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Book 320 - A Year of Magical Learning

Reflection Title: YOU’RE TRYING TOO HARD!

Book – The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully by Frank Ostasecki (Part 1 of 2)

Book Description:

As a renowned teacher of compassionate caregiving 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 to 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; and Cultivate "don't know mind".

These Five Invitations show us how to wake up fully to our lives. They can be understood as best practices for anyone coping with loss or navigating any sort of transition or crisis; they guide us toward appreciating life's preciousness. Awareness of 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.


Books about death and suffering have been by far the hardest for me to consume on this entire journey, and it only seems natural as they transport us to a place that we often never want to imagine in life.

It takes courage to approach the darkness and not be afraid to keep pushing forward.

I’ve felt that need to grab my daughter’s hand extra tight each time before I started any one of these adventures into the unknown caverns of pain, death, and suffering. Thinking back to books we’ve read on this journey like Tuesday’s with Morrie, A Man’s Search for Meaning, Option B, A Year of Magical Thinking, When Breath Becomes Air, The Gulag Archipelago, and now The Five Invitations, the first thought that comes to mind is how proud I am of both of us for embracing death and what we can learn to help us to live a more meaningful life while we can.

There were so many moments with each one of these books that I wanted to stop, and often did stop. I’ve found myself spontaneously crying at some point in time while consuming each one of these books. It was hard; however, with Emilia’s support, we endured and kept pushing forward just like she taught me. Reflecting on my experience with each one of these books the first thought I vividly remember how each felt so slow, hard, painful, and at the end incredibly rewarding. I could only take so much each day and then I had to take a pause. Sometimes that pause lasted weeks, or even months at a time, when thinking back to the early days after Emilia had passed away. Eventually, we found our way to the finish line with each of them and the resulting lessons learned are some of the most important that I’ve found on this entire journey. The Five Invitations was no different, and I feel a multi part reflection coming on so bear with me.

Have you ever been out on a run, doing a workout, or performing some other tasks that you are intentionally trying to “push” yourself on a particular day to improve? If you are anything like me, that moment you decide to push for more and kick it into high gear your whole-body tenses up. Every muscle tightens, you purse your lips, you squint your eyes, you mash your teeth and jaw, your breathing becomes rapid, and you try to exert your will on the world around you through sheer brute strength. 5 minutes later you realize that this is getting you nowhere fast and somehow you find yourself exhausted, physically hurting, and mentally deflated.

Well, that is similar to how these past few weeks and recent months with YOML have felt like more and more. As we are getting closer and closer to the “finish line” of 365 reflections, I find the process getting harder and harder. I think to myself that I just need to push harder, read more, or dig deeper for lessons and we’ll find our way to the finish line. However, all this is doing is making the process less and less enjoyable. I’m no longer picking books just because they look interesting. I’m constantly wondering if the topic will be applicable to the journey, what lessons I might learn, how long will the book take, etc. Once I do start a book, I’m worried about how quickly I can finish it so I can keep up with “production”. I’m constantly taking notes and trying to find that one AHA moment that will spark inspiration toward a great reflection to share with you all. Then, when I sit down to write in the mornings, I’m staring at the clock trying to get this out of my mind before my son wakes up so I can get him ready for daycare and out the door in the morning.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love every minute of YOML, but that doesn’t mean that this has been easy. Then, I’m consuming a book like The Five Invitations, and I’m smacked right in the face with the reminder that YOU’RE TRYING TOO HARD!

In life, we think we need to push harder and harder for some reason. In death, we are reminded that each moment is precious and should be embraced for what it is in the moment. Death is the ultimate reminder to slow down, relax, and savor what little time we have left in this world.

This journey was never about consuming some particular type of book, it was never about finishing 365 reflections, it was never about sharing this journey with the world via social media, and it certainly was never something that was supposed to be a source of stress at any point.

This journey is and always has been about spending time with Emilia and expressing our values together. When we are doing that life is effortless, full of joy, and everything feels in harmony. That is my happy place in life!

When we start to turn our happy place into one of arbitrary goals and expectations, that is when we can make life miserable. The actions may be the same, but the meaning behind them is different and that is when we get ourselves into trouble. This book was a great reminder to slow down, chill out, and remember why we are doing all this in the first place. We’ll get to where we are supposed to be, wherever that is, eventually. In the meantime, keep living your values, enjoy the process, and stay connected to your purpose.

Question: Are you trying too hard currently?



What is The Year of Magical Learning? An Introduction

YOML Podcast Discussion - Coming Soon

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