My Weekend with Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha (novel)

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When someone is seeking … it happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to absorb anything … because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal.

I have a stubborn streak.  I took me ten years before I saw the movie ET the Extraterrestrial.

And I knew only one thing about Hermann Hesse’s book Siddhartha:  It was the paperback tucked into the back pocket of anyone attempting to look more enlightened than the rest of us fumbling saps when I was beginning college in Nebraska.  Sure I wanted to hang with that clique, but I refused to fall for the hype.

So when a friend asked incredulously, “You haven’t read Siddhartha?” I had to sheepishly admit my literary and yogic faux pas.  He pulled the book from his shelf.  “Here.”

I took the book from his hands and thumbed the pages.  It looked thin enough.  Even though I had several books ‘on the go’, what harm would it do to take the weekend to read this one?

I opened the book and a bottle of Hefeweizen that afternoon.  Beautiful, lyrical prose.  I kept reading, the beer grew too warm to drink and the truth began to reveal itself.  Somewhere in the final pages I recognized my clinging, grasping nature.  More than that, I realized that what I was trying to grab hold of was an illusion.

There’s a part of me that regrets not tackling Siddhartha when it was suggested reading for my Philosophy 101 class.  But there’s another part of me that believes the book fell into my hands at the perfect moment.  My advice?  If the last time you read Siddhartha the Beatles were still together, consider reading it again.  And if, like me, you were waiting?  All I can say is, for what?


I was the first one home.  I had to be – it was only a ninety-minute drive.  And so while I was unpacking, Anke and Emrik were leaving for Europe.  While I did laundry, Steph was waiting for the floatplane that would bring her home and Jaymie and her husband were enjoying one last day in Santa Cruz.  As I washed my car, Kristen and Mel were driving up the coast. Michael headed to Sonoma.   As I cruised the aisles of my local Safeway, Janet was cruising at 35,000 feet somewhere over the Pacific. We were all someplace else.  We were all returning to family and friends.

There were hugs and tears, of course.  That’s what sent me away in the first place – I didn’t want everyone to see me cry, although they already had.

By the time Dave reunited with his wife I was enjoying a late lunch that did not involve lentils, quinoa or green salad (although I wish it had).  I was in my beloved green leather chair, with the remote control in my hand.

Only hours later and the old comforts were nipping at my heels.

Habits shut us down and prevent us from living the life we are meant to live.  They are like choke holds.  We struggle to wrestle free from them.

Establishing a new rhythm to my life – abandoning the patterns that hold me down – will require persistence and strong belief in my ability to make it so.

Talking to friends about the last two weeks at Land of Medicine Buddha will be a difficult thing.  I can talk about the great food, the lovely people I met, the schedule we kept – but I won’t be able to talk about how it felt.  But that’s all right.  It’s my hope I won’t have to explain anything.  My actions will speak for themselves.