How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers

How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers


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2011 Nautilus Book Award — Gold Medal in Personal Growth/Self-Help/Psychology

2011 Nautilus Book Award — Silver Medal in Memoir/Personal Journey

This life-affirming, instructive, and thoroughly inspiring book is a must-read for anyone who is - or who might one day be - sick. 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 life-threatening illness. Authentic and graceful, How to be Sick reminds us of our limitless inner freedom, even under high degrees of suffering and pain.

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 ill or not, we can learn these vital arts from Bernhard's generous wisdom in How to Be Sick.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780861716265
Publisher: Wisdom Publications MA
Publication date: 09/14/2010
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 456,252
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Toni Bernhard is the author of the award-winning How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers and How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow. Until forced to retire due to illness, Toni was a law professor at the University of California-Davis, serving six years as the dean of students. She has been a practicing Buddhist for over 20 years. Her blog, "Turning Straw Into Gold" is hosted on the website of Psychology Today. She can be found online at

Sylvia Boorstein is the author of many well-known books, including It's Easier Than You Think, Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist, and Don't Just Do Something, Sit There. She lives in Geyserville, California.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“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

"Toni Bernhard's book, How To Be Sick—A Buddhist's Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers, is an invitation to gently set aside the fear and the fight in order to truly live. It is based on principles of Buddhism, which she carefully applies to her own chronic and at times debilitating illness. She offers a different perspective on illness and wellness, suggesting the two need not be mutually exclusive."—Psychology Today

"A 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

"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

“You don’t have to be sick to benefit from the advice in this book. This is a book on how to live fully.” —Joy Selak, author of You Don’t LOOK Sick!

“A must-read—and a solid dose of hope.” —Lori Hartwell, author of Chronically Happy

“An inspiring work” —Joseph Goldstein, author of A Heart Full of Peace

“Beautiful, heartfelt, and immensely courageous. Truly worth reading.” —Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness

“Everyone should read this book—and I plan to buy a copy for everyone I love.” —Lizabeth Roemer, co-author of The Mindful Way Through Anxiety

"Don’t pass up this book – it is a gift to all of us who are unwell and for those who love us." —Alida Brill, Author of Dancing at The River’s Edge: A Patient and Her Doctor Negotiate Life with Chronic Illness

"An inspiring and instructive guide for coping with a chronic condition or life-threatening illness but it is much more than that. Each chapter is about unpacking the highest truth in the lowest places of our lives. The book is entitled How To Be Sick but I found that it's really about how to live." —Jim Palmer, Author of Divine Nobodies, and Wide Open Spaces

"This is an intimate, gripping, profound, and eminently useful book about being joyfully and wisely alive no matter what happens to you - including serious illness." —Rick Hanson, Ph.D., author of Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

"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: A Buddhist’s Journey from Near Death to New Life

"What a beautiful book!...This is a book in which to find honesty, compassion, and a means to reduce suffering for the ill person and caregiver alike." —Lynn Royster, Director of the Chronic Illness Initiative at DePaul University

"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, co-author of Awakening Joy: 10 Steps That Will Put You on the Road to Real Happiness

“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 Metta Institute

"A warm and compassionate guide for navigating illness on a personal and practical level." —Alex Lickerman, blogger of Happiness In This World

“A profound, compassionate, and intimate guide for living wisely.” —Gil Fronsdal, author of The Dhammapada: A New Translation of the Buddhist Classic

“This encouraging book is 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

"This book could easily be called “How to Be Well.” Toni Bernhard’s hard-won wisdom dealing with chronic illness teaches us how to be kind to ourselves, to counter negative thoughts about our life and our health, and to live fully in the present—neither regretting the past nor fearing the future. Who among us couldn’t use these life-affirming skills? Bravo!" —Susan Milstrey Wells, author of A Delicate Balance: Living Successfully with Chronic Illness

"People who yearn to live with purpose rather than simply succumb to the pain and uncertainty of chronic illness will find a shining example in Toni Bernhard's life and words. Readers need not be Buddhist or even practiced meditators to benefit from the nuggets of wisdom she offers to sustain mind and spirit when matter seems especially vicious." —Cheri Register, author of Living with Chronic Illness: Days of Patience and Passion and The Chronic Illness Experience: Embracing the Imperfect Life

"A compassionate and insightful road map to finding grace and balance amidst affliction that will be of great benefit to the many people and their loved ones who find themselves being asked to meet affliction that is painful to bear."—Christina Feldman, author of Compassion: Listening to the Cries of the World

"Bernhard comes across like a thoughtful and sympathetic friend." —Persephone Magazine

"If you want to better understand how to deal with a chronic illness, or you are the caregiver for someone who is chronically ill, read How to be Sick." —The Caregiver's Voice

"When you read her book, you cannot help but come away with a new perspective and awareness of life’s beauty to enjoy despite chronic bodily pain. The choice of inner peace and compassion is available to all of us. I found a lot to embrace in this lovely work of art." —Chronicle: The Journal of the American Chronic Pain Association

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