Seeds of wisdom from Osho, Rumi, Zen master Tozan and others that offer an uplifting perspective on illness.

Quotes on illness


No matter how little control we may have over circumstances, even in the most terrible situation, we have a choice of how we will respond.

(Jean Shinoda Bolen, Close to the Bone)


Dance when you are broken open.
Dance if you have torn the bandages off.
Dance in the middle of fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance when you are perfectly free.


If I lose my right arm, how do I know I don’t need two arms? …The story, ‘I need two arms’ is where the suffering begins, because it argues with reality. Without the story, I have everything I need. I’m complete with no right arm….

(Byron Katie)


To be brought ‘close to the bone’ through the adversity of illness, the closeness of death, and the knowledge that we are not in control of the situation is to come close to the essence of who we are, both as unique individuals and as human beings…. Adversity reveals the eternal, and thus indestructible, qualities of the soul.

(Jean Shinoda Bolen, Close to the Bone)


Resilient people are formed by more than just their genes or their temperament.

Rather, it is the way they engage and respond to situations in life.

(Michael Rutter)


…Oddly enough, I …regained resilience when I gave up wishing that events were other than they were; when I surrendered to the painful truth of what was….

My own experience was at almost exactly the moment when I could extend my experience of reality also to take in what I most wanted to avoid, I experienced a strange kind of peace. It wasn’t optimism, and it was not an end to pain or to suffering. But it was real and true, and it sprang directly from that raw sense of inevitability and a rather chilling knowledge that sometimes events are not going to be pushed around by our wishes, no matter how passionate those wishes may be.

(Stephanie Dowrick)


It’s our story about reality that blurs our vision, obscures what’s true, and leads us to believe there is injustice in the world… You move away from reality when you believe that there is a legitimate reason to suffer. Then you become the…perpetuator of it in yourself….

(Byron Katie)


Only a dead person is never ill. A healthy person has to be ill sometimes. Through illness he attains to health again, and then the health is fresh. Passing through illness, passing through the opposite, it again becomes new. Have you ever watched? After a long fever, when you are getting well you have a freshness, a virginity; the whole body seems to be rejuvenated.

(Osho The Hidden Harmony)


Resilient hope gives us wisdom to understand the past, and energy to plan for the future. Illusory hope hinges on fantasies that something or someone will magically make things better. At some point, resilient people stop trying to control the uncontrollable. They put aside unrealistic hope because it no longer helps.

(Anne Deveson)


… Give up to grace.

The ocean takes care of each wave

Till it gets to shore.



When Tozan was dying a monk said to him, ‘Master, your four elements are out of harmony, but is there anyone who is never ill?’

‘There is,’ said Tozan.

‘Does this one look at you?’ asked the monk.

‘It is my function to look at him,’ answered Tozan.

‘How about when you yourself look at him?’ asked the monk.

‘At that moment I see no illness,’ replied Tozan.

(Osho   Zen: The Path of Paradox)


Everything that happens is my teacher.

I just have to sit at my own feet and learn.



When you believe your thoughts, you rape your body by saying that it should be more beautiful, it should be healthier, it should be taller, shorter, fatter, thinner, younger, stronger. You take a perfect body and trash it.

(Byron Katie)


It is by going down into the abyss

that we recover the treasures of life.

(Joseph Campbell)


My experience has led me to believe that in order to confront illness as best you can, you need to think about death. This question haunts anyone who suffers from a terminal disease like cancer, even if they don’t talk about it. I’m convinced it’s better to put the subject on the table…so that when the time comes, it can happen in the best possible way.                      

(Dr David Servan-Schreiber, author of Not the Last Goodbye, diagnosed with cancer)


How do you react when you believe that what is isn’t normal for you? Shame, sadness, despair. What would you be without that thought? At ease with your condition and loving it, whatever it is, because you would realise that it is completely normal, for you.

(Byron Katie)


It’s sad that my time will come [soon], but it’s not a monstrous injustice. I’ve been blessed in my life… I’ve lived through many enriching experiences and cancer has been one of them. I haven’t let life slip through my fingers. And if it all ends at the age of fifty, or fifty-one, or fifty-two, that’s not so tragic. Living to the age of eighty without achieving any of my hopes and dreams – now that would have broken my heart.

When I bring this up with my oncologist, he looks concerned and suggests I see a psychiatrist. As if I might be surrendering to fatalism and despair. However, this is not the case. I’m still fighting for my health. I’m simply convinced that being at peace with yourself, and accepting your mortality, means you can direct all your energy towards the healing process.’

(Dr D. Servan-Schreiber, author of Not the Last Goodbye, diagnosed with cancer)


Your story is how you keep yourself in time and space and duality. If you argue with reality, if you argue about what you know is true, it feels stressful…. ‘It’s not supposed to hurt like this.’ Feel how painful that thought is. … No wonder you cry when you say, ‘My shoulder shouldn’t hurt this much’ because…it does. That’s the reality.

(Byron Katie)


You cannot keep the birds of sorrow

from flying overhead,

but you can prevent them

from building nests in your hair.

(Chinese proverb)


How do you live when you believe that your health problems should not be there? You can’t even cough or blow your nose honestly, or let us know you’re not feeling well. Who would you be without the story, ‘I should feel better today’? You’d be free.

(Byron Katie)


In you there are two worlds: the world of birth and death and the world that is transcendental. Yes, the body can be very ill and yet there may be no illness in you – if you don’t get attached to illness, if you don’t get identified with illness, if you don’t start thinking ‘I am ill.’

(Osho   Zen: The Path of Paradox)


Every life’s journey ends in death. And I like to think, as do many philosophers, that life is a long preparation for that supreme moment. When you stop fighting illness, you still have one challenge left: that of dying well.

(Dr D. Servan-Schreiber, author of Not the Last Goodbye, diagnosed with cancer)


My whole approach is to accept whatsoever life brings; accept it with gratefulness, with thankfulness. Don’t have a grudge. It is very natural to have a grudge but through having a grudge you may miss the point.

You can be very very angry inside: ‘Why has this happened to me?’ ‘Why am I suffering?’ Don’t ask that ‘why?’ Things are for no reason at all. That is the highest understanding. There is no karma, nothing – these are just explanations to console people. They bring consolation; nothing else. They don’t bring any understanding.

Things are as they are and we have to accept. In that acceptance is transcendence.

(Osho Far beyond the Stars)


One day you are healthy, another day you are ill – the mirror reflects! The function of the mirror is just to reflect whatsoever is the case. But each time you get identified.

Stop this identifying yourself with things that are standing in front of you, and suddenly you will see you have never been ill and never been hungry and never been born, and never are you going to die. You are the very source of eternity. You are eternal.

(Osho   Zen: The Path of Paradox)


Do you think your body is going to heal most efficiently when you’re tense and fearful and fighting cancer as an enemy? Or when you’re loving what is and realising all the ways in which you life is actually better because you have cancer, and from that calm centre doing everything you can to get better? there’s nothing more life giving than inner peace.

(Byron Katie)


When you believe that you are this body you stay limited. That way you get to be small, apparently encapsulated as a body, as one separate form. So every thought has to be about your survival or you comfort or your pleasure, because if you let up for a moment, there would be no body-identification.

(Byron Katie)



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