Emptiness and Facebook

The Buddhist concept of Emptiness is a tricky concept to grasp. It doesn’t mean that things are empty. It means, rather, that things are empty from their own side. Our labels, presuppositions, feelings and stories are what bring anything meaning.

In other words, everything is how you look at it. Literally.

For instance, I am often overwhelmed by and don’t like Facebook. I argue that at times it cheapens communication, diminishes our attention span and reduces true and thoughtful conversation to trite and convenient contact. It borders on the absurd at times. Post after post displaying such varying degrees of content: In sixty seconds one will read about a friend’s new pregnancy, a strip club bachelor party, a kick starter campaign, political rant, and see a photo of someone’s first attempt at home made lasagna. I mean, really, it’s your call. It is the perfect display of emptiness, for it reflects back to us on the screen how people are viewing their world.

On the upside, however, Facebook has recently gotten me in touch with a dear, long lost friend, helped me find a job for a friend, and has been a successful marketing tool for my yoga teaching, writing and acting pursuits.

And this weekend, it really won me over.

I messaged a friend if she had any leads to teaching yoga to the elderly, a population that melts my heart.

She posted my request on her wall and within 24 hours I received many, many leads in the NYC area.

The elderly have worked hard, been through heart break, love, loss. They know letting go more than we could imagine. These are the people we can learn so much from and should respect the most, but we seem to value the least. In our young, fast airbrushed culture, they are often ignored.

And, they seldom receive touch. Touch is important. This is something a yoga teacher can bring.

The next time you are waiting in line at a bus stop, or see an old person eating alone, ask how they’re doing. They may swat their hand at you in impatience. Or they, may smile and invite you to sit with them.

I subbed a yoga class for an “over sixty” group and after the class was over, a woman came up to me and said, “Thank you for treating us like people.”

The world, from this perspective, comes not at us, but from us.


* If you’re interested, a simple, well-written piece about Emptiness:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lewis-richmond/emptiness-most-misunderstood-word-in-buddhism_b_2769189.html




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2 Responses to “Emptiness and Facebook”

  1. 1 lauraboling August 8, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    This is lovely, Rachel – thank you for speaking about the elderly, in particular. I must admit, to my own shame, that I don’t often consider this perspective. Not actively. Not PROactively. I am grateful for what you’ve so gently drawn to my attention… (and it goes without saying [though of course I am going to say it] that your observations on emptiness are also very insightful).

    • 2 racheldardenbennett August 8, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      Dearest Laura, no shame necessary. If I wasn’t constantly seeing older people when I visit my mother at the assisted living home each week, I don’t think I might be as aware either. But, now, of course, I see how that day is creeping, (or even jetting) towards each of us and wouldn’t we want to be treated with respect and as if we are valuable damn it? Thank you for your post and for reading my blog. I always treasure your comments.

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