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, media, and my simple minded approach to things - it shakes out something like this:
- Every life has suffering.
- We suffer because we crave or cling to things that 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. The path is solid in structure and mammoth in depth of meaning, but 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. Even when it requires work or discipline, always compassion.
- Right Mindfulness – Be anchored is the immediacy of right now, not living in your head having imaginary conversations, making fantasy plans, or reviewing old slides.
- Right Concentration – Akin to meditation, it is focusing the mind on one thing. In meditation we often focus on the breath. In guided imagery we focus on one thought or affirmation. Training your mind to exclude the extraneous and stay on target will make you skillful and wise.
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 enjoy casual chats about snowfall with my best friend from high school who now lives in Maine (she always wins). I like laughing at the cleverness of people with their silly comebacks and outrageous memes. I cry every time someone posts a video of a Nina Simone song (she will forever be my Priestess), and 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 in an avalanche of bragging superiority and vengeful vague booking. Just when you think you’ve unfollowed the negative, up-thumbed the positive, and set the world to right, along comes a Gummy Drop game request, and you’re screaming for the death penalty. 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 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. How would we do that? The same way we do it in the big world – one bullet point at a time. 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 thirty 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?
- 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, well – you’ll always have at least three invitations waiting for you to play Gummy Drop.
----- The Bottom Line -----
- No matter what someone’s Facebook feed shows you, every life has suffering. No one is better. No one is worse. We are in this together.
- Every person makes choices – in the digital world, and in the real one. Make mindful ones.
- Seriously, those recipes have too much damn butter.
For More Information
There are a number of sources wisdom on the Noble Eightfold Path:
By the Book
As for butter:
“If we give someone a piece of bread and butter, that's kindness, but if we put jelly or peanut butter on it, then it's Loving Kindness.”
~ Barbara Johnson