My guest today has accompanied more than a 1000 people through the intimate process of dying. He's also an internationally respected Buddhist teacher. As well as the co-founder of the Zen Hospice Project which was the first Buddhist hospice in America.He is the founder of the Meta Institute, his work has been featured in a PBS series called on our own terms. Which was highlighted on the Oprah Winfrey Show and he's also the author of The Five Invitations.
My guest today has accompanied more than a 1000 people through the intimate process of dying. He's also an internationally respected Buddhist teacher. As well as the co-founder of the Zen Hospice Project which was the first Buddhist hospice in America.
He is the founder of the Meta Institute, his work has been featured in a PBS series called on our own terms. Which was highlighted on the Oprah Winfrey Show and he's also the author of The Five Invitations.
WATCH THE VIDEO INTERVIEW:
[03:00] Invitations: The Road to the ceremony of death
It’s not every day you get to talk to someone with the resume that Frank does. Normally I would not ask this question but I just had to know… How did you get started? How did you get to a place where you are guiding people along this ceremony of death?
Frank tells us he and death had a relationship for early on in his life. He lost his mother at the age of sixteen! Then a few short years later death reared it’s head again and claimed the life of Frank’s father.
Mr. Osteseski had started working in Mexico and south America in refugee camps. The death rate was high and he was constantly surrounded by it. He then returned to the San Francisco area at a time where the AIDS Epidemic was just exploding. This was dark time nearly 30,000 people died during this time. Frank expresses one of the main reasons for his direction is life is how real it is when you are around people that are dying. It’s a very real experience, all the BS is being stripped away. You get to be there in a very real way with people and the conversation gets really honest. This is what drew Frank to spending his time with the dying. It’s the sense of honesty, integrity these people have.
[06:06] Invitations: monumental experiences while on the brink
“I think it is first helpful to understand that many of the people I worked with were from tougher walks of life. People from all different strata of life. People who spoke English and people that did not. There were people who had a strong faith and clung to that as they passed. Others had sworn to religion years ago.”
Frank recounts a tale about a man he used to work with who was a hemophiliac. He had contracted the HIV virus from a blood transfusion. Just a year before that had happened he had disowned his gay son because he had contracted the AIDS virus. He pushed him out of the house. Now the father and the son are in twin beds being cared for by Son’s mother.
The two had come to terms and had a reconciliation because they found themselves on the same destiny.
A lot of the people Frank worked with where on the fringes of society. For some of them, dying was great gift. It gave them a chance to mend bridges and express love they had hidden away. Others retreated into the lone withdrawal. These people where all Frank's teachers. They let him in during their most vulnerable moments. It was over the course of these encounters people really showed Frank how to live.
[08:26] What makes a zen hospice
While Frank might tell us it fundamentally a zen hospice might not look so different on the surface. The one big difference is the overall calm in the room. One of the things you study in zen practices is the ability to stabilize and calm the mind body and heart. It also teaches how to jump into one’s own life, do not fear to live.
“One calm person in the room makes all the difference.” Frank Osteseki
One of the things they teach at a zen hospice Is how one calm person is able to make all the difference. That statement runs true throughout most of our lives. One person with a level head can positively affect so much. What we try to teach the people here is the stability to be one of those people.
We teach about not waiting for things. People go through their lives always waiting. “waiting in fear that mom is going to die, rather than enjoying all the moments left in between.”
Frank only wants to help and encourage people to feel comfortable with death. Not to avoid all the treasures life has to bring. The fear of death can keep people from actually living.
[15:05] Embracing change
Frank notes how change is a constant and learning to embrace that will help to lead long more joyful lives.
“If we base our happiness and enjoyment of life only on conditions and on getting all the conditions right we end up the creek without a paddle. The reason and reality for this is because the conditions are going to keep changing. The one thing we can be assured of is that everything will come and go, everything is continually changing.
So embracing the truth that things will inevitably change, encourages us not to wait and to live our life in a way that matters. It becomes deeply engaged, we stop wasting our lives on meaningless activities. We learn to stop holding our opinions of ourselves so tightly and we begin to let go more and live a little more freely. Instead of pinning our hopes on the future we focus on the future and we are grateful. Grateful for what we have right now in front of us, we say I love more often. I feel like Don’t Wait is a pathway to fulfillment and the antidote to regret.”
[23:48] The Five invitations
The first Invitation is “Don’t Wait”
To live in the now, to live life with a sense of the quality of presence.
The second Invitation is “Welcome Everything, Push Away Nothing”
Living life with the ability to accept what is in front of you and to welcome and learn from the experience. It’s not about being a doormat, it’s about being open to what life brings your way and to face it.
The third Invitation is “Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience”
“I take myself as is.”
Frank tells us one thing you learn when dealing with people that are dying is all the titles they use to define themselves fall away. I’m a mother, I’m doctor, I’m a teacher, everything that was washed away in the presence of a deadly illness. In process of dying, we find our most pure selves.
Being your whole self-means no part of yourself gets left out. No matter where you are you are never living life for someone else. You don’t need to hide who you are. If you bring all of you to the table all the time you will live a life with less regret.
[34:05] The fourth Invitation is “Find a Place of rest in the middle of things
Finding a place of rest can be very hectic, a lot of people think you need a vacation or nap to get any decent rest. Here's the thing... life does not wait. Frank had to find a way to always make sure he was getting the rest he needed. He does the by bringing his attention fully and completely to whatever it is he is doing. By doing that he’s actually is able to find a place for rest.
Find rest in the middle of things is about not imagining what might happen if conditions line up perfectly it’s about being present. You find clarity in enjoying the moment.
[40:47] The fifth invitation is Don’t know mind
“Don’t know the mind is a mind that is fresh ready, and alive.”
Don’t know the mind is a mind of curiosity; It’s openness, wonder, and awe. It’s about not clobbering the current moment with all your knowledge from the past. While you want to hold onto your expertise in your back pocket you don’t want to let it ruin the freshness of the moment.
[44:25] The changemaker question
“I think that change happens, Change is just in the nature of life right. And you know people can change but not necessarily mature very much. I think that there is a difference between change and transformation. When you transform you have this entirely new vantage point then you had before. Change is just something that occurs in the natural activity the world. I am interested in transformation I’m interested in me growing, me changing and me transforming. I am interested in helping other people transform.”
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