You knew I couldn’t stay away from it right?
Death, I mean.
The BIG topic that encompasses everything.
You’re probably thinking, surely to goodness, the woman has exhausted the subject?
Besides, isn’t this supposed to be a bloody travel blog?
Where’s the Top Ten Tips for Travellers? Where’s the Hot Deals for Honolulu?
Uh, sorry, not sorry. I seem to have long ago deviated from the hand-out.
Instead, I want to tell you about the longest it’s ever taken me to a read a book. In fact, I’m going to recommend this book and I haven’t even finished it! (Note the exclamation mark, for more on that topic, please go to this post).
I’m only three-fifths of the way through this book. I know it’s only three-fifths because it’s called The Five Invitations and I’ve only finished reading the third one. Therefore…well, seriously, must I explain? Clearly, it’s a math thing.
Tonight I will be attending the third night of this pop-up five week book club comprised of hospice people. Cuz apparently that’s what we do in the down time between volunteering – spend even more time discussing death.
And you know what?
I am thrilled to have discovered people who dive into this topic with no guard rails, no concern about the depth or the waves or the possible tsunamis of grief that might be triggered by such a conversation. Instead, we all plunge in and take turns treading water or floating or otherwise splashing around.
I’ll stop with the watery metaphors now. I think what I’m trying to say, is that between this new group of people, the aforementioned book and the actual volunteering, I feel more alive than ever.
Which brings us to the book. For over 30 years, Frank Ostaseski, co-founder of the Zen Hospice Project in San Fransisco, has, “…sat on the precipice of death with a few thousand people.” From these experiences he has distilled what death can teach the rest of us; the ones who don’t yet know our best-before date, those of us still blithely carrying on with no thought of the possible meteorite heading our way.
His book, “…is an invitation…to sit down with death…to let her guide you toward living a more meaningful and loving life.”
I decided that I would not read ahead. This is not my usual method. I am a fast reader. I like to finish a book and get on with things. However, I promised myself that I would only read one invitation each week in preparation for the book club discussion. I missed the first meeting because we were moving, and I, apparently, cannot keep two things in my brain’s agenda at the same time.
However, I went last week and I will be heading out the door in a couple of hours to discuss the third invitation. Between the reading of the book, the discussion, and my recent hospice volunteering, I feel something deepening, like my life has acquired an underpainting, a kind of unnameable quality that is like a luminous layer glowing underneath everything else.
I hope that you will find your way to reading this book.
But in case you don’t, let me leave you with the five invitations he has gleaned from working with the dying. They are fairly self-explanatory, but in the book he uses examples from his huge wealth of experiences. Combined with his compassionate and wise words, he offers a guide to living that is inspiring and powerful.
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
“Now is the season to know that everything you do is sacred.” – Hafiz