Blog » Post

“And yet.” Two words to apply from reading the book, “How To Be Sick,” by Toni Bernhard

This weekend, I had the great pleasure of candlelight, a handmade quilt, and a book (as well as other things). I read the book, How To Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers, by Toni Bernhard. I heard about the book on Facebook of all places and via Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance.This book is written by a woman who was on a certain life track so to speak, who was a law professor of twenty years, involved in work, family, and personal life, active and healthy and who very suddenly became very sick with flu-like symptoms and, at the time of writing the book, has not yet recovered. The illness changed her outside life dramatically, eventually no longer able to work, and being nearly house-bound. The illness added new and great challenges to her inner world: so much loss and change — a crisis on all levels.

It is an important book in part because it gives voice to some of the experiences that are and can come from having a chronic illness both for the individual who is sick and for care-givers. It also speaks to the vulnerability of each of us, to how quickly life can change — an awareness that certainly helping professionals are generally well versed in, as is anyone who has experienced or witnessed these “life can change in a split second” realities first-hand. In the book, Toni writes about her own journey of trying to cope with these vulnerabilities and realities, sharing with readers practices and processes that have helped her such as efforts in the realms of mindfulness, compassion, joy in others’ joy, loving kindness, and self-compassion.

Later in the book, Toni shares a haiku she writes as a spin-off of one written by Issa. I share it as the prompt for today’s reflection and post. Toni writes:

A sick person
is a sick person
And yet, and yet…
(p. 135)

The and yet is important. It does not invalidate certain very real hard things (which is very important) but it does also gently open to all the other aspects of the person and their experience too. The “and yet” is a reminder of the whole person and an invitation to not lose sight of that view. Within this little poem, there are validating and expansive qualities.

A fatigued person
is a fatigued person
And yet, and yet…

A person filled with grief
is a person filled with grief
And yet, and yet….

A person who self-injures
is a person who self-injures
And yet, and yet….

What might be an “and yet” in your life today? In your week ahead? In your encounters?