When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron introduces the reader to Buddhist teachings and a more accepting way of approaching life.
- Embrace fear and pain, don’t run away from it
- Accept that every beginning has an end
- Reflect on yourself free of judgment to reach a deep awareness
Our natural tendency is to shy away from fear and trying to repress it. Pema Chodron instead proposes that we acquaint ourselves with our fears, which will help us get to know our personality better.
And sometimes, fear is what we feel just before we get to the core of the issue we’re facing. It’s an opportunity to grow.
All That Begins… Ends
The author also talks about the greatest fear of all: the fear of death. We should let go of that fear to fully embrace life (read how to leverage mortality for a more fulfilling life).
Everything has a beginning and an end, including all our pleasurable moments (impermanence). But the same is true for our pains and difficult moments.
Loneliness is OK
Similarly as with fear, we don’t need to escape our feelings of loneliness. Being on our own company is a great opportunity to recollect ourselves from the hustle and bustle of life.
And it’s another great chance to learn more about ourselves through self observation.
When Things Fall Apart remind us that meditation isn’t necessarily a tool for effectiveness as it’s often marketed these days. But it can be a time to let go of your beliefs, ideals and rules and observe yourself “naked”, as you really are.
Let Go of Hope
Think and Grow Rich lists hope as one of the main qualities to cultivate.
Pema Chodron instead says that hope make us worried about the future and it can set ourselves up for disappointment.
The author instead encourages the reader to question our hopes as much as we should do with our fears.
I also recommend Man’s Search for Meaning here, where the message is that happiness cannot be pursued but it must ensure (by some other pursuit and meaning in your life).
When Things Break presents and interesting form of developing compassion through meditation. Instead of turning away from the pain of other beings, feel it within you.
Think about people suffering in your breathing meditation, then exhale out with your breath the joy you would like to give them.
This type of compassionate meditation is called tonglen will give you a sense of connection and community.
When Things Fall Apart
The author acknowledges that when things fall apart it’s harder staying centered. She proposes the following:
- Recenter yourself (no more struggles)
When you feel powerless in the face of major events don’t struggle with the feelings but embrace and reflect on them.
- Pain to move forward (using poison as medicine)
The author says our poisons are pain (or addiction), ignorance and aggression. With the tonglen technique you breath in the negative feelings and then breath them out relieving yourself.
- Everything’s great the way it is (manifestation of awakened energy)
The art of accepting things -and ourselves- for what they are.
Real Life Applications
Meditation For a Purpose
Don’t meditate for meditation’s sake -or because it’s hip-. Remember that meditation should serve a purpose. Such as, expanding your awareness, providing you with more and better ideas or… Making you a better human being
Future Self Motivation
I liked the idea of “future self” and I think it can be a great motivation tool. The concept is that you do something today that tomorrow’s you can be happy for.
Imagine future you being proud and thankful you are building the positive habits of today.
Not for action
At times it felt a bit like the message was “you’re ok”, “don’t worry”, “things will end anyway”, “being alone is fine”. Well, acceptance can be useful. But what if you’re alone because you act like an idiot?
Then you need something different than When Things Fall Apart (like for example improving your social skills).
Aggression as poison?
I wouldn’t consider a feeling of aggression as poison. Sometimes you deal with some real aholes and aggression is a fair feeling. And it might even be a feeling you want to act on.
That’s a credo of The Power Moves, at least.
Great meditation practices
I really enjoyed some of the meditation practices Pema introduces, including the compassionate one.
When Things Fall Apart was a bit too centered around meditation and Buddhist mindset for me. I appreciate it, but I have a bias preference towards more forceful action at times.
Or at least, a mixture of action, using rage and accepting/meditating.
But I appreciated some of the meditation techniques.