How To Be Sick: Discussion 7

RA Guy RA Guy's Book Club

“When we learn to observe sensation without reacting in craving and aversion, the cause of suffering does not arise and suffering ceases.” —S.N. Goenka

In the first half of the section of the book titled Turnarounds and Transformations, we read about the following topics:

  • Paticca-samuppada, or the wheel of suffering. “We experience [mental and physical] contacts as pleasant, unpleasant, or (less frequently) as neutral sensations. If the experience of the contact is pleasant, we want more of it, which is desire. If the experience of the contact is unpleasant, we want it to go away, which is simply another form of desire–the desire for it to go away–usually referred to in Buddhism as aversion.” The chapter closes with “Practicing with the Wheel of Suffering and the Four Sublime States.”
  • Tonglen practice: breathing in the suffering of the world and breathing out whatever kindness, serenity, and compassion we have to give. Toni provides examples of how she applied tonglen practice to working while sick, medical test results, family gatherings over the holidays, and missed birthday parties.
  • “With our thoughts, we make the world.” —Dhammapada. Chapter 12 focuses on Katie Byron’s “Inquiry Practice.”

Discussion Questions

  • Recognizing our reactions to certain events before we apply a judgment of desire or aversion is not always easy, but as we have read, being able to do so is an essential aspect of getting off the wheel of suffering. This is applicable to all aspects of life, and not just to living with chronic illness. How does “Practicing with the Wheel of Suffering and the Four Sublime States” resonate with you?
  • For me, one of the most powerful practices that has been described in this book is Katie Byron’s Inquiry Practice. Through the use of four questions and a turnaround, we are shown that by changing our thoughts, we can remake our world. Please share a common suffering thought that you have experienced on a regular basis, and describe how–through inquiry practice–you have been able to turn this thought around.

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.