Toni Bernhard: Self-Compassion and the First Noble Truth (#98)


In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken speaks with acclaimed Wisdom author Toni Bernard. In this powerful conversation, which was recorded as part of our live Wisdom Dharma Chats program, Toni discusses her most recent book, How to Be Sick: Your Pocket Companion, and shares her personal story detailing how her practice has helped and continues to help her come to terms with living with a chronic illness. You’ll hear Toni revisit some of her earliest quandaries: Who am I if I’m not a law professor? How can I flourish with so many restrictions on my life? How can I overcome judgment and have compassion for myself and for others in the midst of such difficulty? She also explains how a deeper understanding of the four noble truths has reshaped her experience of suffering and shares practices from her new book that helped her come to terms with living a restricted life. As an expert at living with a chronic illness that often requires her to stay at home, Toni offers an unparalleled view on how to live well and practice compassion in a pandemic.

Toni was a law professor for twenty-two years at the University of California before illness forced her into an early retirement. Since then, Toni has written many popular books on her experiences, which have changed many lives. Some of her titles include How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers, as well as How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness, and How to Wake Up.

About the Interviewee

Toni Bernhard is the author of the award-winning How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers and How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow. Until forced to retire due to illness, Toni was a law professor at the University of California–Davis, serving six years as the dean of students. She has been a practicing Buddhist for over twenty years. Her blog, “Turning Straw Into Gold,” is hosted on the website of Psychology Today. She can be found online at

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