Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Review: How to be Sick

This review is cross-posted at Survivor, Please Tape Me Back Together, and The Lovely Bookworm.

How to be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers
by Toni Bernhard

ISBN 978-0-86171-626-5
191 pages

© 2010

Wisdom Publications

Health, Fitness, & Dieting > Disorders & Diseases > Chronic Pain

How to be Sick by Toni Bernhard

The title of this book, How to be Sick, might make some people think that the author is recommending ways to be sick.  It couldn't be further from the truth.  Toni Bernhard takes the reader through different Buddhist-inspired practices to accept being sick, to meditate while in pain, and to dwell in the present moment.  She was a law professor at University of California at Davis.  She became a practicing Buddhist years before becoming sick, and attending many retreats before than time.  In May 2001, while on a romantic trip with her husband in Paris, Bernhard contracted what she calls "the Parisian Flu," whose later diagnosis included Myalgic Encephomyalitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or ME/CFS, dysautonomia, as well as other illnesses.

How to be Sick takes the reader through change, acceptance, finding joy and love, transformation, and solitude.  One of the practices that helped me the most in this book was one that Bernhard learned from her daughter, that came from Byron Katie.  When the thoughts, worries, and pain become too much, this practice helps me to stay in the present moment.  Some other mindfulness practices I've found useful is to wear a half-smile.  One I've yet to try, but hope to soon, is mindfulness while making tea.  The ideas Bernhard gives the reader in this book are many, and with practice and research I think you could discover even more.

Toni Bernhard
This book was written in an easy-to-read style; even in severe pain I could understand it.  Bernhard speaks to the reader as if she is confiding in you, and after I finished How to be Sick I felt like I really knew Toni Bernhard.  The book is divided up into chapters and sections, making it easy to find what you are looking for when you go back to do a practice.  The cover features a big blue butterfly, which I found calming before I even opened the book.

Almost all of the information in this book was totally new to me.  I felt my eyes opened and could hear myself actually gasping "wow" when I read particular practices that resonated with me.  If you are chronically ill or the caregiver of someone chronically ill, I suggest this book as highly as I can.  It would work for anyone needing a bit of inspiration, as well.  This was a wonderful book.


  1. As someone with fibro as well as Parkinson's disease (and a few other goodies tossed in the bag) this is a book I definitely have to read; thanks for sharing it!

  2. That title of the book can make one curious


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