Siddartha and I: My Patient Reading of 152 Pages

by: Jason Wyman

“I can think, I can wait, I can fast,” [said Siddhartha]. “…It is of great value, sir. If a man has nothing to eat, fasting is the most intelligent thing to do.”

I am reading Siddhartha. It is a book given to me about six years ago by my upstairs neighbor. Well, it wasn’t exactly given. It was loaned, and then bequeathed to me. Joe thought I would love the book; I do. It just took me six years to pick it up and read it. I don’t know what kept me from reading it. Maybe I was waiting for the right moment. That moment is now.

I am savoring each word, paragraph, page, chapter sometimes reading them over and again until they reach marrow and course through my bones. I’m finding incredible peace in Hesse’s words. They are the bedrock underneath the rollercoaster that has been 2012 thus far.

I still have not finished the book, which I started the first week of 2012. Yes, it is only 152 small pages, and I could easily finish it in an afternoon. Still, it seems antithetical to the message of the book to devour it. Reading a chapter on the bus and then revisiting it again in a cafe and once more lounging on my couch seems like it honors its essence more. How often do we read slowly any way?

The words that strike me the most thus far come directly from Siddhartha. When asked of his talents, he replies, “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.” He is then asked by a merchant the value of his talents as they seem of no value to the merchant. Siddhartha responds, “it is of great value, sir. If a man has nothing to eat, fasting is the most intelligent thing to do.”

2012 started with freak outs. Lots and lots of freak outs. After a while, I learned to simply let them be. What else could I really do? Most were out of my control, and what mattered was my response.

Siddhartha offers a glimpse of a way through such times. Fasting is a response to having no food. It is precisely what you are doing in that moment. By acknowledging exactly what you are doing and honor it as a practice you choose your response. This choice completely alters perspective.

For me, January 2012 brought a change in perspective, which manifested in something completely wonderful in February. I made a choice as my unemployment was significantly cut and rejection after rejection was thrown my way to practice grace and resolve.

For each rejection, I wrote emails containing both thanks and a statement about continuing to develop long-term, intentional partnerships. With my unemployment cut, I did not rush to send out a ton of useless cover letters and resumes. Rather, I reached out to friends and colleagues expressing (again) gratitude for all they have provided me as well as requests for work. I continued my commitment to cultivating my own art, wellness, and community practices. I did not allow January’s freak outs to compromise how I want to show up in the world.

Then, came February. For each email I sent, I received a response of gratitude and possibility. Friends and colleagues sent me job leads with personal messages offering to introduce me to the hiring manager. The owner of the cafe at which I sit for hours pounding away emails and curriculum and flyers invited me into his “family” simply stating “As family, we have each others backs.” Finally, 14 Black Poppies’ and OutLook Theater Project’s projects are blossoming exactly how we (my business partners and I) envisioned them: slowly with pluralism and mindfulness.

As a result , I feel incredibly aligned, centered, and grounded. I am showing up in all of these settings and situations as the same person with the same core values. What more can be asked from life?

This all brings me back to Siddhartha, his wisdom, and then manner by which I am reading Hesse’s book. I may not think, wait, fast as Siddhartha does, but I do approach life with similar intention. And when one cultivates deep, intentional practice, one suddenly learns the power of choice to shift perspective.

Jason Wyman is a life-long educator, writer, learner and performer. He finds spaces between things and then creates supports between them. He has helped professionalize youth development, created original theater, developed learning models based on peer exchange and shared expertise, written fables inspired by the darkness of fairy tales and fostered community rooted in social justice, creativity, and laughter. He lives in San Francisco with his beautiful husband and precocious cat. You can read more at www.14blackpoppies.com.  (Photo by Andreea Cănăvoiu)

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