After listening recently to a talk given by Frank Ostaseski, co-founder of the zen hospice project, I was inspired to read Frank’s book, ‘The five invitations‘. The second invitation in this book is to ‘welcome everything and push away nothing’, and it has been the theme of practice for me this past week.
School began this week in full swing and I held this intention on the opening day, to welcome everything, all my students and all the experiences. I found that it is easy to welcome everything when things are good! The first day was magical. The excitement, the hope, the possibilities.
With school beginning, there also came the familiar worry and anxiety of the virus, especially for my daughter Anji. The choice of masking and the dependence of her well-being on conditions outside her control. I was listening to her while washing dishes, feeling my own impatience as I was listening – when the invitation cut through. Welcome everything, push away nothing. This too was okay. I could welcome this and make space for it. I loved her and that also meant welcoming her tendency to worry.
With first full week of school, inevitably there was tiredness and feeling exhausted. And for me, with tired often comes judgment. I noticed how quick I was at self-judgment! Welcome everything, push away nothing meant that judgment too was okay. I could notice and listen to my thoughts with kindness and patience – like listening to a child who is hurt and wants attention. I was lying in bed early in the morning, wishing for more sleep, noticing the thoughts of ‘if only…’. And remembering the instruction, I could soften with tenderness and welcome the experience. And just like the child calms down when listened to, the kind attention was enough for the judgments and thoughts to release.
So welcome everything, push away nothing is really an instruction to accept things just as they are, not wishing them to be otherwise. Even when we wish them otherwise, there can still be kindness, instead of aversion. Gil Fronsdal talks about this in the third awakening factor of mindfulness, effort. Wise or skillful effort is in paying attention – not just what we pay attention to, but how we pay attention.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,Rumi
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Choosing a welcoming, grateful and kind attitude strengthens this response so it becomes increasingly available in the future. And then we start to notice the exquisite joy, the beauty, the love, the abundance that comes our way when we welcome everything. It opens our hearts.
With kindness, S.
As I prepare to travel to be with my son in San Francisco and daughter in Portland, OR the phrase “welcome everything, push nothing away” will be my meditation for the coming months. Accepting things as they are is much easier for me here in Vermont among my friends than it is as I live as part of my son and daughters’ families with their teenage children. Thank you for your wise words.
With gratitude, Sybil