Title: When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Author: Pema Chodron
Summary: 'There is a fundamental opportunity for happiness right within our reach, yet we usually miss it - ironically, while we are caught up in attempts to escape pain and suffering. Drawn from traditional Buddhist wisdom, Pema Chodron's radical and compassionate advice for what to do when things fall apart in our lives goes against the grain of our usual habits and expectations. There is only one approach to suffering that is of lasting benefit, Pema teaches, and that approach involves moving toward painful situations with friendliness and curiosity, relaxing into the essential groundlessness of our entire situation. It is there, in the midst of chaos, that we can discover the truth and love that are indestructible.
Included in the book are:
- ways to use painful emotions to cultivate wisdom, compassion and courage
- ways to communicate that lead to openness and true intimacy with others
- practices for reversing our negative habitual patterns
- methods for working with chaotic situations
- ways to cultivate compassionate, energetic social action.'
My thoughts: In a way, my reading of this book was a continuation of my learning of the 'negative' approaches to happiness (please see my review of The Antidote here!), but it also stems from a personal interest in Buddhism. Pema Chodron presents her teachings in a very straight-forward manner, and doesn't get caught up in philosophy and complex ideals, which I really enjoyed.
Each chapter is a comfortable length and really encourages the reader to stop after each one to ponder it's meaning and how certain ideas could be applied to their life. In this way, it reminded me very much of some books written by the Dalai Lama - there was an element of gentle conversation throughout, rather than an overwhelming amount of information being thrown at you. There is also a feeling of humour underlying many of the teachings, and, along with Chodron's habit of drawing from her own life experience, this makes the book's ideas seem more approachable.
At times, I did find I either couldn't quite follow what was being said or that I couldn't quite grasp what the teaching was trying to say to me, but I think this was more of a reflection of certain teachings feeling more relevant to me at the time of reading than others. Other times, however, I found myself rebelling against certain core Buddhist ideas - such as the cultivation of hopelessness. I understand the premise, but - call it human nature - I just can't give up on hope.
When Things Fall Apart is written in a friendly style (with the occasional statement that makes you stiffen with frustration or surprise) and gives you food for thought. A good read for anyone with an interest in Buddhism, or who feels like dipping back into the pool of 'negative' happiness.
Keep up with what I'm reading over here!