When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

What can we do in a world where nothing is certain, save our own, eventual demise? Utilizing Buddhist wisdom, Pema Chodron charts a serene course through the chaos of modern life, with all its dread uncertainties, despair, and fear.

Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart is a reflective, and fundamentally optimistic look at how right mindfulness–seventh of the eightfold paths—can lead us toward true happiness. By attending to ourselves and our emotional reactions—by facing, rather than repressing, our “negative” emotions—we grow to transcend them in all their distracting gaudiness. Once we transcending our most pressing concerns we begin to truly live inside the moments of our lives. Our right living will encourages others, bringing harmony to our lives even in our darkest depths.

Facing fear is, for Chodron, courage. Courage cultivates wisdom. Wisdom brings compassion, and compassion, for Chodron, is the cleanest-burning fuel available for any engine of social change. By weaving micro- and macrocosmic concerns together, Chodron acknowledges that neither is independent of the other. Her message is one of inclusion—that we must include ourselves in the world. Though she advocates self-awareness, Chodron never advocates self-absorption, pulling instead for universal compassion and loving-kindness toward all things, including ourselves. By accepting ourselves, and our inescapable suffering, with courage, curiosity and compassion, we accept the greatest gift life has to give us–happiness.

With twenty-two chapters culled from four talks delivered between 1987 and 1994, Chodron provides a book as calm and comforting as her meditation techniques.

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