The Power of a Pause . . . How a Simple Pause Can Enhance Your Life

“A pause gives you 
breathing space
so listen 
to the whispers
of the real you”
– Tara Estacaan – Poet

Take Time to Pause

I’ve been reading in books and hearing on podcasts and TED Talks that simply by pausing at certain times, we can improve our life.

Honestly though? Can taking time to pause actually enhance my life? Can it make me happier, improve my relationships, and even re-wire my brain?

Some pretty big claims for just stopping whatever I’m doing and breathing for a few seconds!

So I did a bit of research and I discovered three different significant times to pause:

  • In the morning and throughout the day to be intentional
  • During stress and/or conflict
  • At positive moments, to savour the good

The Pause for Intention:

Our intention creates our reality. 
– Wayne Dyer

Every intention is a trigger for Transformation
– Deepak Chopra

Several books I’ve read recently encourage us to live more intentionally; that our intentions can bring transformation; that pausing to be intentional can be transformational.

I always thought of goals and intentions as more or less the same thing. But is setting a goal for the day, the same as setting an intention? What is the difference between goals and intentions?

I’ve discovered that for me, goals feel like I’m pushing toward an external thing, a driving force, like something I push to make happen. Whereas intentions feel more internal, like a spark from within that moves me.

As I explored in a blog post not long ago, when I go through each day – not with a list of goals that have to be ticked off, but with intentions for the day, it makes for a much happier and less stressful day.

Pause for Intention in the Morning

David Emerald, author of TED — The Empowerment Dynamic, beautifully describes the differences between goals and intentions:

  • Goals are focused on the future. Intentions are in the present moment.
  • Goals are a destination or specific achievement. Intentions are lived each day, independent of reaching the goal or destination.
  • Goals are external achievements. Intentions are your inner-relationships with yourself and others.

Wayne Dyer describes intentions like this:

“Intention is not something you do, but rather a force that exists in the universe as an invisible field of energy- a power that can carry us. It’s the difference between motivation and inspiration. Motivation is when you get hold of an idea and don’t let go of it until you make it a reality. Inspiration is the reverse- when an idea gets hold of you and you feel compelled to let that impulse or energy carry you along.”

Deepak Chopra explains that:

“Intention is the starting point of every dream.The sages of India observed thousands of years ago that our destiny is ultimately shaped by our deepest intentions and desires. The classic Vedic text known as the Upanishads declares, ‘You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.’  An intention is a directed impulse of consciousness that contains the seed form of that which you aim to create.”

So by pausing each morning, and indeed throughout the day, to listen to that inspiration, focus on the intention, that impulse of consciousness, I am honouring that trigger for transformation.

The Mindful Pause:

“Practice the pause. Pause before judging. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing. Pause whenever you’re about to react harshly and you’ll avoid doing and saying things you’ll later regret.” 
– Lori Deschene

Listening to a podcast recently, Tara Brach encouraged us to pause when we are feeling stressed or in conflict.  Brach explains that one of the main keys that mindfulness offers us in times of conflict and stress is time to pause to help us move from reaction, knee jerk response to conflict that occurs in the amygdala (the most primitive part of the brain; when we are operating from the amygdala, we react quickly with fight, flight or freeze), and shift the process to the prefrontal cortex.

Pause in Conflict

Brach explains:

“When we feel threatened, part of our evolutionary design is to go into fight, flight or freeze.  None of which serve so well when it comes to good communication.  Neuroscience research confirms that mindfulness practice improves the brain’s ability to process under stress.  It trains us to shift our response away from our primitive, survival reaction, to access more recently developed parts of the brain, in particular, the prefrontal cortex with it’s capacity for reasoning, flexibility and empathy. “

So when stressed or in conflict, pausing can help us move away from getting triggered and catapulting us into reactivity, and toward choosing a more measured response, choosing reason and empathy.

The Pause to Savor:

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
– Albert Einstein

Pause to Savor

In a TED talk I watched recently, Rick Hanson suggested that we pause to savor the good moments in order to offset our negativity bias. Our brains have a built-in negativity bias’ that has evolved over millions of years; it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember the dangers than it was to savor the good. That’s because — in the tough environments in which our ancestors lived — if they missed out on a carrot, they usually had a shot at another one later on. But if they failed to avoid a stick — a predator, a natural hazard, or aggression from others of their species  then there was no more chances to pass on their genes.

Hanson explained that the negativity bias shows up in lots of ways:

  • In a relationship, it typically takes five good interactions to make up for a single bad one.
  • People will work much harder to avoid losing $100 than they will work to gain the same amount of money.
  • Painful experiences are much more memorable than pleasurable ones.

In effect, our brains are like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. This impacts our implicit memory— our underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood — in an increasingly negative direction.

Research shows that it only takes about 30 seconds to install the good, to let it become part of our implicit memory.

Hanson has three suggestions about how to take in the good and make it stick:

    1. Look for good facts, and turn them into good experiences.

Good facts include positive events – like the taste of good coffee or getting an unexpected compliment – and positive aspects of the world and yourself. When you notice something good, let yourself feel good about it.

Try to do this at least a half dozen times a day. Each time takes just 30 seconds or so. It’s private; no one needs to know you are taking in the good. You can do it on the fly in daily life, or at special times of reflection, like just before falling asleep (when the brain is especially receptive to new learning).

2.  Really enjoy the experience.

Most of the time, a good experience is pretty mild, and that’s fine. But try to stay with it for 20 or 30 seconds in a row – instead of getting distracted by something else. As you can, sense that it is filling your body, becoming a rich experience. As Marc Lewis and other researchers have shown, the longer that something is held in awareness and the more emotionally stimulating it is, the more neurons that fire and thus wire together, and the stronger the trace in memory.

3.  Intend and sense that the good experience is sinking into you.

People do this in different ways. Some feel it in their body like a warm glow spreading through their chest like the warmth of a cup of hot cocoa on a cold wintry day. Others visualize things like a golden syrup sinking down inside, bringing good feelings and soothing old places of hurt.

So when we have an experience and we feel good because of that experience, take time to feel good; pause and let it sink in.

So honestly, yes, a simple pause really does have incredible power. Choosing to pause before jumping out of bed to set a simple intention for the day; choosing to pause when I’m triggered from anger or stress, to refrain from reacting from my primitive part of my brain and instead choosing a more measured and empathetic response; and choosing to pause throughout the day to savour the good really will enhance my life.  Taking the time to pause absolutely can enhance my life.

I’ll close with a great talk by Rick Hanson from about a year ago at The Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education

I’d love to hear if you pause during your day to set an intention or avoid conflict or to savor the moment.

And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

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Overcoming the Trance of Unworthiness

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”
– Jack Kornfield.”

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There is a trance that is overtaking many of us these days. It seems to be present in most women I talk to. It is the Trance of Unworthiness. We seem to be champions at berating ourselves for our perceived failures – for not being good enough at our jobs or at parenting, for not exercising enough or for eating too much. We have convinced ourselves that we are unworthy of the kindness that we show most other people. And that unkindness and self-criticism is making us sick!

Research shows that accepting our imperfections and being kinder to ourselves can lessen feelings of depression and anxiety, and can also lessen feelings of shame and fear of failure.

People who have greater self-compassion also tend to be happier and more optimistic.
Quieting the nagging self-critic and practicing self-compassion can lead to a healthier immune system and a much better sense of well-being.

Psychologist Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as kindness toward the self, which entails being gentle and supportive. “Rather than harshly judging oneself for personal shortcomings, the self is offered warmth and unconditional acceptance.”

But after years of relentless negative self-talk, how can we break out of this trance of unworthiness? How can we cultivate more self-compassion?

It needs to be intentional – set the intention daily to be kinder to yourself.

Here are some guidelines:

1. Practice Imperfection:

Self-compassion means that we give ourselves the space to be human. And that means we can be flawed sometimes, but we don’t have to define ourselves as being ‘completely flawed and a hopeless case.’ We get to practice imperfection sometimes and not lose sight of our own potential.

2. Practice Mindfulness:

Jon Kabat-Zinn explains that mindfulness has been found to have a positive impact on self-compassion because it has the tendency to lessen self-judgement. When we are stuck in a negative spiral of self-criticism, it’s quite often because we are engaged in ‘negative story-lines’ —stories that we repeat in our heads, criticizing self about past mistakes and failures. This playground of our internal critic, plays on repeat and creates a negative spiral that we can easily get stuck in. Mindfulness, or the state of non-judgmental awareness, can be the antidote.

3. Practice Forgiveness

Refer back to number one, being human means that you sometimes make mistakes. Shit happens. We don’t have to punish ourselves for making mistakes. We get to accept that we’re not perfect and move on. Remember what Anne Lamott says:
“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
That goes for self-forgiveness as well.

4. Practice Gratitude

By focussing on gratitude, we over-ride our inner critic and can hear a kinder voice in our head. We can then shift the lazar-focus away from all of our perceived shortcomings and instead appreciate what we can contribute to the world. Robert Emmons reminds us that gratitude is powerful and by focusing on gratitude instead of criticism, we can learn to be more self-compassionate.

Remember self-compassion has to be learned for most of us. I have to remember to practice it daily. It has to be intentional and mindful. But it can be done, and I’ve decided that I’m worth it. And I think you are too.

I’d like to close with a beautiful meditation called ‘Awakening Self-Compassion’ by Tara Brach.
She also has a two part meditation on her own site called “The Healing Power of Self-Compassion” which is also wonderful when you have the time.

I’d love to hear about how you manage to overcome the Trance of Unworthiness.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.

April News

“Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”
– Mother Teresa 

_______________________________________________________________________________

In case you missed our April Newsletter . . .

Let’s be like Velcro for joyful experiences …
View this email in your browser

Welcome to This Way Up!

Thank you for being part of this community! Keep reading for more on making joy stickier, news about upcoming summits, and updates about the This Way Up Audio Book! You can always find me at ThisWayUpBook.com.

If Joy Is a Choice … How Can We Make It Stick?

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” 
~ Joseph Campbell

Joy is always a subject I like to write about. Recently I’ve found joy in listening to anything by Tara Brach, so it’s fitting that I should start this newsletter about joy with Tara Brach’s description. She describes joy as the aliveness and openness that occurs when we let ourselves be available to the whole play of existence. It’s a natural capacity, it’s in our wiring, and it can be cultivated.

Joy comes from a habit of thinking and interacts closely with our biochemistry. I explored this in a recent article on Thrive Global.

We sustain a joy “set point” based on what we think about and focus on. Deepak Chopra explains that when you activate a positive belief, your cells get the message.

One way to cultivate joy is through gratitude. Studies have shown that gratitude changes the body-mind chemistry. So when you have an experience and you feel good because of that experience, take time and allow yourself to feel good; pause and let it sink in. To use the language of technology: install it.

Rick Hanson suggests that we try to take in the good and make it stick. He explains that in order to create the trait , we must make it “stickier.” Taking that time to pause gives joy (or any experience) this stickiness. He explains:

“Scientists believe that your brain has a built-in negativity bias. In other words, as we evolved over millions of years, dodging sticks and chasing carrots, it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember sticks than it was for carrots. That’s because, in the tough environments in which our ancestors lived, if they missed out on a carrot, they usually had a shot at another one later on. But if they failed to avoid a stick, a predator, a natural hazard, or aggression from others of their species—Wham, no more chances to pass on their genes.

“The negativity bias shows up in lots of ways. For example, studies have found that:

  1. In a relationship, it typically takes five good interactions to make up for a single bad one.
  2. People will work much harder to avoid losing $100 than they will work to gain the same amount of money.
  3. Painful experiences are much more memorable than pleasurable ones.”

In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. That shades implicit memory—your underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood—in an increasingly negative direction.”

You can read more about this and watch Tara Brach’s wonderful meditation about Joy on my latest blog post.

PS: Speaking of joy, it was with extreme joy that I discovered that people who bought books by Julia Cameron, Brené Brown and Anne Lamott also bought my book, This Way Up. What an affirmation!

Recent Podcast: Homework to Happiness

I had the pleasure recently to be featured on a wonderful podcast: Homework to Happiness with Sarah Jordan. We talked about an array of topics but of course really focused on happiness: what it is, its benefits, and how we tend to block it. You can listen to the podcast here:

You can find that podcast and other past podcasts and interviews on my website, on the media tab, under interviews.

Upcoming Summits: You’re Invited!

I am really excited to be participating in two upcoming summits:

Live Your Layered Life Summit

Live online now. Discover the secrets to self-care in your mind, body, and home! This summit is hosted by my friend Suzanne Choplin. It’s packed with great information and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Learn more and join the event.

Reinventing You Summit

This summit will be live from May 21-31. Watch this space for more information. The second summit is with my friend Naomi Sodomin. Naomi is the international best-selling author of Embrace the Mirror: Vision of Abundance and a Stronger You. And an incredibly all-around inspirational woman.

The summit will include information like:

  • Illuminating your greatest fears (aka blocks) – so you can finally move past them.
  • Identifying and overcoming challenges that are keeping you from taking action on the things that are important to you.
  • Getting clear on what it is you want to create, so that you can take those first steps, now!
  • And much more.

Learn more and join the event.

This Way Up Will Soon Be an Audio Book!

This Way Up is being made into an audio book! (Yes, the process is taking longer than I thought it would.) When it is ready, it will be available on my Amazon pageand I will send a special link for the book in my newsletter. I can’t wait to share this new version of the book with you!

Buy the Book!

“Author Patti Clark is a cross between Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Cameron.”

This Way Up is a story of healing for women who yearn to lead a fuller life, accompanied by a workbook to help readers work through personal challenges, discover new inspiration, and harness their creative power. . .

Women spend so much of life nurturing and giving to others that when they find themselves alone—because of an empty nest, the end of a marriage, or the death of a partner—they often struggle with feeling purposeless. This Way Up provides a step-by-step way out of this sense of loss and into a life filled with enthusiasm, creativity, and joy.

Buy Online

Pause . . . to Help Joy Stick

Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”
– Joseph Campbell 

_______________________________________________________________________________

Following on from my last post – What Makes You Happy?  – I decided to explore the concept of Joy.  Many people, including myself, tend to use the terms happiness and joy interchangeably, but one psychology website describes the difference as:
Joy and happiness are wonderful feelings to experience, but are very different. Joy is more consistent and is cultivated internally. It comes when you make peace with who you are, why you are and how you are, whereas happiness tends to be externally triggered and is often based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events.

 

Tara Brach describes joy as the aliveness and openness that occurs when we let ourselves be available to the whole play of existence. It’s a natural capacity, in our wiring, and it can be cultivated.

Joy comes from a habit of thinking and can be a contributor to our bio chemistry. We sustain a joy set point, as it were, based on what we think about and focus on.

Deepak Chopra explains that when you activate a positive belief, your cells get the message.

 

One way to cultivate joy, is through gratitude. Studies have shown that gratitude changes the body/mind chemistry. So when you have an experience and you feel good because of that experience, take time and allow yourself to feel good; PAUSE and let it sink in — ‘install it.’

Rick Hanson suggests that we try to take in the good and make it stick. He explains that in order to create the trait — make it ‘stickier.’ Taking that time to pause gives it this stickiness.
“Scientists believe that your brain has a built-in “negativity bias.” In other words, as we evolved over millions of years, dodging sticks and chasing carrots, it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember sticks than it was for carrots.

That’s because — in the tough environments in which our ancestors lived — if they missed out on a carrot, they usually had a shot at another one later on. But if they failed to avoid a stick — a predator, a natural hazard, or aggression from others of their species — WHAM, no more chances to pass on their genes.

The negativity bias shows up in lots of ways. For example, studies have found that:

1. In a relationship, it typically takes five good interactions to make up for a single bad one.

2. People will work much harder to avoid losing $100 than they will work to gain the same amount of money.

3. Painful experiences are much more memorable than pleasurable ones.

In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. That shades “implicit memory” — your underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood — in an increasingly negative direction.”

So with that negative bias in mind, we have to work a bit harder to push positivity into our implicit memory. But it is absolutely possible.

Some people quote Buddha as saying: “I wouldn’t be teaching this if genuine joy and happiness were not possible” I’m not sure if Buddha actually said that, but in the Karaniya Metta Sutta, Buddha did say

“Whatever living beings there may be — feeble or strong, long, stout, or of medium size, short, small, large —

may all beings have happy minds.”

So today, let’s work toward that happy mind, let’s choose joy and make it stickier.

I’ll close this post with a wonderful talk and meditation about Joy by Tara Brach. It’s a longer video, almost an hour, but well worth the time.  If you don’t have time to listen now, at least listen to her opening joke in the first couple of minutes.  It made me laugh.

 

I’d love to hear what brings you joy, and how you differentiate between happiness and joy.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Five Invitations

“I have come to know that death is an important thing to keep in mind – not to complain or to make melancholy, but simply because only with the honest knowledge that one day I will die can I ever truly begin to live.”

– R.A. Salvatore 

_______________________________________________________________________________

For those of you who missed my last newsletter, I’m posting it here.  There are links to articles and lots of exciting news about upcoming events.  If you want to sign up for my newsletter, you can sign up here – under ‘Stay Inspired.’ 

 

Welcome to This Way Up!

Thank you for being part of this community! Keep reading for more on what death has to teach us about living life, news about upcoming summits, and updates about the This Way Up Audio Book! You can always find me at ThisWayUpBook.com.

What Can the Dying Teach Us if We Are Willing to Listen?

“As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Once again I have so much to be grateful for in what my sons teach me. This time, I am grateful for both of them pushing me to explore the wonders of podcasts. Of course I have listened to podcasts, I’ve even been interviewed on several, but it’s been a half-hearted effort. On their last trip home, they downloaded a podcast app and steered me to several podcasts they enjoyed. Since then, I have been playing podcasts on every trip in my car. I’m hooked! Mind you, as most of you know, I’m an addict at heart—so everything I do, I often overdo! But at this point, I’m loving it and it doesn’t seem to be doing me any harm.

The first podcast that my sons turned me on to was an interview with Frank Ostaseski, a leader in the field of hospice and end-of-life care, on a podcast called Waking Up with Sam Harris. But actually Tara Brach is much more my style, so I then listened to her interview with Ostaseski on her podcast, Tara Talks.  I was so affected that I bought Ostaseski’s book, The Five Invitations.

I explored this concept, learning about life by listening to the dying, in my latest article on Thrive Global. The message in the book has five invitations to us based on what Ostaseski has learned from people who are dying:

  1. Don’t Wait.
  2. Welcome Everything; Push Away Nothing
  3. Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience
  4. Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of Things
  5. Cultivate “Don’t Know” Mind

Don’t Wait. The idea of the first invitation seems obvious.  If you are dying, you can’t wait to do things; there is an immediacy to everything.  But this has a message to all of us:

“This idea can both frighten and inspire us. Yet, embracing the truth of life’s precariousness helps us to appreciate its preciousness.  We stop wasting our lives on meaningless activities. We learn to not hold our opinions, our desires, and even our own identities so tightly. Instead of pinning our hopes on a better future, we focus on the present and being grateful for what we have in front of us right now. We say, ‘I love you’ more often. We become kinder, more compassionate and more forgiving.”

Push Away Nothing. When I think about the second invitation, that feels very hard.  My logical mind says, but what about the horrible stuff?  I don’t want to welcome the bad stuff. Ostaseski explains, though:

In welcoming everything, we don’t have to like what’s arising or necessarily agree with it, but we need to be willing to meet it, to learn from it. The word welcome confronts us; it asks us to temporarily suspend our usual rush to judgment and to be open, to what is showing up at our front door. To receive it in the spirit of hospitality. At the deepest level, this invitation is asking us to cultivate a kind of fearless receptivity.”

Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience is a good invitation for me. I often hold back, thinking I have nothing to offer here or I don’t know how to deal with this. I believe if I can’t contribute some kind of knowledge to something, then I should not contribute. I know this is from ego, that I want to look good if I’m going to contribute. But Ostaseski explains gently:

“We all like to look good. We long to be seen as capable, strong, intelligent, sensitive, spiritual, or at least well-adjusted. Few of us want to be known for our helplessness, fear, anger, or ignorance. Yet more than once I have found an ‘undesirable’ aspect of myself—one about which I previously had felt ashamed—to be the very quality that allowed me to meet another person’s suffering with compassion instead of fear or pity.”

Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of Things. The fourth invitation is a wonderful reminder for all of us, I think. After listening to the podcast with Tara Brach, I downloaded another app to help remind me to find a place of rest in the middle of a busy time.  The app, Insight Timer, has meditations on my phone to remind me and aid me in resting.

Cultivate “Don’t Know” Mind. The fifth invitation is a Zen flavored-invite, one that describes a mind that’s open and receptive, one that is not limited by agendas, roles, and expectations.

“It is free to discover. When we are filled with knowing, when our mind is made up, it narrows our vision and limits our capacity to act. We only see what our knowing allows us to see. We don’t abandon our knowledge – it’s always there in the background should we need it – but we let go of fixed ideas. We let go of control.”

These five invitations are a gift to all of us, supportive in our life. They invite us to continue to explore and understand what it means to be alive now; not just to cope with death, but to live.

And I whole heartedly agree with Ostaseski, they are relevant guides to living with integrity. We need to live these invitations: to be truly understood, they need to be lived and realized through action. They indeed are “five invitations for you to be fully present for every aspect of your life.”

If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to watch the conversation between Tara Brach and Frank Ostaseski. It is enlightening and inspiring!

Upcoming Summits: You’re Invited!

I am so excited to be participating in two events in March.  Each summit or master class is completely free and full of amazing information from a host of experts.

Authenticity Is Power: Get out of your own way and into success, by being yourself always!

Live online now.

Learn more and join the event.

Reclaim Your Life: Get Clear, Simplify and Do Something Worthwhile

Going live March 12.

Learn more and join the event.

This Way Up Will Soon Be an Audio Book!

This Way Up is being made into an audio book! The book is being narrated by the fantastic character actress, Janice Kent. When it is ready, it will be available on my Amazon page and I will send a special link for the book in my newsletter. I can’t wait to share this new version of the book with you!

Buy the Book!

“Author Patti Clark is a cross between Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Cameron.”

This Way Up is a story of healing for women who yearn to lead a fuller life, accompanied by a workbook to help readers work through personal challenges, discover new inspiration, and harness their creative power. . .

Women spend so much of life nurturing and giving to others that when they find themselves alone—because of an empty nest, the end of a marriage, or the death of a partner—they often struggle with feeling purposeless. This Way Up provides a step-by-step way out of this sense of loss and into a life filled with enthusiasm, creativity, and joy.

Buy Online
 

 I’d like to close this post with a guided meditation by Tara Brach called Opening and Calming.  It is well worth the watch/listen.  It is soothing and calming.

 

Thank you for being part of this movement. Watch this space for more in the months ahead.  Stay informed about all of my upcoming events.  Sign up for my newsletter here.

What the Dying Can Teach Us About Living

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.”
– Leonardo da Vinci 

_______________________________________________________________________________

Once again, I have so much to be grateful for, in terms of what my sons have taught me. This time, I am grateful that both of them pushed me to explore the wonders of podcasts. Of course I have listened to podcasts, I’ve even been interviewed on several, but it’s been a half-hearted effort. On their last trip home, over Christmas, they downloaded a podcast playing app and steered me in the direction of several podcasts that they enjoyed. And since then, I have been playing podcasts on every trip I take in my car. I’m hooked! Mind you, as most of you know that have been reading my blog for awhile,  I’m an addict at heart, so everything I do, I often overdo! But at this point, I’m loving it and it doesn’t seem to be doing me any harm.

The first podcast that my sons turned me on to was an interview with Frank Ostaseski on a podcast called Waking Up with Sam Harris. But Actually, Tara Brach is much more my style, so I then listened to her interview with Ostaseski on her podcast, Tara Talks.

I was so impacted that I bought Ostaseski’s book, The Five Invitations. A wonderful book that I highly recommend.

In an article in Daily Good, Ostaseski describes his journey:

“Over the past thirty years, as the co-founder of the Zen Hospice Project, people who were dying generously invited me into their most vulnerable moments. They made it possible for me to get up close and personal with death. In the process, they taught me how to live. I distilled their wisdom into five heart lessons for living fully and without regret.”

The message in the book has five invitations to us from what Ostaseski has learned from people dying.

1. Don’t Wait.

2. Welcome Everything; Push Away Nothing

3. Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience

4. Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of Things

5. Cultivate “Don’t Know” Mind

The idea of the first invitation, Don’t Wait, seems obvious. If you are dying, you can’t wait to do things, there is an immediacy to everything. But this has a message to all of us:

“This idea can both frighten and inspire us. Yet, embracing the truth of life’s precariousness helps us to appreciate its preciousness. We stop wasting our lives on meaningless activities. We learn to not hold our opinions, our desires, and even our own identities so tightly. Instead of pinning our hopes on a better future, we focus on the present and being grateful for what we have in front of us right now. We say, “I love you” more often. We become kinder, more compassionate and more forgiving.”

When I think about the second invitation, Push Away Nothing, that feels very hard. My logical mind says, but what about the horrible stuff? I don’t want to welcome the bad stuff. Ostaseski explains though:

“In welcoming everything, we don’t have to like what’s arising or necessarily agree with it, but we need to be willing to meet it, to learn from it. The word welcome confronts us; it asks us to temporarily suspend our usual rush to judgment and to be open, to what is showing up at our front door. To receive it in the spirit of hospitality. At the deepest level, this invitation is asking us to cultivate a kind of fearless receptivity.”

Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience is a good invitation for me. I often hold back thinking I have nothing to offer here, I don’t know how to deal with this. I believe if I can’t contribute some kind of knowing to something, then I should not contribute. I know this is from ego, that I want to look good if I’m going to contribute. But Ostaseski explains gently:

“We all like to look good. We long to be seen as capable, strong, intelligent, sensitive, spiritual, or at least well-adjusted. Few of us want to be known for our helplessness, fear, anger, or ignorance. Yet more than once I have found an “undesirable” aspect of myself — one about which I previously had felt ashamed — to be the very quality that allowed me to meet another person’s suffering with compassion instead of fear or pity. It is not only our expertise, but exploration of our own suffering that enables us to build an empathetic bridge and be of real assistance to others. To be whole, we need to include and connect all parts of ourselves. Wholeness does not mean perfection. It means no part left out.”

The fourth invitation, Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of Things, is a wonderful reminder for all of us I think. After listening to the podcast with Tara Brach, I downloaded another app to help remind me to find a place of rest in the middle of thing. The app, Insight Timer, has meditations on my phone to help me find rest in the middle of things, to remind me and aid me to rest.

“We often think of rest as something that will come to us when everything else in our lives is complete: At the end of the day, when we take a bath; once we go on holiday or get through all our to-do lists. We imagine that we can only find rest by changing our circumstances.”

 

And the fifth invitation, Cultivate “Don’t Know” Mind is a Zen flavored invite, one that describes a mind that’s open and receptive, one that is not limited by agendas, roles, and expectations.

“It is free to discover. When we are filled with knowing, when our mind is made up, it narrows our vision and limits our capacity to act. We only see what our knowing allows us to see. We don’t abandon our knowledge — it’s always there in the background should we need it — but we let go of fixed ideas. We let go of control. The night before my open-heart surgery, my 26-year-old son Gabe and I had a tender conversation. Our sharing was filled with reminiscing, kindness, and laughter. At one point, Gabe became quite serious and asked, “Dad, are you going to live through this surgery?” Now I love my son beyond words, and like any father, I wanted to reassure him that I would be just fine. I felt into my experience before answering. Then I heard myself say, “I’m not taking sides.” My answer surprised us both. What I meant was that I wasn’t taking sides with life or death. Either way, I trusted that everything would be okay. I don’t know where the words came from; they spilled from me without censorship. I wasn’t trying to appear sage or to be a good Buddhist. Yet we both were reassured by my response. I think it was because we knew we were in the presence of the truth spoken with love.”

These five invitations are a gift to all of us, supportive in our life. They invite us to continue to explore and understand what it means to be alive now; not just to cope with death, but to live. And I whole heartedly agree with Ostaseski, they are relevant guides to living with integrity. Yes, we need to live these invitations, to be truly understood, they need to be lived and realized through action. They indeed are “five invitations for you to be fully present for every aspect of your life.”

The conversation with Tara Brach and Frank Ostaseski is truly inspirational, and I invite you to take the time to watch it now.

 

Let me know your thoughts on these Five Invitations.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.