Gaining strength from sickness

If I could only have one source of information in my life, I would choose NPR (National Public Radio.) The content of its shows is original, inspiring, informative and thoughtful.

Toni Bernhard

This morning NPR introduced me to FOF Toni Bernhard, who has written a book called How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers. Toni was diagnosed with an acute viral infection ten years ago, which has left her house-bound and often bed-bound. Angry, despairing or in denial for years after taking ill, she began thinking about the Buddha’s first noble truth: Everyone experiences joy and suffering.  Focusing on her physical suffering only exacerbated her mental anguish, Toni  realized.

Over time, Toni took up the Buddhist practice called mudita, which means taking pleasure in the joy of others, even if we aren’t  joyous ourselves. The state of mind resembles how parents feel when they see their growing child’s accomplishments and successes. When Toni’s husband visits their children and grandchildren, she now feels as if he’s there for both of them, rather than feeling envy for him.  Toni also has learned how to accept her isolation, and even benefit from it.  She’s studied classical music and opera, for example, and stays close to her family through the miracles of the internet.

People like Toni give me emotional strength. Instead of praying that I never become ill, I will aspire to be like Toni if I do become ill.  The more I understand about Buddhism, the more I take comfort in it. Visit Toni’s website.

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