When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This short collection of essays edited from live talks is paradigm-shifting. Chödrön takes the traditional ideas about loss and mourning and turns them sideways, asking the reader to think very differently about life transitions.
Although there is some Sanskrit in the text referring to certain Buddhist concepts, it's all very accessible to the Western mind unfamiliar with this way of thinking. Instead of giving permission to feel sorry for ourselves (which every single one of the other books on grief seem to be based upon), Chödrön instead reminds us that suffering is the bedrock of the human condition. It's to be expected, borne, learned from, and integrated into our experience. In short, this is the most healthy, most helpful, most logical and truthful take I've read on how to face loss and grief. When I read and thought about the simple concepts she lays out, I felt like a bag of rocks had been taken from me.
I recommend this book above all others if you've found little helpful in traditional ideas about loss, as I have. Beyond the philosophy, she offers tools for getting re-centered and back into life again. I read this book after a profound loss, but its ideas are helpful for your life's toolbox to have ready when it happens to you. It doesn't take long to read, but it takes a lifetime to contemplate.
"When we are training in the art of peace, we are not given any promises that, because of our noble intentions, everything will be ok. In fact, there are no promises of fruition at all. Instead, we are encouraged to simply look deeply at joy and sorrow, at laughing and crying, at hoping and fearing, at all that lives and dies. We learn that what truly heals is gratitude and tenderness".
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