Start Where You Are. {Pema Chödrön Book Club}

Via Kate Bartolotta
on Jul 19, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

“We already have everything we need.

There is no need for self-improvement.

All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.”

(From chapter one: “No Escape, No Problem”)

I started exploring Buddhism when I got to college, but at first it seemed somewhat mysterious, elusive and for people much calmer and more together than me. Life’s chaotic sometimes. I can’t be a real Buddhist until I get my shit together and things calm down, right?


Waiting until things calm down to start or deepen a spiritual practice is kind of like waiting until you are in shape to start exercising. All that chaos? It’s good news. It is the practice. It’s where you start.

There are lots of must-read Buddhist classics, but the thing that I love about reading Pema is that it’s like talking to a favorite aunt who gives you great advice. She’s conversational and every day. There are many wonderful teachers who were raised in the Buddhist tradition—even in the West (I think they call them dharma brats…we might have one of those kicking around here at elephant...I forget).

But not Pema. Pema was an ordinary American woman who came to Buddhism during a difficult time in her life after all the positivity-self-help-new-age bullshit didn’t work. She didn’t wait until she had her act together, had mastered all the lojong and tamed her thoughts. She just started.

Start Where You Are is a short book, but one worth taking your time with and chewing on. It’s also worth re-reading (and chiming in on our discussion) if you’ve read before, but it’s been awhile. It’s a great introduction to traditional Buddhist slogans or lojong, yet accessible and relevant whatever your other beliefs may be.

On Tuesday, July  24th, we will begin with a discussion of the preface and the first chapter: “No Escape, No Problem.”

Week One: “No Escape, No Problem.”


About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven. She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. Kate's books are now available on and Barnes & She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives. You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.


30 Responses to “Start Where You Are. {Pema Chödrön Book Club}”

  1. Annie Ory says:

    I don't understand what the set up of the "book club" is. Is there a discussion board somewhere? Or will we discuss it here? Or not discuss it at all?

  2. We will discuss it in the comment section each week. I'll post a little bit about the section for that week and then other people can add/discuss in the comments.

    I am using Bob Weisenberg's Gita Talk loosely as a model:

  3. Bravo, Kate. I'm so glad to see you doing this. It was always my dream that the grand Gita Talk experiment would spawn other book clubs like this. This will be great.


  4. darkorpheus says:

    Look forward to it. It's a good excuse to re-read the book – although we don't need any excuse to re-read Pema Chodron.

  5. faye says:

    glad you are doing this, kate. i shall follow this out of pure interest and curiosity, both bombed with enthusiasm!

  6. Just posted to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Stumbleupon, and Pinterest.


  7. Adil says:

    Really nice words. Selfishness, greed, hatred all are clouds that restricts the sunlight.

  8. Pema's book the Places that Scare you was a bedside companion a few years ago. I love the idea of book club Kate–just downloaded Start Where you Are on my kindle and will try to pop in to the club from Scotland now and then (depending on the internet accesss).

  9. I agree, Adil, thanks!

  10. Thanks Bob! Hope you will join us.

  11. Love that one too. I've read most of her books, and never been disappointed. Yay, glad you'll be joining!

  12. The Twitter Yoga Book Club (#YOBC) group is in and will be reading and commenting right along with you!

  13. YogiCrystal says:

    This sounds like a book that I need right now, I'm going to try to join in on the conversation!

  14. Hi Kate, I'm glad Jennifer mentioned reading Start Where You Are next for #YOBC (Twitter Yoga Book Club) in conjunction with you! Looking forward to the convo. Do you have a hastag?

  15. Awesome! You'll love it.

  16. Hey Meredith! #elej is probably the best one to use. Great!

  17. Definitely—always worth a re-read!

  18. karlsaliter says:

    Good call, Kate. I'm in.

  19. Yay! Hoped you would be!

  20. Thank you beautiful Kate for this! I just got to Maui;) I was able to locate the book a few towns away. I hope to hitch over soon, and catch up on my reading assignments;) xoox

  21. @gmc0201 says:

    It's now July 25 (on the East Coast, anyway). Did I miss a link or something?

  22. angela says:

    consider this as a future read if you haven't read it already. i just finished it and it was wonderful!

  23. […] I’ve referenced this quote by Pema Chodron before, but it is always worth revisiting and hits … […]

  24. […] get started—no time like the present. No waiting until things are just right to try and become “enlightened” because we all […]

  25. […] let go of self-improvement. Let go of seeking. Let go of complacency. Let go of your attachment to ego’s storylines. Let go, […]