this was my kind of nun, and decided to read on.

Needless to say, she doesn’t keep throwing rocks at people. She actually finds many brilliant ways to cope with pain and ego and loss and all that stuff through Buddhist teaching, and then articulates practical ways for regular non-nuns like myself to deal with pain and ego and loss in their own life. I’ve since bought and loved a lot more of her books, and I highly recommend this one to anyone who is dealing with something difficult or just curious about Buddhism in general. Very good stuff.

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Barnes & Noble

I bought this book after my mother died, and it did help me. Specifically, I found helpful the concepts that suffering connects us to other humans, not just today but who have suffered down through history, and that such events can be viewed as a gift, to ‘wake us up’ and help us become enlightened. Nobody wants pain, but it is better to face it and have a way of dealing with it positively.

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