Welcoming the Unwelcome Book Summary - Welcoming the Unwelcome Book explained in key points
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Welcoming the Unwelcome summary

Pema Chödrön

Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World

4.6 (130 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

Welcoming the Unwelcome by Pema Chödrön is a guide to confronting and transforming negative experiences with compassion and openness. It teaches us how to embrace our discomfort and use it as a tool for personal growth and transformation.

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    Welcoming the Unwelcome
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    Seeking enlightenment begins with a commitment to awakening your heart and mind.

    With any project, including a personal one of self-improvement or enlightenment, it’s valuable to have a main goal in mind. For this, you can look to the bodhicitta, the traditional Buddhist path to fully awaken your mind and heart – both in an effort to help yourself and to be of better service to the people in your life.

    Buddha teaches that everyone has an essential basic goodness within them. This includes a fundamental desire to help others. But fear, confusion, and hard-to-break habits get in the way of this desire. This is why the first step toward bodhicitta is having the aspiration and commitment to free yourself from those things that stand in the way of helping others.

    Having a commitment is important. Enlightenment requires the difficult work of looking deep within to fully know yourself and gain the wisdom that will give you unobscured access to your basic goodness.

    In fact, a commitment to bodhicitta takes bravery. It involves facing uncomfortable feelings like loneliness, sadness and heartache. Rather than face these feelings, we commonly distract ourselves with such things as entertainment and work. But the path of enlightenment requires us to retrain our brains to stop blocking or avoiding these feelings and become more familiar with them.

    Within every feeling of failure or of being unwanted there is a doorway to bodhicitta and to awakening your heart and mind. So you can take your first step right now by thinking of a past event that left you with sadness, longing, or a broken heart.

    One of the author’s teachers, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, explained that “the way to arouse bodhicitta is to begin with a broken heart.” He recalled being a seven-year-old child in Tibet and witnessing a dog being stoned to death by a group of laughing young boys. He has stayed close to the sadness of this event, and he credits it with sparking an urgency in his life to be of service and help to others. 

    Pushing away or hiding your pain may feel like the right thing to do, but this really only serves to make matters worse in the long run as the unwelcome feelings tend to manifest as anger or other emotional outbursts. To understand your true nature, and to appreciate humanity in all its wonder, you must spend time with heartbreak as well as happiness.

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    What is Welcoming the Unwelcome about?

    Welcoming the Unwelcome (2019) offers a practical introduction to some of the principles of Buddhism that can help people better cope with the challenges of everyday life. Author Pema Chödrön provides useful insight into Buddhist teachings as well as practices and techniques that anyone can use.

    Who should read Welcoming the Unwelcome?

    • People interested in Buddhist teachings
    • Depressed or anxious people looking for advice
    • People coping with life’s difficulties

    About the Author

    Pema Chödrön is a former elementary school teacher who went on to study Buddhism with the guru Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. In Hong Kong, in 1981, she became a fully ordained Buddhist nun and is devoted to teaching Tibertan Buddhist monasticism in the US and Canada. 

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