Frank Ostaseski’s powerful book focuses on a subject that is often avoided with some discomfort. We don’t like to talk about death. The author has a different view. He has over thirty years’ experience of viewing death at close quarters, first in his own life and then as a care giver where he stayed close to more than a thousand people in their dying moments. He exhorts people to view death as an integral part of living and not as a onetime event. Appreciating the full meaning of death, he says, makes life much more meaningful. Integrate it into our lives and absorb its wisdom. He believes that doing this will remove our fear of this natural process and give us a much more authentic way of seeing our living lives.
“Death is not waiting for us at the end of a long road. Death is always with us, in the marrow of every passing moment. She is the secret teacher hiding in plain sight, helping us to discover what matters most in life.”
He co-founded the Zen Hospice project in San Francisco in 1987. It is a volunteer run organisation and through his service here he has been at the bedside of many people in their dying moments. The distilled wisdom from these events is how he identified the Five Invitations.
The Five Invitations are:
- Don’t Wait
- Welcome Everything
- Push Away Nothing
- Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience,
- Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of Things
- Cultivate a Don’t Know Mind
He gives several inspiring and interesting accounts of the last moments of some people he cared for. From the twenty-year-old who was ready for the death experience and looking forward to it, to the ninety-three-year-old woman who told him that the death that was looming had come too quickly and that there was still so much to be done.
Why you should read it
As the author mentions, “Life and death are a package deal”, and we don’t much like to think about death, yet it is the one certainty that we all face. So why not prepare for it more consciously? As we enter the third and final chapter of our lives, we should consider our mortality and our death with greater intent because it will impact the way we live out our days, how we interact with others and with ourselves. This book is a wonderful guide for this purpose and written with a depth of experience and necessary pathos.
“Why wait until we are dying to be free of struggle?”
Even if it is not a subject that many people resetting their lives think about too much, I strongly recommended The Five Invitations to help you change focus and head into a new perspective.
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