How Siddhartha Changed Me By Nina Berggren

As of late, I have been making an effort to reduce the amount of time I spend attached to my phone. In doing so, I am discovering how much screens prevent us from immersing ourselves in the present, and finding joy or at least contentment in doing nothing at all. Before I pursue that tangent, allow me to provide some background information leading me to my newfound perspective. I recently finished reading Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, and it not only transformed my perspective on life itself, but it inspired me to research Buddhism and entertain its many mentalities and zen practices. The first step to reforming my mind, was realizing that material things have never brought me a true, sustained happiness. The second, was to become aware of and acknowledge the varying states of all human beings. As a Buddhist monk once said in a lecture I attended, we must “listen to the cries of the world.” We must have nothing, but compassion for every human being. (I still struggle with this every day, but keeping it in mind is progressively reducing my negativity). Lastly, I have learned to eliminate the “wants” in my life. By relieving myself from the stress and suffering of working towards some unattainable future, I can become perfectly content with all aspects of my life. Furthermore, I can focus on breathing, meditation, and becoming one with my thoughts, actions, and reality.

Whereas I used to pull my phone out on the bus, or while standing in line, or even in my academic classes when I lost interest in the matters at hand, I now acknowledge my boredom and embrace it. I move past my restlessness and try to find peace in all moments, slow or fast. I find humor in the dull faces of my classmates, I study bus passengers, or simply watch surrounding scenery and let it influence me at its own pace. By doing “nothing,” I am really seeing, hearing, and feeling things I otherwise might not. By distancing myself from my phone, I am learning so much more and finding that my feelings have intensified. I am filled with great sadness and greater happiness at times, and I am learning to appreciate both. Once, my feelings were nearly numbed by the process of mindlessly, constantly scrolling through social media that I felt quite indifferent towards. Now, I am almost always with friends, or outside in my free time. By furthering myself from a fake reality, I feel my life is more purposeful.

Although I can not say that I have entirely given up on Instagram, I am learning to find a balance in checking it infrequently and absorbing myself in the present to the best of my abilities. I want to reflect upon my childhood later in life and have detailed, evocative memories to share, because let us be real, those countless hours spent online are not memorable in the least. With these newfound philosophies in mind, I am writing and reading more for myself. Reading books like Siddhartha, which contains so much wisdom to live by. I highly encourage everyone to read it.

Nina Berggren, class of 2021

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