Frank Ostaseski is a Buddhist teacher and leader in contemplative end-of-life care. In 1987, he co-founded of the Zen Hospice Project and later created the Meta Institute to train professionals in compassionate, mindfulness-based care. He has lectured at Harvard Medical School, the Mayo Clinic, Wisdom.2.0 and teaches at major spiritual centers around the globe.
His work has been featured on the Bill Moyers PBS series On Our Own Terms, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and in numerous print publications. In 2001, he was honored by the Dalai Lama for his compassionate service to the dying and their families. He is the author of The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully
Favorite Success Quote
“It always seems impossible until it’s done” ~Nelson Mandela
1. Keep Death Close at Hand
You are going to die.
I am going to die.
Everyone that you love and hold dear is going to die.
Life is fleeting, it’s brief, and sometimes, it can feel, as Thomas Hobbes said, “Nasty Brutish and short“.
I don’t say this to scare you, but rather to wake you up to the reality of life.
Life is precious, each moment that you have is a gift, and the only way that we can truly feel this and remember the beauty of life is by remembering that it must come to an end.
Therefore, it is important to keep death close to us.
To meditate on it, to remember it, and to embrace it, not run from it, so that one day when our time finally comes to an end, we can look death in the eyes with a smile and face the final curtain knowing that we lived a life that was full and open no matter how long or short it might have been.
2. There are Only Two Things that Ultimately Matter in Life
Frank has spent several decades of his life working in hospice with individuals who are close to death’s door. And in his experience, there are only two things that ulimately mattered to any of them.
They didn’t care about the number of horsepower in their engine, how many square feet their estate was, or how expensive their watch was.
They only cared about two things:
- How they loved
- Who loved them
At the end of their lives, when these individuals came to the end, all they really cared about was who they loved and who loved them.
They wished that they had been better fathers, husbands, sons, friends, and citizens of this world.
But for those of you reading this… It’s not too late.
None of us know how much time has been given to us or when it will run out, but we know that it will run out.
And because of this knowledge, we have the power to live more fully, to love more deeply, and to receive love on a deeper level than ever before.
3. Don’t Wait
Why is it that some people have to be diagnosed with a life-threatening disease before they take a step back and truly appreciate their lives?
Why is it that so many of us wait until the end before we ever truly live?
I want you to imagine that you walked into the Doctor’s office tomorrow and you were told that you had terminal cancer and only had a year left to live.
How would your life change?
How would you show up differently?
Would you love more? Appreciate the small things? Stop complaining about the petty distractions of life? Express gratitude for all of the abundance and joy flowing into your life?
What would you do?
Now let me ask you another question…
Why in the world do you need to wait until the end to start living like this?
Why can’t you live in the moment now? Why can’t you appreciate the small things and express gratitude now? Why can’t you open your heart to give and receive more love now?
Well, you can…
And you should.
4. Welcome Everything
In every person’s life, they will be presented with experiences that are both “good” and “bad”, and most people run from the bad and towards the good.
This is a mistake.
Most of life’s greatest lessons and greatest experiences are on the other side of pain and suffering.
Think about it…
If you ask most parents, they will tell you that raising a child is one of the most amazing and precious things that they have ever done and yet, for childbirth to happen, the mother must endure extreme pain (at least they did prior to medical advancement) to bring that child into the world.
Or think about going to the gym. The physical and mental rewards of strenuous exercise are tremendous! From increased productivity, happiness, libido, and general satisfaction with life, training has a massively positive impact on your life.
But to reap those benefits, you must endure the agony of tearing your muscles down and literally damaging your body so that you can come back stronger.
Life is the same way.
Everything that you fear, the loss, the heartbreak, the sadness, and the pain… It all has a lesson to teach you.
But before it can teach you that lesson, you must first become fearlessly receptive.
5. Wholeness Doesn’t Mean Perfection, It Means No Part Left Out
You, me, and everyone else in the world is imperfect.
And we often try to hide this imperfection by putting on a facade and pretending that we have it all together.
But here’s the thing…
Just like there is beauty in the impermanence of life, there is beauty in your imperfection, there is beauty in your darkness.
But you must be willing to accept it, learn from it, and seek to change it for this “dark side” to truly serve its purpose.
We are all imperfect beings living in an imperfect world, pretending otherwise is foolish.
1. A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield
2. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryū Suzuki
3. Being with Dying by Joan Halifax