Toni Bernhard is a good friend of mine, though we've never met in person. She and I both got ME/CFS around the same time (2001 for her; 2002 for me), and we "met" online and immediately connected. Toni has written three books about applying Buddhist principles to everyday life. All of her books are applicable to those of us living with chronic illness, and her first and third books, How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers and How To Live Well with Chronic Illness: A Mindful Guide (just published last week!) directly address chronic illness.
my full review at my book blog to understand what the book is all about and see some quotes.
Here are a few additional quotes from How to Wake Up that I found particularly meaningful for those with chronic illness.
Here, Toni discusses impermanence, an important tenet in Buddhism and especially important to those of us living with illness - basically, the concept is that everything in life is always changing, so we should embrace and accept those changes (and even expect them), instead of getting upset over them. Toni summarizes this in simple terms, after offering some ideas for how to put this concept into practice:
"Whether impermanence appears to be friend or foe at the moment, seeing clearly into this universal truth can help us awaken to a peace and well-being that are not dependent on whether events turn out the way we expected them to. Upon getting up each morning, we can reflect on how we can't be certain if the day will unfold as we think it will and then resolve to greet it nonetheless with curiosity and wisdom. Greeting the day with curiosity means being interested in what each moment has to offer. And greeting it with wisdom means not turning away in aversion from our experience, even if it's unpleasant and even if it's not what we hoped for."
- How To Wake Up by Toni Bernhard
Well, that pretty much describes every day with ME/CFS, doesn't it? We can never count on things going as planned, and we quite frequently encounter a day filled with surprises, where we have to change our plans unexpectedly. Learning to approach life expecting (and accepting) constant change brings a definite sense of peace.
In another chapter, she addresses anger, a subject I definitely need to work on. Though I am generally a calm, peaceful kind of person, certain people in my life can bring out anger and bitterness, usually because they treat me (with respect to my illness) differently than I would like. Toni shares a story we can all relate to: of going to see a new doctor who promises he can help her but then dismisses her brusquely when the tests he ran came back negative. She discusses her feelings of anger and her later realization that she wasn't angry because of the doctor precisely but because of her own expectations, her fervent desire for a miracle cure, and the way she responded to the doctor. She talks about how she addressed those issues and concludes with:
"...But as I like to say about the medical profession, some doctors come through for us and some don't. Just like everything and everyone in life.
Since this incident, I've had two similar experiences with other doctors, and yes, I was disappointed each time. But I didn't get angry. Now I know that anger only harms me. It doesn't get me better medical care, and it doesn't help me regain my health."
- How To Wake Up by Toni Bernhard
I could go on and on - I have many pages tabbed in my copy of the book! - but I think those selections give you a good idea of how helpful and inspiring this book is (as was her first).
As I mentioned, Toni's third book, How To Live Well with Chronic Illness: A Mindful Guide, was just published this week, so that one is also available now. I plan to read and review that one next month, so stay tuned!
I hope you are as inspired by Toni's wonderful books as I am!