Leave no trace

 

In Zen and other traditions, they talk about leaving no trace, or the man that casts no shadow or leaves no footprints in the snow.

This can be understood in several ways, and I am probably aware of only a few.

In a worldly sense, it means leaving no trace ecologically and socially. To leave our ecosystems and society to our children and decedents in no worse condition than it was for us. This is the ecological and generational sense of leaving no trace.

It can also mean leaving no trace as a guest, or in one’s own home, in terms of cleaning up after oneself, and here also leave the house in no worse condition than when we entered. This is the politeness sense of leaving no trace.

In a different sense, it can mean leaving no trace in terms of the dynamics and processes of this human self, or those this human self participate in. Instead of resisting these processes, we can allow them fully and even amplify them, seeing where they lead and what they ask of us and have to show us. We could say that this is the Process Work meaning of leaving no trace.

And finally, it can mean leaving no trace in terms of not being caught up in identification with content of awareness, or as Byron Katie says, to not be at war with what is. Identification is released from stories, so also with resistance, which allows the struggle and drama to go out of it. This human self is allowed to live its own life, as it does anyway. This is the nondual sense of leaving no trace.

What is the truth in the reversal of this statement? In what way is leave traces true?

In our human life, we do leave traces. Whatever we do has social and ecological ripple effects, and we are aware of only a very few of them. So by bringing more awareness, information and experience to this, we can aim at producing ripple effects that are more likely – in our best guess – to support life rather than harm it. We leave traces anyway, so why not bring as much attention to it as possible. Why not be a little more consciously engaged.

There is another way of playing with the initial sentence: don’t leave traces of no traces. When I make a big deal out of leaving no trace, then that in itself is leaving a trace. Again, just something to notice.

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