How To Be Sick: Discussion 3

RA Guy RA Guy's Book Club

“Our life is always all right. There’s nothing wrong with it. Even if we have horrendous problems, it’s just our life.”
-Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck

As we begin reading the section of the book titled Accepting Pain, we are introduced to The Four Noble Truths. The Four Noble Truths explain the nature of dukkha (often translated as ‘suffering’), its causes, and how it can be overcome. “To capture the essence of what the Buddha meant by the presence in our lives, it’s helpful to keep other possible translations of this key word in mind: unsatisfactoriness (that is, dissatisfaction with the circumstances in our life), anguish, stress, discomfort, dis-ease, to name just a few. Dukkha is a term worth becoming familiar with, especially when exploring how to be sick.”

We then move on to read about the universal law if impermanence, which is recognized by many spiritual traditions and science as common factor to the life of every living being. “Anything can happen at any time.” “Everything is impermanent.” “Life is impermanent, uncertain, unpredictable, ever-changing.”

Sentences which bought a big smile to my face: “…when I needed to go somewhere off the bed, I crawled. Our dog, Rusty, was delighted to see this. He acted like I’d finally seen the light and was going his species. This appeared to be a cause for great celebration on his part, so my challenge became to make sure that is his exuberance he didn’t step on my right foot.”

Discussion Questions

  • Have you been able to trace a feeling of dukkha back to the fact that you’re not getting what you want, or that you’re getting something you don’t want? If you have been able to map this connection, have you been able to let go of the “want/don’t want,” even if just for a moment? How did this make you feel?
  • Through the universal law of impermanence, have you been able to turn something that your previously considered to be a negative aspect of living with chronic illness into something that you now consider to be a positive part of your life?

This post is part of RA Guy’s Book Club for “How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers,” by Toni Bernhard. For a complete list of discussions, please click here.