American Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron in a collection of short but powerful essays compassionately answers the question, how does one live their life, in the face of fear, anxiety and pain? Self-help and spirituality are woven together to create a beautiful mosaic of hope in a sea of despair; making it indispensable for anyone seeking the wisdom and courage to overcome the obstacles in their life.
My key Takeaways from “When Things Fall Apart" by Pema Chödrön:
Takeaway #1 Embrace The Demons
Takeaway #1 Embrace The Demons
Very few people enjoy feeling scared but it's something we must learn to deal with and overcome rather than run away from or ignore as facing our fears allow us to gain a new perspective about ourselves. Spend time reflecting on your fear, understanding it from a deeper level, so that you can learn about the situation you find yourself in rather than slapping an emotional bandaid on and attempting to fix it blindly. Know that your life is in constant flux and that's normal – things fall into place, fall apart, and then fall back into place in a better way, even if you don't realize it right away.
Loneliness is another feeling that people often try to avoid but actually, loneliness is a fantastic opportunity to observe yourself and develop some self love. When you change the name from negative to positive, loneliness turns into solitude which is needed in order to recuperate and relax. So don't fight against loneliness, use it as an opportunity for self observation and to make friends with yourself.
Takeaway #2 Hope vs Fear
When faced with tough times you may think it's hope that keeps you going. But hope can actually be detrimental to your wellbeing for fear and hope are emotions that go hand in hand. Think about it... we hope life will get better but also fear that it won't. It's important to question our hopes and fears as this can set us free from anxiety, showing us how unimportant they really are and allowing us to a life free from disappointment.
As humans, our biggest fear is our own death but by fearing death we can lose out on enjoying all of life. Accept that death is natural and you'll better be able to accept the other endings in your life be that a job loss, relationship ending or loss of a friend.
Takeaway #3 The Meaning of Life
When searching for an answer to this question just remember to embrace the 3 truths of existence - impermanence, suffering, and egoless as this will help you to become a more compassionate person.
1. Embracing impermanence is easier when done at the beginning of something than at the end ie when a child is born, or when you're in the first flush of new love rather than at the end of the cycle so be happy for a new day, not sad when it comes to an end.
2. Embrace suffering – There's no love without loss, no pleasure without pain so notice how you react to suffering but be gentle with yourself – notice the emotion but don't beat yourself up for feeling that way, instead see what you can learn.
3. Embracing egolessness means you can learn to feel at peace with your past as well as your future meaning you're free to live in the present moment and enjoy every second of it. Lack of ego is not a lack of confidence but instead, a sign of deep inner peace.
Takeaway #4 Putting It Into Practise
Use meditation to recenter yourself when you feel powerless – Don't struggle with your thoughts or emotions, investigate them.
Turn suffering into a wake up call – When you feel passionate, addicted, ignorant, or aggressive don't suppress or deny the feeling, use the tonglen breathing exercise to turn pain into joy. To do this, breath in the pain you feel, and breath out the joy you'd like to feel.
Remember that you are exactly where you need to be and that everything is alive and perfect as it is – Use this moment to work with the lemons you've been given and make lemonade!