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Contents:
  1. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times - The CEO Library
  2. Top Authors
  3. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (20th Anniversary Edition)
  4. When Things Fall Apart

In a book about Tibet, I saw a photograph in which people were bringing a body to the charnel ground. There was a circle of vultures that looked to be about the size of 2-year-old children — all just sitting there waiting for this body to arrive. Perhaps the closest thing to a charnel ground in our world is not a graveyard but a hospital emergency room. That could be the image for our working basis, which is grounded in some honesty about how the human realm functions. It smells, it bleeds, it is full of unpredictability, but at the same time, it is self-radiant wisdom, good food, that which nourishes us, that which is beneficial and pure.

Regarding what arises as awakened energy reverses our fundamental habitual pattern of trying to avoid conflict, trying to make ourselves better than we are, trying to smooth things out and pretty them up, trying to prove that pain is a mistake and would not exist in our lives if only we did all the right things. This view turns that particular pattern completely around, encouraging us to become interested in looking at the charnel ground of our lives as the working basis for attaining enlightenment. Often in our daily lives we panic. How do we walk into those dramas?

How do we deal with those demons, which are basically our hopes and fears? How do we stop struggling against ourselves?

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But how do we do that? The point is that we can dissolve the sense of dualism between us and them, between this and that, between here and there, by moving toward what we find difficult and wish to push away. In terms of everyday experience, these methods encourage us not to feel embarrassed about ourselves.

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times - The CEO Library

There is nothing to be embarrassed about. We could be proud to display our Jewish matzo balls, our Indian curry, our African-American chitlins, our middle American hamburger and fries. Chaos is part of our home ground.

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Instead of looking for something higher or purer, work with it just as it is. The world we find ourselves in, the person we think we are — these are our working bases. This charnel ground called life is the manifestation of wisdom. This wisdom is the basis of freedom and also the basis of confusion. In every moment of time, we make a choice. Which way do we go?

Top Authors

How do we relate to the raw material of our existence? These are three very practical ways to work with chaos: no struggle, poison as medicine and regarding everything that arises as the manifestation of wisdom.

First, we can train in letting the story lines go. Slow down enough to just be present, let go of the multitude of judgments and schemes, and stop struggling. Second, we can use every day of our lives to take a different attitude toward suffering. Instead of pushing it away, we can breathe it in with the wish that everyone could stop hurting, with the wish that people everywhere could experience contentment in their hearts. We could transform pain into joy. Third, we can acknowledge that suffering exists, that darkness exists.

The chaos in here and the chaos out there — this is basic energy, the play of wisdom.

Whether we regard our situation as heaven or as hell depends on our perception. When we wake up in the morning, we can dedicate our day to learning how to do this. We can cultivate a sense of humor and practice giving ourselves a break. Every time we sit down to meditate, we can think of it as training to lighten up, to have a sense of humor, to relax.

Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, Colorado.


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Sanity is permanent. And faith was not a term that I had ever used for myself. So I gave it some thought, you know. I do have a lot of faith. But the main faith is that sentient beings have the capacity to awaken all beings.

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (20th Anniversary Edition)

And that, given the right causes and conditions, many people who are sort of neutral, and could get caught by the sweep, or a strong seduction towards aggression could equally be swayed toward peace and love and kindness. In every life, there comes a time when we are razed to the bone of our resilience by losses beyond our control — lacerations of the heart that feel barely bearable, that leave us bereft of solid ground. What then? In When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times public library , she draws on her own confrontation with personal crisis and on the ancient teachings of Tibetan Buddhism to offer gentle and incisive guidance to the enormity we stand to gain during those times when all seems to be lost.

Fear is a universal experience. Even the smallest insect feels it. We wade in the tidal pools and put our finger near the soft, open bodies of sea anemones and they close up. Everything spontaneously does that. It is part of being alive, something we all share. We react against the possibility of loneliness, of death, of not having anything to hold on to. Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth. If we commit ourselves to staying right where we are, then our experience becomes very vivid. Things become very clear when there is nowhere to escape.

The arrogance that inevitably does arise is going to be continually shot down by our own courage to step forward a little further. The kinds of discoveries that are made through practice have nothing to do with believing in anything. They have much more to do with having the courage to die, the courage to die continually. In essence, this is the hard work of befriending ourselves, which is our only mechanism for befriending life in its completeness.

Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.


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Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. Awakeness is found in our pleasure and our pain, our confusion and our wisdom, available in each moment of our weird, unfathomable, ordinary everyday lives.

When Things Fall Apart

Embracing life includes embracing all the challenges that come along with it. There is no way to cut out all negativities, stresses, tension, or chaos. The only option is to work with whatever happens to us on a daily basis. Being able to adapt, and accept that bad things will happen to everyone will make us a stronger, happier, and more resilient person. We can take a hit and move on, hopefully to a positive situation or circumstance. The earlier we learn this sense of mindfulness and awareness, preferably as children and teens, the better we will be equipped to handle any obstacle that gets in our way.

Whenever a difficult situation arises, try these steps to return to a clear-headed state in which problem-solving is much more effective.