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

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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 meditation on the meaning of life and how maintaining and ever-present consciousness of death can bring us closer to our truest selves. As a renowned teacher of compassionate care-giving and the cofounder of the Zen Hospice Project, Frank Ostaseski has sat on the precipice of death with more than a thousand people. In The Five Invitations, he distills the lessons gleaned over the course of his career, offering an evocative and stirring guide that points a radical path to transformation.

The Five Invitations:
-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 Don’t Know Mind

These invitations show us how to wake up fully to our lives. They can be understood as best practices for anyone coping with death or navigating any sort of transition or crisis; they guide us toward appreciating life’s preciousness. Death can be a valuable companion on the road to living well, forging a rich and meaningful life, and letting go of regret. The Five Invitations is a powerful and inspiring exploration of the essential wisdom dying has to impart to all of us.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2017

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Frank Ostaseski

8 books74 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 444 reviews
Profile Image for Athena.
3 reviews3 followers
February 14, 2017
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 of humor. Through stories of the people he has sat with while they approached death's door, the author shows us how to address the corrosive voice of the inner critic, soften our hearts to forgive,and cultivate our own courageous presence. His voice becomes a companion as we explore the conscious and unconscious ways we navigate fear, love, identity, and soul.

Once you begin this book you won't want to put it down. And if you let it, it will transform the way you feel about dying.
1 review
February 24, 2017
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 together, and began to walk through each invitation, discussing what it meant to us, our experiences with death, and our regrets and joys surrounding those memories. The conversation was so satisfying and real, complete with laughter, tears and a deep feeling of connection. As Frank would say in his first invitation~ "Don't Wait!" I highly recommend this book book as a great way to start what might be one of the most important conversations you may ever have. Thank you Frank!
Profile Image for Morgan Blackledge.
557 reviews1,910 followers
January 6, 2019
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, and really care, and then they’re gone. It’s been pretty difficult at times.

Maybe that’s why it took me 9 months to finish this book. I even started it over at one point after being half way through and setting it down for a bit too long.


This book has something good and useful for you if you’re dealing with loss. Which is actually the case for everyone.

I highly recommend this book. Particularly if you’re in the helping professions. It’s a real god shot.
Profile Image for Ellie.
1,458 reviews369 followers
August 12, 2022
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, Push Away Nothing; Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience; Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of Things; and Cultivate Don't Know Mind.

Each section is indeed an invitation to live more deeply. The stories offer the hope that it is never too late to experience peace but at the same time point to the urgency of beginning the journey now.

We are all going to die. Why not use this knowledge to guide our life?

Reread: August 11, 2022

As powerful as the first time. It was good to see that I have continued to use some of what I learned reading this and to refresh my mind with other things I have forgotten

And the stories are beautiful and moving.
Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books901 followers
January 25, 2023
In one sense, this book took me by surprise. Though I knew in advance that its focus was death (thus the subheading “Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully”), I didn’t realize that Buddhism would play such a large role.

OK, I told myself. I can deal with that. I’ve read my share of Buddhist texts by now and know enough to be dangerous. Still, against all odds, this turned out to be one of my favorite Buddhist books.

The reason why is pretty simple. The best side of Buddhism tenets appears when you look at it through the lens of death. Not death as the source of fear or mystery. Not death as the opening play of a big religious promise on the other side. Just death for what it is, the companion piece to birth, the natural and necessary destination inexorably linked to its departure (all aboard, screaming babies!).

Author Frank Ostaseski is cofounder of the Zen Hospice Project and is a Buddhist teacher. Many stories and profiles of dying patients come from this background. They are the solid brick of this text. The Buddhism serves as mortar holding the wall of his arguments together.

What’s good is no type of conversion or ostensible Buddhist ritual goes down at this hospice. The goal is to help people with each of their unique passages. Sometimes Ostaseski has answers, sometimes not. The main point is to get away from the clinical, results-oriented and impersonable deaths found in hospitals. God (or Buddha) save us all. We'd all rather die as humans instead of statistics.

While all this normalization of death stuff is going on in this book, Ostaseski also offers advice on life. Makes sense, once we see the thin line between birth and death, that we’d see how death (and its whims) should and must inform life. Most of us spend our lives avoiding thoughts of death. We admit in the abstract that someday it will come for us, but pretty much feel like a WHOLE LOTTA other people are going down before we do. Even many who are younger than us.

Here we’re told to embrace the thought of death. It would spare us a lot of unnecessary suffering.

Suffering? Buddhism refers to “the three poisons,” but Ostaseski mentions how Martin Aylward, the resident Buddhist teacher at Moulin de Chaves retreat center in France, rebrands the poisons as demand, defense, and distract. Ostaseski riffs on them here:

“Craving, the first poison, is a demand,/i> that the objects of our desire provide us with lasting satisfaction so that we feel fulfilled, whole, and complete. It is the tendency to cling to someone, something, some idea, and become rigidly attached to it. Greed creates an inner hunger, which has us always striving for an unattainable goal: a new job, a new partner or child, a new car or home, a new body, a new attitude. We mistakenly believe our happiness is dependent upon reaching our goal, getting what we want. But the problem is that even if we do attain it, we find that we can get no lasting satisfaction from our accomplishment or possession because everything in life is subject to the law of impermanence. Circumstances will change, or we’ll become accustomed to the new role or thing or person in our lives, and our pleasure inevitably will fade.

“Tragically, inherent in demand is the notion that what is here now, what we have now, isn’t good enough. We can sense this drive for more in our bodies as an energetic pull, the desperate wanting for something to fill up our underlying sense of deficiency.

“The second poison, the defense of aversion, can show up as anger, hatred, bullying, loneliness, intolerance, or fear. We habitually resist, deny, and avoid unpleasant feelings, circumstances, and people—whatever we do not like or want. Defense traps us in a vicious cycle of finding conflict and enemies everywhere. It reinforces our mistaken perceptions that we are separate from everything and everyone. Energetically, we know this drive in our bodies as the opposite of pull. It is a pushing away. The irony is that whatever we push away usually pushes back even harder.

“The ignorance of distraction is the third poison. It blinds us to the way reality works, giving rise to the tendency to pull (demand) and push (defend) against life. We misperceive the nature of things, which is that they are both interdependent and impermanent. Instead, we get lost in a loop of distractions as a way of disconnecting from our pain. Alcohol, shopping, eating, gambling, sex, social media and video games, even meditation—all can serve as habits and strategies for distracting ourselves, all can go unquestioned. We lose ourselves, get confused and hold unhelpful views. We go about our lives in a kind of fog, unable to see clearly that there is a way through our pain, which requires us to turn toward it. By trying to ignore it, we continually trip and fall further into our suffering. Energetically, we feel spaced out, dull, or vaguely unconscious.”

Sound familiar? Did to me. Dealing with pain and acknowledging death and having a more healthy relationship with each other and our mutual weaknesses is a start. We’re unique, yeah, but all too much alike, too.

This book, despite some moments of repetitiveness and the occasional anecdote that might come across as pat, sheds light on these contrasts. I enjoyed reading it and even admit to feeling a little bit better about this upcoming death thing. Enough to try and live a little differently before I meet it.

1 review1 follower
February 26, 2017
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 was nothing that he could do to make her well.

I remember Frank saying to me after Susan passed, "It isn't so bad, is it?" She died in peace after so much pain. She looked beautiful.

By chance, Zen Buddhist monks were meeting at the Zen Center across the street. Susan had been a student at Green Gulch and as the monks came into her room, we placed rose petals on her, one at time, until she was completely covered. She was beautiful. The pain was gone. She was at rest. Frank helped all of us who loved her see how death can teach us about living life with compassion. "The Five Invitations" is a treasure.
1 review
February 24, 2017
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 throughout New York City's epidemic years. After meeting Frank, I realized how little I had known. In the environment of a heavily corporate-like health care system in the city, I realized I had been like a kid growing up being fed artificially flavored orange pop believing that was orange juice. Meeting Frank felt as if I had encountered freshly squeezed orange juice for the first time. My practice completely and fundamentally shifted by meeting Frank. This man is the real deal.

"The Five Invitations" has exactly the same effect on me. The first line of the book, "Life and death are a package deal. You cannot pull them apart. In Japanese Zen, the term 'shoji' translates as 'birth-death.' There is no separation between life and death other than a small hyphen, a thin line that connects the two." The book immediately drew me in. I forgot time and didn't want to put it down. Despite the subject matter, it is a curiously easy read. And yet, it is a type of book which demands contemplative reading; it draws one back over and over repeatedly for years. In other words, "The Five Invitations" will be my next "Little Prince" and my next "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" and will stay on the top of my bedside table.

Frank Ostaseski is physically an imposingly tall man. But I didn't notice his hight when I first met him because when he has an open-heart, knee to knee conversation, he always meets you where you are emotionally, looking right into your eyes and your heart. Only when the meeting is over and when both of you stand up, are you astonished by his height. "The Five Invitations" has exactly the same effect. Reading this book is your own deep journey into your own mind and heart through Frank's voice that is permeated with love, sincerity and humility. It is only when you finally put down the book that you realize what an impact this man has made on the hospice movement in this nation. You come to the realization you have just met the true pioneer, the original Mr. Hospice of America.

Many of us professional health care givers are disheartened and discouraged by the current trend of corporatization of the health care system in America. Along with this trend in recent years, there is a strange sense of "boom", and a new generation of health care workers seem to have been entering the "death and dying industry" with utterly different mind sets. In their unexplored, uncontemplated minds, hospice work appears to have become yet another tool to satisfy their needs and disires to gain a sense of power and worldly recognition. Even the words such as "contemplative care," "compassionate care," and "meditation" have been used so often and casually by those who are not qualified, which ironically, in turn, has hurt the quality of our health care system even further.

Frank's "The Five Invitations" is a sharp and clear waning and heart-felt advice to those who are entering into or have already been in the health care professions. It skillfully points out the true meaning of contemplative and compassionate care.

"The Five Invitations" is also the best American contemporary Buddhist book I have read. "The Five Invitations" is subtly but with such incredible clarity explains the most important Buddhist teachings in the simplest contemporary English without using any of those eccentric ancient languages. "The Five Invitations" is a new "Heart of Buddha's Teachings" rephrased in understandable language and put into the context of the most moving and transformative real life stories of our own time. I highly recommend this book as a textbook not only for health care workers workshops, but also for the students of Buddhism.

If you are a healthcare worker or a Buddhist student, meeting Frank and his "The Five Invitations" will fundamentally transform your practice. If you are someone who is struggling with your own life issues, this book will embrace you with love and help you to heal. As for being simply a human being, "The Five Invitations" will drastically and joyously shift your way of living.

Hajime Issan Koyama - Hospice Chaplain.
Profile Image for Laura.
129 reviews
February 17, 2018
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 workshops converted into writing, but it doesn't convert well. Passages duplicate themselves. The core messages were difficult for me to find. I wished this had been developed into a sharp, focused pamphlet instead of this sprawling and often poorly written book.

2) Concepts are poorly explained. This relates to the first, but is slightly different. He's introducing some basic Buddhist concepts, but he does so badly. The part that leapt out at me particularly is when he distinguishes between pain and suffering. He then goes on in the following paragraphs to conflate the two, using them interchangeably and incorrectly. That is such a basic error that I, not a Buddhist, was aghast.

3) Not nearly enough attention to what death can teach us. I realized, just before I quit reading, that one of the things that bothered me most about the book was that there was very little in it about what we could learn from death or those close to death. Far and away we heard stories either about what the author, who works for Zen hospice, taught to those who were dying or those who work with the dying (medical professionals in particular) or what he had learned - not from the dying, but from his Buddhist practice. Nothing wrong with either of those things. But if the promise of the book is that it will tell us what death can teach us, then what is it? When I realized that the bulk of the lessons were what the author wants to teach me, I finally lost my patience with this book.

I know a lot of people have found this book incredibly powerful, and if you did, I'm glad for you. I thought it was more or less useless. What a disappointment.

Here are the Five Invitations:

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 Don’t Know Mind

There. I've saved you the time so you can read another book.
1 review
February 24, 2017
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 beauty that jumped off the pages and into my heart with each section. I haven’t taken notes at Frank’s retreats in years in favor of simply soaking up the stillness permeating his voice, but while reading this book, I found myself highlighting teachings I hadn’t completely absorbed, and delighting in gorgeously-phrased ideas presented in precise and newly creative ways. The section on forgiveness I found especially moving, with the description of loving kindness practice in a real-world scenario. I love the way the stories are wise, yet searingly real, not glossed over or sugar-coated.
Profile Image for muthuvel.
257 reviews157 followers
October 1, 2020
I came know about this work from Sam Harris' Waking Up Podcast (checkout the podcast here -
https://samharris.org/podcasts/the-le... )

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 very secular and written in a very erudite way trying to describing one of the most complex topics as we humans ever came up but had been trying and failing to find sense with it. I have had read some literature previously on Zen Philosophy but I got enough confidence now to tell that i don't know anything about anything in here and I guess that's a progress.

Highly appreciated and recommended.
Profile Image for Rocco  Capobianco.
1 review1 follower
February 14, 2017
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 those books that resonate with you long after you've finished? Well, this is one of those books.

Life and Death are a package deal - yes, we all know that, however, if you're like me, you tend to look at your life as something that will just go on forever. Let's not think about death now maybe it won't happen to me!

Well, I've always felt that way, until now. Embrace death as a way to inform the way you live today. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in creating a rich life for themselves and others in their sphere as well as those facing death of themselves or a loved one.

I have received a gift from Mr. Ostaseski that will always be with me.

Profile Image for Mindaugas.
97 reviews3 followers
February 6, 2020

Profile Image for Ugnė.
517 reviews104 followers
January 19, 2022
Skaitymas prailgo, nes man labai trūko struktūros ir ryšio tarp atskirų pastraipų bei glaustesnio dėstymo apskritai. Dalykai, apie kuriuos Frank Ostaseski rašo, yra svarbūs ir man atrodo, kad nereikėjo jų labai jau bandyti plėsti, pabrėžti ir pan.

Kai man sunku skaityti, aš dažnai pradedu galvoti apie truputį pašalinius dalykus. Šį kartą galvojau apie tai, kiek Vakaruose budizmas suprantamas taip pat, kaip Rytuose, ir ar einant mokytis ir gilinantis turi būti svarbi mokytojo kilmė ir kiek bei kaip jis budizme gyvena. Kita vieta, apie kurią galvojau ilgiau, buvo apie japonų moteris, žvejojusias perlus - pavyzdys knygoje pateiktas romantiškai, nors man atrodo, kad tos romantikos ten mažai buvo, tik alkis, nesaugumas ir skurdas.
February 24, 2017
"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 the bedside of a dying person.
As a hospice chaplain providing non-denominational spiritual support to the dying, my role is to meet my patients where they are on their spiritual path. Thus, I was able to relate deeply to the content of Chapter 17 "Surrender to the Sacred," in which Frank writes that spiritual care can "be as simple as offering our kind and reassuring presence or chicken soup made with affection." And people who are dying need love, compassion, and presence. "Ultimately spiritual support is the fearless commitment to honor the individual's unique way of meeting death." (p. 268) I so whole heartedly agree! Thank you, Frank!
I very highly recommend "The Five Invitations" to everyone! It is a book that will profoundly change one's perception of life and death.
Profile Image for Mrs. Danvers.
862 reviews45 followers
April 12, 2017
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 hanging out with people who were dying. But reading this book, as good as it is, for some reason it feels a little watered down to me. I think I am a poor one to judge this book and I think everyone should read it and judge for themselves.
1 review
February 22, 2017
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 of those silent liminal spaces that are vibrant portals to a vast experience of what it truly means to surrender, to trust, and to live. This book of stories is filled with the wisdom of compassion, deep exploration, and the courage to go where all too few dare to tread. If more of us could bear witness to the pain and suffering that feel unbearable, in the manner of The Five Invitations, I know we human beings would all earn our wings. Frank Ostaseski certainly has. In the end, it really always has been, only love. Thank you.

Beth Tuitasi Witrogen, author, The Spiritual Journey of Love, Loss, and Renewal (Wiley, 2000)
Profile Image for Sarah.
548 reviews63 followers
January 8, 2018
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 not already listening, I suggest you do– he has some absolutely brilliant conversations with some absolutely brilliant people), and I knew immediately that I needed to read this book.

Frank Ostaseski is a Buddhist teacher and co-founder of the first Buddhist hospice in the country, The Zen Hospice Project. Based on decades of mindful, compassionate interactions with folks from all walks of life facing their last chapter, Ostaseski walks us through a few of the powerful, poetic, and painfully beautiful things we can learn from death and dying if we’re willing to open ourselves to reality and the inevitable impermanence of all things.

I highly recommend this book to literally everyone. We will all– every one of us– arrive at death’s doorstep one day, as will our family, neighbors, friends, and enemies. Breaking the taboo of speaking death’s name allows us to make space for questions, emotions, resolutions, grace, connection, and the ultimate surrender. These are lessons that can help us cultivate healthy, full lives and approach impermanence with presence, an open heart, and unwavering compassion.

Just incredible.
February 21, 2017
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 kindness Ostaseski has translated for us what he has learned to give us powerful tools with which to claim and shape our own lives in all their richness. Nothing could be a greater gift than this.

If you want to grow your own wellbeing, if you want to spread kindness and understanding, and if you want to ease pain in this world, read this book. Learn from it. Share it. This book is a treasure. Give it yourself. Give it to the people you love. You will be deeply grateful you did.

Alison Bonds Shapiro, MBA
Founder, Healing into Possibility
1 review
February 24, 2017
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 with compassion to all of our fellow travelers is foolhardy and ignorant. This is really a seminal work that brings the reality of death not only out of the closet, but into the bright sunshine of human experience in a way that no other book I have read on death has done. We are all in Mr. Ostaseski's debt. Helping people break out of their fear of the shadow of death, is the greatest gift we could be given and he has done that for us.
Bryant Welch, J.D., Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist
Profile Image for Kate.
315 reviews20 followers
August 6, 2018
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 such case I was ultimately the last person who sat with them before they went. Bringing mindfulness to the room, showing up, and simply being present gave me a chance to offer this man a meaningful end of life. It was a very powerful and very moving experience, and I'm glad I was fully present for it.
Profile Image for Megan.
180 reviews8 followers
January 4, 2018
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 had any critique it would be that the book was slightly repetitive at times. However, it was so beautifully written and I wanted to memorize all the advice anyway, so the repetitions didn't bother me. I'll be buying a hard copy of this and already look forward to reading it again.
2 reviews
February 14, 2017
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.

Being with those who are dying, whether in our work or in our personal life, can be difficult, messy, heart and soul-wrenching work. Frank shows us a way to move with it, generously offered with heartfelt depth from his own lived experiences.

While some of the teachings are offered from a Zen Buddhist perspective, the reader does not have to be Buddhist nor know any Buddhist terminology in order to receive benefit from reading this book.

It is a book to savor and reflect upon, beautifully written and deeply offered. You will be rewarded for opening this book.

- Robert Mueller, MD
Specialist in Hospice & Palliative Medicine
Profile Image for Kathy Sebesta.
786 reviews2 followers
June 3, 2018
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 didn't work, at least not for me at that time. Maybe that's why the book fails for me: it all sounds so logical and emotionally connected that you just know that it has the answers. And while the suggestions - invitations, if you will - are sensible they simply can't be the all to everyone as the author implies they should be.

So if you decide to read a book I couldn't finish I do hope you find yourself one of the enthusiastic proselytizers. Just be aware that I am not the only person who couldn't find that meaning.
February 12, 2017
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 grief that hit me in a way that was very profound and moving, it opened up a place in my heart about a the loss of a dear friend many years ago, that just hasn't healed. Reading Frank's book gave me a new understanding on how to "be" with the loss and feel complete with it's incompleteness. Thank you for your beautiful book.
2 reviews1 follower
February 23, 2017
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 possibility of relief from suffering at any time as we travel through our lives.

Profile Image for Ghazalehsadr.
94 reviews29 followers
January 9, 2022
Actual rating: 3.5

I started reading this book, thinking it would be about death and dying and how that experience can teach us about life. But the book turned out to be about mindfulness, meditation, Zen and Buddhism and how they can help us in life and death.

The other issue was the way the book is written. The chapter headings and what is being described under the umbrella of each invitation do not make much sense, so you need to somehow disregard these headings and names in order to not get lost.

Profile Image for Sam Harvey.
50 reviews
January 23, 2020
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.
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