How To Be Sick: Discussion 8

RA Guy RA Guy's Book Club

“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.