Best Pema Chodron Books That Will Help You Embrace Uncertainty

Pema Chodron is an American Buddhist nun and a student of the Tibetan Buddhist master, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She is best known for making Buddhist philosophy and teachings straightforward and accessible to Western readers.

She used to be an elementary school teacher. But her life changed drastically after her second divorce when her husband had an affair and decided to leave her. She went into intense depression and struggled to break through it. That is the time when she started getting involved with Buddhism.

Below are the 10 best Pema Chodron books. Her books are mainly about embracing impermanence, uncertainty, and change, and navigating difficult times. Instead of running away from fear, she encourages us to run towards it. A mix of both humor and insight, you will find comfort in her teachings.

Choose a book that resonates with you the most.

Top 10 Best Pema Chodron Books

Disclosure:  Please note that the links below are affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase, but it will be at no additional cost to you. 

1. When Things Fall Apart

“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.”

If you are going through a difficult time and you are struggling with intense, emotional pains such as fear or anxiety, this book is for you.

In this book, the author helps you to understand why fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth. When her husband left her, she felt her whole world collapsed and she felt angry and afraid. She shows you how Buddhist teachings have helped her to overcome this pivotal moment in her life and how she eventually became thankful for the experience.

Through twenty-two short chapters, you will learn how to deal with the ups and downs of life.

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2. The Places That Scare You

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals.”

If you are always trying to escape from difficult circumstances and emotions, this book will help you sit with your discomfort without trying to fix them.

In this book, the author encourages us to see problems as spiritual opportunities. She shows us how we can use all of our fears as a way to soften our hearts and open us to greater kindness. It’s only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. 

This book helps you to be in touch with your emotions and connect with others through compassion.

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3. Start Where You Are

“We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement.”

If you want to awaken your genuine compassionate heart, this is the book for you.

As per the author, until we get to the heart of who we are and make friends with ourselves, everything we do will always be superficial. We will try to find ways to make our lives better and fix our pain but the effects of these attempts don’t last very long.

In this book, you will find Buddhist practices that encourage you to use unwanted things in your life to awaken compassion for yourself and others. It’s only when we are there for ourselves that we can be there for others too.

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4. The Wisdom of No Escape

“Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.”

If you find it difficult to love yourself and the world, this is the book for you.

This book is about loving-kindness. When people start to meditate, they often want to improve. But this is a subtle aggression against who we really are. It’s like saying, “If I could meditate and calm down, I’d be a better person.”

Loving-kindness is not about changing ourselves. It’s about loving ourselves just as we are right now. Reading this book will help you to embrace all the ups and downs in life as though there is “no escape” from them.

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5. Taking the Leap

“Words themselves are neutral. It’s the charge we add to them that matters”

Ever feel trapped in the same old habits and painful emotions time and time again? If you want to free yourself from old habits and thinking that no longer serve you, this is the book for you.

In this book, the author shows how certain habits of mind tend to “hook” us and get us stuck in states of anger, blame, self-hatred, addiction, and etc. She also introduced the Buddhist concept of Shenpa, which is all the attachments and compulsions that cause us suffering, and show us how we can break free from them.

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6. The Pocket Pema Chodron

“In a nutshell, when life is pleasant, think of others. When life is a burden, think of others.”

If you want a small, pocket-sized book which you can carry around everywhere in your handbag or work bag, this is the perfect book for you. 

This tiny book brings together some of the author’s most memorable teachings from her previously published works. Each chapter is very short, about one page long. Reading it one chapter a day will help you feel calm and centered. 

It’s great for readers who are new to the author or those who are already fans of Pema Chodron.

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7. Comfortable with Uncertainty​

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

If you want a book that contains short, stand-alone readings that you can read and apply every single day, this is the book for you.

In this book, the author shares 108 practical teachings for cultivating mindfulness and compassion in the face of fear and uncertainty. It includes sitting meditation, tonglen, working with slogans, and etc. It also explores various topics such as lovingkindness, meditation, mindfulness, letting go, and working with fear and other painful emotions.

You do not need to have prior knowledge of Buddhist thought or practice to benefit from this book.

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8. Welcoming the Unwelcome

“Shielding ourselves from the vulnerability of all living beings—which includes our own vulnerability—cuts us off from the full experience of our life.”

If you want to help others and learn to love the world just as it is, this book will help you awaken your mind and heart.

Published in 2019, this is the author’s first new book of spiritual teachings in over seven years. In this book, the author shares the true meaning of karma and how to recognize the basic goodness in ourselves and other people.

Unlike her other books, this book speaks to us in our present climate where everything seems so polarized. Reading it will help us to be more connected and free ourselves from labels that separate us.

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9. Living Beautifully​

“When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, that’s called enlightenment.”

If you are struggling to live with uncertainty and change, this book is for you.

In this book, the author shows us how fear-based clinging keeps us from the powerful experience of being fully alive. Everything keeps changing. When we try to find solid ground in the face of impermanence, our stress intensifies.  

This book teaches us to embrace the groundlessness of being human and make friends with unpredictability and uncertainty. It’s great for people who have a tendency to resist change.

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10. How to Meditate

“This is a standard meditation instruction that you can embody in the entirety of your life: do not act out and do not repress.”

This book gives you everything you need to know about meditation. 

From posture to working with your breath, this book explores meditation in-depth and offers many meditation approaches and insights. Not only is this a great introduction for beginners but for people who find their meditation practices challenging, they will also find this book useful.

Named One of Library Journal’s Best Books of 2013, the author shares her insights in a gentle, down-to-earth, and honest manner that will inspire you to meditate.

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10 Pema Chodron Quotes

1. “You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”

2. “If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”

3. “When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity not to be afraid.”

4. “If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart.”

5. “Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

6. “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

7. “The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with.”

8. “Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.”

9. “I used to have a sign pinned up on my wall that read: Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us…It was all about letting go of everything.”

10. “When we protect ourselves so we won’t feel pain, that protection becomes like armor, like armor that imprisons the softness of the heart.”

My Spiritual Book About Loving Yourself

Empty Your Cup by Yong Kang Chan

Why don’t we love ourselves? The culprit is the mind.

Throughout this book, the cup is used as an analogy for the mind. And there are seven stages that the mind goes through.

This book has a mix of both psychology and spirituality. Reading this book will help you understand why and how our minds became our obstacles for self-compassion and spiritual awakening.

In this book, you will also learn how mindfulness can help us remember our spiritual self and our role as an observer. If you are looking for a simple book that helps you be present and love yourself, this is the book for you.

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