When Things Fall Apart (1997), Pema Chodron - Book Summary

When It's All Falling (1997) is a guide to help you deal with the big challenges life presents you. The book explores a range of concepts and techniques, from meditation to compassion, incorporating breathing techniques to help you become resilient in the face of adversity and appreciate life in the present moment.

This book is for

  • Those who want to know about the application of Eastern philosophy in dealing with personal challenges;
  • Scholars feel that life always comes with pressure;
  • Perfectionists are looking for ways to combat the habit of high expectations and self-criticism.

About the author: Pema Chödrön is a famous idealist teacher in the Western world. She is also the author of several best-selling books including The Wisdom of No Escape, Start Where You Are and The Places That Scare You.

What does this book have for me? When life gives you lemons, learn how to make lemonade.

When life knocks you down, it's hard to get back up. When you've been through a breakup, repeatedly rejected when looking for a job, or helplessly watching someone you love struggle, you know that being able to feel positive again is all that matters. how difficult. Some of us are never really free from our own struggles.

But we can also learn to approach life in a way that allows us to accept any obstacle. This strategy helps us stay strong in the face of adversity and stay calm in the face of danger.

In this summary you will also learn:

  • Why loneliness can be "cool";
  • Why fear is not scary;
  • How we experience death every day.

Understanding fear is the “ticket” to deep self-understanding.

Most of us don't like feeling scared, that's for sure. But at certain stages in life, fear is something we should welcome.

By being aware of our fears rather than avoiding them, we can see whole new perspectives on our own personality or our relationships and our past. Often, fear is our first reaction as we get closer to the truth that lies behind the problem we're facing.

But to answer your fears, you need to understand them on a deeper level by taking the time to reflect on them. Often, when life is plagued with health or marriage problems, we tend to focus all of our energy on solving the problem but don't spend enough time understanding the nature of the problem.

To change that, the first thing we need to do is realize that our lives are constantly changing; everything falls into place, then falls apart and then suddenly comes back together. To appreciate this process and learn from it, you must create space in your life for things to happen – you may find that positive solutions emerge from the most unexpected places.

For example, the story is about a family in a difficult time, the breadwinner is a son who is working and financially supporting both his parents and siblings. When this person fell from the saddle and suffered serious injuries, the family was desperate for the future – it felt like the end of the world was coming.

But just two weeks later, the army arrived in their village and recruited all the strong men into battle. With the injury being suffered, the son was allowed to stay at home. He was able to find a job soon after and continued to take care of his family. In the end, all of this family's worries were unnecessary as the transformative nature of life offered them a whole new solution.

Loneliness is the perfect opportunity for self-observation and self-love.

Loneliness, like fear, is something we endure a lot and try to avoid. However, solitude also gives us the best opportunities to rest, recover, and focus.

Every day, we all have to balance work, life and social activities, do our best to improve ourselves, and continuously set goals to achieve bigger and better things. But not many people realize they have an alternative to this stressful and rushed way of life.

This alternative is called neutrality , an open mind state that allows us to see problems as they are. To reach this middle you need isolation, and you need to accept that isolation is not negative at all.

So, when you wake up in the morning with an intense feeling of loneliness in your chest, don't panic. Instead of worrying about what's wrong with you, relax with the feeling instead of blaming yourself for experiencing it.

Once you begin to use mediation to deal with moments of loneliness, you will begin to see loneliness as opportunities to observe yourself; In fact, you can use your free time to meditate.

Meditation is not necessarily self-improvement or brain training. Instead, it is a time to let go of your ideals, beliefs, and norms to really observe yourself.

Look into your mind and allow yourself to be surprised, delighted, or frightened by those very thoughts as you meditate. By making this a daily habit, you will be able to develop maitri – an unconditional kindness and friendship with yourself.

Hope creates adverse effects on life.

What keeps us going when times get tough? Many of us think that hope helps us cope with adversity, but in fact hope can make us fearful and anxious about the future or lead us to despair.

The Tibetan language captures the relationship between hopes and greatest fears particularly accurately. In Tibetan, the word "hope" is "rewa", while "fear" is translated as "dopka". The word “re-dok” refers to a combination of hope and fear, a dualistic feeling that captures perpetual dissatisfaction with oneself.

In the “re-dok,” we are caught between the hope of achieving greater things and the fear of failure. This can harm us.

Think of the last time you were disappointed with yourself – because a project you were proud of was turned down, or a relationship fell apart even though you cherished it. Have you taken the time to discover where your feelings of shame and dissatisfaction come from? Or do you simply wish you could be like someone or become a better person?

By questioning our own hopes and fears, we can free ourselves from dissatisfaction and disappointment. For example, when someone tells you that you look old and you feel offended, try to ask yourself why is it so important to want to be young?

Questioning hope and fear in this way shows that things are not that important.

Each person has their own hopes and fears that arise. This is a result of their environment and experiences during childhood and adulthood. But there is a universal fear that lies at the foundation of all of our lives: the fear of death.

The fear of death keeps us from accepting death as a natural part of life. After all, we experience a multitude of forms or representations of death in our daily lives: when a day ends, when we break up with someone, when we quit our job, or even we breathe out – life goes on showing its end in all its forms.

By accepting endings as part of life's ever-changing stream, we can accept that nothing is permanent – ​​not even our existence. This way, death will no longer be scary.

Getting acquainted with impermanence, suffering and not-self leads us closer to the meaning of life.

Why do we exist? That is a question that people have been pondering for centuries. Although this article does not offer a definitive answer, we will explore three truths of existence to deepen our understanding of our own time on this planet. These truths are impermanence (the law of change), suffering and not-self (renunciation of self), and understanding these three can also make life's challenges much more bearable.

First, impermanence is the core of life. As terrifying as it may seem, it is in our best interest to celebrate impermanence, and we can do so by acknowledging it in a time of building new beginnings. When someone is born, when you fall in love with someone new or even when you start your day full of energy, by embracing the idea that beginnings come with your own unique ending, you will awareness of impermanence and how it shapes our lives.

Suffering is an inevitable part of our lives. There is a saying that, there is no joy without pain; similarly, there is no inspiration without anguish. Like impermanence, suffering is something we should also celebrate, as it reminds us that we can't always get what we want, and helps us feel happier about where we are. our.

To accept suffering as a necessary fact of existence, take time to observe how you react to painful situations, but don't condemn your emotional response.

Let's say you're in the waiting room preparing for an operation – you'll be in pain for the coming weeks and all you can think about is running away. It's okay! Perhaps you are feeling full of anger and shame because a friend embarrassed you. It's fine too! Observe your emotions and see what you can learn. Over time, your ability to deal with pain will improve.

Finally, by accepting selflessness, we can learn to feel comfortable with the past and future, and thereby learn to live in the present. Although we often interpret a lack of self as a lack of confidence, it is actually a sign of profound happiness; By approaching each moment with curiosity, you will break free from the thinking that you have inferred on your own. Instead of sticking to life's stories, selflessness helps us appreciate what's happening around us in the present.

Compassion for others allows us to love ourselves more deeply.

Taking time for yourself can sound a little strange at first. But, it can help you become a more compassionate person.

Compassion is not just about engaging in connection with those less fortunate than us, but also with everyone around us and ourselves. Compassion for others can make you more self-accepting at the same time.

This is what teacher Roshi Bernard Glassman found while running a project for the homeless in Yonkers, New York City. As he explained to the author, Glassman found that building relationships with people that society rejected was like getting in touch with some part of himself he had denied for a long time.

You can unlock the power of compassion by focusing on yourself as explained in the previous section.

For example, you witness a man hitting a dog that looks pitiful. Many of us might turn our backs because we just can't stand the pain our compassion has for the dog's suffering. But compassion isn't about running away – in fact, it can change lives.

But how?

By practicing tonglen , where we turn pain into pleasure through meditations on the breath. Start with the thought of a sufferer. Keep them in your mind as you breathe in her or his pain. Then, as you exhale, spread the joy you want them to feel.

Meditation, breathing, and a new perspective on the world can get us through tough times.

The lessons we have learned in these pages can be easily applied to everyday life. However, when a lover leaves us or a boss starts yelling at us, it can be difficult to apply these techniques. To stay on track, there are three ancient tactics you can employ.

The first tactic is called stopping fighting . Here's the habit of using meditation to heal yourself at times when you feel powerless. Instead of fighting with your thoughts, embrace them and investigate them to learn more. What scares you the most? What makes you feel disgusted? Observe yourself for answers to difficult questions.

The second strategy is to use poison to cure poison – in other words, to use the time of suffering as a wake-up call. The three poisons are passion (or addiction), ignorance, and aggression. If you feel one of these three things growing within you, don't suppress or deny it; use the tonglen technique instead. Breathe in the urge you're experiencing, even if it makes you feel humiliated or embarrassed. Then, exhale again with a feeling of creating space and freedom for yourself.

The final strategy is to reveal awakened energy, or practice the awareness that everything is alive and complete in its own way. By seeing the world in this way, we will stop demanding of ourselves to be better or hiding problems that we cannot ignore. Instead of looking for something purer, we learn to work with what we have. Enjoy the present moment and they will become your teachers.


The main message in this book:

Combining self-acceptance, calm reflection, and a profound appreciation of the present moment in your daily life, you will be better equipped to deal with challenging times. Taking time to learn about your fears, shortcomings, and difficulties, even when you are facing the most difficult period of your life, can bring you closer to friends and family. – and strangers too.

Helpful advice:

Accept where you are right now!

If you've given up meditation because it's so hard to stop stressful thoughts, the Shamatha and Vipashyana techniques can help. Focus your attention on your breath, and when you notice your mind wandering, label any anxious or distracting thoughts going on, before gently returning to your breath. By applying such an inner thinking sticker, you accept those vicious thoughts without judgment and incorporate compassion into your meditation.

Suggestions for further reading

Simple Buddhism, Steve Hagen

Simple Buddhism (2013) are essential guides to Buddhist practice. From building awareness to living in the present, the most important teachings of Buddhism are explained in a clear and accessible way, relating to essential aspects of daily life.