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How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers Paperback – September 14, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications (September 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0861716264
  • ISBN-13: 978-0861716265
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (172 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"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!)

"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)

"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 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)

"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)

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 www.tonibernhard.com.

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.

Customer Reviews

I will recommend this book to anyone dealing with chronic pain or illness.
Kim Overstreet
Toni has written an incredible book, incorporating thoughtful Buddhist practices into her chronic illness management as an example to each of us living with illness.
Jennifer G. Prokopy
I have read the book through two times now, sometimes rereading a chapter to make sure I am taking it all in.
Susan Ruelle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

167 of 170 people found the following review helpful By Marilyn Wilson on August 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
I want to tell you about this wonderful book that Toni has written. I am lucky to be one of the few non-professional people to have had the privilege of reading How to be Sick.
First, a little background about myself. I have stage four advanced breast cancer stemming from the genetic mutation BRCA2. I nursed my Mother when she died, have been there while my sister and nieces have undergone and are still undergoing treatment and, of course, my own. I am now on a trial drug to try and stop my cancer spreading plus monthly treatments. All this means I have many days of lying on a bed being very unwell and am also facing a very uncertain future.

Toni's book came to me through a link from a friend and it has been a god send. In the past I have both bought and been given a number of books on how to deal and be with my BC. Most are along the lines of me needing to think my cancer away, to completely change my diet, to think possitively and so on - you know what I mean. There is none of that in Toni's book. It is simply the most practical and inspiring book I have read. Toni draws from not only wonderful Buddhist practices, but from movies, songs, people, wrtings, poetry, and her own experiences. She showed me how to face and be with my cancer, to feel the uncertainty, the fear, to be a woman lying on a bed so unwell, worrying...
I have been around Buddhists for around 20 years (I am not a Buddhist myself) and the way Toni explains the concepts and practices of Buddhism is the best I have heard. Wow, Toni, I get it... or should I say - I'm getting it.

I do not write this lightly, How to be Sick resonated with my very core. As I face all that is cancer, not only now but the future, I am so very very grateful to have Toni's book right there beside me. Thank you.
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98 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Touched by Lyme (Dorothy Kupcha Leland) on August 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is not about how to get sick or how to stay sick. It's about how to "be" when you are sick. How to have a worthwhile existence, finding meaning, purpose and joy, even when chronic illness seems to have stolen your life away.

It's a tall order. And one that many chronically ill people (and their caregivers) may feel too overwhelmed even to contemplate. Yet, Bernhard found that certain ways of being helped her through the dark tunnel. In effect, dealing with chronic illness became her spiritual practice, and she has valuable insights to offer others in the same condition.
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62 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Joel on August 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a must read for anyone struggling with chronic disease. I hope that potential readers will not be turned off thinking that they "have to be Buddhist" to understand and benefit from it. Toni's book demonstrates how making the slightest attitude adjustments can significantly reduce pain and suffering for both the afflicted and the loved ones and caregivers in their lives. The solutions she presents are valuable. The situations she describes from her own experience are poignant but universally shared. Better than flowers, this book might be the most valuable gift you could ever give a friend or family member who is dealing with serious illness and its aftermath.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Beth L. on August 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Whether it's a car accident or lupus, we or a loved one, will have our active life stolen away from us someday. This book is one person's painful and, yes even, inspiring journey through the underworld of debilitating illness. But she doesn't leave us dwelling down there, rather her honesty, courage, and compassion brings us back up into a world of light. The author becomes a role model for how to find joy and thrive in a life turned upside down by chronic illness.

While the title of this book has the word "Buddhist," it's really for all people regardless of spiritual preference. It's also a book for not only the healthy-life-deprived person, but also for their caregivers. Because chronic illnesses devastates the entire family, changes intimate relationships, and places a huge direct burden on the immediate caregiver, this is a book for all of us.

The author even creatively wrote an "emergency guide" at the back of the book that lists the myriad challenges faced by the family and then matches them to the relevant pages in the book. So, she has made her book, both a story and reference guide for her readers.

I'll be honest with you, this is both a difficult book to read, as well as a heart-opening book. There's no way you can read it without being changed. The way the author has written this book, her personal struggle deeply touched me. And I'm not sure that if I was in her place, I could have found the emotional and physical strength to look in the mirror and honestly share with others what I saw.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Carol Jaquith on November 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
I posted this review for a friend but I whole heartidly agree. This is a comforting book for anyone living with chronic illness. It leaves you not tight fisted seeking a "cure" but hope and comfort for living in the moment with a chronic illness.
My friend Ceclia said: A friend who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (like Toni and myself) recommended this book when I told her I'm interested in Buddhism. It's not a book about Buddhism but it explains some basic principles that can help us live well in spite of our illness and maybe even because of our illness.
The book includes Zen poetry by my favourite haiku poet Issa as well as quotes from many teachers/teachings.
It's an honest book. We may not recover and that's scary. Toni offers ways to deal with our fear and other emotions. She tells us how we can stop the suffering caused by negative thinking. We can "drop it", we can use Byron Katie's inquiry to question the validity of our thoughts or we can follow Thich Nhat Hanh's suggestion and examine each thought with the reflection "Am I sure?".
The book is humorous, light and graceful. It tells the truth about having a chronic illness and living well. Life is good, and so is this book.
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More About the Author

I'm the author of three books. Two of them focus on living with grace and joy despite chronic illness (which includes chronic pain); one focuses on the Buddha's path to awakening to a life of peace and well-being. I've been a practicing Buddhist for over 20 years. I was also a law professor at the University of California--Davis for 22 years, serving six years as the dean of students. I write in a conversational style, with the intention of helping everyone, regardless of circumstances, learn to live with compassion, joy, and purpose. To this end, all of my books include easy-to-learn exercises and practices that come alive through the use of personal stories. I live in Davis, California with my husband and our endearing, if goofy, gray lab Scout. I hope you'll visit my website at www.tonibernhard.com.

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