Cosmic Book Club: ‘The Places That Scare You’ – A guide to fearlessness by Pema Chödrön

We always have a choice, Pema Chödrön teaches: We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us and make us increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder.

“Finding the courage to go to the places that scare us cannot happen without asking ourselves ‘What do I do when I feel I can’t handle what’s going on? Where do I look for strength and in what do I place my trust?

When fear or anxiety has a grip on you don’t turn away, have a drink, a snack, or smoke or switch on the TV. Instead, look your fear straight in the eyes – and see it for what it really is… ” – Back page description 

It is good to take it slow with ‘The Places That Scare You’, and digest all the lessons inside. It took me a while to read it and I noticed how I got to each lesson at the perfect time, sometimes the lessons were learnt, sometimes I realised I needed more time.

The Places That Scare You‘ is not an easy read. The lessons want you to go deep into self enquiry and work on ancient patterns that would like to be released. This book is based on Buddhist philosophy, of which Pema Chödrön is a sharer of its wisdom.

Some lessons below: 

Learning more of ‘Bodhichitta’ – which means ‘awake heart’.


Teachings include:

Hatred never ceases by hatred

But by love alone is healed

This is an ancient and eternal law

- Buddha


How to unlock Bodhichitta into an awake heart – look at the three lords of materialism, strategies which we use to provide illusions of security.

1: Lord of form – How we look to externals to give us solid ground – I.E. shopping, alcohol, food.

2: Lord of speech – How we use beliefs of all kinds to give us the illusion of certainty about the nature of reality – I.E. our judgements and how we use them to make ourselves feel right and the others wrong.

3: Lord of mind – when we avoid uneasiness by seeking special states of mind – I.E. drugs, sports, sex, falling in love, spiritual practices all come in here. “When we take refuge in the lord of the mind, we are doomed to disappointment.”


The Buddha taught that flexibility and openness bring strength and that running from groundlessness weakens us and brings pain.


In Buddha’s opinion, to train in staying open and curious – to train in dissolving our assumptions and beliefs – is the best use of our human lives.

Learning about complete acceptance of ourselves as we are.

“Self-improvement can have temporary results, but lasting transformation occurs only when we honor ourselves as the source of wisdom and compassion. We are, as the eighth-century buddhist master Shantideva pointed out, very much like a blind person who finds a jewel buried in a heap of garbage. Right in what we would like to throw away, in what we find repulsive and frightening, we discover the warmth and clarity of Bodhichitta.”


Working with habitual patterns and training in the three difficulties:

1. Acknowledging our neurosis as neurosis

2. Doing something different

3. Aspiring to continue practicing this way



Cultivating compassion for ourselves and others.



The four limitless qualities - Loving Kindness, compassion, joy, equanimity

May all sentient beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness

May we be free from suffering and the root of suffering

May we not be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering

May we dwell in the great equanimity free from passion, aggression and prejudice


The practice of Maitri (loving kindness) and Tonglen (the willingness to take in the pain of yourself and others and send out happiness).


Being with discomfort and allowing it to transform you.


And much more! I don’t want to give it all away, but there are some gems inside for you to learn and grow from.


 This post was written by Kim Booth

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