Frank Ostaseski: life according to a palliative care companion

- through Fabrice Groult

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Anxious to articulate meditation and action in the world, Frank Ostaseski, the founder of the Zen Hospice Project, the first Buddhist hospice in the United States, has worked for more than thirty years in the service of people at the end of life, while teaching the full consciousness around the world.

“Am I loved? Did I like it? These are the two most important questions that all individuals ask themselves at the time of their death. Why wait then? Do not wait ! ".

The build of a basketball player and a gentle smile, overseas blue eyes surmounted by a helmet of white hair, the man looks like a Roman emperor. From philosopher emperor to Marcus Aurelius.

Standing on the stage of the Espace Saint Martin, in the 1987rd arrondissement of Paris, where he came to give a conference, at the end of May, at the invitation of the Association for the development of Mindfulness (ADMI), the man who launches this adjuration is still little known to the French public. Co-founder, in XNUMX, of the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco, the first Buddhist palliative care center in the United States, Frank Ostaseski also founded the Metta Institute which has introduced thousands of physicians to his model of end-of-life care based on mindfulness and compassion.

The life of this man, honored by the Dalai Lama and who received the 2018 prize for the prestigious "Humanities Award from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine", has not always been a long calm river. Sexual assault by a Catholic priest as a teenager, alcoholic parents who both disappeared while he was still young, a late heart attack… “When I was young, I did everything to ignore my suffering, everything to reject it by withdrawing on myself. I realized as I matured that it is by accepting this suffering that compassion emerges and that we learn to love. The practice of meditation helped me to reconnect with myself, with my life, and to welcome these blues of the soul with gentleness and pity. »

Acceptance of impermanence

Falling into the deep end of Theravada Buddhism at the age of 20, during an initiatory trip to Southeast Asia, Frank Ostaseski has spent more than thirty years accompanying people at the end of their lives, including many without -shelters and AIDS patients.

“Am I loved? Did I like it? These are the two most important questions that all individuals ask themselves at the time of their death. Why wait then? Do not wait ! »

From this long companionship with death, he drew valuable life lessons, on the acceptance of impermanence conceived as a tool allowing the unlocking of life expansion forces in particular. “We cannot escape death. During my professional journey, I have met ordinary individuals who, at the end of their life, developed deep intuitions and embarked on a process of personal transformation that helped them to become more balanced, more flourished, and who were thus able to emancipate themselves from the small separate self to which they thought they should confine themselves. I have witnessed demonstrations of opening of the heart in people close to death, but also in those accompanying them”, he underlines before repeating, again, his mantra: “Do not wait! Life and death are one. Man, he insists, cannot be fully alive if he is not aware of death. We must listen to the grim reaper, because it is she who helps people discover what matters most, who leads them to lead a life with more depth and meaning. Without this "reminder" of death, man tends to take life for granted, he slips. “The people I have had the chance to accompany have discovered a deep trust in the universe, a trust in the goodness of humanity from which they do not depart, even when they are confronted with suffering. This clairvoyance which can manifest itself at the time of death, can just as well be cultivated, without waiting, already, here and now” he points out with a half-smile.

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

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