Start Where You Are Book Summary I Pema Chodron

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Book – Start Where You Are (Summary)

Author – Pema Chödrön

Genre – Self-help Book

Published in – 2013

In the context of being kind to ourselves, Start Where You Are shows how our greatest asset is our vulnerability that we so desperately protect.

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.

In our era, where we are often close to our feeling and withdraw from ourselves and others, this book helps in opening up to ourselves and others.

Pema Chodron Photo

About the Author

Pema Chödrön is an American Tibetan Buddhist. She is an ordained nun, former acharya of Shambhala Buddhism and disciple of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Chödrön has written several dozen books and audiobooks including The Wisdom of No Escape When Things Fall Apart and is the principal teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia.

About the Book

Start where you frame Pema’s 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 other’s pain as the limbs of your happiness,” and “Always meditate on whatever provokes resentment.”

Pema learnt teachings in the book from Tibetan teacher Jamgon Kongtrul the Great. This teaching is Called the Lojong (Meaning “Mind Training) teachings, which also include a very supportive meditation practice called Tonglen and the practice of working with the seven points of mind training.

These practices show us how to accept ourselves, how to relate directly with suffering, how to stop running away from the painful aspects of our lives. They show us how to work openheartedly with life just as it is.

Few Key Take Away From The Book

1) What Book Teaches

  • When we find that we are closing down to ourselves and to others, here is instruction on how to open. When we find that we are holding back, here is instruction on how to give.
  • That which is unwanted and rejected in ourselves and in others can be seen and felt with honesty and compassion. This is teaching on how to be there for others without withdrawing.

2) No Escape, No Problem

  • Pema claims there is no need of self-improvement and we are good as we are. All the things we like and dislike about our life are our wealth. We are just one blink away from being fully awake. When we look at life this way, it feels us with hope.
  • Only to the degree that we’ve gotten to know our personal pain, only to the degree that we’ve related with pain at all, will we be fearless enough, brave enough, and enough of a warrior to be willing to feel the pain of others.

3) Lojong Teachings

  • The basic teachings of Lojong is to embrace pain by holding on to our seat, going closer to it instead of running from it. Out instinct is to run from bad experience and hold on to good.
  • Lojong teachings encourages readers to share good with others instead of holding on it and use unwanted experience to awaken our heart and let it soften us.
  • Whether it’s pain or pleasure, through Lojong practice we come to have a sense of letting our experience be as it is without trying to manipulate it, push it away, or grasp it.
  • Labeling thoughts while MEDITATION is catching ourselves when we are distracted from breath and gently label it as “THINKING” and return to breath without judging, making drifting good or bad.
Woman sitting in lotus posture

4) Pulling Out the Rug

  • Meditation isn’t about getting rid of thoughts — you’ll think forever. Nevertheless, if you follow the breath and label your thoughts, you learn to let things go. Beliefs of solidness, beliefs of emptiness, let it all go.
  • If you are contemplating to start meditation and has lots of inhibition, you may consider starting with this 3 Minutes Meditations Program to get in to meditation practice and reap the benefits of meditation.

5) Poison As Medicine

  • In the Buddhist teachings, the messy stuff is called Klesha, which means poison. Boiling it all down to the simplest possible formula, there are three main poisons: passion, aggression, and ignorance.
  • One object is what we find pleasant, another is what we find unpleasant, and a third is what we’re neutral about. If it’s pleasant, it triggers craving; if it’s unpleasant, it triggers aversion; if it’s neutral, it triggers ignorance.

6) Start Where You Are

  • We must make friends with ourselves first, before we get better with others. As, how we behave with self, is how we see the world. What we do for self, we do for others and vice-versa.
  • If you have rage and righteously act it out and blame it all on others, it’s really you who suffers. The other people and the environment suffer also, but you suffer more because you’re being eaten up inside with rage, causing you to hate yourself more and more.

7) Tonglen Technique

  • Tonglem practice encourage to breathe in whenever negative feeling comes up like jealousy, envy, pain, sadness instead of sending out in the world. That’s another way of saying you don’t resist it. You surrender to yourself, you acknowledge who you are, you honor yourself.
  • By the same token, if you feel some sense of delight—if you connect with something inspiring, opening, relieving, relaxing—you breathe it out, you give it away, you send it out to everyone else. Don’t hold it back. You let it flow.

8) Drive All Blames Into One

  • It’s said that everything has a beginning, middle, and end, but when we start blaming and talking to ourselves, things seem to have a beginning, a middle, and no end.
  • Pema encourages readers to own the anger, and other negative feeling. Let go of narrative and go beyond blaming others.
  • Try to be aware in the moment when you feel anger, drop the object that rose anger or any negative feeling. Be grateful for getting an opportunity to deal with this feeling and let it pass for good so that it doesn’t affect you any longer.

9) Be Grateful to Everyone

Thankful world Image
  • Be grateful to everyone is about making peace with the aspects of ourselves that we have rejected. By doing that, we also make peace with the people we dislike. More to the point, being around people we dislike is often a catalyst for making friends with ourselves. Thus, “Be grateful to everyone.”
  • Helping yourself or someone else has to do with opening up and just being there; that’s how something happens between people. But it’s a continuous process.

10) Overcoming Resistance

Resistance to unwanted circumstances has the power to keep those circumstances alive and well for a very long time.

Pema describes four-step to opening the heart to our neurotic actions. Regret, refrain remedial action, resolution.

  • Regret – Its about becoming aware of our misconduct or actions, which is result of constant mindfulness. Without wallowing too much in to it we see neurosis as neurosis.
  • Refrain – Without being too harsh on our self, we abstain from these behavior in spite of short term fun, pleasure by picturing long term misery it causes.
  • Remedial Action – It is much easier to replace bad habit with good one, instead of keeping vacuum. That is way remedial action is. We replace bad habits with productive habits.
  • Resolution – Again without being too harsh, we resolve to abstain from indulging in our bad habits by constantly building good habits and keeping picture of consequences of bad habits in mind.

11) Taking Responsibility for Your Actions

  • It means refrain from reacting to pleasure and pain so obviously like repaying kindness and revenging the hurt.
  • Don’t malign others – Meaning stop gossiping about others. When someone irritates you, they basically trigger some hidden pain in you, reminds you of someone who you don’t like. Be grateful and process that feeling, go beyond story lines and deal with what actually bothered you.
  • Don’t transfer the ox’s load to the cow – We often pass our load to others instead of dealing with it ourselves and the thing is, it will keep coming back to us until we learn the lesson from it, which it had to teach us.
  • Don’t seek others pain as the limbs of your own happiness – This one again is really common and we must avoid it. We feel happy when people who mistreated us suffers in some way and resent when they prosper.

12) Communication From the Heart

  • Instead of taking resentment as an obstacle, take it as reminder. Feeling irritated, restless, afraid, and hopeless is a reminder to listen more carefully.
  • The slogan “Keep the three inseparables” is saying that your actions, your speech, and your thoughts should be inseparable from this yearning to communicate from the heart.

I have also created a video of a few quotes from the book – Hope you like it. Please do subscribe to my YouTube Channel – Myread4change


Start Where You Are is an amazing book and will help you open up your heart and give you enough to work on your spiritual journey. It will be worth your time and attention.

You may download Start Where You Are Free E-book here. If you like this book, you may also like The Power of Now and The Power of Awareness.

Hope this book summary helped you in some ways.

So Start Where You Are.

With Love,


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