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How to Be Sick: a Buddhist-inspired guide for the chronically ill and their caregivers
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This life-affirming, instructive and thoroughly inspiring book is a must-read for anyone who is—or who might one day be—sick. And it can also be the perfect gift of guidance, encouragement, and uplifting inspiration to family, friends, and loved ones struggling with the many terrifying or disheartening life changes that come so close on the heels of a diagnosis of a chronic condition or even life-threatening illness.
The author—who became ill while a university law professor in the prime of her career—tells the reader how she got sick and, to her and her partner’s bewilderment, stayed that way. Toni had been a longtime meditator, going on long meditation retreats and spending many hours rigorously practicing, but soon discovered that she simply could no longer engage in those difficult and taxing forms. She had to learn ways to make “being sick” the heart of her spiritual practice—and through truly learning how to be sick, she learned how, even with many physical and energetic limitations, to live a life of equanimity, compassion, and joy. And whether we ourselves are sick now or not, we can learn these vital arts of living well from How to Be Sick.
“Full of hopefulness and promise…this book is a perfect blend of inspiration and encouragement. Toni's engaging teaching style shares traditional Buddhist wisdom in a format that is accessible to all readers.”-The Huffington Post
“How does one face a chronic illness? In 2001 law professor Bernhard became sick from a virus that no doctor has been able to treat. Faced with ongoing disabling symptoms, forced to give up her profession, and unable to take part in most of the activities she loves, Bernhard has dug into the roots of the Buddhism she once studied intensively, looking for resources to cope with such devastating loss. She clearly explains how such Buddhist principles as the four noble truths, impermanence, no-self, and dependent origination help her cope with limited energy and frequent enforced solitude. No longer able to meditate formally, Bernhard describes a set of easy mental practices, drawn from her own daily experiences as well as vipassana (insight meditation), Zen koans, Tibetan Buddhist compassion exercises, and the “inquiry” technique of author Byron Katie, a practice for working with thoughts. Bernhard's applications of Buddhism are sound and her insights gentle and honest; others may take heart from her determination to use the Buddha's timeless wisdom to ease the mental suffering brought about by unrelieved physical illness.”-Publishers Weekly “How To Be Sick is an immensely wise book. Health psychology has been poisoned by the view that the best way to approach illness is through a muscular, militant resistance. This books shows otherwise. Bernhard reveals how letting go, surrendering, and putting the ego aside yield insights and fulfillment even in the presence of illness. This is a major contribution.”-Larry Dossey, MD author of Healing Words
“Toni Bernhard has written a beautiful and heartfelt account of chronic illness and inner transformation. Her immense courage is present on every page. Truly worth reading.”-Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness
“How to Be Sick brilliantly answers one of the most important challenges anyone can face: How to transform suffering into a vehicle for great consciousness and compassion. Toni Bernhard has written an important book that is practical, wise and full of heart. I recommend it to anyone working with chronic pain and illness.”-James Baraz, author of Awakening Joy
“Everyone should read this book-and I plan to buy a copy for everyone I love.”-Lizabeth Roemer, Ph.D., co-author of The Mindful Way Through Anxiety
“Toni Bernhard offers a lifeline to those whose lives have been devastated by illness, and shows us all how to transform suffering into peace and even joy. A beautiful book filled with grace, humor, and humanity.”-Lynn Royster, director of the Chronic Illness Initiative at DePaul University
“This book gives insightful wisdom and a solid dose of hope to people who are navigating the daily struggles of a chronic illness. How to Be Sick is a must read.”-Lori Hartwell, author of Chronically Happy
“Each of finds our way to live with the challenges and uncertainty of illness. Toni Bernhard found a path that lead to balance, wisdom and love. She caringly points us to the possibility of finding happiness even in the midst difficult conditions. That is a true gift.”-Frank Ostaseski, founder of Metta Institute
“This book full of compassion about how to sit sweetly with your difficulties.”-John Tarrant, author of Bring Me The Rhinoceros and Other Zen Koans That WIll Save Your Life
“Who among us couldn't use these life-affirming skills? Bravo!”-Susan Milstrey Wells, author of A Delicate Balance: Living Successfully with Chronic Illness
“Readers need not be Buddhist or meditators to benefit from Toni's wisdom.”-Cheri Register, author of Living with Chronic Illness: Days of Patience and Passion
“A profound, compassionate and intimate guide for living wisely with illness.”-Gil Fronsdal, author of The Dhammapada: A New Translation of a Buddhist Classic
“A roadmap to finding grace and balance amid affliction.”-Christina Feldman, author of Woman Awake
“This book is a heavenly messenger.”-Joseph Goldstein, author of A Heart Full of Peace and One Dharma
“This warm and engaging book can help even in the most difficult kind of situation.”-Thomas Bien, author of Mindful Therapy
“A very compelling book-great teaching interwoven into the heartful and human drama of family, illness, and day to day reality.” -Shaila Catherine, author of Focused and Fearless
“How To Be Sick is a good friend to keep close by so that illness doesn't become the enemy.” -Ed & Deb Shapiro, authors of Be the Change
“Told with relentless honesty and clarity, this book will help both those suffering from chronic illness as well as their caregivers.”-Stephen Batchelor, author of Confession of a Buddhist Atheist
“Toni's words are steeped in the best learning of all: hard personal experience. Reading the book you feel you can trust that she knows, very deeply, what she is talking about.”-Vidyamala Burch, author of Living Well With Pain and Illness
“One doesn't have to be sick to benefit from the advice in this book. This is a book on how to live fully, no matter what.”-Joy H Selak PhD, author of You Don't LOOK Sick! Living Well with Invisible Chronic Illness
“When we lose our physical health, it can seem like we've lost our life. Toni Bernhard—with unflinching realness and deep insight— shows us how the fires of loss can clear the way for a new and profound capacity for appreciation, love and understanding. Infused with the wisdom and practices of the Buddhist tradition, this book can bring you more fully alive by healing your spirit.”-Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance
"There are many things to appreciate about Toni Bernhard's How To Be Sick, beginning with the title. Who would have thought that there is a “how to” for being sick? But there is, and Toni has created it. She has brought to bear everything she had-her illness, her long immersion in Buddhist practice, her innate personal strengths-and forged a path of inner freedom in the face of adversity. Her book is deeply moving and impressive. I often say to people who ask me about my own illnesses what I gleaned or learned, and I say, “The only good thing about being sick is how it can be a gift for others.” Toni has made it so, and I highly recommend her book as a must-read for anyone who is ill or caring for someone ill. Her gifts will transform you."-Lewis Richmond, author of Healing Lazarus
"How To Be Sick weaves several themes together in a way that is compelling to read. Toni has used her understanding of Buddhism to support her morale through these difficult years and to provide us with this wonderful book."-Sylvia Boorstein, author of Happiness Is an Inside Job
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Toni Bernhard fell ill on a trip to Paris in 2001 with what doctors initially diagnosed as an acute viral infection. She has not recovered. In 1982, she’d received a J.D. from the School of Law at the University of California, Davis, and immediately joined the faculty where she stayed until chronic illness forced her to retire. During her twenty-two years on the faculty, she served for six years as Dean of Students.
In 1992, she began to study and practice Buddhism. Before becoming ill, she attended many meditation retreats and led a meditation group in Davis with her husband.
She lives in Davis with her husband, Tony, and their hound dog, Rusty.