Sept. 4, 2020 | By Kristen Richards | Illustration by Jubilee Hernandez
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.” ~ Pema Chödrön, “When Things Fall Apart”
In “When Things Fall Apart,” Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön encourages us to embrace difficult and painful situations in order to open our hearts and find compassion. Through her own honest experiences facing obstacles in life, Chödrön writes clearly and precisely about the ways in which we can grow and transform endless suffering to continuous joy. Her writing is beautiful and raw. She never ceases to challenge the resilience of the human spirit and mind.
Chödrön is the author of over half a dozen books, all of which are based in mindfulness, meditation, and Buddhist thought and practice. “When Things Fall Apart” has the aura of a self-help book but digs far deeper than basic life advice by encouraging and nurturing our growth and acceptance during hard times.
Chödrön organizes her book into 22 different chapters with titles ranging from “This Very Moment Is the Perfect Teacher” to “Reversing the Wheel of Samsara.” Rooted in all her advice are Buddhist concepts and wisdom, which also teach readers some important aspects of Buddhism. She discusses loneliness, hopelessness, death, harm, suffering, peace, compassion, growing up, choicelessness, and existence. Despite dealing with tough and often negatively-viewed subjects, “When Things Fall Apart”is an incredibly hopeful and positive book.
During such a difficult and uncertain time in the world, I believe that we all could benefit from Chödrön’s advice throughout “When Things Fall Apart.” A chapter or two, or even just a page, could transform your mindset and make you think in a more productive, positive way. Every sentence is full of hope and question.
While reading the book I often paused to contemplate how her writing connected to my own life and choices. Sometimes I couldn’t even get through a paragraph without my mind wandering – not because I was disinterested, but the opposite. I was constantly struck with a sense of being known, of being spoken to directly. This is the ideal personal relationship that can be established between author and reader, and Chödrön grasps it perfectly.
“They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” ~ Pema Chödrön, “When Things Fall Apart”