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When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

My therapists and my executive coach implored me to get a copy of When Things Fall Part by Pema Chodron back in 1999. That year was when my life started falling apart. I was only 35 years old and in a marriage that wasn’t working any longer, and I discovered that my whole life up until this point was a lie.

The catch-22 was that my life would not be stable again for at least two years, and ultimately, it wouldn’t settle down for another sixteen years…

That’s why I was floored when I left my husband, and then six months later, I came out of the closet. (My coming-out story.) My internal longing clock had been shut down. I blame it on the 12 years of suffering in Catholic schools. If it weren’t for my executive coach and therapist, Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart, I’m not sure I would have made it this far.

My executive coach was the most amazing woman, who recommended during this tumultuous ending of my ten-year marriage to pick up a copy of Pema Chodron’s book – When Things Fall Apart. (It came out in 1997.)

I was just an absolute wreck during this time of instability, leaving my husband, moving, and changing jobs. I was also a big reader and was just getting into meditation and a more holistic approach to my life.

I felt like I was coming home when I picked up this book. In the title alone – my life literally was “falling apart.” Having the comforting words of Pema Chodron from When Things Fall Apart gave me compassion as I fell and helped get me back up on my feet again, which felt pretty miraculous. And yes, a really good, deep, and meaningful book can do this. (As I said a few paragraphs earlier, I also had an amazing executive coach and therapist. Plus, I had worked hard to create a wonderful support system.

The sole purpose of When Things Fall Apart was to guide me to find peace, acceptance, and also a bit of enlightenment during this crazy time in my life. And about how my real growth was facing all these emotions head-on and not burying them in some type of substance or other addiction.

I also picked this book up many times after this to remind me of how when I become more like the Buddha and use compassion, mindfulness, and acceptance, I can get through anything.

It also helped that I had dog-eared many pages and also had many pages of highlighted paragraphs to give me a kickstart!

Reading When Things Fall Apart helped me face my fears head-on and develop a deeper understanding of how my suffering could lead to growth and transformation.

And I know it will help you do the same.

A Book Summary to Inspire You To Read It!

Quick Summary:

When Things Fall Apart is one of Chodron’s most beloved and acclaimed works. It is more of a spiritual guidebook that will help you discover your inner peace, find comfort, and attain enlightenment in the midst of whatever adversity you are going through right now. This book draws upon Chodron’s (a Buddhist nun) teachings, experience, and learning in Tibetan Buddhism.

She shows you that moving toward those painful situations is the best way to heal. And when you become most intimate with your pain, you will open up your heart. She shares life-changing tools to help transform your suffering, release negative patterns, and turn them into joy. The book focuses on the significance of being compassionate, mindful, and accepting. These are all qualities to help you navigate through any of life’s challenging situations.

Who Ought to Read this Book and Why: 

If you’re struggling with any of life’s challenges at this moment, When Things Fall Apart will help guide you to a much better place. This book is filled with compassion and ways to look at your life differently than you may have been taught. It’s about having compassion for yourself. And about going deeper into those painful situations, and when you do, it will open your heart. You will discover new ways to find peace and work through your emotions. This book is based on Buddhism, yet Chodron speaks in a connected and easy tone. There’s so much that will comfort and guide you through your challenges. 

Things You Will Discover:

Table of ContentsWhen Things Fall Apart
The interesting and straightforward table of contents alone will help you discover how this book will help you on many levels. These are all impactful essays that can be read in one sitting to make it easier to digest.

1. Intimacy with Fear

2. When Things Fall Apart

3. This Very Moment Is the Perfect Teacher

4. Relax As It Is

5. It’s Never Too Late

6. Not Causing Harm

7. Hopelessness and Death

8. Eight Worldly Dharmas

9. Six Kinds of Loneliness

10. Curious about Existence

11. Nonaggression and the Four Maras

12. Growing Up

13. Widening the Circle of Compassion

14. The Love That Will Not Die

15. Going against the Grain

16. Servants of Peace

17. Opinions

18. Secret Oral Instructions

19. Three Methods for Working with Chaos

20. The Trick of Choicelessness

21. Reversing the Wheel of Samsara

22. The Path Is the Goal

What is mindfulness – It involves cultivating awareness of our thoughts, emotions, and actions without judgment. It is a powerful tool for developing self-awareness and for cultivating acceptance.

Impactful Discoveries On Your Mindfulness Journey with Chodron:

  • You will learn how to develop mindfulness and stay present in the midst of chaos and confusion.
  • Get insight into the nature of suffering and the role it plays in your life.
  • How compassion and kindness can help you transform your relationship with yourself and others.
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the impermanence of all things and how to find peace within that truth.
  • How to cultivate courage and wisdom in the face of uncertainty and fear.
  • Cultivate a sense of gratitude and appreciation, even when things are falling apart around you.
  • How to use difficult experiences as opportunities for personal growth and transformation.


Look At Yourself Honestly & Gently:
“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”

Get Closer to The Truth?
“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

This Is The Most Difficult Time:
“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.”

When Dealing With Pain & Frustration:
“We use all kinds of ways to escape — all addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge, and we just can’t stand it. We feel we have to soften it, pad it with something, and we become addicted to whatever it is that seems to ease the pain.”

We Don’t Know Anything:
“Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really, we just don’t know.”

Defining Your “Right Person” To Sell to Is Best:
“—people who have a certain disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck.”

Wonder & Reflect:
“We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.”

Don’t Imprison Your Softness:
“When we protect ourselves so we won’t feel pain, that protection becomes like armor, like armor that imprisons the softness of the heart.”

Be Honest:
“Honesty without kindness, humor, and goodheartedness can be just mean.”

Accept this Invitation:
“Meditation is an invitation to notice when we reach our limit and to not get carried away by hope and fear. Through meditation, we’re able to see clearly what’s going on with our thoughts and emotions, and we can also let them go.”

About the Author – Pema Chödrön

Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun and one of the foremost students of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the renowned Tibetan meditation master. She is the resident teacher of Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, the first Tibetan monastery in North America established for Westerners. Chödrön is widely regarded as one of the preeminent spiritual teachers in the West and is the author of many best-selling books, including When Things Fall Apart, The Places That Scare You, and Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change.

Where I Would Recommend Getting Your Copy:
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

Other Books by Chodron:

Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion

Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better: Wise Advice For Leaning Into The Unknown

Getting Unstuck: Breaking Your Habitual Patterns & Encouraging Naked Reality

How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind

How We Live Is How We Die

Living Beautifully With Uncertainty And Change

Start Where You Are

Taking The Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears

The Compassion Book: Teachings For Awakening The Heart

The Places That Scare You

The Pocket Pema Chodron

The Wisdom of Escape: And The Path of Loving-Kindness

Welcoming the Unwelcome: Wholehearted Living In A Brokenhearted World

I‘d Also Recommend:

Living Untethered: Beyond The Human Experience by Michael Singer

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer

The Surrender Experiment: My Journey Into Life’s Perfection by Michael Singer

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle

The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav

The Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives by Dan Millman

Soulfully Yours,

Shannon McCaffery

Shannon McCaffery

Strategic Marketing Coach & Consultant

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When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult Times by Pema Chodron


Hey there, I'm Shannon! Being a voracious reader and passionate about learning, I started this site in the hopes of sharing my thoughts and my love of inspiring nonfiction books that can help you. It's kind of like Buddha meets business. I truly hope you enjoy!

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