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I’ve been interested in meditation for most of my adult life & have practiced a wide range of different techniques with different organisations. Favouring more secular practices, I always shied away from Tibetan Buddhism & its esoteric cultural trappings. For instance, when I was first taught Ton Glen meditation, it involved visualizing myself as a Buddha with a particular symbolic meaning, who was holding various symbolic objects, etc. Even though I was briefly told what they were, a lack of familiarity with this image made it difficult to relate to. Then I recently attended a Mindfulness course in which the teacher taught a secularized, Western-friendly variation of Ton Glen. Rather than a Buddha, he asked us to visualise ourselves at an earlier age, and then give this earlier self all the compassion, forgiveness & emotional support which they had needed at the time. This was an incredibly powerful experience for me. And, as it turned out, it was the version of Ton Glen which features heavily in this book.

Prior to this, I hadn’t really used visualizations in meditation & it wasn’t something which appealed to me. Yet I found this version of Ton Glen to be incredibly powerful. No prior book-learning of the Tibetan Buddhist canon was necessary & the emotional link to a difficult time in my past helped to connect with some deeply-rooted feelings & mental processes. The consensus in the group discussion afterwards was that it had helped those of us who had no problem with meditating on compassion for others but who struggled to find compassion for themselves. This, as Pema Chodran points out in this book, means we had not been extending our compassion to everyone in the universe. And thanks to that emotional connection, compassion became an accessible feeling instead of merely an intellectualized concept. Once we have compassion for ourselves, Chodran presents practical insights into how it is easier & more meaningful to pass our compassion onto others – not only loved ones but also strangers & people we actively hate, or who just rub us up the wrong way.

This was my first Pema Chodran book & I didn’t actually realise it was about Ton Glen when I bought it just after the course - isn’t it great when you find exactly the right book at exactly the right time?! Chodran’s approach is also refreshingly Westernised & easy to relate to. Her description of Ton Glen & its benefits was regularly furnished with down-to-earth examples. An example which stuck with me was her advice on meditating on ‘loving-kindness’. Because this is a vague term, translated from a different language which will mean something slightly different to everyone, she recommends replacing it with a more specific one of your own choosing. She gives examples from her own students, which include ‘may all beings have an experience which leads to growth’ & ‘may my father have coffee’. The latter was from a lady whose terminally ill father had all the care he needed, so she hoped he could see past the suffering & medical procedures to still connect with the simple joy in life which coffee always gave him.

As soon as I finished this book, I bought several more from the same author. Chodran has completely changed my perception of Tibetan Buddhism, by showing that behind the cultural trappings – which can be pushed aside if need be – are some practical techniques which have helped deepen my practice immeasurably. Her approach is wise, compassionate & utterly practical. Highly recommended.
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on 27 June 2016
A very insightful book on meditation. It talks about opening ourselves while taking a hard look at who we are and not escaping our problems. Is not a cheesy self help book... in fact, it's very no-nonsense. I would not recommend it to a beginner, because it speaks about the struggles you can find during the practice. Even though is short, it is not an easy read, not because it's boring - is actually, fascinating - but because it is complex. You may find yourself trying to absorb the words and re-reading them to fully understand the message (maybe I'm just dumb). The main reason I say is not for beginners is that you need to be a meditaton practicioner, without the practice you won't relate to the problems she's addressing. If you worry that your meditation practice is failing you, or you have neglected it, or you simply worry about it not being perfect, this book is for you. It's definitely more than what meets the eye, I know this because the first two pages I was not convinced and then I ended up completely blown away but it's realistic, analytical approach and sometimes even cold hard truths.
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on 24 March 2017
I really like Pema Chodron's writing style. She expresses herself in a really clear and kind manner. But, I think I would prefer to hear the contents of this book delivered in a workshop as it's difficult to take on board some of her teachings by just reading them. (She tends to use lists with 4 items a lot).
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on 6 August 2017
Great book, recommend any of Pema's writings.
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on 18 August 2017
great book.
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on 29 June 2015
Really enjoyable, a good read.
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on 10 September 2013
This book made me feel raw and uncomfortable at times - being like a mirror, reflecting back elements of my 'self' that aren't noble or particularly nice. But, she counters that with honest, direct and compassionate advice to a) ease up on yourself, b) it doesn't really matter, and c) attactching to negative self-references is not the point. Not particularly academic, but then that's just what you need for realistic, day-to-day guidance that can be put to use in your daily doings. Simple, potent and useful.
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on 26 May 2007
This book provides a gentle introduction into some of the basic practices within the Buddhist school of thought.

Some of the practices that were presented included Meditation, Slogans of Atisha, Tonglen and the Four Limitless Qualities (Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity).

The practices aim to present an alternative ways of dealing with common emotions and feeling that we encounter in our daily life. The practices are presented as a way of helping us break away from the self destructive patterns of behaviours and attitudes that we have accumulated and were forced to pick up along the way in our lives. The key ideas in the book revolve around the opening of both the mind and heart to all the emotions that we experience and the situations we find ourselves in.

This was my first book on this subject, and as such I found it a little of a challenge to follow some of the concepts that were presented in the book, and my only minor criticism is the lack of sufficient examples that could have been used to illustrate some of the points that were being made.
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on 31 March 2017
I have found the voice of my teacher in this book. Erudite and esoteric. Inspiring and inaccessible. Infuriating and enlightening. By finishing the book, I am only just starting it.
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on 25 September 2010
I had read a few books by connected authors on this theme, which is very dear to my heart as I have found these practices and teachings so very very useful and liberating. So I bought this book as a present for my partner as it is small, and seemed to cover a whole range of themes very nicely.
Now, more and more, I find myself dipping into it myself, again and again. Pema Chodron seems to have distilled all the most essential Teachings of Buddhism into this little book, in a way that is so very approachable, practical and useable.
This is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful book. I can't recommend it enough. What an amazing, beautiful, free and loving society we might have in the future if lots of people really bring these Teachings into their lives. Please read it, then give a copy to a friend...
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