Start Where You Are

Title: Start Where You Are

Author: Pema Chödrön

Rating: 7/10

"Start Where You Are" is an indispensable handbook for cultivating fearlessness and awakening a compassionate heart. With insight and humour, Pema Chödrön presents down-to-earth guidance on how we can "start where we are"—embracing rather than denying the painful aspects of our lives. Chödrön frames her teachings on compassion around fifty-nine traditional Tibetan Buddhist maxims, or slogans, such as: "Always apply only a joyful state of mind," "Don't seek others' pain as the limbs of your own happiness," and "Always meditate on whatever provokes resentment."

Working with the Lojong slogans and through the practice of meditation, aka Tonglen, “Start Where You Are” shows how we can all develop the courage to work with our inner pain and discover joy, well-being, and confidence.

How do I apply this to my work with clients?

As an empath I have often found it challenging to let go and separate from the emotions I feel (whether mine or another’s). The practice of Tonglen encourages me to use my empathic capacity, however to then practice aerating the feelings and then detaching from them. This practice has been invaluable in supporting my own development as an individual and as a coach.

Along with introducing clients to the practice of Tonglen, I have also used Chodron’s explanation of the superego as an opening for discussion and insight with my clients. The visual element of her metaphor (the ego as a perfect and comfortable room in which one feels safe) allows for quite a visceral engagement with a concept that to many is rather abstract.

This book has also offered some wonderful ideas for narratives; distinctions; exercises (readings) and practices.

How do I apply this to myself?

A number of years ago (after reading this book) I introduced the Tonglen practice into my daily routine, and have continued to use it as a tool for opening my heart and developing myself as an individual and as a coach.

I also regularly refer back to the various pages/stories that really stood out for me when reading this book.

In terms of the Lojong slogans – while I found them to hold deep value, I have also been creative in creating my own intuitive slogans upon which to meditate and explore, and I often invite my clients to do the same.

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