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Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion

20th June 2013 Christian Books 45 Comments

This book offers short, stand-alone readings designed to help us cultivate compassion and awareness amid the challenges of daily living. More than a collection of thoughts for the day, Comfortable with Uncertainty offers a progressive program of spiritual study, leading the reader through essential concepts, themes, and practices on the Buddhist path.

Comfortable with Uncertainty does not assume prior knowledge of Buddhist thought or practice, making it a perfect introduction to Chödrön’s teaching. It features the most essential and stirring passages from Chödrön’s previous books, exploring topics such as lovingkindness, meditation, mindfulness, "nowness," letting go, and working with fear and other painful emotions. Through the course of this book, readers will learn practical methods for heightening awareness and overcoming habitual patterns that block compassion.

Comfortable with Uncertainty reads like a perfect companion guide to the traditional 108-day Buddhist retreat. In a day-by-day format, author Pema Chdrn dives into the soothing wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism, reminding us that groundlessness is the only ground we have to stand on. Each of her 108 teachings are brief , and all of them are excerpted from longer discussions in Chdrn’s previous bestselling books . Nonetheless, newcomers as well as seasoned fans of Chdrn’s writing will glean much from this training program for becoming a “warrior bodhisattva”–a term which, simply put, means one who aspires to act from an awakened heart.

Gradually, Chdrn guides readers beyond the tunnel vision of the self, expanding outward to include compassion for all of humanity. In the 12th teaching, “The Root of Suffering,” Chdrn writes: “What keeps us unhappy and stuck in a limited view of reality is our tendency to seek pleasure and avoid pain, to seek security and avoid groundlessness, to seek comfort and avoid discomfort.” In the 77th teaching, “Cool Loneliness,” she suggests that the next time readers wake up in the morning feeling the “heartache of alienation” they try to “relax and touch the limitless space of the human heart.” By the 101st teaching, Chdrn speaks to “taking refuge in the Sangha,” meaning becoming warriors who are not only committed to taking off their own armors of self-pity, but are also committed to gently helping others do the same. Student warriors will also appreciate the glossary, bibliography, and resource guide in the back. –Gail Hudson –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion

  • 45 responses to "Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion"

  • Dave Olson
    2:15 on June 20th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    I think this is a great book with many good strategies to use to help you live your life in a more mature and fulfilling way.The emphasis is on living fully in the moment and not letting yourself be caught up in the kind of thinking that distracts and causes anxiety. It recommends ways to stop using so many of the avoidance techniques that so many of us employ to keep from dealing with painful thoughts and situations. This book contains step-by-step instructions on how to meditate for insight and its calming and slowing effects.

  • Sue Gnagy Fegan
    2:54 on June 20th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    I was just finishing this book in September 2001 when the events of 9-11 turned the world upside down, and things truly fell apart. There suddenly were all the vulnerable feelings that Pema Chödrön encourages us to embrace: fear, sorrow, loneliness, groundlessness. And in the days of shock and grief that followed, there was that brief and abundant display of “maitri,” or loving kindness, which emerged in waves of generosity and compassion for one another. For a while, we were in the world that she points to as an alternative to the everyday routine of getting, spending, and constant activity.

    It is nearly impossible to summarize or characterize this fine book. In some 150 pages it covers more than a person could hope to absorb in many years, if not a lifetime. We may know the Buddha’s famous insight that human pain and suffering result from desire and aversion. But few writers have been able to articulate as well as Chödrön the implications of that insight in ways that make sense to the Western mind. As just one example from this book, her discussion of the “six kinds of loneliness” (chap. 9) illustrates how our desires to achieve intimacy with others are an attempt to run away from a deep encounter with ourselves. Our continuing efforts to establish security for ourselves are a denial of fundamental truths, which prevents our deep experience of the joy of living. Our reluctance to love ourselves and others closes down our hearts.

    Chödrön invites us to be fascinated, as she is, by paradox. On hopelessness and death (chap. 7) she writes: “If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation. This is the first step on the path.” She gets us to acknowledge our restlessness (even our spiritual restlessness) for what it is, something we do instead of simply paying attention to ourselves in the moment and to what happens next, without judgment or preconceptions.

    In addition to this book, I recommend acquiring one or more of her audio tapes and hearing her voice as she speaks before audiences. For all the high-mindedness that may come across in descriptions like the one above, or what you might take away by reading the cover of her book, Chödrön is down to earth and unpretentious, speaking in her American accent (don’t let the appearance of her name fool you) and with a self-effacing sense of humor. Her message is in her manner, as much as it is in what she says.

    This is a book to buy and read, and reread at intervals, for it is always new, always speaking to you exactly where you are, right now.

  • Moist Ass Bitch
    4:27 on June 20th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    You either can read this book from beginning to end using it as a meditation guide for the warrior meditator, or you can drop into it and see what you get; also good.

    It is unfailingly wise and compassionate in it’s approach which is that meditation is not the path up the mountain but the path down into yourself and that accepting yourself as you are is what is important and difficult. This requires courage. The current ideas of changing yourself or self-improvement are yet another subtle attack on yourself.

    The ironic miracle, of course, is that abandoning goals of self-improvement and accepting yourself leads to change, and you become someone you like better whether you like it or not.

    Underneath all our fear of ourselves, way down deep, we find find our “wounded, softened hearts” and we discover that we, all of us, are compassionate loving beings. Now isn’t that a hope for the world?

    If you think this might be a good idea, then this book is a wonderful guide. It is not an answer, but it is a gentle helping hand along The Way.

  • Phil Maiass
    6:03 on June 20th, 2013
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    This book can be read in its entirety, or it can be read in smaller bits before meditating, practicing yoga, etc… No matter how or why you read it, it is sure to offer some wisdom. Whether you need a simple reminder of something you already know, or you want to learn something new, this book will offer you guidance and comfort from the heart. You’ll be able to pick it up again and again.

  • Susan Amato
    8:18 on June 20th, 2013
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    Pema Chodron’s books can be found in our Muslim nation. This may not be of significance to readers in the west, however it is an indication of the expansive and clear manner of her writings and teachings. When Things Fall Apart invites readers from all cultures to expand their own hearts, and to still their minds. Living in a part of the world that is faced with much conflict it can be a challenge to quiet our minds, to live in the present, and to walk gently. Pema Chodron’s writing is an invitation to sit and enjoy a conversation, to be still, and to approach the day with clarity.

  • John Ronald Turner
    10:08 on June 20th, 2013
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    In these hard times, wise and gentle counsel helps. As a non-Buddhist, I questioned whether I would benefit from this book, but having read it once, I entered the front pages eagerly for a re-read. There are learnings here for everyone . . . and peace IS possible, at least inside you.

  • Kelsey Schnell
    12:08 on June 20th, 2013
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    This is a wonderful book for anyone, not just for those who feel that things are falling apart. It offers insight into accepting life just as it is, in this moment. The author shares her “wisdom mind” in this concise and compassionate book about finding peace within the fundamental groundlessness of life. I have read the book twice, and now I read a chapter here and there for refreshment and inspiration. Buy this book, and then buy one for someone you care about.

  • Fremen
    14:58 on June 20th, 2013
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    a soothing well-written manual for the person going through a great deal of trauma and not sure how to cope with it.

  • Alexis
    15:25 on June 20th, 2013
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    One of the goofier things typically characteristic of Zen practitioners like myself is the notion that sitting, sitting, sitting takes care of everything. No words, just sit!

    Maybe it does. But I’m no Zen master. In the toughest of times, there’s nothing better than words wisely spoken to support the sitting — to support this life. And there’s not a single book in my whole library better for this than When Things Fall Apart.

    When things are really falling apart, I open this book to anywhere it happens to open, read two or three pages and somehow always come up more clear-headed about my particular situation. Like fueling the spirit tank.

    There’s a million books I love. If I could take just one on the journey, though, it’d be this one. O.k., if I could take just two on the journey, it’d be this one and Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. If you let me have three, I’m all set! Add Thay Nhat Hanh’s Heart Sutra commentaries (The Heart of Understanding) and I’m walking tall.

    More seriously still: for what ails you, this is the book.

  • JohnnyL
    16:56 on June 20th, 2013
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    Comfortable with Uncertainty offered me an entirely new way to think (and not think) about my life and living. In fun to read and beautifully written, short essays, Pema Chodron describes the revolutionary process of embracing the present, pursuing desire without becoming ferociously attached, and cultivating compassion for yourself and others.

    I continually use this book as a gentle reminder whenever I am feeling overly anxious.

  • auhwqyl
    18:23 on June 20th, 2013
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    This book synthesizes the essence of Pema’s teachings with excerpts from other books she has written. It makes a nice gift or introduction to the wisdom of Pema Chodron.

  • Beverley Molon
    18:46 on June 20th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    Pema shines here, she is a living example of experience informing mind, and not the otherway around, like we so often here in various schools of thought and such. SHe hovers over truthes like only those twinkles of the emobodiement of the sacred feminine humanity has gotten to glance of every bluee moon or something. Her intro to tonglen revelead so much of what I was missing in the message within mo own journey of the cross hairs between death and live, epitomized in the phoenix experience of archetypal energies mixed with blood, sweat, tears, where only a Son of the Divine could hold both prescence and precedent. This is not only about confronting fear and merely having courage, it’s about living to the core, which i believe is the rawness of buddhisms approach. I was lucky enough to hold audience to another buddhist author earlier this year, who wrote Sit Down and SHut Up, and his sentiments echoed Mz. Chordron’s silent clarion call to a higher form of beauty within our lives, as she said in the wisdom of no escape, paraphased here, the opposite of laziness is not militancy, but rather, poise and gracefulness.. and that is trully waht this work is.. a piece i find myself coming back to almost daily..

  • whitewater
    19:35 on June 20th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    I first heard someone read selected chapters from When Things Fall Apart in June of ’98 at a yoga retreat. Each day when I heard these readings, I felt they were written just for me, yet I realized that they were completely generic and that everyone there could, and probably did, feel the same as I. When I returned home, I began to study this book and to meditate from its instruction and inspiration. I’ve tried many times in the past to meditate, but could never get past about 4 to 6 weeks. When I finished When Things Fall Apart, I moved on to Pema’s Start Where You Are and the Wisdom of No Escape. At the end of a year, I realized that I might really be a meditator, so I found a sangha to sit with. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to become a meditator, or who is despairing or suffering in any way. I will be eternally grateful to Pema Chodron for her articulate, down to earth explanations and instruction that gave me the motivation and courage to seek this deeply enriching spiritual life.

  • Noreply
    21:13 on June 20th, 2013
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    This book was great. Short chapters for quick reading. Big and compliex ideas presented in practical format. Gives a couple simple meditation and healing techniques without overexplaining. Good spiritual advice when one is ready to hear about it. I was grieving when I read this book and I found it to be helpful.

  • Michael Siddle
    23:05 on June 20th, 2013
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    This book does not promise short term, quick fixes but encourages a way of life that will make living more joyful and meaningful – pain, change and all.
    This is not a book of “thought” filled advice from the mind, but a book (as the subtitle states) of heart advice. Pema openly shares some of her own experience as things fall apart, when her old way of doing things was no longer working.

    I bought it to give to my (fully grown) son when he was going through some difficult times. It wasn’t what he needed or related to, so I read it myself.

    I like the way she points out that when things fall apart, that usually means we are on the brink of a change of some kind. My usual practice is to try to hold on to the familiar ways, but as I am finding out, that just doesn’t work. And if it does, I am usually even more miserable. Depending on the kind of change you are experiencing, allowing it to happen with less resistance, without fear, can ease the opening to a new way.

    This is a disturbing thought to many of us. Give in? No way. Why, what if your spouse is cheating and you lose your job and you have a fatal illness and the sky is falling and you don’t resist? (Ah, well — most probably your spouse will still have cheated, that job will be lost, you will still have the illness and the sky will continue to fall.)

    On page 10 she says, “To stay with that shakiness — to stay wth a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge– that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic– that is the spirtual path.”

    This book reminds us again, that going with the pain, confusion, disorder of those falling apart times is necessary. Eventually we can get to a place where the pain does not seem so big or so deep, where we are no immersed in our own dramas but see everything on a larger world wide scale.

    I liked her section on “It’s Never Too Late”, which is about not hating ourselves — and not really condoning ourselves, but observing ourselves — ‘when we buy into disapproval, we are practicing disapproval. When we buy into harshness, we are practicing harshness…The trick then is to practice gentleness and letting go. We can learn to meet whatever arises with curiosity and not make it such a big deal.”

    This is a truly helpful book, if you can read it expecting a deeper, long-term change in how you experience the unexpected and unwelcome turns we find in our lives.
    I realized after reading this, that what I perhaps need to do with my son is not to buy him a book to read, but to be there for him as needed but to allow him to have his own experiences.

  • chris J
    0:41 on June 21st, 2013
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    I listened to the tapes for a couple of days and went back and listened again to them… The second time allowed me to digest Pema’s ideas and thoughts concerning our world and everyday lives.. This is great if your in a transitional place and want to be inspired…

  • Nuche Villaneuva
    2:20 on June 21st, 2013
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    A beautiful book for Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. Pema Chodron’s teachings are clear and concise. This book is a compilation of her teachings taken in short sections, so it can be read cover to cover or the teachings taken individually as one wishes, one day at a time, or randomly.

  • Mark Q. Jackson
    3:21 on June 21st, 2013
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    This book is so full of beautifully worded advice, using stories from the author’s life and is comprised of short chapters, so it’s perfect to read one “lesson” and wait to absorb it before reading on. It’s great bedtime reading…and the lessons are so rich, yet the author makes them seem possible to include in daily life.

  • liberalmel
    5:12 on June 21st, 2013
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    Sure wish I had known that the reader was not the author of the book (Pema Chodron). I am sorry to say, the reading was awful. I cannot comment on the contents of the book, as I have not read it. But I could not get even 10 minutes into the CD. I have a lot of experience with audio books and this was one of my most disappointing. As another reviewer mentioned, Pema Chodron is a dynamic speaker. It’s a shame she did not record this herself, not only would the reading have been good, but in Buddhism there’s something called the “oral transmission” that’s also important, and it’s certainly not there in this CD! I’d give this CD one star if I could without affecting the ratings of Pema Chodron’s material and efforts.

  • Francina Smit
    6:08 on June 21st, 2013
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    This older audio book is inspired by the Buddhist tradition of the 108-day retreat, and offers insight on how to act from an awakened heart and other traditional Buddhist principles. Also included are ideas about ways that people stay stuck by always seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, how they are always trying to create security zones, and other limiting beliefs. The soothing voice of Tami Simon helps to make this audio book a success. I ended up buying the book version after istening to the tapes.

  • Thomas Hawk
    6:47 on June 21st, 2013
    Reply to comment

    This is a nice book for anyone, not just for those who feel that things are falling apart. It offers insight into accepting life just as it is, in this moment. The author shares her ‘wisdom mind’ in this concise and compassionate book about finding peace within the fundamental groundlessness of life. I also highly recommend a book of Eastern wisdom titled “Open Your Mind, Open Your Life” by Taro Gold. I have found great wisdom in both these books.

  • geekyheart
    8:28 on June 21st, 2013
    Reply to comment

    …about how to deal with pain and suffering as part of the human condition.

    …but read with caution. A lot of the advice given is fairly clingy–

    Although she claims that she is not clinging to anything, I can see an emotional complex being built right here. Turns out that the complex is just a house o’ cards. She always says not to cling to hope and fear and to welcome loneliness into your life. And that you can do this through meditation.

    The effect is that instead of clinging to things we normally cling to (hopes and fears–more specifically dreams, wishes, desires,____ <–insert your own word or description of what you hold dear in your life, and most important of all, LOVE!) she tells us not to cling entirely. But based on the literal definition of the human condition, it’s impossible not to cling to something–or rather I like to use the word ‘lean’. If you’ve got friends, you lean on them for support. If you have loved ones, you care for them, which can also be described as a form of ‘clinging’. Of course only you can make this distinction but I must warn you about falling into trap of pretending that you’re not clinging when you really are: if you find yourself constantly and constantly returning to the same things, you’re clinging to something, in this case, her words. By following them so closely and becoming obsessed with the truth, you’re just finding someone else to cling to and [mis]representing the reasons why you are doing so.

    I tried meditation, and being a person who used to believe in Christianity, I can definitely tell when a complex is being formed. You know how Christians can be so good at making their religion sound like it’s the only evangelical way to go? And how the religion preaches that you must spread it everywhere (reference to many places in the bible, specifically Matthew Ch. 28 is the most popular “version” of this idea)? The same kind of thing happens here.

    Go look up this word in the dictionary, and ponder why the word was invented (all words start because they’re needed to describe some kind of new feeling or phenom or idea): catharsis

    Meditation being a large part of her teaching, I guess I should address this issue. There are many meanings to the word “meditation”. It is a broad word that can be used to represent all kinds of spiritual experiences. Listening to music can be meditation. Concentrating on breathing when you are not tired is also another way. Touching other people or things can be a meditative or ‘spiritual’ experience. I compare ‘meditation’ to ‘Spirituality’ as I would compare ‘empathy’ to ‘Compassion’. There’s a big ‘C’ when it comes to compassion, but empathy is a natural branch off of this main idea. Same with ‘meditation’ to Spirituality. However, meditation is not the only thing when it comes to spirituality. If you believe it is the only thing, you’ll probably find yourself meditating too frequently because you’ll be constantly searching for something that always seems to be out of reach or missing. Now, to put my point in perspective, think about ‘empathy’ to ‘Compassion’. There is a drug called MDMA or more popularly known as Ecstasy. This drug’s main effect is to create extreme feelings of empathy–note that it doesn’t create compassion, but rather, empathy. This is an important point to think about when it comes to your own life, and what’s acceptable for you. It’s duration lasts on average from 5 minutes to an hour. At the beginning of its production, before it was made illegal by the U.S. government (it’s still legal in many European countries), it was backed-up by many major psychiatrists until they discovered that it could cause permanent damage to certain brain stems in people using it (it destroys currently existing stems and regrows them in abnormal ways). Now the actual scientific facts are not that important–what’s really important is to ask yourself this question: “Have you ever considered empathy to be like a drug?” Usually we pester ourselves and others to have more empathy. Now ask this question: “Have you ever considered meditation to be like a drug?”

    The final thing I’d have to say about this book, and all of her books for that matter, is that she never addresses sex and sexuality. Where do these fit into the spiritual world? She never talks about sensuality either. People like her never talk about these things and I doubt they EVER will. Many monks like her actually struggle with thoughts of sexuality. When the thoughts come up, they simply (here we go again) meditate and call it “Thinking”. They tell you, “say it out loud if you need to.” But by no means ever accept it.

    Bottom line: it’s true, pain is a human condition, you can easily learn that from any of her books (as they are essentially all the same), but also keep in mind that if you plan to follow all of her advice, get ready to say “Thinking” a lot.

    8 worldly dharmas
    7 swans a swimming

    6 kinds of loneliness
    5 golden rings!
    4 maras
    3 french hens
    2 turtle doves
    and a partridge in a pear tree!

    Borrowing from another reviewer, “I couldn’t resist!” But otherwise, there is some very good spiritual information in this book.

  • MccallSidney
    9:48 on June 21st, 2013
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    Five stars for the content, two stars for the “performance”. The reader of this Sounds True audio edition is also the founder of Sounds True. She is senstitive to the material but her delivery is overly soft and gentle and so I had trouble keeping my attention on what she was saying. I’ve listened to other Pema Chodron tapes in her own voice. Pema is a wonderful speaker, very direct, humourous, warm but not “soft”. Like the previous reviewer, I recommend buying the book over the audio edition.

  • Nightryder
    10:16 on June 21st, 2013
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    as pema chodron is one of my teachers i always come back to this book for it’s simplicity and great teachings. it’s good for any-one who teaches others or new on the spiritual path.every time you revisit this book there’s a new wisdom to be found.. it’s a timeless treasure.

  • toddd
    11:13 on June 21st, 2013
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    This book has resided on the shelf next to my bed for many years and has been read often. Reading through a few reviews at this site it is clear many people are willing to listen to Pema Chodron’s uncompromising words about the challenges of being human. For those people seeking a few comforting bromides, who expected a self-help book, this material must surely be unwelcome. But it is far from trite and certainly not depressing. Tibetan Buddhists practice in the charnal grounds not because they’re depressives, but because life ends in death for all of us. And charnal grounds in Tibet were places where hacked up bodies were fed to circling vultures…no quickly slipping a deceased body into a casket to avoid confronting the withered body or the odors associated with illness and death for these Buddhists.

    When I attended a Pema Chodron lecture some years ago she announced that her favorite manta is “Om, grow up!” It takes great courage to meet life on life’s terms and accept responsiblity for our actions. And since life invariably brings challenges associated with disappointment and loss, the work continues to the moment of death. In our addicted society, that is a message all too readily rejected. Pema is not for the faint of heart! But if you intend to claim your aliveness, to risk intimacy, to share joy, her words are worth attending to. Namaste.

  • Cassara
    13:06 on June 21st, 2013
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    I have read through some of the reviews posted earlier – those which say it is good, and the one which said it is not a good idea. And I thought how my review would help one who is trying to decide on whether to buy these books or not, because they are probably relying on our reviews for help. I would say that both “for” and “against” have their valid points. I, myself, find “When Things Fall Apart” very insightful and helpful. But then again, I have been exposed to Buddhism and I myself, have a Guru to guide me, explain the meanings to me and clarify every subject for my better understanding. Not many people have that luxury or even have access to such a priviledge. Some people may be reading these Buddhism books for their own spiritual or intellectual interest/understanding. Therefore, it would differ from one person to the next. For those who have been exposed to Buddhism, then “When Things Fall Apart” is a good source of learning and help, as it was intended to be in the first place. All Buddhism books are intended to help, benefit and guide us all, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. However, for those who are just beginning, or may only be interested in like a self-help or self-improvement guide/reading, then I would recommend something from Tsem Tulku Rinpoche: “Compassion Conquers All” or “Ready To Go”. After reading or listening to these, then when you read “When Things Fall Apart”, you gain a deeper understanding of Pema Chodron’s meaning. I hope this review does help.

  • GeorgeM
    14:19 on June 21st, 2013
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    I wish I could write a helpful review of this book but it strikes me as nearly impossible; the book is so intense and liberating, so honest and direct, it seems like the only words that can do it justice are the author’s. I came upon this title at a difficult time. It helped me understand and really feel that things not only fall apart, they get worse. Or sometimes better. But the great teacher is our response to events, or rather, our willingness to face our responses and accept them, and ourselves, our failings and strengths, and to let fear be a teacher.

    This book is the opposite of the quick fix, life-is-a-bowl-of-cherries self-help manual. Reading it was an experience laced with sadness, relief, and finally a kind of temperate joy.

    All I can really say is that it’s a masterpiece in my view; entirely sane, liberating, full of truth and light.

  • Shobir
    15:15 on June 21st, 2013
    Reply to comment

    Pema Chodron is a wonderful, down-to-earth Buddhist nun, who lovingly challenges us to become present and compassionate warriors. She is one of my best, most treasured teachers.
    I like to pop a tape or CD in and listen while I sit or drive, so I got the CD version of Pema Chodron’s “Comfortable With Uncertainty.” I assumed it would be Pema reading her work, but the reader is actually Tami Simon. Unfortunately, the reader has a self-consciously “soothing” vocal presentation, and she misses many opportunities to be present in the words she reads. My advice to you road warriors, is to get off the highway, and hunker down to savor Pema’s written words. They’re jewels.
    5 stars for the book, 3 stars for the audio.

  • Terrance
    16:28 on June 21st, 2013
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    I write this review because I think the other reviews herein did not do justice to this exquiste gem of Buddhist teaching. Ms Chodorn is eloquent and articulate in her delivery of helpful insights into the human condition and gentle and simple in her understanding of what may restore balance. The book can be read piecemeal or from beginning to end. The glossary offers edification on Buddhist Sanskrit meanings, which I found helpful, since I am a beginner to Buddhism and not a student of Sanskrit. This book offers a path of healing and wholeness. To see it without this meaning is to miss the point. I have recommended it to many people, beginners and scholars of Buddhism alike. Without exception the book was well received. Buy the book — forget the audiobook. This is one book you will want to hold and leaf through the pages. I would give it much more than a five star rating were it possible.

  • Gursimran
    18:20 on June 21st, 2013
    Reply to comment

    Ane Pema Chodron writes in a clear and simple manner. I read this book about twice a year, because I learn something new or revisit concepts that I might have overlooked previously. It is clearly not just reading for when you go through tough times – its applicable to daily life. Pema’s style is simple, clear and very human. We can all understand and relate to the teachings. It also provides us with an understanding of what we are going through and clear methods to deal with our situations and life.

    For people who meditate – it is excellent reading. It gets you to understand what you go through when life is difficult, and how it is of great benefit along your path. It is like drinking a long cool glass of clear water on a warm day – clear and refreshing.

    Its a great book to give as a gift. This book is a wonderful gift given to us by Pema Chodron.

  • iphoneDev
    20:07 on June 21st, 2013
    Reply to comment

    Pema shines here, she is a living example of experience informing mind, and not the otherway around, like we so often here in various schools of thought and such. SHe hovers over truthes like only those twinkles of the emobodiement of the sacred feminine humanity has gotten to glance of every bluee moon or something. Her intro to tonglen revelead so much of what I was missing in the message within mo own journey of the cross hairs between death and live, epitomized in the phoenix experience of archetypal energies mixed with blood, sweat, tears, where only a Son of the Divine could hold both prescence and precedent. This is not only about confronting fear and merely having courage, it’s about living to the core, which i believe is the rawness of buddhisms approach. I was lucky enough to hold audience to another buddhist author earlier this year, who wrote Sit Down and SHut Up, and his sentiments echoed Mz. Chordron’s silent clarion call to a higher form of beauty within our lives, as she said in the wisdom of no escape, paraphased here, the opposite of laziness is not militancy, but rather, poise and gracefulness.. and that is trully waht this work is.. a piece i find myself coming back to almost daily..

  • Shu Stephanski
    22:04 on June 21st, 2013
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    This is the second book I have read by this author. She is easy to read but the concepts she discusses are not always easy to understand. Her advice for dealing with suffering is helpful and not exactly mainstream. The emphasis is facing the bad and painful things in your life and not using the avoidance mechanisms that most of us employ during difficult times.

  • Gkaufdude
    22:56 on June 21st, 2013
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    Pema Chodron is a Buddhist teacher in the lineage of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, her teacher. In her previous book, THE PLACES THAT SCARE YOU (2001), she wrote that compassionate “warriors-in-training need someone to guide them, a master warrior, a teacher, a spiritual friend, someone who knows the territory well and can help them find their way” (p. 113). For many of us, Chodron is that “someone.”

    COMFORTABLE WITH UNCERTAINTY is a compilation of 108 excerpts from Chodron’s previous books that may be read as a collection of short, daily meditations for compassionate warriors-in-training. These teachings will stick with you, and they will resonate throughout the day. Readers expecting to find something new here may be disappointed. But for others, this book will offer an excellent introduction to Pema Chodron.

    G. Merritt

  • RGAgnihotri
    23:09 on June 21st, 2013
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    Very useful as an expression of “the way”. Some detail is there, but this CD serves best as perspective on what work needs to be done. The reader’s voice was overly professional and soothing to the point of being a distraction. Pema has a voice that is more expressive and better relates to the material.

  • Blaine
    1:13 on June 22nd, 2013
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    This book grounds you and gives you perspective but it is a bit long and intense. Reading it in sections from time to time helps.

  • Seach
    1:31 on June 22nd, 2013
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    I love the book, but I believe I will get more from it as I read it a 2nd and 3rd time. It is very difficult to have a ‘still’ mind, yet that is the premise of her teachings

  • Suckas
    1:58 on June 22nd, 2013
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    I grew up and was deeply involved in a moderate Baptist church. For much of my life I considered myself a “good” Christian who knew that Jesus died for my sins and therefore I also knew that I was bound for heaven. But it wasn’t until I was 40 years old and had seen my life fall apart that I decided to let go of my life completely, and give it to God.

    Interestingly, after this total commitment and release to God, I was immediately and strangely drawn to the biblical book of Ecclesiastes. Many wonder why this book was included in the bible because it seems to contain nothing but the pervading theme of hopelessness. Yet, its words seemed to give me comfort and a source of spiritual strength. It was difficult for me then to explain this to other Christians.

    Pema’s book is a kind of contemporary practical application of the teaching found in Ecclesiastes. Of course our lives and our world are utterly evanescent. Nothing lasts. Yet, most of us become quite delusional during our lives by effectively denying this fact. We grab hold of anything we can that can give us a sense of a sustainable and unique identity… including our religious tradition. But any or all of this can be taken away in an instant. Both Pema’s and Ecclesiastes’ teachings have the power to bring us home by helping us to discover our eternal identity in the unmanifest… in the mystery of Infinite Spirit. Once we find our home there, nothing can shake us. There is a power and a joy that is not fully describable with words… because its source lies beyond words, beyond creation.

    In one of Jesus’ prayers he asks God to bring all people into Oneness… “may they be One as we are One.” Pure Oneness implies the loss (even death) of a separate identity, and the realization of a universal identity as One. Pema’s use of the idea of hopelessness is really the movement through the death of our false and fleeting separate identities into the ultimate home of Oneness with each other and with God. I believe that Pema’s teachings can aid any one that is ready, whose ego has been broken enough, to discover their eternal home even as they live in this manifested world. This can be a liberated life filled with the courage and fearlessness to bring Unconditional Love to the whole world, and especially to the seemingly unlovable.

  • Yevette Karman
    4:03 on June 22nd, 2013
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    Pema Chodron’s “When Things Fall Apart” is an exploration of loss from a Buddhist perspective. Like many spiritual ideals, the advice is easy to grasp, harder to follow. Can a pleasure addicted society learn to embrace the pain that is inevitable in life, and connect with the pain of others? Would we want to? I’m not sure, but her advice is worth considering.

    The chapters begin with a excerpt of the central idea of that passage, then a further exposition follows. If you are new to Buddhism, some of the terms will be unfamiliar, but not difficult to understand. I am somewhat new to Buddhism, but many of the ideas have a familar ring to them. The meditation practice of tonglen, for instance, is reminicent of the Christian concept of turning the other cheek.

    I’m not sure if I’ll read Chodron’s other books, but this one was worth the time.

  • Jonathan Brod
    5:03 on June 22nd, 2013
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    I read this book years ago, and I remember at the time its message struck me as dull, disheartening, and in conflict with my intuitive notions of happiness. Even still, it had this certain logical allure; its points perfectly defensible from a rational perspective. As she points out, there really is no true ground for us to stand on, anything can change. Cultivating a strong dependence on any one pillar, whether family, friend, or work, leaves you vulnerable – for who’s to say your family won’t die, your friend move away, or your company fire you. The only way to truly be content is to detach from your dependencies and be comfortable with groundlessness. If you have no dependence, there can be no fear.

    It’s only recently as I’ve begun to study epistemology (the study of knowledge) that I’ve found what’s truly wrong with her argument from a rational point of view, and why I was so susceptable to it initially.

    I believe Pema Chodron is for contentness what the skeptic is for truth; she’s happiness’s Rene Descartes. The skeptic would have us believe that all knowledge is just a house of cards. No belief can be fully defended from all possibilities – for who among us can say that 1 plus 1 equals 2 in all universes, or that my green is your green, or that we’re not in the Matrix. There is always some challenge to our knowledge that we can’t defend against. But as we begin to jettison each belief one-by-one, we eventually slide down the slippery slope until we hit rock bottom: nihilism. Knowledge, it appears, has no foundations, and so it must be the case that we know nothing at all.

    To see why this is wrong, I think you need to discard the idea that knowledge or happiness has “foundations” or “ground”. This is a pernicious metaphor that is used both by Chodron’s dismal flavor of Buddhism and by the rational skeptic. Instead, I believe, knowledge (like the things that make us happy) sit in a web of mutually supporting truths, and can only be understood or justified in relation to rest of the web. Independently each can be undercut, but together all hold strong. With respect to my life, I know that my friends help me through work, my work supports my family, my family…and so on. How I assuage my fear is not by eliminating my attachments with my friends, family, and work, but by embracing them – by knowing that I sit within a web of support and that if one does fail, I can find strength in the others. Getting rid of the web makes us more vulnerable and fearful, not less. Finding strength in isolation may be possible for some, but I doubt for many.

    That all being said, I do feel that it’s an important and broadening book and I’m very glad I read it.

  • dfwefewf
    7:00 on June 22nd, 2013
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    A couple years back my dad got demoted and was potentially going to lose his job. He was facing a lot of uncertainty and was not sure how to deal with it. I first read The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times in a high school philosophy class when I was dealing with a lot of my own personal problems and found it incredibly helpful and selected this book as an introduction to Chodron. Since reading this book my dad has started reading several other books about buddhist spirituality and has pursued meditation, all of which have helped him immensely both then and now. This book serves as a great tool for maintaining spiritual health and a comprehensive introduction to Buddhist spirituality and Pema Chodron.

  • Factcheck
    8:06 on June 22nd, 2013
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    Pema Chodron is one of my favorite Buddhist authors. She has a way of articulating subtle ideas that really resonates with me. I bought this book and enjoyed it, although much of the content was familiar from her previous books. I picked up the cassette version of the book to listen to while driving, and I didn’t make it halfway through the first side of the first tape. The reader’s overly emotive, breathy narration is grating. I thought I’d get used to it and focus more on the text, but it didn’t happen. This is the same reader who did the audio version of “The Places That Scare You,” which was equally unlistenable. It is a shame that the publisher, who coincidentally is also the reader, can’t recognize the great gulf between her work and the author’s. Can you say “ego”?

  • Chris Weber
    9:37 on June 22nd, 2013
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    My therapist recommended that I read this book. Did she forget the reason I began to see her? If you’re looking for encouragement or hope this book is not, and I repeat NOT for you. However, if you are a realist or want the hard truth you’ll find it here.

  • S. Mulji
    10:28 on June 22nd, 2013
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    My husband died suddenly 6 months ago and I found myself angry and in denial. I was thinking ahead and thinking behind, and was not in the present moment. This book helped me stay and enjoy the present moment without worrying about the past or future. There are a lot of techniques on how to achieve a peaceful state.

  • nmuvtjxvx
    11:57 on June 22nd, 2013
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    I enjoyed this book. Most of the lessons are easily understandable. I recommend this book for people who are interested in increasing their self awareness.

  • Bette Hughes
    13:40 on June 22nd, 2013
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    At this time, there are 18 five star customer reviews here. But the important thing is that each of these conveys that Pema Chodron has touched the reader emotionally.

    She pushes through concepts like “austerity” and comes out to joyful living and compassion for all beings. Buddhist concepts underlie everything she writes. But theory is given only in relation to practice. All the writing is aimed right at the reader’s daily life. Much of the World needs to be shown the difference between “tough” and “hard”. Pema Chodron has done this admirably.

    On an inside page it is stated “the author’s profits are to be donated to the Gampo Abbey”. Gampo Abbey and all of us are benefiting from the work of Pema Chodron.

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