Welcome to Curiosity Counseling’s book club! This month we are discussing Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. I’ll get the discussion flowing, but feel free to take it in any direction you’d like.
“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together 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” (p. 9).
This quote really exemplifies the main teaching that I took away from this book. Life is full of ups and downs, struggles, challenges, losses, and joy. If we resist or avoid those struggles with all of our might then we deny ourselves that opportunity to heal. If we feel like we have to “pass the test” we’re not allowing ourselves to be fully in the moment. Instead, we’re grasping onto an outcome the doesn’t really exist. And because that outcome doesn’t exist, we will then continue to feel unsettled, anxious and angry when presented with these challenges. Growth does not happen when there is grasping. Grasping does not allow for relaxation. When we are relaxed, we can integrate our basic wisdom that is within.
I love how Chodron encourages us to experience all of life, without judgement, and normalizes the suffering that inevitably occurs. Later on in the book, she talks a lot about how self-compassion is integral in healing and how we relate, react and respond to others.
“As we learn to have compassion for ourselves, the circle of compassion for others – what and whom we can work with, and how – becomes wider” (p. 85).
It is so important to start with ourselves when it comes to tapping into compassion. If we dislike aspects of ourselves, most likely we will be annoyed, frustrated or even repulsed by that trait in others. A common misconception about self-compassion is if we offer ourselves unconditional compassion, we won’t feel motivated to grow, progress, or meet goals. It’s really hard to maintain self-discipline when we’re so critical and mean to ourselves. That lack of self-compassion takes a lot of energy, because it is not our natural state. In many ways we have learned to be self-critical. I often wonder why self-criticism, feelings of lack of self-worth, and low self-esteem are such a common experience in our society.
Have you read When Things Fall Apart? I’d love to hear any and all thoughts!