If I had read this book six months ago, it would not have had the same impact. A recent crisis provided the opportunity to embrace Pema's voice. In our culture, we tend to focus on our own pain and issues. Tonglen, on the other hand, encourages using life's challenges as a way to spread kindness and compassion.
Admittedly, the initial concepts appeared bizarre to me. "Make friends with your demons" and "Chaos should be regarded as extremely good news" came across as masochistic. But when one has hit rock bottom, we tend to discover our humility, which allows us to be more open to new ideas. When I read the phrase "Things become very clear when there is nowhere to escape," I found myself nodding in agreement. From that point on, I embraced each line-word for word.
The best gift one can give to themselves or others is a copy of "When Things Fall Apart." It is indeed a book that I found much hope and comfort in. I just ordered Pema's book collection and look forward to learning more about practicing tonglen from her.
Some of my other favorite passages from the book:
"...nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. If we run a hundred miles an hour to the other end of the continent in order to get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem waiting for us when we arrive. It just keeps returning with new names, forms, and manifestations..."
"As long as we don't want to be honest and kind with ourselves, then we are always going to be infants. When we begin just to try to accept ourselves, the ancient burden of self-importance lightens up considerably. Finally there's room for genuine inquisitiveness, and we find we have an appetite for what's out there."
"...the person we set out to help may trigger unresolved issues in us. Even though we want to help, and maybe we do help for a few days or a month or two, sooner or later someone walks through that door and pushes all our buttons. We find ourselves hating those people or scared of them or feeling like we just can't handle them. This is true always, if we are sincere about wanting to benefit others. Sooner or later, all our own unresolved issues will come up; we'll be confronted with ourselves."