Toni Bernhard J.D.

Until forced to retire due to illness, I was a law professor for 22 years at the University of California—Davis, serving six years as the law school’s dean of students. I had a longstanding Buddhist practice and co-led a weekly meditation group with my husband.

Faced with learning to live a new life, I wrote How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers. The book is Buddhist-inspired but is non-parochial. How to Be Sick has won two 2011 Nautilus Book Awards: A Gold Medal in Self-Help/Psychology and a Silver Medal in Memoir. It was also named one of the best books of 2010 by Spirituality and Practice.

A revised and expanded second edition of How to Be Sick was released in 2018. Every chapter is either rewritten or edited, and I've added over a dozen new practices to the book.

In 2013, my second book was published: How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow. It offers my understanding of the Buddha’s path to peace—a peace and well-being that aren't dependent on whether a particular experience is pleasant or unpleasant, joyful or sorrowful. How to Wake Up has drawn critical acclaim from Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.

In 2015, my third book was published: How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide. It covers a broad range of topics, from career crises and relationship issues to struggles with self-blame, personal identity, and isolation. In addition, several chapters are addressed to family and friends of the chronically ill to help them understand what their loved one is going through and to offer ideas on how they can help.

I write in a conversational style, with the intention of helping everyone, regardless of circumstances, learn to live with compassion, joy, and purpose. To this end, all of my books and many of my posts at Psychology Today include easy-to-learn exercises and practices that are brought alive through the use of personal stories. All of my books are available in audio format from Amazon,, and iTunes.

I live in Davis, California with my husband, also named Tony, and our endearing, if goofy, gray lab named Scout. I can be found online at

Author of

Turning Straw Into Gold

“Turning Straw Into Gold” draws on many of the themes in my books. I explore how to live with compassion, joy, and purpose in the midst of life’s challenges, especially chronic pain and illness. Our struggles and difficulties can be the seeds of awakening to a peace and well-being that aren’t dependent on our circumstances. This is a path that all of us can follow, regardless of our backgrounds. 

Read now.