How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers by Toni Bernhard
Book Review by Jennie Spotila
Don’t let the title of How to Be Sick fool you. This book is not about sickness behavior or secondary gain. Author Toni Bernhard describes the spiritual practice of “how to live a life of equanimity and joy despite my physical and energetic limitations.” It might sound impossible. Who can live a joyful life when confined to bed? But Bernhard shows the way with compassion and mastery.
Bernhard understands the suffering and challenges of living with chronic illness, as she has been severely ill with CFS since 2001. Her career as a professor at a prestigious law school ended, along with her ability to participate in almost every other aspect of normal life. Bernhard is housebound – frequently bed-bound – and this suffering set her on the path to find joy within her harsh limitations.
Each chapter of this book addresses an emotional or spiritual challenge of being ill. Bernhard offers simple and practical ways to manage our sorrow, cultivate compassion, communicate clearly with doctors and family, and cope with isolation. While Bernhard’s approach is grounded in her spirituality and is a “Buddhist-Inspired Guide,” one does not need to be a Buddhist or follower of any religion to apply the practices described in this book.