How To Be Sick: Discussion 5

RA Guy RA Guy's Book Club

“…Buddhism defines an emotion as a thought plus a physical reaction to that thought.” —Toni Bernhard

As we start reading the section of the book titled Finding Joy and Love, we are introduced to the four brahma viharas, or sublime states.

  • Metta—loving-kindness; wishing well to others and to ourselves.”
  • Karuna—compassion; reaching out to those who are suffering, including ourselves”
  • Mudita—sympathetic joy; joy in the joy of others”
  • Upekkha—equanimity; a mind that is at peace in all circumstances”

The first chapter in the section focuses on cultivating joy in the joy of others (mudita). For people who are facing new physical limitations due to their chronic illnesses, this can be a way of turning painful responses (envy) into wholesome responses (joy).

The second chapter in this section talks about the act of well-wishing toward yourself and others (metta). The essence if metta practice is settling on a set of phrases, and silently repeating them over and over. “The specific content of your chosen phrases doesn’t matter so long as their theme is well-wishing. It’s the act of listening to and contemplating the meaning of the phrases as you repeat them that, over time, softens and soothes the body, mind, and heart.”

Discussion Questions

  • Talk about a time when you really wanted to, but were unable to, participate in a certain activity or social event. When you knew that you were not going to be able to attend in the way that you had hoped, what feelings did you experience?
  • Describe a personal example of cultivating joy in the joy of others.
  • We are introduced to various metta phrases, including the following by Kamala Masters: “Whether sick or well, may your body be a vehicle for liberation.” Please share a metta phrase that you have found to be particularly helpful.

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.