What is the most powerful force that can help us live with maximum aliveness?
Frank Ostaseski found an answer to this question through his work at Zen Hospice Project, a safe haven for those not long for this world. Listening to the last words of the dying gave him a unique perspective on what truly matters in our lives. Frank Ostaseski writes:
I will use the simple term Being to point at that which is deeper and more expansive than our personalities. At the heart of all spiritual teachings is the understanding that this Being is our most fundamental and benevolent nature.
Our normal sense of self, our usual experiencing of life, is learned. The conditioning that occurs as we grow and develop can obscure our innate goodness. Being has certain attributes or essential qualities that live as potentials within each of us. They fill out our humanity and add a richness, beauty, and capacity to our lives.
These pure qualities include love, compassion, strength, peace, clarity, contentment, humility, and equanimity, to name a few. Through practices such as contemplation and meditation, we can quiet our minds, hearts, and bodies, and as a result, our ability to sense our experience becomes subtler and more penetrating.
In the discovered stillness, we are able to perceive the presence of these innate qualities. They are more than emotional states, though we may feel them at first as emotions. It might be more helpful to think of them as our guidance system, which can lead us to a greater sense of well-being.
These aspects of our essential nature are as inseparable from Being as wetness from water. Said another way, we already have everything we need for this journey. It all exists within us. We don’t need to be someone special to access our innate qualities and utilize them in the service of greater freedom and transformation.
These and many other profound spiritual insights are part of Frank Ostaseski’s The Five Invitations, an enlightening book outlined in this article to help you navigate this sensemaking called life and experience it with every fiber of your Being. Frank Ostaseski writes:
1. Don’t Wait
Embracing the truth that all things inevitably must end encourages us not to wait in order to begin living each moment in a manner that is deeply engaged. We stop wasting our lives on meaningless activities.
We learn to not hold our opinions, our desires, and even our own identities so tightly. Instead of pinning our hopes on a better 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.
2. Welcome Everything, Push Away Nothing
We like the familiar; we like certainty. We love to have our preferences met. In fact, most of us have been taught that getting what we want and avoiding what don’t is the way to assure our happiness.
Inevitably, though, there are unexpected experiences in our lives — an unanticipated move, a job loss, a family member’s illness, the death of a beloved pet — that we want to push away with all our might.
When faced with the uncertain, our first reaction is often resistance. … 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.
3. 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 want others to know that sometimes we are more of a mess than we’d like to admit.
Yet more than once I have found an “undesirable” aspect of my [ever-changing] self, one about which I previously had felt ashamed and tucked away, to be the very quality that allowed me to meet another person’s suffering with compassion instead of fear or pity.
4. Find a Place of Rest 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. The Fourth Invitation teaches us that … we can find a place of rest within us, without having to alter the conditions of our lives. …
This place of rest is always available to us. We need only turn toward it. It is experienced when we bring our full attention, without distraction, to this moment, to this activity.
5. Cultivate Don’t Know Mind
This moment right here before us, this problem we are tackling, this person who is dying, this task we are completing, this relationship we are building, this pain and beauty we are facing — we have never experienced it before.
When we enter a situation with don’t know mind, we have a pure willingness to do so, without attachment to a particular view or outcome. We don’t throw our knowledge away — it is always there in the background, ready to come to our aid should we need it — but we let go of fixed ideas. We let go of control.
Don’t know mind is an invitation to enter life with fresh eyes, to empty our minds and open our hearts.
Here’s a video trailer for The Five Invitations by Frank Ostaseski:
Without a reminder of death, we tend to take life for granted, often becoming lost in endless pursuits of self-gratification.
But when we keep death at our fingertips, it reminds us not to hold on so tightly. Maybe we take ourselves and our ideas a little less seriously.
The Five Invitations is a wonderful read in its entirety.
Hi, I’m Gavril, the guy behind this blog. What you see here is the combination of my three favorite things: reading, writing, and mindfulness. While you’re here, subscribe to my blog updates and gain access to free mindfulness resources for stress relief.