Actions that lead to the cessation of suffering are to be cultivated and actions that enhance or amplify suffering are to be avoided. Wise inaction can thus be thought of as simply not engaging in those actions that make our condition worse. Since becoming sick, I’ve learned how crucial—yet difficult—it is to practice wise inaction. The challenge is to avoid actions that exacerbate symptoms because worsening symptoms give rise to both physical and mental suffering.
I’ve discovered that wise action lies in finding the middle ground between what we used to be able to do and the alternative of doing nothing, out of fear of exacerbating our symptoms or out of anger over our perceived misfortune. The challenge is to find the “middle way,” the balance between too much and too little.
The key to wise action for the chronically ill, then, is to avoid extremes. If we veer too far to the one side and act as if we have the stamina and physical abilities we used to have, we risk overexertion that could land us in bed for days.
The challenge is to find that middle ground.
How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers