How To Be Sick: Discussion 8

“I cannot be genuinely mindful–open to my moment-to-momet experience without hesitation or hiding–unless my mind is benevolent…” —Sylvia Boorstein, Happiness is an Inside Job

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

  • Mindfulness-of-the-Present Moment Practices, or “drop it.” “Take your mind back in time to a stressful memory, and drop it. Take your mind forward in a time to a stressful thought, and drop it. You’re left in the present moment. Even if that moment is accompanied by bodily pain or discomfort, it will be easier to relax into the discomfort, riding it like a wave, because you won’t be making it worse by adding to is the mental suffering that comes with thoughts about the past and the future…”
  • How to stay mindful of the present moment, such as half-smiling while listening to music or mindfulness while making tea (Thich Nhat Hanh), or any mindfulness based stress reduction  materials by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
  • Wise action: “actions that lead to the cessation of suffering are to be cultivated and actions that enhance or amplify suffering are to be avoided. Wise inaction can thus be thought of as simply not engaging in those actions that make our condition worse.” Along these lines, we read about a few practices: “The Middle Way,” “One Thing at a Time,” and “Help!”
  • Zen teachings: “Shocking the Mind,” “Don’t-Know Mind,” and “The Poetry of Zen.”

Discussion Questions

  • Have you incorporated and mindfulness meditations into your life? If so, how has this helped you cope with chronic illness, pain, and disability?
  • Wise action and wise inaction, like many aspects of life, are easier said than done. Can you give an example of how you recently engaged in either wise action/inaction, and any of the associated practices.
  • Do any of the Zen teachings described in the last chapter resonate with you?

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.

10 Comments
10 comments
  1. RA Guy says:

    I am a big fan of mindfulness meditation…and even though I don’t practice it consistently, I do practice it frequently. Jon Kabat Zinn’s guided meditations have helped me a lot, especially when I’m in my worst flares (I write more about it here: http://www.rheumatoidarthritisguy.com/2011/07/learning-to-live-with-chronic-pain/). I have also been greatly helped by Shinzen Young’s “Break Through Pain.”

    I love love love the “drop it” practice that Toni describes in her book. This has already helped a lot over the past few days, as my household has been dealing with the serious health issues of a close family member. Whenever I find my stress/nervous levels rising, I try to remind myself to just “drop it.” After doing so, I feel not only more relaxed, but also more capable of confronting these latest challenges.

    I practiced wise inaction just a few days ago, when I decided to cancel my morning physical therapy session. As much as I really wanted to go, I knew that trying to do so would push my past my limits. It’s a good thing that I practiced this wise inaction, because my therapist offered–and did–come to my house so that we could still do PT in the comfort of my own bed!

  2. Janine says:

    *Have you incorporated and mindfulness meditations into your life? If so, how has this helped you cope with chronic illness, pain, and disability?*

    Since reading Toni’s book recently, I’ve been naturally incorporating: “drop it” and “woman walking dog” or “woman sitting with dog” and “half smile” and I’ve been finding all really helpful. I love Thich Nhat Hanh, and when I start to half-smile, I conjure his absolute sweetness and sincerity. I can feel my entire being respond, and I feel more peaceful.

    In the past, I spent a lot of time learning about buddhism, and I’m enjoying finding such a practical application for it now.

    *Wise action and wise inaction, like many aspects of life, are easier said than done. Can you give an example of how you recently engaged in either wise action/inaction, and any of the associated practices.*

    My example of trying to be wise: I’m skipping a volunteer meeting right now. I decided to email and offer my time and energy, and hope that my energy complies when the event is scheduled. I can get the information by email, although I’m sorry if that will inconvenience anyone involved, but just really did not feel up to sitting in a hard little chair under florescent lights; I’m so tired and achey. I need to rest.

    *Do any of the Zen teachings described in the last chapter resonate with you?*

    I love the poetry used as examples. I’ve always loved haikus. I love the idea of using them in a healing way, and as a way to shift paradigms…

  3. Tina Tarbox says:

    I was diagnosed with RA when I was two, and I learned many of the mindfulness techniques on my own without even knowing what I was really doing at the time! As children, we naturally gravitate toward mindfulness. It’s all about the present time. As adults, we have to educate ourselves and consciously practice mindfulness. I do wish it came as easily to me as a “grown up” as it did decades ago. When I begin practicing mindfulness meditation each day, I draw upon that foundation I created for myself as a child. I know that the concept of an “inner child” sounds cheesy to some, but that child is an awesome mindfulness guide.

  4. Nancy Aurand-Humpf says:

    I am really late responding to the book club, but I thought I would do so anyway. I had a very trying week last week. My daughter who is disabled was diagnosed with MRSA and I have a bad sinus infection and on top of that sprained my foot. I had one really bad day last week where I was just pissed off about everything going on. The next day I reminded myself to practice mindfullness and I have been coping much better. In fact I think have been holding my current struggle more lightly than usual. I have even found some comic relief. Because of the MRSA everything in the house needs disinfecting and since I can’t put pressure on my foot, and I have multiple chemical sensitivities I wasn’t sure how I would manage. So I have been cleaning one room at a time on my knees or standing on one foot with a paint respirator on my face so I don’t have to breath the bleach fumes. It sounds pathetic but its really been comical at times. Anyway, I think that is one of the things that being mindful does for me: it creates a space in the here and now where I find joy, gratitude, reverence, and sometimes humor.

    I love the drop it practice. I have a tendency to worry and then catastrophize. It really helps when I start reeling, thinking about things that might happen.

  5. Toni Bernhard says:

    Janine – I’m so glad to learn that you’re using so many practices from the book! Some people say they love the book but don’t have the discipline to actually use the practices. It’s such a gift that you do. I was so glad to read this! Warmest wishes, Toni

  6. Toni Bernhard says:

    I’m glad to hear you’re using “drop it.” I use it myself all the time. I hope things have settled down with the health crisis in your family. All my best, Toni

  7. Toni Bernhard says:

    Tina – I think you’re right about children being naturally mindful. I hadn’t thought of that before. It’s a beautiful insight! Warmest wishes, Toni

  8. Toni Bernhard says:

    Nancy – I’m so sorry to hear about the MRSA. This must be such a hard addition to your already full plate. It’s wonderful that mindfulness and “drop it” are helping. I love what you said about mindfulness—how it creates a space in which joy and other soothing and kind emotions can arise — and humor! I hope this has been a better week for you. Thinking of you. Toni

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>