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When Things Fall Apart

I picked up this book during one of the most difficult periods of my life when my son was in intensive care last summer.

The anguish was visceral, and there wasn’t a single part of my body that didn’t ache. Colours seemed to vanish from my surroundings, and everything people said, except for those few who genuinely were there for me, had zero impact.

Silently, I was screaming that I wanted it all to stop. So, I resonated with the book’s core concept: in moments of intense pain, the source often lies in clinging too tightly to our expectations; managing difficult times isn’t about achieving something, but about resting in the present moment and accepting it as it is.

However, despite agreeing with these principles, I found the book impractical and overly vague. I didn’t connect with it, and the topics felt disjointed, lacking a thread I could follow.

I’m aware I might be in the minority, given the book’s high reviews. Perhaps my profound despair at that time prevented me from understanding it. Perhaps this book should be read before facing challenging moments, serving as preparation.

In any case, unfortunately, I didn’t feel like I gained anything from this book.

Title: When Things Fall Apart. Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Author: Pema Chödrön
Year First Published: 1996

From Goodreads:

The beautiful practicality of her teaching has made Pema Chödrön one of the most beloved of contemporary American spiritual authors among Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. A collection of talks she gave between 1987 and 1994, the book is a treasury of wisdom for going on living when we are overcome by pain and difficulties.

Chödrön discusses:

  • Using painful emotions to cultivate wisdom, compassion, and courage
  • Communicating so as to encourage others to open up rather than shut down
  • Practices for reversing habitual patterns
  • Methods for working with chaotic situations
  • Ways for creating effective social action