top of page

A Book Review: The Places that Scare You by Pema Chödrön

This is an article I wrote for my original blog, Enlightenment for Schmucks.


Flashback to 2008: I’m having a showdown with my bookcase. Tucked away on the bottom shelf sits The Places That Scare You. It has mysteriously been knocked out of its spot where I’d stashed it away from view, and is now hanging on for dear life on the edge of the ledge in between ‘Cats 101’ and Dave Barry’s ‘Babies and Other Hazards of Sex’.


I’m staring at it knowing that I should have read it months ago when my girlfriend first sent it to me to deal with the existential crisis that I was having on the phone with her night after night due to my marriage’s deterioration.


Instead, I’m sitting up in my big lonely loft and contemplating it with trepidation. I know instinctively that opening it up is the beginning of the end of a relationship that in reality has already begun to end. The book is beckoning me as if to say that my time has run out on avoidance and I have to face the facts of my abysmal situation either with or without it.


I slowly walk over to the shelf and sit down on the floor. Pulling it out, I read this on the cover:


A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times.


I flip past the first few pages, and stop “randomly” on page 5 to peruse the paragraph:


“An analogy for bodhichitta is the rawness of a broken heart.”

Whoa. OK then. I’ve definitely come to the right place. And then:


The genuine heart of sadness can teach us great compassion….It awakens us when we prefer to sleep and pierces through our indifference."

One page later, I was hooked for life when I read:


“those who train wholeheartedly in awakening….are called bodhisattvas or warriors – not warriors who kill and harm but warriors of nonaggression who hear the cries of the world.”

Chills ran through me as I realized that a book I had thought would simply h