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The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times
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Pema Ch?dr?n may have more good one-liners than a Groucho Marx retrospective, but this nun's stingers go straight to the heart: "The essence of bravery is being without self-deception"; "When we practice generosity, we become intimate with our grasping"; "Difficult people are the greatest teachers." These are the punctuations to specific teachings of fearlessness. In The Places That Scare You, Ch?dr?n introduces a host of the compassionate warriors' tools and concepts for transforming anxieties and negative emotions into positive living. Rather than steeling ourselves against hardship, she suggests we open ourselves to vulnerability; from this comes the loving kindness and compassion that are the wellsprings of joy. How do we achieve it? Through meditation, mindfulness, slogans, aspiration, and several other practices, such as tonglen, which is taking in the pain and suffering of others while sending out happiness to all--emphasis on the all. Ch?dr?n introduces each of these practices in turn, backing them up with succinct practical reasoning and a framework of ideas that offers fresh interpretations of familiar words like strength, laziness, and groundlessness. Ch?dr?n is the type of person you'd like to have with you in an emergency, and to deal with the extremes of daily life. In her absence, The Places That Scare You will do nicely. --Brian Bruya

We always have a choice, Pema Ch?dr?n teaches: We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us and make us increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder. Here Pema provides the tools to deal with the problems and difficulties that life throws our way. This wisdom is always available to us, she teaches, but we usually block it with habitual patterns rooted in fear. Beyond that fear lies a state of openheartedness and tenderness. This book teaches us how to awaken our basic goodness and connect with others, to accept ourselves and others complete with faults and imperfections, and to stay in the present moment by seeing through the strategies of ego that cause us to resist life as it is.

Customer Reviews:

  • Life
    Pema Chodron provides all the support you need to take yourself to those places that scare you. Those places are the ones that can keep you from moving forward in your life-keep you stuck. Her gentleness and incredible insight make it possible to recognize ways to love and support yourself through your exploration....more info
  • A wonderful book for being comfortable with life
    The places that scare you aren't a haunted house, but the real things that happen to people, such as dealing with sickness, lonliness, or financial hardships. We all experience them, as Pema says, and this book helps you learn that it is all part of everyone's life, and how to not only become able to handle such things, but to use them to help the world feel more compassion....more info
  • Extremely meaningful
    I don't usually take the time to write reviews, but this book is just the greatest, and I felt obligated to say something. Every sentence has so much meaning, that I hesitate to underline as I usually do. I might have to highlight or underline the entire book! This book gives good descriptions of the big picture (the ideas), but also practical things that I can do to open my mind and life. I look forward to reading more of Chodron's books....more info
  • love this book
    this book is a compilation of quotes to live by. If you're looking for purpose and clarity she says the words you can say....more info
  • impossible
    There is something repellant, even repulsive, about the religious mind. We cannot escape the world, however much we dislike it: it is a violent, often ugly place, dominated by the stupid; and however far we flee from it, these unpleasantries inevitably find us out, we cannot run far enough or fast enough. Show me your attachment to the beautiful and the good, indeed, show me your love of peace, and I will show you beauty adulterated and good compromised; and I will expose your peace as a forgery that hides your hatred of life. The religious mind, when it perceives this contradictory and chaotic quality of existence, sees in it an opportunity to perform a trick of ethical magic. If one is good, if one is clarified, if one is just in every action, if one will only turn the other cheek, behold, nothing will ever die, pain will cease, and the horrible will be rectified. Alas, good friends, the truth is quite otherwise: he who turns his cheek is beaten and crucified. And he who cries for justice, will weep in earnest by way of reckoning.

    It is the weak who fear the strong; it is the good who inspire in others evil. In this world one either eats or is eaten, and no amount of sympathy, pity, or compassion will adulterate the predatory core of being itself. And books like this are authored by charlatains, who try to take away your fear by denying the necessity for it.

    I give you two instances of this religious magic: Ms. Chodron informs us of an elderly couple living in a gated community in Florida. They fear the violence resulting from poverty of circumstances surrounding them. Ms. Chodron implies that it is the elders who are at fault for the fear they experience, that they must open their arms to the terror around them, that they must become as nothing and embrace the thing they fear. What do they fear? Besides murder? The loss of their culture. The compromise of the quality of their life. Ms. Chodron does not seem to comprehend that pistol shots are exchanged on the freeways in southern Florida; that interracial violence and cross-cultural warfare has come to visit us in our homeland, and that southern Florida is one of its battlegrounds--and even if she does, she has no answer for it, except to say, we should submit to it. Peace is submission. I say that piety like this is suicide: piety does not, can not, will not, nor ever shall bring us peace, except the peace of the grave.

    She likewise quotes with great approval Einstein, who faults us all for our consciousness--which, he describes as cut off, selfish, lacking understanding, and unwilling to embrace "the whole of nature". Einstein, good folk, was paid handsomely for his consultations on the development of Atomic Weapons. So much for embracing the "whole of nature" and its fundamental goodness. Saint Einstein, and his good work, the annihilation of millions, and the development of weapons with which his employers can further dominate our lives. So much for Ms. Chodron. She is either stupid or malicious, neither of which is very good for you.

    tlt...more info
  • Gentle Wisdom
    Pema Chodron is a treasure for the mind and spirit. Her writing is profound, wise, gentle and humorous. "The Places That Scare You" is a book to help guide anyone, of any faith. It helps us understand how to live life in an open, balanced and fearless way. It is written from a solid Buddhist perspective but is relevant to all humans. When I have difficult moments, I pick up this book and it helps ground me. When a friend if going through a rough patch, I send a copy to them.

    I highly recommend this book and all of her publications as well....more info
  • A "How To" book
    As a Christian I find my direction in the Christian scriptures but I find this book in the Buddhist tradition a very practical book that helps me identify how to live into the message of love of my own tradition. It is a book not to be read but to be lived. It is a practical guide to becoming free of the fears that keep us from living life more fully and opening our hearts by removing unnecessary protections we have built around them.

    I have felt spiritually in a rut and this book has made each day become an adventure....more info

  • Loving-kindness is the answer
    This Tibetan Buddhist nun writes in a straightforward, accessible way on nurturing courage in our lives. She describes meditation practices that enhance the "four limitless qualities" of loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. It is through these simple but powerful practices that our hearts are expanded and we find courage to live the life we are meant to live. Her conversational writing style makes reading her books pleasant and helpful. I like to read a chapter and think on it for awhile rather than reading straight through. The small physical format of the paperback (4 x 7, 186 pages) makes it handy for carrying along anywhere....more info
  • Don't be scared to read or listen to it
    In a nutshell, if you don't want to bring awareness to the places in yourself you avoid and would rather not deal with awakening, do not listen to or read this book.

    If you are interested in a brilliantly written perspective on compassionate spiritual awakening, then by all means get it and listen or read it over and over. We are so blessed to live in a time where we have teachers like Pema Chodron to give us instruction on how to bring awareness to our habitual thinking that keep us stuck. Yes, it can be frightening to look within with such scrutiny, but Pema reminds us that we can intend to begin our inquiry from a compassionate and accepting place.Self condemnation for what we find in ourselves is a trap and another mental agonizer.

    I have seemed to be addicted to drama and unhappiness all my life.
    I have been on a spiritual and personal growth path for 20 years.
    The longer I live the more I realize that my own thinking keeps driving me to dead ends of pain and suffering. I am at a point where the only thing left to do is surrender my mind as best as I can. Thankfully, I have teachers like Pema to light the way a bit for me.
    ...more info
  • A simple guide
    Pema Chodron managed in her little book to speak to me as if I were in a week long retreat in the mountains meeting with her once at the end of each day. Her gentle encouragement to face what is painful within and without us with compassion are like the words of a long time friend and trusted spiritual advisor. Someone whom you know is unconditionally interested in your well being. It is a "how to" book that does not add anxiety to our inability to be perfect. A "how to" book about what? About being open, about relaxing and surrendering to the uncertainties and insecurities of life. It is a book helpful to life and the goodness of life. I thank the author for her effort in writing it....more info
  • She does it again...
    All of Pema's books are great. Practical, down to earth, funny, and very honest. No dogma. She is the living essence of compassion. Like another of my favorite authors, James Hillman, she simply invites you to think, try,.. and experience the results. She changed my life....more info
  • Deeply satisfying
    Excellent book--heartful advice. Helped me immeasurably! And I'm still using it. The author asks the questions that matter and touches on all those "I must be the only one who feels this way" kind of thinking and behavior. No empty pages of empty words telling the reader the obvious. Right to the point in a gentle humane way. Really opened my eyes!...more info
  • "May we lead the life of a warrior."
    "I offer this guide on the training of the compassionate warrior," Pema Chodron writes in the Prologue of her newest book. "May it help move us toward the places that scare us. May it inform our lives and help us to die with no regrets" (p. 2). Chodron is a Buddhist nun, and the resident teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia. Chogyam Trungpa was her teacher. When Chodron was about six years old, an old woman told her, "Little girl, don't you go letting life harden your heart" (p. 3). Chodron offers this "pith instruction" as the central teaching of her this book. She writes, "we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice" (p. 3).

    Chodron quotes Albert Einstein, who observed "a human being . . . experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest--a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening the circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty" (p. 9). To escape this prison, Chodron encourages us to live life with an enlightened heart and mind ("bodhichitta"), and by analogy, with the "rawness of a broken heart" (p. 4). "This genuine heart of sadness can teach us great compassion. It can humble us when we're arrogant and soften us when we are unkind. It awakens us when we prefer to sleep and pierces through our indifference. This continual ache of the heart is a blessing that when accepted fully can be shared with all" (p. 4). "Each of us has a variety of habitual tactics for avoiding life as it is" (p. 15), Chodron writes. She teaches us that through the heart practices of sitting meditation (the "natural seat" and "home ground" of bodhichitta training, p. 23), loving-kindness, compassion, tonglen, joy, and equanimity, wherever we are, we can train as a bodhichitta warrior. "Bodhisattva training encourages us to have a passionate involvement with life," Chodron says, "regarding no emotion or action as unworthy of our love and compassion, regarding no person or situation as unacceptable" (p. 115).

    "Warriors-in-training need someone to guide them," Chodron says, "a master warrior, a teacher, a spiritual friend, someone who knows the territory well and can help them find their way" (p. 113). For some people, reading this book along with Chodron's previous books, START WHERE YOU ARE and WHEN THINGS FALL APART, may be enough. Chodron is a wise teacher. Rather than praising these three books all day, I'll conclude by saying this book is sure to become one of the most trusted dharma resources on my bookshelf.

    G. Merritt...more info
  • Facing the Places That Scare Us
    Pema Chodron's latest book, "The Places That Scare You," was released just before the world experienced the embodiment of all the places that scare us: the inconceivable catastrophic events of September 11 and their aftermath. Of course, we must not pass over the monumental suffering cause by these events. However, the real message of September 11 is to point out the insecurity that constantly lies beneath the surface of our existence, the groundlessness that we fear and either try to ignore or to flee. Fear ordinarily shuts down our hearts and minds; it makes our world smaller. But when we begin to relate to our fear fully and properly, the vulnerability that we ourselves experience is transformed into genuine caring for others and for our world. In her book, Pema presents various tools for facing up to fear as a springboard for giving birth to bodhichitta, the awakened heart of love and compassion. These include mindfulness meditation, training in the four limitless ones (loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity), and the practice of tonglen (exchanging ourselves for others). For people interested in learning more about tonglen, Pema has written another book called "Tonglen: The Path of Transformation," which is available from Vajradhatu Publications....more info
  • The Places That Scare You: A Guide to fearessness in Difficult Times
    Another great book by Pema Chodron. Very practical and applicable to our everyday struggles with life. Truth spoken in common language! ...more info
    Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhis nun, is the one inspirational person you would choose to have with you when your world falls apart. Being a follower of Buddhist Philosophies for many years, I have found inner peace, strength, love and fulfillment through my beliefs. Each one of us must find "enlightenment" from whatever source we alone believe in, but for me, personally, Buddhism has been the answer. As the author reminds us, "Loving kindness comes from opening ourselves to vulnerability."

    Meditation, mindfulness and practices such as "tonglen" (taking in the pain and suffering of others while sending out happiness) can be key tools in ridding ourselves of negativity, anxiety and fear. Each of us has within us the power to overcome that which causes us fear. Chodron explains how we can use these tools to overcome almost any obstacle or challenge.

    Another book by the same author which is highly recommended is "When Things Fall Apart." Both offer excellent words of wisdom and advice and both are deserving of a five-star rating. Chodron is a teacher, a sage, an inspirationalist, a mentor and a prime example of one who is good, compassionate, understanding, kind and loving....more info

  • Perhaps the most mature approach to spiritual awakening.
    When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Classics)

    For people who are looking for a practice guide that will help them understand the process of observation with rigorous acceptance, integrity and compassion of all that which is observed. This is about finding peace through that process because the heart opens as a result. The opening and openness of the heart are at the core of that peace which we seek. Our incessant wanting is only satiated by an open heart. It represents a mature emotional and spiritual approach in understanding what we want and how we gain peace. Perhaps a truly fully open heart receives (perhaps even attracts?) what it wants because it cherishes what is....more info
  • Read this book and be less alone.
    As a psychotherapist and writer dealing with fear from a psychological perspective (Embracing Fear, HarperSanFrancisco 2002), I am delighted to discover Pema Chodron, an author who both supports and challenges my beliefs from a spiritual point of view.

    Chodron speaks directly and clearly to our hearts, but never fails to attend to our minds in this thoroughly enjoyable and immensely helpful book. She goes beyond teaching us what it means to be brave; she shows us how to make courage a daily practice. I am especially impressed with what Chodron has to say about the value of moving toward (rather than hiding from) what scares us. She validates what I have experienced --- professionally and personally --- time and again: that fear is a tremendous teacher.

    And last but certainly not least: if an excellent sense of humor is really a sign of intelligence, this woman is brilliant....more info

  • Compassion to Battle Fear
    No one gets through life without being asked to do some heroic deed whether internal or external. All heroic deeds have fear attached to them or else they wouldn't be heroic, right?

    My recent heroic deed was to tell the truth. Reading Pema Chodron's, "The Places that Scare You" showed me that there are many mental/spiritual positions a person can take when being fearful. One helpful bit of advice was to take a deep breath and observe that fear, what is it trying to point us to, what needs to be changed so that that fear can be disarmed? It is a wonderful guide for compassionate introspection. Compassion being the key word here - first for ourselves then for others.

    ...more info
  • This book could change your life
    Straightforward, clear, and utterly true. For those of us who are seeking spiritual awareness but have never felt connected to mainstream religion, this book can be a real eye-opener. Focusing on a very simple meditation technique, Chodron allows us to open up to the sweetness in our hearts. She encourages us to become aware of the protective walls that we erect around our hearts, so we can see how much sorrow and unhappiness those walls can cause. The appendix has links to various organizations and websites that nicely augment the content....more info
  • An insightful book
    Pema Chrodon's work is, as always is an insightful read about human nature and emotions and how we come to term with those emotions. I found the focus on the bodhichitta and the different sayings fascinating as well as enjoying further revelations about Buddhist beliefs and spirituality. All of what she writes is applicable to living life and facing the fears any of us could face.

    The only reason this is a four instead of a five is because you can find a lot of what she writes in here, in her other works. It still makes for good reading, but reading one of her works seems to get to heart of all of her writing....more info
  • Calming, inspiring reminder...
    I love listening to this tape. I put it on and start it over again when it is done. I find it totally inspiring to listen to the writing of this wise Buddhist monk.
    My only criticism is that the woman who reads the book (beautiful voice, by the way). She pronounces the word "strength" omitting the 'g' sound. This was horribly annoying to me. I grew up pronouncing the 'g' and it sounds prissy and pompous to omit the 'g' sound....more info
  • Wonderful Book
    I loved this book -- it's practical and prescriptive. I applied her advice into both my personal and professional life. Next steps -- I will read her entire collection....more info
  • The Places that Scare You
    This was a wonderful book that gently takes you through how to deal with your emotions as well as how to let them help you to develop your compassion. Before I was done reading it, I was already planning to read it again. I highly recommend this book!...more info