How To Be Sick: Discussion 6

RA Guy RA Guy's Book Club

“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you will know complete peace and freedom. Your struggles with the world will have come to an end.” —Ajahn Chah, A Still Forest Pool

As we finish reading the section of the book titled Finding Joy and Love, we read about self-blame, compassion, and equanimity.

“I blamed myself for not recovering form the initial viral infection–as if not regaining my health was my fault, a failure of will, somehow, or a deficit of character. This is the common reaction for people to have toward their illness. It’s not surprising, given that our culture tends to treat chronic illness as some kind of personal failure on the part of the afflicted–the bias is often implicit or unconscious.”

We are introduced to the following three practices, which can be used to cultivate compassion within ourselves:

  • Immediately Make Contact
  • Patient Endurance
  • Opening Your Heart to Suffering
This section closes with a discussion about equanimity, or “mental calmness and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.” This chapter focuses on three categories of challenges associated with maintaining a state of equanimity while living with chronic illness: responding to unhelpful or inaccurate comments from others, living with the unpredictability and uncertainty, and feeling overwhelmed with different losses.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you blame yourself, or have you ever blamed yourself, for having a chronic illness?
  • Grab bag: Which of the three compassion practices–Immediately Make Contact, Patient Endurance, and Opening Your Heart to Suffering
    –resonate most with you?
  • How have you used thoughts of equanimity to respond to unhelpful comments, uncertainty, and loss?

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.