A Packaged Deal
Frank Ostaseski is a wise voice who has been teaching Westerners (and others around the world) about how to truly live life—by embracing the role of death. As a cofounder of the Zen Hospice Project in 1990, he has been a central figure in bringing Buddhist contemplative practice to those who are dying and their caregivers alike. But that same practice, he says, applies to all of us, even when we are healthy and well.
"It's paradoxical but true that reflecting on dying helps us focus on how precarious life is—and then we see how precious it is. We don’t want to waste a moment of it," he says.
If this seems a difficult task—to embrace death as a way to truly engage with life—Ostaseski has given us further tools to understand, which he calls "The Five Invitations." Here is a brief dive into these deep and meaningful ideas that help bring life and its meaning into sharper focus.
From: The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully
"Instead of pinning our hopes on a brighter future, we focus on the present and being grateful for what we have in front of us right now. We say 'I love you' more often because we realize the importance of human connection. We become kinder, more compassionate, and more forgiving. Don't wait is a pathway to fulfillment and an antidote to regret."
Welcome Everything, Push Away Nothing
"In welcoming everything, we don't have to like what is arising. It's actually not our job to approve or disapprove. The word 'welcome' confronts us; it asks us to temporarily suspend our usual rush to judgment and to simply be open to what is happening. When we are open and receptive, we have options. We are free to discover, to investigate, and to learn how to respond skillfully to anything we encounter. Welcome everything, push away nothing cannot be done solely as an act of will. To welcome everything is an act of love."
Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience
"We all like to look good. We long to be seen as capable, strong, intelligent, sensitive, spiritual, or at least well adjusted. We project a positive self-image. Few of us want to be known for our helplessness, fear, anger, or ignorance, or that sometimes we are are more of a mess than we'd like to admit. To be whole, we need to include, accept, and connect all parts of ourselves. Wholeness does not mean perfection. It means no part left out."
Find a Place in the Middle of Things
"We often think of rest as something that will come to us when everything else in our lives is complete: at the end of the day; when we take a bath; once we go on holiday, or get through all our to-do lists. We imagine that we can only find rest by changing our circumstances. This place of rest is always available to us. It is a choice—a choice to be alert, to bring your attention to this moment, right now."
Cultivate Don't Know Mind
"This may seem confusing at first. Why should we seek to be ignorant? Don't know mind is one characterized by curiosity, surprise, and wonder. It is receptive, ready to meet whatever shows up as it is. Don't know mind is an invitation to enter life with fresh eyes, to empty our minds and open our hearts."
These quotes all from Ostaseski's book The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully, available on Amazon. You can also download a discussion sheet for the ideas above to further engage with the ideas expressed above, here.