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Mon, Aug. 27th, 2012, 12:38 am
Book to Read: How To Be Sick

BUY THE BOOK: How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers


Taken From Text

"You can argue with the way things are. You'll lose, but only 100% of the time." -- Byron Katie

When you are as chronically ill as I am, you have to make some very hard choices. Ironically, people may think you're giving up, when in fact you are simply giving in to the reality of your new life.

"There is sickness here, but I am not sick." -- Toni Bernhard


I'm not quite halfway through this book, reading in fits and starts as this bronchitis and my general malaise allow. It doesn't have witty one liners or inspirational anecdotes. The writing itself is somewhat meandering, and yet despite this I'm getting a general sense of how to handle illness using Buddhist philosophy. I don't recommend this book unless you have a pretty firm understanding of the basic Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. The book is pretty good about describing everything past this point.

There are some key concepts I would like to share, such as developing compassion for yourself in your illness. To learn compassion, start with a metta prayer (daily) first directed at yourself, then your loved ones, then acquaintances, then strangers, then enemies. My metta prayer was pretty long and included everyone, but because of this book I've decided to scale it back to something short I say over and over again. The first and hardest is always compassion for self. My new metta prayer:

May I be happy, content, and fulfilled.
May I learn kindness for myself, for I deserve my own love and affection.
May I be granted whatever I need.
May I be protected from harm, and free from fear.
May inner peace and joy find me.
May I be awakened, liberated, and free.

When I can finally be compassionate toward myself, then I can expand the prayer to my loved ones.

Everyone was born to be broken. This was a monumental revelation, but it's true. All of us will experience illness, our bodies will break down, we will grow old, and then we will die. A few of us experience this while we are still young. A part of me wants to cry out that I wasn't ready yet, but I don't think anyone ever is ready. Instead, I'm trying to think of myself as lucky, for I will have much, much longer to get used to being old and tired and sick. In fact, I will have so much practice at it that maybe I can ease the way a little bit for those just coming into fatigue and sickness. Someday, you will all be here in this place with me, and maybe I can find a way to make it not the place we all know and dread, but a place where new things can grow after the old things have withered and died away.

I am learning to cultivate joy in the stories of others. I always used to be the storyteller, but now I will be the listener. I cannot participate any longer, but I would like to hear about things that are fascinating and fun. It will keep my mind active where my body is no longer willing to go. I try to think about the authors, writing their books, and how they can take me to places in the authors' minds that I've never been, how I can hear the authors' words even after they have died.

"We were always born to be broken. It's what we do after that, that matters." -- Jade Lauron

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