Posted in Guest Writer, Perspectives on Cancer


Although this book concerns living with chronic illness … which may not be life-threatening but is certainly quality of life-threatening … many of the issues Toni Bernhard discusses are relevent issues for cancer patients. Not the least of these issues is isolation. The book is available online through Barnes and Noble and Amazon or through the publisher HERE. Three thumbs up on this one. A recommended read. Jamie Dedes


A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers


Toni Bernhard

“All human beings need the company and support of others. We create our world together. But community can be a tremendous challenge for someone who must spend a lot of time in bed or must suddenly take to bed in spite of plans to be with others. The Dharma places a very high value on community, which is called sangha. The word originally referred to the disciples of the Buddha. It then evolved to include Buddhist monks and nuns. Today sangha refers to the entire spiritual community that supports a practitioner . . . .

“Before I got sick, I was active in several Buddhist sanghas. I co-hosted a weekly meditation group with Tony [Toni’s husband]. We used a local meeting hall every Monday night. At least once a month, I would lead the sitting and then give a talk. We also hosted a monthly group at our house in which we discussed Dharma readings that Tony and I chose and distributed each month. The readings were the starting point for a spirited and often humorous two hours of reviewing our lives since we last met. This was sangha at its richest for me. Tony still hosts this group at our house.

“When I got sick, I could no longer participate in these activities, even though the meeting hall is three blocks away and the monthly group is a room away . . . . In addition to losing this precious source of spiritual support, I had to adjust to the social isolation that accompanied the illness like night follows day.

“‘It’s hard to distinguish between the effects of my illness and the effects of isolation,’ wrote a member of an online support group for people with an illness similar to mine. I, too, have days when the isolation feels like the illness itself. People who are house-bound are not just isolated from one-on-one personal contacts. We are often isolated from nature and even from the warm feel or a friendly crowd. Our best bet to see the changing seasons is on the drive to and from a doctor’s appointment, but this is often a stress-filled outing. Similarly, our best bet to be in a crowd is in the waiting room at the doctor’s office—not the most comfortable or uplifting of settings. I recently read a blog entry from a woman with chronic fatigue syndrome in which she said she went to get a blood test a week early just to be around people.”

© text and cover art, Toni Bernhard, 2011 all rights reserved. Blogged here with the permission of the author. No reblogging without Toni Bernhard’s permission.

Video uploaded to YouTube by . I’m the author of “How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers” (Wisdom Publications 2010). The theme of the book is that illness and wellness are not mutually exclusive. Our bodies may be sick or otherwise disabled, but our minds can be at peace. For reviews and other information, including where you can order the book, please go to How To Be Sick.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Toni Bernhard fell ill on a trip to Paris in 2001 with what doctors initially diagnosed as an acute viral infection. She has not recovered. In 1982, she’d received a J.D. from the School of Law at the University of California, Davis, and immediately joined the faculty where she stayed until chronic illness forced her to retire. During her twenty-two years on the faculty, she served for six years as Dean of Students.

In 1992, she began to study and practice Buddhism. Before becoming ill, she attended many meditation retreats and led a meditation group in Davis with her husband.

She lives in Davis with her husband, Tony, and their hound dog, Rusty. Toni can be found online at How To Be Sick. [Bio courtesy of Wisdom Publications.]


The focus of "The BeZine," a publication of The Bardo Group Beguines, is on sacred space (common ground) as it is expressed through the arts. Our work covers a range of topics: spirituality, life, death, personal experience, culture, current events, history, art, and photography and film. We share work here that is representative of universal human values however differently they might be expressed in our varied religions and cultures. We feel that our art and our Internet-facilitated social connection offer a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters, and not as “other.” This is a space where we hope you’ll delight in learning how much you have in common with “other” peoples. We hope that your visits here will help you to love (respect) not fear. For more see our Info/Mission Statement Page.

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