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The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  1,985 ratings  ·  342 reviews
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.

Life and death are a package deal. They cannot be pulled apart and we cannot truly live unless we are aware of death. The Five Invitations is an exhilarating
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 14th 2017 by Flatiron Books (first published 2017)
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Jennifer Henry Well...I guess you have to ask yourself if it matters. If you're able to glean things from the book that move you or guide you or bring you peace or e…moreWell...I guess you have to ask yourself if it matters. If you're able to glean things from the book that move you or guide you or bring you peace or even make you think of things differently, that's fantastic! Great! Whether it's all true or not true doesn't really make a difference. If it were an instruction manual, then yes, of course accuracy and truth is important. But it's not, it's simply a set of examples designed to encourage you to think about things differently from your norm. In that sense, I think the fact you're questioning it is a good means it's making you think. Mission accomplished. (less)

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Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
From the first sentence the author got my attention and kept it. "Life and death are a package deal." Like many people I don't often think about the death part of the deal. The Five Invitations is a frank yet gentle reminder that death is always with us. But instead of that being a frightening prospect, the author shows us how it is an inspiration to live the life we have with a full heart and total presence.

He addresses the deepest, most important topics with reverence, humility, and a touch o
Mimi Morton
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a terrific way to open up a conversation around death and dying with one's family. Last week my wonderful Aunt Anne (94 years old) was out visiting her sister, my mother (95 years old). Anne had mentioned that it was extremely difficult to speak about the subject of death with her children and that she really wanted to talk about it but didn't know how to begin. I had coincidentally just received a copy of this book and was familiar with the 5 invitations. We opened the book togethe ...more
Morgan Blackledge
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous book. Full of humility, honesty, compassion, wisdom and skill. A jewel of a read, culled from a lifetime of hard work with the dying.

I felt a strong connection with much of the material in the book, and a sense of kinship with the author.

I have been working in addiction recovery for the past 8 or 9 years. Over that time I have worked very closely with dozens of young bright people who are gone now.

Every loss was a little awakening to the preciousness of life. To know some of them, an
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Karen Young – Review: The Five Invitations

Frank Ostaseski is how I learned about death. I didn't want to. I didn't want my 42 year old sister Susan, who was also my best friend, to be dying. Frank quietly guided our family and helped us to be present while at her bedside at Zen Hospice. It was 1990 and my month old baby Liza was in my arms. My father, a doctor, was having a hard time since his eldest was dying and was gruff. It seemed like he had always been able to fix us, but this time there w
Hajime Issan
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
All of us who have studied with Frank Ostaseski have wanted him to write a book for many years. With the publication of this long awaited book, "The Five Invitation," our hopes have come to fruition. It is even way beyond our expectations!

I met Frank in person for the first time in 2000. From our first private conversation, I was immediately drawn to and fascinated by his teachings. Prior to meeting Frank, I had had 15 years of involvement with caregiving for those who were dying of AIDS through
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is essentially Frank Ostaseski's body of spiritual teachings refined over the course of his lifetime, and tried in the fires of nearly two decades leading Zen Hospice Project. Having been a student of Frank’s for over a decade and listening to his teachings in person year after year, I assumed most of the stories in his book would be ones I had already heard. It’s true; some of them were familiar. But I was unprepared for the many the stories I hadn’t heard, and especially for the beau ...more
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to muthuvel by: Sam Harris
Shelves: philosophy
I came know about this work from Sam Harris' Waking Up Podcast (checkout the podcast here - )

Being mesmerized by the way the conversation between the duo underwent regarding this final masquerade in the cycle of life, I badly wanted to try the work.

The book provides vicarious experiences concerning the death of people under various circumstances from the author's perception. Though the book structure resembles the typical self help book, the contents are
Rocco  Capobianco
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ostaseski has assisted in creating a mindful death experience of over 1000 people over his life. This wonderful read culls the learnings and wisdom collected from those facing death, perhaps when life felt most valuable to them. This book is not morbid; it is insightful, interesting, funny at times and most importantly - this book will open your eyes to a new way to view your life today.

The Five Invitations is an unforgettable read. This book will stay with me for the rest of my life. You know t
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-up
I'm giving it two stars because I do actually like the five invitations of the title. But I did not like this book. At all. I was reading it on Kindle and had been slogging along for what felt like forever, and saw that I was just at 66% completion. Another third of the way to go? No. Life is too short, as the author himself would attest.

I had three main issues:
1) Loose, unfocused writing. I gather that the author is a regular teacher and a lot of this sounds like stuff he has taught in workshop
Katherine James
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"The Five Invitations" is a beautifully written book in which Frank Ostaseski offers his wisdom on the process of dying in order to inspire all of us to live more completely in the present moment throughout our lifetime by facing the uncertainty of death.
Frank provides a powerful description of the shift in consciousness during the dying process. Through the sharing of his inspiring and touching hospice experiences, Frank teaches us how to be a more compassionate, caring, listening presence at
Beka Tuitasi
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I met Frank at Zen Hospice Project in 1995 after I'd lost both my parents in 5 weeks and was writing a newspaper series on caregiving, death and spirituality for the San Francisco Examiner. He made it not only safe to talk about death, but he also illuminated the intimate sacredness of being at bedside. His work has midwifed countless spiritual journeys both for those who eventually passed, and for those who yet remain. The Five Invitations is such a gift to the world, a testament to the power o ...more
Sep 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Frank Ostaseki opened the first Zen hospice. He shares in this book what he has learned as a Buddhist practitioner working with the dying over several decades and his own encounter with critical illness following a serious heart attack and open heart surgery.

Ostaseki shares what he has learned about dying: and how it can teach us how to live. The stories he tells are moving and his discussions about each lesson--or "invitation" fascinating. The invitations are: Don't Wait; Welcome Everything, Pu
Alison Shapiro
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are very few books that have come into my life that are as insightful and as powerful as this one. The vehicle of Frank Ostaseski's learning may have been his work with people who are dying but what he has to teach us is how to live and embrace life in any circumstance. Sooner or later all of us will face challenges. Challenges are a part of being alive. It's not our challenges that define us. It's the way we meet what life brings us that changes everything. With wit, wisdom and profound k ...more
Bryant Welch
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When we read The Five Invitations, we simply cannot fear death anymore. The tender and heartfelt experiences Frank Ostaseski brings to us from his lifetime of living with death so imbue us with the tender possibilities of our final moments that slowly, slowly we realize that death can be our most focused, our most present moment. In realizing the true nature of death as he presents it to us, we have a deep sense of brotherhood, that we are all traveling on the same bus and that to not reach out ...more
This is a beautiful book about something important and inevitable, but that we’ve been socialized to dread, avoid, and flat out reject. To surrender to it is often seen as weak or selfish; to be around it in any of its forms makes many uncomfortable and distressed; even to talk about it is largely taboo from a societal standpoint. This book is about death. And, more than that, what death can teach us about life itself.

I first heard about this book on Sam Harris’s ‘Waking Up’ podcast (for those
Bob Mueller,
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In this book, Frank Ostaseski presents us with "The Five Invitations", the bedrock principles of the powerful and life-changing Metta Institute “End of Life Care Practitioner Program”. These principles come from Frank’s years of love and compassionate service at the bedside of those who are dying. He has lived these teachings. However, this book is not just about serving those who are dying; it offers us so much more – a wise and accessible guide on how we may live our life in each moment.

Carin Castillo
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was captivated by The Five Invitations, reading it cover-to-cover in a 24-hour period. As I got closer to the end, I found myself reading much slower because I just didn't want it to end. I was inspired by the stories of people young and old at the end of their lives. The part that impressed me was that it was not just stories of inspiration on how I can embrace my days, but also I found wisdom as a new mom, and how to savor these moments with my little one more. There was a chapter about grie ...more
Aug 05, 2018 rated it liked it
A bit drawn out for my taste, but an excellent read on how to show up at the table and let the dying host the dinner party.

This book helped me to change how I approach when someone is actively passing. I am still relatively new to the field and the process does intimidate me at times. Leaving my fear and agenda of how I think the end of life process should go will ultimately aid me in helping these people pass. I've had three of my beloved residents pass all in one day this week, and in one suc
Mrs. Danvers
Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a hard one for me to review, because I'm coming at it from a particular perspective, including more than a decade of life experience in the context of the "Five Invitations" as I learned them from Frank in Zen Hospice Project caregiver volunteer training. I have long believed that the "invitations" -- or, as we called them, the "Five Precepts of Hospice" -- were really great ways to frame the experience of living fully and authentically, not merely the experience of caregiving or of hang ...more
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have a small but growing collection of books that make me cry in public, and this is now on the list. I think I cried outside the house at least three times while listening to this book, including being brought to gut wrenching sobs while I walked in the park one night. Luckily it was dark out and no one saw me. As painful as it was at times, this book is an epiphany. It's the basic tenets of Buddhist-inflected mindfulness told through the lens of a memoir about the Zen Hospice Project. If I h ...more
Sally Singingtree
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is every bit as much about living with meaning, joy and self- awareness as it is about the end-of-life journey. The pages are filled with teaching stories garnered from decades of being present with those who are dying as well as from the author’s experience leading seminars and training programs for healthcare professionals who work in palliative care. Frank Ostaseski brings the wisdom of The Buddha into modern times, distilling the ancient teachings into five concepts that offer the ...more
Sam Harvey
Jan 23, 2020 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book more. The anecdotes about his patients are great and definately brought a few tears to my eyes. The five invitations are fantastic classic buddhist concepts described with good stories however, a lot of the book reads a bit like winding convoluted dhamma talk where I think a reader who hadn't encountered the buddhist concepts before would find themselves skeptical and lost. The epilogue is great and the last poem is very sweet. ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: old-age, death
There are nothing like stories of people in hospice to both touch your heart and motivate your inner seize-the-day. Ostaseski is refreshingly frank about his experiences as a caregiver at the Zen Hospice Project. I loved the stories. Carpe diem!
Christo Hays
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Writing style can feel corny at times, but there are a lot of really solid bits of advice to make up for that. Anecdotes are really engaging. Reading it quickly made me feel like I was missing stuff, so I slowed down and took some notes, which was helpful.
Mike Zickar
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: zen
A beautiful model of loving kindness and compassion.

The author has been practicing Zen Buddhism for over 30 years and working in a hospice for a long time as well. This book details his lessons learned from both of these experiences.

He does a great job of weaving in personal stories as well as stories of the people he has worked with over the years. The book is about death, its about life, its about suffering, and happiness. The author's gentle openheartedness comes through deeply over and over
Feb 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A powerful book with so many lessons about living, dying, loving, suffering, letting go, and finding a way to balance our expectations with the way things really are. While much of the book examines end-of-life scenarios, the Five Invitations are for all of us, not just for those near death... though we are all near death, ultimately.
Salvador Casado
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We human beings have sophisticated enough one of the capabilities that have brought us here: learning. However, no one formally teaches us to love, manage emotions, decide or become conscious. Nor to die.

As a doctor, I'm very interested in death. Everything I do is supposed to slow it down. Nor have health professionals been trained to fully help others die. It is true that we know about palliative care and we have techniques and medications that facilitate the process of dying, but there are
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I recommend the book to everyone. It was a truly inspiring book on the subject of death, suffering, grief and living fully. I listened to the Audible version read by the author. I enjoyed his presentation very much. I always enjoy hearing the voice of the author.
David Carr
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I bow to Frank for finally collecting the stories I asked him to share with the world 25 years ago. They are stories that pierced my heart in his first telling. I am sad that in those 25 years people were not of his invitation to attend to the majesty of the unpredictable naturalness of death.
But now I see that Frank needed to meet himself as a teacher among teachers before he could find the language that would weave the stories together. We may know our heart at an early age, but it takes prac
Kathy Sebesta
Jun 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: could-not-finish
People who like this book love it - rhapsodic and waxing poetic and I just had to read it.

But I couldn't. It's my wheelhouse, the whole concept of living and dying with dignity, so it should've been a slam dunk. But it wasn't.

The why is hard to explain. It's very Buddhic but that's OK. It's loaded with stories that show how his approach succeeds where maybe others wouldn't, and that's a great way to see from different perspectives. The problem is that I've used some of those techniques and they
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2 likes · 1 comments
“We can harness the awareness of death to appreciate the fact that we are alive, to encourage self-exploration, to clarify our values, to find meaning, and to generate positive action. It is the impermanence of life that gives us perspective. As we come in contact with life’s precarious nature, we also come to appreciate its preciousness. Then we don’t want to waste a minute. We want to enter our lives fully and use them in a responsible way. Death is a good companion on the road to living well and dying without regret.” 7 likes
“Do you see this glass?” he asked. “I love this glass. It holds the water admirably. When the sun shines on it, it reflects the light beautifully. When I tap it, it has a lovely ring. Yet for me, this glass is already broken. When the wind knocks it over or my elbow knocks it off the shelf and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ But when I understand that this glass is already broken, every minute with it is precious.” 7 likes
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