How To Be Sick: Discussion 4

RA Guy RA Guy's Book Club

“There is heat here, but I am not hot. There is hunger here, but I am not hungry. There is irritation here, but I am not irritated.” —Munindra-ji

“There is sickness here, but I am not sick.” —Toni Bernhard

As we finish reading the section of the book titled Accepting Pain, we are introduced to three different practices: weather practice, broken-glass practice, and sky-gazing practice.

Weather Practice: “Recognize that these physical symptoms are as unpredictable as the weather and could change at any moment. The wind blew the discomfort in and it may blow out at any moment. If a new medical problem develops (like an injury), recall that no forecast of the future could have been certain no matter how many precautions you took.”

Broken-glass Practice: “Penetrating the truth of these things, [we see] that this glass is already broken…He saw the broken glass within the unbroken one. Whenever you use this glass, you should reflect that it’s already broken. Whenever its time is up, it will break. Use the glass, look after it, until the day it slips out of your hand and shatters. No problem. Why not? Because you saw its brokenness before it broke!”

Sky-Gazing Practice: “Try sky-gazing. If you’re in bed, try virtual sky-gazing by closing your eyes and shifting your focus from the unpleasant physical symptoms to a more spacious and open experience of body and mind as part of the energy flow of the universe.”

We close with a discussion of no-fixed-self, or anatta, and talk about the fact that what happens in life arises out of conditions; what happens in life is often not within the control of the self-identity that we refer to as “me.”

Discussion Questions

  • Grab bag: Which of the three practices–weather practice, broken-glass practice, and sky-gazing practice–resonate most with you? Have any of these practices allowed you to discover something new about yourself?
  • Who are you? Shedding fixed identities, such as “I am sick,” opens possibilities for seeing the world with new eyes. Do you carry around any such fixed identities, such as ‘chronic patient,’ ‘sick mother,’ etc.?

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.