Leave No Trace

American Culture

Recently I had a discussion with a friend who spends a good deal of time in Europe.  She was telling me how the Europeans comment on the American culture, and it’s lack of poise.  For instance, in the Italian culture, the meals are meant to be savored, revered, and unhurried.  Lunches and dinners last at least two hours and in many cases longer.  The French have many of the same habits as it relates to food.  They grow much of their food and prepare meals with fresh ingredients.  They eat small portions of food and take their time during meals.  Most European cultures get plenty of exercise because they walk or ride a bike to the places they go.  They appreciate nature and the cycle of the seasons.  They live graciously and gently.  Whereas, for the most part, Americans live heavy-handed and at a pace that is frenetic and stressful.  We seek immediate gratification with little or no patience for ‘waiting.’  We are often mindless in our consumption of just about everything.  And frequently we choose distraction over stillness.

Zen Master Dogen

As I considered the truth to these cultural differences, I remembered the wisdom of the ancient Zen master, Dogen.
He said that when birds fly in the sky, they leave no trace. And when fish swim in the water, they leave no trace. With this metaphor, Dogen encourages us to understand how to express spirituality in our everyday lives. He is saying that there should be nothing left over from