Welcoming the Unwelcome: Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World

Pema Chodron. Shambhala, $22.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-61180-565-9

Chodron (Practicing Peace), a Buddhist teacher and bestselling poet, asks readers in this exquisite meditation to consider distinctions between the self and the other that can lead to polarization and suffering. To do so, she writes, one must sublimate personal motivations in favor of bodhicitta; roughly translated as the “awakened heart-mind,” bodhicitta is an aspiration to help others and a commitment to know oneself. Chodron targets what she sees as growing animosity within modern society, and teaches that, because reality is impermanent, the ego must struggle and harden against the “brokenheartedness of suffering” by being “open to our own discomfort.” Rather than losing one’s awareness by being “hooked” by constant attention to one’s suffering, Chodron advises readers to “stay upright with... vulnerability” and to “connect with the unbiased open space” of basic goodness. She offers instructions for sitting meditation, tonglen meditation, and LESR (locate, embrace, stop, and remain) as concrete practices. While her only practical advice relates to meditation practices, Chodron asks readers throughout to remain with the fear and anxiety of groundlessness that is the very source of polarization. For her, such practice transforms the present moment from harmful habits to fresh opportunities. Though Chodron treads familiar territory, her trademark tenacity and wisdom provide meditative practices and convincing rationale for more empathetic living. (Oct.)