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Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living (Shambhala Classics)

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Start Where You Are is an indispensable handbook for cultivating fearlessness and awakening a compassionate heart. With insight and humor, Pema Chödrön presents down-to-earth guidance on how we can "start where we are"—embracing rather than denying the painful aspects of our lives. Pema Chödrön frames her teachings on compassion around fifty-nine traditional Tibetan Buddhist maxi Start Where You Are is an indispensable handbook for cultivating fearlessness and awakening a compassionate heart. With insight and humor, Pema Chödrön presents down-to-earth guidance on how we can "start where we are"—embracing rather than denying the painful aspects of our lives. Pema Chödrön frames her teachings on compassion around fifty-nine traditional Tibetan Buddhist maxims, or slogans, such as: "Always apply only a joyful state of mind," "Don't seek others' pain as the limbs of your own happiness," and "Always meditate on whatever provokes resentment." Working with these slogans and through the practice of meditation, Start Where You Are shows how we can all develop the courage to work with our inner pain and discover joy, well-being, and confidence.


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Start Where You Are is an indispensable handbook for cultivating fearlessness and awakening a compassionate heart. With insight and humor, Pema Chödrön presents down-to-earth guidance on how we can "start where we are"—embracing rather than denying the painful aspects of our lives. Pema Chödrön frames her teachings on compassion around fifty-nine traditional Tibetan Buddhist maxi Start Where You Are is an indispensable handbook for cultivating fearlessness and awakening a compassionate heart. With insight and humor, Pema Chödrön presents down-to-earth guidance on how we can "start where we are"—embracing rather than denying the painful aspects of our lives. Pema Chödrön frames her teachings on compassion around fifty-nine traditional Tibetan Buddhist maxims, or slogans, such as: "Always apply only a joyful state of mind," "Don't seek others' pain as the limbs of your own happiness," and "Always meditate on whatever provokes resentment." Working with these slogans and through the practice of meditation, Start Where You Are shows how we can all develop the courage to work with our inner pain and discover joy, well-being, and confidence.

30 review for Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living (Shambhala Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gene

    I have been (re)reading this book since I bought. Chödrö's presentation of Buddhist teachings is changing my life one moment at a time. From other comments I've seen, Start Where You Are goes better if the reader has some familiarity with Buddhist teachings; it would not be the book to start with if you just want to know about Buddhism. There are three components to the teaching of this book, all of them traditional Buddhist teachings, and especially tied to Tibetan Buddhism. If you want to know I have been (re)reading this book since I bought. Chödrö's presentation of Buddhist teachings is changing my life one moment at a time. From other comments I've seen, Start Where You Are goes better if the reader has some familiarity with Buddhist teachings; it would not be the book to start with if you just want to know about Buddhism. There are three components to the teaching of this book, all of them traditional Buddhist teachings, and especially tied to Tibetan Buddhism. If you want to know about these practices, I recommend the book. I'll just describe each briefly. Shamata/vipashyana meditation Lojong slogans Tonglen practice You may be more familiar with "vipassana" as the name of mindfulness meditation. The point here is becoming aware of one's flow of thoughts moment-by-moment. The 59 lojong slogans intend to free you from conditioned reactions that bring suffering to you and others. Tonglen is a meditation practice to make you aware of your own and others sufferings and joys and to absorb the sufferings and share the joys. I whole-heartedly recommend this book to the reader who already knows some basic of Buddhism and is serious about progressing on the bodhisattva path. Bodhi! Svaha!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Suzy

    You don't have to be a Buddhist to appreciate the common sense philosophy in this beautiful book--I found it life-changing. If you want to better live in the present, feel your emotions fully without letting them overwhelm you, and expand your compassion and loving kindness for others, this book is a comforting place to start. You don't have to be a Buddhist to appreciate the common sense philosophy in this beautiful book--I found it life-changing. If you want to better live in the present, feel your emotions fully without letting them overwhelm you, and expand your compassion and loving kindness for others, this book is a comforting place to start.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ren Leaflight

    Reading this book is what made me say "hey, this Buddhism thing makes a whole lot of sense to me". Pema is always down to earth and sometimes earthy in her presentation of the ideas and how they relate to our lives. She approaches every subject with compassion and makes you really feel like she understands your struggles and issues because she has gone through them, and because she is still going through them. She lets you know that while the difficulties and the issues will always be there, you Reading this book is what made me say "hey, this Buddhism thing makes a whole lot of sense to me". Pema is always down to earth and sometimes earthy in her presentation of the ideas and how they relate to our lives. She approaches every subject with compassion and makes you really feel like she understands your struggles and issues because she has gone through them, and because she is still going through them. She lets you know that while the difficulties and the issues will always be there, you can change your relationship to them and work with them.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Pema Chödrön teaches the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of Lojong (mind training, using slogans) and Tonglen (a meditation practice). This is not a book of theory though--it’s a very practical guide. It’s such easy reading on the one hand, but trying to apply it is where the challenge comes in. I took my time with this. Sometimes I could read a chapter, but sometimes I read a paragraph and it was so intense I’d have to put the book down and digest it a good long while before picking it up again. Chödr Pema Chödrön teaches the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of Lojong (mind training, using slogans) and Tonglen (a meditation practice). This is not a book of theory though--it’s a very practical guide. It’s such easy reading on the one hand, but trying to apply it is where the challenge comes in. I took my time with this. Sometimes I could read a chapter, but sometimes I read a paragraph and it was so intense I’d have to put the book down and digest it a good long while before picking it up again. Chödrön is so real. I love her humble examples of the way we struggle with ourselves. Her suggestions are so simple, yet so difficult. I think I’ll start over again at the beginning, and just keep circling through and eventually, pieces of this wisdom, rather than running through my fingers like sand, will begin to stick. “… if it’s painful, breathe it in and think about all the other people who are experiencing pain. If it’s delightful, give it away and wish for all people to have that delight.”

  5. 4 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    My notes from Start Where You Are: Lighten up. It's all a dream. Make friends with ourselves. Start where we are. Follow our breath. Label our thoughts. Observe. Be grateful---all situations teach us. It's practice. Whatever you meet unexpectedly, rest in it. Soft heart. Abandon hope of change. Loving-kindness for self, for others. Patience. Train whole-heartedly. My notes from Start Where You Are: Lighten up. It's all a dream. Make friends with ourselves. Start where we are. Follow our breath. Label our thoughts. Observe. Be grateful---all situations teach us. It's practice. Whatever you meet unexpectedly, rest in it. Soft heart. Abandon hope of change. Loving-kindness for self, for others. Patience. Train whole-heartedly.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is a good book overall. A lot of insights into Buddhist teachings, but while they are clearly simplified, they still may be a bit over-our-heads for most readers who don't have any previous experience in the topic. She explains that we all armor our hearts, our "soft spots" instinctively and that to live well, we have to open that door to others, and that it is one of the most frightening things we will ever do, and that we must do it, like everything we do within ourselves, gently. I most en This is a good book overall. A lot of insights into Buddhist teachings, but while they are clearly simplified, they still may be a bit over-our-heads for most readers who don't have any previous experience in the topic. She explains that we all armor our hearts, our "soft spots" instinctively and that to live well, we have to open that door to others, and that it is one of the most frightening things we will ever do, and that we must do it, like everything we do within ourselves, gently. I most enjoyed her talks on balance, and how compassionate and encouraging the book urges you to be, especially to yourself. It emphasizes being kind to yourself as an extension of and to all sentient beings. It also encourages you to start with and embrace your most difficult qualities and use these to enrich your life experience by relating to the rest of the world through them. The book can be frustrating at times, but mostly because it doesn't give you quick and easy answers, but instead explains that everyone is different and encourages internal work and meditation to discover solutions to your own problems. When the teachings get too serious/frustrating, its punctuated by humorous little ironies or lessons on patience, which were cute. One of my favorite quotes from the book, regarding letting go of perfectionism: "None of us is ever OK, but we all get through everything just fine."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Aayla

    First let me start by saying that I really love reading some Pema wisdom. This woman knows how to speak ina way that engages your attention. About half of this book, or a little more, was brilliant and useful to me. Unfortunately, the title is a little misleading.... there are some things that she talks about very briefly, and the lack of detail or explanation makes it difficult for a new practitioner to access her wisdom. Unlike what you may imagine, this book isn't really for beginners in Buddh First let me start by saying that I really love reading some Pema wisdom. This woman knows how to speak ina way that engages your attention. About half of this book, or a little more, was brilliant and useful to me. Unfortunately, the title is a little misleading.... there are some things that she talks about very briefly, and the lack of detail or explanation makes it difficult for a new practitioner to access her wisdom. Unlike what you may imagine, this book isn't really for beginners in Buddhism. The phrase "start where you are" seems to pertain more to the fact that you can start Buddhist practices whether your are a very kind and open or a very unkind and closed off person... it doesn't have much at all.to do with the idea that you could pick up this book and benefit from it whether you had read 0 or 100 Buddhist texts. With that in mind... I benefited a lot from the ideas I understood, and I wished she would've explained more about some of the other ones. Still, I like her style and plan to read some other books my her.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    While I would be more inclined to recommend When Things Fall Apart to someone who's completely new to these concepts, this was of course still extremely valuable, and funnier than the others of hers I've read. While I would be more inclined to recommend When Things Fall Apart to someone who's completely new to these concepts, this was of course still extremely valuable, and funnier than the others of hers I've read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Exceptionally good. Clear and very helpful. I will be re-reading this many times I think

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    This book has a few REALLY great statements, such as: "We work on ourselves in order to help others, but also we help others in order to work on ourselves." Oh, wait a second, that's the only one. A major part of her instruction is to teach the reader how to work with 'slogans'. I find these extremely annoying, especially when they are not in a meaningful context for me and she begins every single paragraph with "Another slogan says..." I picked up the book b/c she is said to frame her teachings f This book has a few REALLY great statements, such as: "We work on ourselves in order to help others, but also we help others in order to work on ourselves." Oh, wait a second, that's the only one. A major part of her instruction is to teach the reader how to work with 'slogans'. I find these extremely annoying, especially when they are not in a meaningful context for me and she begins every single paragraph with "Another slogan says..." I picked up the book b/c she is said to frame her teachings for the western mind. I found it way more confusing than Thich Naht Hahn's writing and that's what I'll be going back to.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Namos7

    This almost turned me into a buddhist. Pema Chodron’s analysis of the lojong, traditional Tibetan texts with instructions on how to train the mind and develop bodhichitta (enlightened mind). Such a great resource for spiritual recovery and growth.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kavitha

    I still have a couple of chapters left to read but here are my key takeaways so far. I would recommend this book to everyone but I think it would be more useful if you already have some introduction to the Buddhist principles. I listened to this book on audible during my morning commute to work or while exercising on the elliptical. It filled me with positive feelings. I read it very slowly, often pausing the audio to reflect upon the teachings and some times even rewinding a whole chapter to un I still have a couple of chapters left to read but here are my key takeaways so far. I would recommend this book to everyone but I think it would be more useful if you already have some introduction to the Buddhist principles. I listened to this book on audible during my morning commute to work or while exercising on the elliptical. It filled me with positive feelings. I read it very slowly, often pausing the audio to reflect upon the teachings and some times even rewinding a whole chapter to understand it better. I still many not have grasped everything but I got a lot out of it. I plan to read it again in future once I finish the rest of it. -Awaken the Budha within, use dharma to guide you and use sangha to support you in your aspirations. -Your aspiration is to find Bodhichita, the enlightened heart, which is within you already -The principles of Tonglen: a set of guiding principles for meditation. Eg: breathe in pain and breathe out relief (can be done for yourself or for some one you know who is in pain) -Drive all blames into one: When conflicts occur instead of quickly blaming others, look within and examine what role you played. The point is when you find yourself blaming others quickly, reverse the process and blame yourself instead. -Be grateful for everyone: The ones who trigger negative emotions in us are our best teachers. -Tune into negative feelings: Always meditate on whatever provokes negative feelings. -When you are experiencing joy share it with others (via meditation), when you are experiencing sorrow breathe it in and breathe out relief (again via meditation). This can be done for yourself or for someone you know -Be open to new experiences: Don't draw the curtains and confine yourself to a single room. Open the curtains and experience the world that is out there with an open mind and heart. -The five strengths (heart instructions on how to live or die): (1) Determination: the determination to use every struggle you face as an opportunity to open your heart, (2) Familiarization: Familiarization with Dharma, the realization that all teachings of Dharma are about yourself, about how to cook yourself, how to soften the toughest pieces of meat, (3) Seed of Virtue: The seed is already in you, its the inherent Budha nature, relax into it but don't search for it because searching for happiness only prevents us from finding it, (4) Reproach: See neurosis as neurosis, recognize your own personal brand of insanity and then instead of beating yourself up become your own teacher and teach yourself Dharma in your own words, (5) Aspiration: You always aspire for enlightenment, aspiration cuts through negativity, prevents you from beating yourself up and empowers you to start where you are. -Lighten up, its not a big deal: We often work ourselves up to neurosis by blowing things up in our minds. Let it go, its not a big deal. Lighten up. -Observe what you do (see neurosis as neurosis), when it happens do something different and aspire to make this your way of life. -You are never alone. The pain you feel, the struggles and challenges that you face are universal. When you meditate for yourself and breathe in your pain and breathe out contentment for yourself, try to extend that practice to other people out there who are also in pain (their storylines may be different from yours). As you progress on the spiritual path, try to extend the same practice to your enemies or the people you resent. -Shunyata: Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. For example, at a meditation retreat, there are noodles for breakfast. Instead of enjoying them with mindfulness, you find yourself thinking about what a good breakfast would be and you remember the breakfast that your mother used to make. You start resenting the noodles in front of you. Then out of nowhere, without any particular effort, you suddenly drop it. You bring your attention back to the people around you, their expressions, their own resentment towards the noodles, etc. The world opens up and you are able to experience the present fully. We automatically connect with this space (shunyata) within us. We have the ability to drop our story lines and rouse ourselves. -The Big Squeeze: There is often a discrepancy between your aspirations and the immediacy of the situation, your vision and the reality. You often find yourself in that big squeeze between your vision and your reality. Instead of running away from it or giving up on your aspirations, tune into it, meditate on it. This is one of the most productive places on the spiritual path. There is often a discrepancy between our ideals and what we really encounter. For instance, with raising children, we have a lot of good ideas, but some times its very challenging to put together all the good ideas with the way our children really are, there at the breakfast table, with food all over themselves. A couple of profound examples from the book (in my own words, ofcourse): -A man is enjoying a boat ride on the river at dusk. There are no other boats on the river. Suddenly he sees a boat approaching. At first it feels nice to see that there is someone else enjoying the same experience like him. Then the man notices that the other boat is coming straight towards his boat faster and faster. He gets scared, he starts screaming. Its only when the boat crashes into his boat that he realizes that the other boat was empty. This is the story of our lives. There are a lot of empty boats out there that we are screaming and shaking our fists at. -A woman is at a hospital after being burned and disfigured. The nurses take care of her needs and chat with her in a cheery manner but don't make any effort to connect with her. The doctors discuss the medical details with her in an efficient manner. Her family and friends make their duty calls but are scared to relate with what she is experiencing. It was a period of intense isolation. Finally the hospice people come over, they hold her hand and just sit with her even though they don't know what to say or what she needs. But they are not scared of her. The woman realizes that what people really need is not for others to be scared of them or to distance themselves from them. The practice of Tonglen provides the support that we need to be there with another human being and to communicate with them. The communication does not necessarily have to be verbal. Some times its enough to just be there.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anastasiya Mozgovaya

    the ideas in this book form a fascinating combination of gentle care and painful challenges.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    If I could give this 10 stars I would. This book is a compassionate (though also, in a way, stern) guide to living better, more fully. Pema Chodron discusses the practice of lojong: breathing in pain, breathing out joy (to oversimplify--and yet actually also exactly that). The core of the teachings is, I believe, the practice of exchanging self for others, for letting go of the illusion that we are separate and embracing the reality of interconnectedness. Chodron lists and explains a series of "sl If I could give this 10 stars I would. This book is a compassionate (though also, in a way, stern) guide to living better, more fully. Pema Chodron discusses the practice of lojong: breathing in pain, breathing out joy (to oversimplify--and yet actually also exactly that). The core of the teachings is, I believe, the practice of exchanging self for others, for letting go of the illusion that we are separate and embracing the reality of interconnectedness. Chodron lists and explains a series of "slogans" that embody the teachings. Each one is a powerful tool in overcoming our limited view of who we are and embracing a larger one. I don't practice lojong myself, at least not usually. But I still find the slogans powerful and helpful guides to living. "Drive all blames onto self" frees me from projecting my anger and limitations onto others; "Keep the 3 inseparable" helps me to remember the intimate connections of thoughts, words, and actions. Some of the slogans were more remote than others but I found in most an immediate and strong connection to myself, my mind, my daily life. I have read this book several times and learn something each time. It's the kind of book I wish I could just memorize and use on a daily basis. It's not a book to sit back and enjoy but a tool to be consistently, constantly used, re-used, and used again. It is always fresh to me, as though (familiar as it is) read for the first time. Obviously, I strongly recommend it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

    “Don’t seek others’ pain as the limbs of your own happiness” “Don’t bring things to a painful point” is again saying, “Don’t humiliate people.” “Keep the three inseparable” is saying that your actions, your speech, and your thoughts should be inseparable from this yearning to communicate from the heart. [a really lovely book that put into words a lot of things that i want to believe are true about human beings. caveat: i felt that some of her examples rely on false equivalencies, minimization of t “Don’t seek others’ pain as the limbs of your own happiness” “Don’t bring things to a painful point” is again saying, “Don’t humiliate people.” “Keep the three inseparable” is saying that your actions, your speech, and your thoughts should be inseparable from this yearning to communicate from the heart. [a really lovely book that put into words a lot of things that i want to believe are true about human beings. caveat: i felt that some of her examples rely on false equivalencies, minimization of trauma, and something uncomfortably close to forgiving on behalf of others] Best Bits: “Labeling your thoughts as “thinking” will help you see the transparency of thoughts, that things are actually very light and illusory. Every time your stream of thoughts solidifies into a heavy story line that seems to be taking you elsewhere, label that “thinking.” Then you will be able to see how all the passion that’s connected with these thoughts, or all the aggression or all the heartbreak, is simply passing memory.” “Ego is like a room of your own, a room with a view, with the temperature and the smells and the music that you like. You want it your own way. You’d just like to have a little peace; you’d like to have a little happi- ness, you know, just “gimme a break!” But the more you think that way, the more you try to get life to come out so that it will always suit you, the more your fear of other people and what’s outside your room grows The path of not being caught in ego is a process of surrendering to situations in order to communicate rather than win.” “give something that you find it hard to let go of, something that hurts a little. If you give money, it should be just a little more than you really wanted to give.” “The happiness we seek cannot be found through grasping, trying to hold on to things. It cannot be found through getting serious and uptight about wanting things to go in the direction that we think will bring happiness. The point is that the happiness we seek is already here and it will be found through relaxation and letting go rather than through struggle The practice is about softening or relaxing, but it’s also about precision and seeing clearly. None of that implies searching. Searching for happiness prevents us from ever finding it.” “Therefore the exchange—putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes—doesn’t come from theory, in which you try to imagine what someone else is feeling. It comes from becoming so familiar and so openhearted and so honest about who you are and what you do that you begin to understand humanness altogether and you can speak appropriately to the situation. The basic ground of compassionate action is the importance of working with rather than struggling against, and what I mean by that is working with your own unwanted, unacceptable stuff, so that when the unacceptable and unwanted appears out there, you relate to it based on having worked with loving-kind- ness for yourself. “ When We’ve Wronged: 1. Regret 2. Refrain 3. Remedial Action 4. Resolution When We Feel Wronged: “If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart and to relate to that wound” “We would like to believe that when things are still and calm, that’s the real stuff, and when things are messy, confused, and chaotic, we’ve done something wrong, or more usually someone else has done something to ruin our beautiful meditation.” “Part of honesty, clear seeing, and straight- forwardness is being able to acknowledge that harm has been done. What’s the difference between seeing that harm has been done and blaming? Perhaps it is that rather than point the finger of blame, we raise questions: “How can I communi- cate? How can I help the harm that has been done unravel itself?” “You should never have expectations for other people. Just be kind to them.”

  16. 5 out of 5

    John Stepper

    "I think that all of us are like eagles who have forgotten we know how to fly." When I read Pema Chödrön's books, I feel I'm looking at long-long instructions for how to make the most of life, how to realize our human potential, how to get along with each other and with everything. She is a genius of a teacher, able to take the most arcane texts and ideas and make them accessible to me. Even better, she gives me the confidence to try, and fail, and try again. I may never attain what she has atta "I think that all of us are like eagles who have forgotten we know how to fly." When I read Pema Chödrön's books, I feel I'm looking at long-long instructions for how to make the most of life, how to realize our human potential, how to get along with each other and with everything. She is a genius of a teacher, able to take the most arcane texts and ideas and make them accessible to me. Even better, she gives me the confidence to try, and fail, and try again. I may never attain what she has attained, but I can take a step. For that, I will always be grateful.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Barrie

    Ahhhh, after reading the kinda entertaining 10% Happier that basically said the same thing, but in a normal human person tone this book just reeked of frou frouness. Why are there so many mantras to follow? She describes Metta without calling it Metta, and then proceeds to overcomplicate everything. Maybe I missed the point, and while she made some excellent ones--it felt like a slog of sameness repeated on every page. I do love to meditate and just sit and reflect, but this will not be the book Ahhhh, after reading the kinda entertaining 10% Happier that basically said the same thing, but in a normal human person tone this book just reeked of frou frouness. Why are there so many mantras to follow? She describes Metta without calling it Metta, and then proceeds to overcomplicate everything. Maybe I missed the point, and while she made some excellent ones--it felt like a slog of sameness repeated on every page. I do love to meditate and just sit and reflect, but this will not be the book that will guide me in the future.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Pema Chodron is my hero. She writes about living according to Buddhist doctrine so simply and clearly, so attuned to the difficulties of being a human being on the planet, that she makes enlightenment appear as it really is: a doable process, not an untouchable goal. This book is especially interesting for its treatment of the lojong "slogans" - little kernals of Buddhist teachings like "Abandon any hope of fruition" - and style of meditation practice that encourages compassion. Pema Chodron is my hero. She writes about living according to Buddhist doctrine so simply and clearly, so attuned to the difficulties of being a human being on the planet, that she makes enlightenment appear as it really is: a doable process, not an untouchable goal. This book is especially interesting for its treatment of the lojong "slogans" - little kernals of Buddhist teachings like "Abandon any hope of fruition" - and style of meditation practice that encourages compassion.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Iona Stewart

    The author informs us in the preface that the book is a guide to awakening your genuine compassionate heart. When we find that “we are closing down on ourselves and to others, here is instruction on how to open”. These teachings are called the lojong teachings and include a supportive meditation practice called tonglen. “Lojong” means “mind training”. The Lojong teachings contain 59 slogans that remind us how to awaken our hearts. The crux of the book is working with these slogans, which belong to The author informs us in the preface that the book is a guide to awakening your genuine compassionate heart. When we find that “we are closing down on ourselves and to others, here is instruction on how to open”. These teachings are called the lojong teachings and include a supportive meditation practice called tonglen. “Lojong” means “mind training”. The Lojong teachings contain 59 slogans that remind us how to awaken our hearts. The crux of the book is working with these slogans, which belong to the Mahayana school of Buddhism. “Tonglen” means “taking in and sending out”; this meditation practice helps us connect with the openness and softness of our hearts. The lojong teachings show us how to use our difficulties and problems to awaken our hearts. This book stresses that it is unconditional compassion for ourselves that leads naturally to unconditional compassion for others. True compassion comes from realizing our kinship with all beings. Pema states that practising sitting meditation and tonglen meditation and working with the lojong slogans in an ongoing way may be “the beginning of learning what it really means to love”. “This is the path of unconditional compassionate living.” We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. “We are one blink of an eye from being fully awake.” The practices presented in this book show us how to accept ourselves, how to relate directly with suffering, how to stop running away from the painful aspects of our lives. “They show us how to work openheartedly with life just as it is.” The basic sitting meditation is called “shamatha-vipashyana” meditation. We sit upright with legs crossed and eyes open and become aware of our breath as it goes out. This means “Be fully present”. Being with the breath is only part of the technique. The thoughts that run through our mind continually are the other part. When we realize we’ve been thinking we say to ourselves – “thinking”. No matter what the sort of thoughts, we label it all “thinking”. Our tone of voice needs to be compassionate, gentle and humorous. “Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.” As regards the lojong practice, the basic notion is that we can make friends with what we see as “bad” in ourselves and in other people. At the same time we could learn to be generous with what we see as “good”. If we live in this way, something that may have been buried for a long time begins to ripen. This “something” is called “bodhichitta”, or awakened heart. With the lojong practice we learn to embrace what is painful and let it awaken our heart and soften us. And we should be generous with our insights and delights, share them. “The pleasurable aspects of being human as well as the painful ones become the key to awakening bodhichitta.” Pema presents us with many slogans. The first one is “Regard all dharma as dreams.” This means “regard everything as a dream”. Most of the slogans are hard to understand and the author has to interpret them for us. “Self-liberate even the antidote” means “simply touch and then let go of whatever you come up with”. If you follow the breath and label your thoughts, you learn to let things go. There are three main poisons – passion, aggression and ignorance. Generally, we either act out or repress, i.e. either physically or mentally attack people, talk about how awful they are or else we repress these feelings. One of the main instructions of the lojong teachings is “don’t try to make unwanted feelings go away”. In the tonglen practice we breathe in painful and undesirable tings, feel our own and others’ pain and breathe out feelings of delight and relief. We connect with what all humans feel and develop our kinship with all beings. We radiate out the good things and share them. Whether we are breathing in or breathing out we are opening the heart and awakening bodhichitta. Pema writes simply, goes into detail with everything and is repetitive to help us take in the teachings. She provides exemplifying stories from her own life, showing us she herself has the same feelings and challenges as we do. I found the book to be easy to read, deeply illuminating and enjoyable. In my view this book is even better than the previous book of Pema’s – “Awakening Loving-Kindness” - that I reviewed. And recommend that you begin with the present one. However, she has written several books, and I will be continuing with some of these.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cindywho

    I would have had a difficult time with this book if I had not been meditating and reading up on the subject for a while. It seems to have been derived from a series of talks on mind training "lojong", a certain teaching that incorporates slogans to reflect upon. Despite the jargon, she keeps up a friendly, chatty tone while presenting intense ideas about how to approach the experience of having a brain with thoughts and emotions. It's given me some new tools to work with. Thanks, Pema! I would have had a difficult time with this book if I had not been meditating and reading up on the subject for a while. It seems to have been derived from a series of talks on mind training "lojong", a certain teaching that incorporates slogans to reflect upon. Despite the jargon, she keeps up a friendly, chatty tone while presenting intense ideas about how to approach the experience of having a brain with thoughts and emotions. It's given me some new tools to work with. Thanks, Pema!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I learned to dig deep into myself, both the parts I like and the parts I don't like, know them and live with them gracefully. I feel like a new, positive, confident person able to say and do what comes from my genuine self, my genuine open-hearted desires. A must read for anyone feeling lost or troubled. I learned to dig deep into myself, both the parts I like and the parts I don't like, know them and live with them gracefully. I feel like a new, positive, confident person able to say and do what comes from my genuine self, my genuine open-hearted desires. A must read for anyone feeling lost or troubled.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Priyanka Das

    Fantastic, awe-inspiring and truly humbling This book forced u to accept those parts of urself which u have been successful hiding for a long time. The words are so simple yet so profound. The practices seem so easy but takes enomorous will power to achieve. Truly mesmerizing. It is like a mirror which tries to show u, your real zelf

  23. 4 out of 5

    Landon Shaw

    This book was a gift when I began my Buddhist practice, and I can't recommend it enough. Being an American, Pema Chödrön's writing is extremely approachable for other western readers. This book was a gift when I began my Buddhist practice, and I can't recommend it enough. Being an American, Pema Chödrön's writing is extremely approachable for other western readers.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This book is packed with practical, actionable wisdom. It helped me accept my emotions and myself more, and at the same time others. I read it before meditating at times and it helped me with my practice and motivated me to practice kindness and mindfulness outside of my sittings. I felt the change in my everyday life while I was reading it as I recognised situations described in the book and understand what was going on inside me and inside others. Unlike self help books that can be dogmatic or s This book is packed with practical, actionable wisdom. It helped me accept my emotions and myself more, and at the same time others. I read it before meditating at times and it helped me with my practice and motivated me to practice kindness and mindfulness outside of my sittings. I felt the change in my everyday life while I was reading it as I recognised situations described in the book and understand what was going on inside me and inside others. Unlike self help books that can be dogmatic or superficial, Pema's book offers stories and examples of situations in which you can use what you learn. I found that any and every situation is good to start. The whole point of the book is to start where you are now, not later when you'll feel better or when you'll feel ready. Any situation is good to practice kindness towards yourself. Any situation is good to practice mindfulness. The book helps in the practice of noticing your thoughts, how you speak in your head, and through noticing it, learning to know yourself better and be more wakeful and aware of the present moment. A must read for anyone interested in meditation and already practicing, wanting to become friends with themselves and get to know themselves better. The book will not teach you how to do mindfulness meditation though. I recommend The Mind Illuminated to start off if you are a beginner. It will give you the basics on how to start meditating and will guide you at each step.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    A lovely introduction to Lojong practice and Tonglen. Despite being very comfortable with Zen Buddhism, I must be honest that Tibeten Buddhist practice felt inaccessible to me until I read Ani Pema Chodron’s teachings and heard her lectures. She is so real and ungilded, and her beautiful imperfection makes me feel safe and loved. She has become one of my most beloved teachers.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ariel Rittenhouse

    Wow. I found this book profoundly insightful and it stimulated a lot of reflection on my part. It was exactly what I needed to read at this moment in my life. The book is organized into chapters covering various Buddhist slogans, pithy mantras. Pema then elaborates and delves into each one, demonstrating a thorough understanding of each slogan and how it applies to our innate struggle as emotional, complicated beings. Some of my favorite slogans: 1. "three objects, three poisons, and three seeds Wow. I found this book profoundly insightful and it stimulated a lot of reflection on my part. It was exactly what I needed to read at this moment in my life. The book is organized into chapters covering various Buddhist slogans, pithy mantras. Pema then elaborates and delves into each one, demonstrating a thorough understanding of each slogan and how it applies to our innate struggle as emotional, complicated beings. Some of my favorite slogans: 1. "three objects, three poisons, and three seeds of virtue" which discusses the idea of opening up to negative emotions that cause suffering: craving, aggression, and ignorance, and utilizing these negative (or if you can, transcend the duality of pos/neg), to awaken our inner wholeheartedness. These feelings are bells, reminders to wake up, and opportunity to shift our habitual responses from repression, avoidance, and/or acting out. It is all about breaking toxic cycles, addictive cycles of mind and actions. Pema continuously returns to the idea we must all start where we are. The more messy and icky we feel, the more juicy and profound and abundant the opportunity to wake up. 2. "drive all blames into one", this slogan tackles the idea that all suffering stems from ego clinging. Ego clinging can be described as prescribing to the story line we tell ourselves, blaming outside factors/others for our suffering,and any repressive modality fogging the truth. Overcoming ego traps is to own the messy part of ourselves. It is to become aware, to accept, and to "drop the object". Each moment is an opportunity to die and be born again in wakefulness. 3. "be grateful for everyone". I love this one; everyone, everything is teaching us something. People with whom we have resistance or aversion towards are merely embodiment's of the aspects of ourselves we so greatly reject, suppress, and refuse to acknowledge. "Other people trigger karma we haven't worked out". What truly agitates you so much about that one person? Paradoxically, that could be your biggest struggle within yourself. I could continue on and on of all the slogans that really struck a cord with me, but honestly all of them did. I think my biggest take-away from this book is to really appreciate and acknowledge all the messy, undesirable parts of the self, and know these parts are in fact treasures. They are reminders of the work, and growth to be done. They are the continuous reminder to wake up and embrace the present moment, engage with reality. Go deep. Use raw emotion to wake up. Drop the narrative. Breathe. Practice meditation, find solace in the dharma. This book is an opportunity to to change habitual ways of thinking, living, and acting. Granted, it is mostly conceptual and without practice and real implementation of the teachings it is futile. Theory without action doesn't really do much. Empower yourself with this book, and start where you are. The beautiful and complicated mess we all are is what makes us so perfectly human.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Deb in UT

    This reminds me of the other book I read by the author. These are Tibetan Buddhist teachings, or dharma. There's a lot about the practice of tonglen which is taking in the negative and giving out positive. She spends a lot of time discussing ways of thinking and being or "lojong" which is "mind training." I recently learned from another source, that when a person is overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy it's helpful to look at oneself with compassion and curiosity. Chodron mentions both of those This reminds me of the other book I read by the author. These are Tibetan Buddhist teachings, or dharma. There's a lot about the practice of tonglen which is taking in the negative and giving out positive. She spends a lot of time discussing ways of thinking and being or "lojong" which is "mind training." I recently learned from another source, that when a person is overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy it's helpful to look at oneself with compassion and curiosity. Chodron mentions both of those words repeatedly in this book. I like that there's a lot about self acceptance and noticing and directing thoughts. I also couldn't help but find correlations to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When she talks about bodhichitta which relates to having a soft, open heart I thought of the "broken heart and contrite spirit" and humility that comes with it. When she talks about tonglen I though of Christ's teachings to "resist not evil" and "pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you." A big difference is that Buddhism doesn't seem to have a "right and wrong" or really believe in sin. It also doesn't look outside oneself for help, forgiveness, or strength. Instead, it's more about noticing and being aware of oneself. It seems to consider how our actions and thoughts either help or hurt us and others. There is helpful truth here.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    I've been reading several books about Buddhism, mindfulness, and meditation recently, and this one gets referenced by other self-kindness books that I've read. Pema Chodron is a Mahayana Buddhist (as opposed to a Theravada Buddhist), so this book definitely sticks to the Mahayana belief system in vocabulary and suggestions for practice. I think the most important messages in this book aren't the slogans per se, but rather the underlying message of self-love and self-acceptance. The catch, really, I've been reading several books about Buddhism, mindfulness, and meditation recently, and this one gets referenced by other self-kindness books that I've read. Pema Chodron is a Mahayana Buddhist (as opposed to a Theravada Buddhist), so this book definitely sticks to the Mahayana belief system in vocabulary and suggestions for practice. I think the most important messages in this book aren't the slogans per se, but rather the underlying message of self-love and self-acceptance. The catch, really, is that to change yourself into a compassionate, joyful person, you first have to accept yourself right now, as a potentially angry, grumpy old fart. Unconditionally accept yourself. Not "I'll accept myself once I'm nicer" but "even though I'm a grumpy old fart, I accept myself." After you do that, you can start to change. For some people (like myself), accepting all of your imperfections is something that does not necessarily come naturally. But this book is a really helpful guide for starting to accept yourself, using compassion, humor, and gentleness. I took quite a bit of wisdom away from this book. I look forward to reading some of Chodron's other works.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shelli

    N.B. In this case, “i-saw-the-film” (with apologies to Tribe) means that I attended the second dathün (of two) in which these teachings were presented. We were even mentioned in the book; we were the criers who slid boxes of tissues to each other, up and down the aisles of the polished hardwood floors of the shrine room at Gampo Abbey, to mop up our tonglen tears. Please don’t worry if you have no idea what any of that last paragraph means; it’s only important that you don’t go looking for a movi N.B. In this case, “i-saw-the-film” (with apologies to Tribe) means that I attended the second dathün (of two) in which these teachings were presented. We were even mentioned in the book; we were the criers who slid boxes of tissues to each other, up and down the aisles of the polished hardwood floors of the shrine room at Gampo Abbey, to mop up our tonglen tears. Please don’t worry if you have no idea what any of that last paragraph means; it’s only important that you don’t go looking for a movie adaptation, because there isn’t one! And also, this book will still make perfect sense to you, as the important terms I used above will be defined and explained as needed, and you will understand it all when you’re finished! Pema is a very accessible and non-jargony teacher. More to come!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chava

    A prolific author once said, "I have no written 50 books; I've written one book 50 times." After listening to Pema Chodron and reading several of her books, the message is always the same: compassion and lovingkindness. Don't get me wrong; this is an important message, but there is nothing new in this book: the same methods of tonglen and lojong; the same exercises of breathing in and out. Even the "Oy Veys," which at first were funny coming from a Buddhist nun are just... the same. A prolific author once said, "I have no written 50 books; I've written one book 50 times." After listening to Pema Chodron and reading several of her books, the message is always the same: compassion and lovingkindness. Don't get me wrong; this is an important message, but there is nothing new in this book: the same methods of tonglen and lojong; the same exercises of breathing in and out. Even the "Oy Veys," which at first were funny coming from a Buddhist nun are just... the same.

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