No trace

Leave no trace.

It can mean all the usual things. Take care of your relationships. Clean up after yourself. Leave things as you found it or in better condition. Don’t use Earth’s resources beyond your share, and do your bit to help the ecosystems thrive. Leave enough for future generations.

And it is also a pointer to what is already here. What do I find when I explore this in immediate experience? Does anything leave a trace? If so, in what way?

What I find is that nothing ever leaves a trace. What happens in each of the sense fields is always fresh, new, different.

Any “trace” is only in the mental field as a memory, and that activity of the mental field happens here now. That too is new and fresh, even if it looks similar to (the memory) of a previous imagination.

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Nothing ever happens

I mean, what you got to lose? You know, you come from nothing. 
You’re going back to nothing. What have you lost? Nothing! 
Always look on the bright side of life! 
Nothing will come from nothing. You know what they say?
– Eric Idle’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from Life of Brian 

A common phrase among teachers is that nothing ever happens

It may seem like an absurd statement. Something clearly is happening. And when we are identified with mental field creations, it even seems quite substantial and real. 

So where does that statement come from? 

It comes from what happens when the volume of emptiness is turned up and it is more in the foreground. Here, it is obvious that nothing ever happens. It is all no-thing appearing as something, yet never becoming anything else than no-thing. It is all the play of awakeness itself. It is appearance without substance. 

And any of us can explore it here now, through the sense fields. I can first look at the mental field. What is it made up of? Does it have substance? Are there any traces of what just left, apart from another story about it? Is it awakeness itself? 

When I get a taste of this in the mental field, I can explore the same in the other sense fields. What is sensation made up of? Does it have substance? Are there any traces of what just left? Is it separate or different from awakeness itself? 

And what do I find when I explore sound? Taste? Smell? Sight? Is each one different from the mental field in these ways? In being insubstantial? Having no trace of what left? Being awakeness itself?  

(When doing this, it is best to come from a more open-ended place of receptivity, curiosity and don’t know. These statements are no more than pointers, suggestions, questions to explore in own experience. And what is found may well be different from this, even if it is just a refinement or clarification… because it can be realized and expressed more clearly and simply than this.)  

At the same time, something does happen. Something does happen in all of these sense fields. There are all sorts of appearances. When the mental field overlay is identified with and taken as true, it all seems very substantial and real. And when the mental field overlay is recognized as just a mental field overlay, it is all revealed as insubstantial, ephemeral, as no thing appearing as something. As the play of awakeness itself. 

As Eric Idle so elegantly pointed out, nothing will come of nothing. 

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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.