By Kellie Schorr
The prime directive of Buddhism is found in the Four Noble Truths—the beautifully bulleted, clear as a bell, seed of awakened wisdom that blossomed when Siddhārtha Gautama unfolded as The Buddha.
Translated over time, language and my simple mind, it shakes out something like this:
- Every life has suffering.
- We suffer because we crave or cling to things that aren’t real or don’t last forever.
- There’s a way to stop suffering.
- The Noble Eightfold Path is the way.
And, of course, that list leads to…wait for it…another list! The Noble Eightfold Path reveals how we can put a block under the wheel of suffering and experience release from the constant cycle of rise and regret. Here’s the short-attention-span version.
- Right View – Seeing the world the way it really is, not the way you want it to be.
- Right Intention – Understanding why you do what you do and making it a noble why.
- Right Action – Ensuring your actions don’t intentionally cause more suffering.
- Right Speech – Don’t deceive, confuse, accuse, or afflict with your communication.
- Right Livelihood – Making sure your lifework (career, stay-at-home parenting, volunteer occupation, garden growing – whatever) is honorable for your good and the good of others.
- Right Effort – Do things from the center of your practice – compassion.
- Right Mindfulness – Be anchored in the immediacy of right now.
- Right Concentration – Akin to meditation, it is focusing the mind on one thing. Training your mind to exclude the extraneous and stay on target.
That sounds easy enough. With a little effort, and tossing my cell phone out the window, I should be completely free from suffering by dinner. Well, until I flatter someone at work solely to get noticed, or spend my lunch fantasizing about how different my life would be if I had taken that one offer, or I snap at the clerk (who forgot to scan my member club card yet again) because I’m tense from too many projects at once. Wait…this is hard stuff. I’m gonna need a little more practice.
Okay, a lot of practice.
Alright…a lifetime of practice.
If there’s any arena that would be a perfect place to roll out the Noble Eightfold Path and practice an end to needless suffering, it’s Facebook.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those “oh, I don’t do the Facebook” people. I love me some chaotic news feed articles and pictures of kittens taking over a big dog’s bed. I like laughing at the cleverness of people with their silly comebacks and outrageous memes. I cheer when I see a new car, a graduating senior, a baby’s first something, a vacation pic from a faraway place, or a check-in at the movie theater.
Floating in the fishbowl of posted delights, however, I have noticed someone needs to clean the tank. There’s so much algae forming on the walls. Vital political discussions have turned into angry name calling ideology wars. Religions clash and bully instead of listen and learn. Sincere cries for help are lost and vengeful vague booking invites our worst thoughts. The recipes all have too much butter (yes, that IS possible).
While we are meditating on our desire to cut the suffering and live in compassionate connection with one another, what better place to take our practice than the linear, algorithmically fantastic blue and white world on our screens? It’s time for us to practice Right Facebook.
There is a way to stop suffering on Facebook. The Noble Eightfold Path is the way.
- Right View – Know what you are seeing, not just what you’re looking at. Are the 30 political memes a minute just for fun, or are you being carpet bombed into a new way of thinking? Is the widow who keeps posting restaurant reviews interested in cuisine, or is she saying she’d like an offer to share a meal? Learn to see real from projection. Look with your mind and your heart.
- Right Intention – Questions to ask yourself (BEFORE the comment, post, or pic): Why am I doing this? Am I bragging or sharing? Am I discussing or dictating? Am I participating in culture or procuring more “likes” so I feel better about myself? Do I want to be on Facebook or do I need to be on Facebook?
- Right Action – Your feed reveals the world around you. Your posts reflect the world inside you. When you see a post you’re inclined to comment about, make sure you are adding to the common good, or at least addressing the obvious need for more cat pictures. I personally require three cat memes a day just to get out of bed.
- Right Speech – Is your comment rightful and true? Do you mean it? Do you mean to say it?
- Right Livelihood – If your job is not “professional Facebooker” (here’s a clue—it’s not) always be willing to do a check-up on your time and attention. How much is Facebook giving to your life and how much is it taking you away from the job/people who love you? Are you connecting or clinging?
- Right Effort – Facebook can be such a powerful tool for compassionate interaction—from supporting worthy causes to providing a listening heart. Never forget, though, on Facebook you are not the consumer. You are the consumable. You’re the product being sold to advertisers. You can turn that to your advantage, but always ensure you are using the platform for good instead of the platform using you for something less than love.
- Right Mindfulness – Keep it now. Keep it real. I’ve heard many folks say Facebook friends are “imaginary” or “not really your friends”—but the truth is, behind every account is a person who wants to be safe, happy, healthy and at peace, just like you. Don’t forget that.
- Right Concentration – Focus. When you’re on Facebook be on Facebook, but when you are not, live your life as it unfolds. Don’t “set up” moments or do something simply so you can post it later. Don’t be so busy proving your life is amazing/important/thumbs-up-worthy that you stop living an authentic, amazing, important life.
Who knows, once you’re really good at this, maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to follow your footprints down that path to a life free from suffering. If not, just remember—every day is another chance to reset your feed from “Top Stories” to “Most Recent” yet again.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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