“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”
“Frank is a dynamic, original, and visionary teacher. His public programs throughout the United States and Europe have introduced thousands to the practices of mindful and compassionate care of the dying, In 2001, Frank was honored by the Dalai Lama for his years of service to the dying and their families. In 2003, he was named one of America’s 50 most innovative people in America by the AARP magazine.
His groundbreaking work has been widely featured in the media, including the Bill Moyers television series On Our Own Terms, the PBS series With Eyes Open, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and in numerous print publications. Frank has served as a consultant to several healthcare organizations, NGO’s and foundations including Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Fetzer Institute and others. Frank is also the author of the Being A Compassionate Companion audio series.”
What Frank Ostaseski says: Critical Wisdom for Living Fully
“I’m not romantic about dying. This is the hardest work you will ever do. It is tough. Its sad and it’s messy and it’s cruel and it’s beautiful sometimes and mysterious, but above all that, it’s normal. It’s a boat we’re all in. It’s inevitable and intimate…that people think it will be unbearable, but they find they have the resources to deal with it, and they regularly not always–develop insights into their lives in the time of dying that make them emerge as a much larger, more expansive, more real person than the small, separate self they’d taken themselves to be.”
“I spent about a year in Central America working in refugee camps. I remember once holding three or four little infants. My son Buddy was about a year old then, and these children were maybe two. They weighed probably thirteen pounds. Their bodies were shaking from starvation; they were panicky from starvation. If you fed them, the food would literally just go through their systems and come right out. So I began just to stroke them on their throats and chests, to provide nurturance and safety and security. That kind of nourishment had to be offered before the other kind could help. For me it was a wonderful lesson in, literally, how to care how to know what comes first.”
“So I began just to stroke them on their throats and chests, to provide nurturance and safety and security. That kind of nourishment had to be offered before the other kind could help. For me it was a wonderful lesson in, literally, how to care how to know what comes first.”
“It seems to be rampant in our society: there’s a problem out there, I must do something about it, I have to go help. We’re not necessarily motivated by the best intentions. Sometimes we act out of our fear or guilt instead of a real desire to serve.”
“If I have a picture of myself coming in to help this poor cancer patient, then who is the person lying in bed when I walk in the door? There someone is, with cancer, unable to care for himself, and I’m Mr. Do-Gooder; it makes him an object. There’s no service when that happens. Instead, if I can come in and be clear that this is work on myself, that this is a way for me to really pay attention and stay present with myself, then I can see the person for who he is, not for his symbolic value.”
“One of the main teachings of Buddhism is impermanence, that everything is changing. We can approach the dying process with a bit more spaciousness, without panic, because in our meditation practice we see how from moment to moment we’re always dying; things are always changing for us and we can’t hang on to them.”
“Prior to any action of the body, thought, or speech, there is a moment of intention that we need to be aware of because clarity about our intention gives us choice about how we can proceed. A moment of contact with our intention can break our habitual patterns and keep us from operating on automatic pilot.”
“So fundamentally, helping, fixing and serving are ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak; when you fix, you see life as broken; and when you serve, you see life as whole. When we serve in this way, we understand that this person’s suffering is also my suffering, that their joy is also my joy and then the impulse to serve arises naturally — our natural wisdom and compassion presents itself quite simply. A server knows that they’re being used and has the willingness to be used in the service of something greater. We may help or fix many things in our lives, but when we serve we are always in the service of wholeness.”
When we serve in this way, we understand that this person’s suffering is also my suffering, that their joy is also my joy and then the impulse to serve arises naturally — our natural wisdom and compassion presents itself quite simply