Life is shaped, not only by moments of impact, but by the slow and gentle friction of lives intertwining.

May 9th, 2014, 1am

It was 18°C with few clouds. The breeze was brisk.

I recently started going to yoga class (almost) every weekend, in an effort to instill some semblance of mental and physical discipline on my life. There is something relaxing about being told what to do, and following the flow of a class. If left to my own devices, I am prone to simply cop out after a one-minute downward dog, and decide I’d better spend another twenty minutes in corpse pose (my favorite) after all.

Yoga has heightened my awareness of my (usually shallow and erratic) breathing, and helped me develop techniques to slow and deepen my breath. There is something incredibly healing about a smooth, deep breath. A strangled, stuck exhalation tells me so much about deeply-held tensions I didn’t realize I had.

Focus, on the inhale, on the exhale. Every breath is a moment. Be aware of every breath.

It hit me yesterday night, as I was willing my hyperactive mind to fall asleep, that just as so much of our breathing goes by beneath the layer of our active consciousness, so much of life does as well.

We probably all have had vivid moments of thick emotion, major turning points, huge changes and leaps into the unknown. Collision events that have somehow pushed us onto a new course of life, willingly or not. A death in the family, a move to a new country, a college tour that led me to the beautiful campus that became my home for four years. Even if they are seemingly mundane, we can sharply identify these moments as milestones that defined our lives.

Yet, I have only just begun to realize the indelible mark that so many people, places, experiences have left on me. They come to my mind in a blur — a vignette of memory fragments and barely-remembered moments that were simply melded into the continuous, unstopping pace of life.

If I had to reflect on my eagerness to try any kind of food, I might credit it to my mother’s constant encouragement of culinary adventurousness when I was young, but was there really one moment that defined that? No.

My instinctive, visceral reactions to different scents especially remind me that I have so many different habits, attitudes that were formed at a level beneath conscious control. Why is it that some people hate the smell of cilantro, but I find it so comforting? What is about durian that is so repulsive for some, but so appealing to me? Sure, I grew up around these scents, but it was the long, subconscious experience that very gradually left its mark on me.

Many people, too, have influenced me in ways so subtle that I can hardly put a finger to a name. I see it now, in my musical tastes, the way my fashion sensibilities have gradually evolved, my attitude towards life and career.

We are all so different, with our own values, beliefs, tastes. That difference is what causes friction. That friction is what allows us each to leave subtle, sometimes inscrutable, but never insignificant, influences on each other.

I am growing, changing, from all these wonderfully different people in my life. Thank you.

Christine, Shu, Mona and Sanna said thanks.

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Yiling Ding

Think too much. Write too little.

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