Turning Straw Into Gold

Life through a Buddhist lens

Taking the Plunge

My life through the lens of a blog

I love blogs. That is, I love other people's blogs. When I became chronically ill and traded the bustling life of a law professor for the quiet of my bedroom, I discovered an international community of bloggers. In the last nine and a half years, I've found friendship, support, and nourishment on other people's blogs.

Four years ago, I began to write about my experience with chronic illness, focusing on Buddhist and Buddhist-inspired practices that have helped me adjust to this unexpected change in my life. ("Buddhist-inspired" is a euphemism for "something I made up.") As I finished each piece, I sent it to a friend who is similarly sick. She said: "You need to start a blog so you can share this with others." (She's a blogger of course). But a blog didn't feel like the right home for what I was writing.

The pieces slowly took on the form of chapters, with numbers and names attached and, without originally setting out to do so, suddenly I had a finished manuscript and a willing publisher. The book, How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers, was published in September, 2010.

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When I told people I had a publisher, they said: "Now you have to start a blog." Evidently it's quite common to start blogging in the months before a book is published so that by the time it's available, you have a ready-made audience. But I knew this wouldn't work for me. I'm not well enough to blog and do the work required to edit a book for publication.

Now that the book has been out for seven months, I decided to revisit the question of blogging. People say that when you write a book, it becomes your child. I didn't relate to that metaphor until the book was published. It's as if, like my two grown children, it has moved out of the house. I can no longer intrude on its space at will. Oh sure, every once in a while it "asks" for my feedback: it just went to a second printing and I made several corrections. But it's pretty much out there in the world on its own.

It's even making new friends without my knowledge, friends I don't meet until the relationship has been solidified: a week ago, I received a book in the mail called The Mindfulness Revolution which contains an excerpt from my book. (My publisher had, of course, given permission).

So, the book has taken on a life of its own, but I still love to write. Now I've found the perfect home for that writing: PT. I've been reading this magazine before there was such a thing as (to quote Letterman) "The World Wide Web." And so, it is with great pleasure that I've become a blogger for Psychology Today.

What do I intend to write about in "Turning Straw Into Gold"?

First, I want to continue to explore the major theme of my book: How people can live with grace and purpose despite having a chronic illness or condition. Using the Buddha's teaching as a guide, I'll write about day-to-day challenges, such as the relentlessness of symptoms, the strain on relationships, the enforced isolation, and caregiver burnout.

Second, I think of illness as a metaphor for the difficulties everyone faces in life. With this as a theme, I'll explore how Buddhist psychology and philosophy can help people live with equanimity no matter what challenges they face. For example, I'll write about Buddhist approaches to overcoming the stress and suffering that results from not getting what we want. I agree with the Dalai Lama that the Buddha was a great psychologist because he had such a keen understanding of how the mind works.

Lastly, although most of my posts will combine the subjects of illness and Buddhism, on occasion, I'll write about one without reference to the other.

So, I've taken the plunge. I hope you'll test the water with me.

© 2011 Toni Bernhard www.tonibernhard.com

Thank you for reading my work. My most recent book is titled How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow.

I'm also the author of the award-winning How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers

Using the envelope icon, you can email this piece to others. You can also subscribe to my blog (see the choices below my picture). I’m active on FacebookPinterest, and (to a lesser extent) Twitter.

Toni Bernhard, J.D., is a former law professor at University of California at Davis. She wrote the award-winning How to Be Sick and, recently, How to Wake Up.

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