Not to debate right or wrong is the most effective way of communicating

I was fighting with my mum today. We fight more often than I care to admit. And fighting with someone you love stinks; nobody wins, everybody loses.

Thinking back though it almost feels as though there is a theme every time we fight. We talk, on the phone, and some topic sparks up and I find it interesting and wanted to debate about it, sometimes doubting the regular notion of what usually is being said and talked about, mum gets annoyed that I just wanted to argue about everything. She thinks I’m in a sour mood and tries to pick fights or worst yet, was lecturing her. I get annoyed (and mildly surprised) that she doesn’t get this isn’t about mood, or lecturing, but discussing and pursuing the truth (so righteously so in my head). We make off hand comments about this annoying pattern of communications we have, I say bye and hang up.

For a long time I thought maybe this is my old rebellious teenage attitude popping up as we speak, the more this pattern repeats though, the more I begin to realise this is a new, adulthood Sandy problem altogether. I think back, and re-assess (which I don’t encourage anybody to do, because this drives you absolutely crazy), and realise I have these type of conversations with others (particularly my husband) and never have this problem.

Could it be the lack of command of my mother tongue when we speak of these things? Could it be that she is not used to her adult child speaking back with anything with compliance? We haven’t really been living in the same place since I was 22, afterall.

And then I think to myself, how do I discuss these things in English? And what kind of tones do I use?

And then it strikes me, that this kind of discussions, translated directly from English to my native tongue, almost never really happens in the culture my mum grew up in, unless people are quarrelling. In fact, I don’t even think there’s such a differentiation between “argue” and “quarrel” in that culture.

This type of discussion, literally isn’t categorised and prioritised.

In fact, as I tried to look these words up in Chinese on google, the very first entry titled “not to debate right or wrong is the most effective way of communicating”, and comes second of “the difference between (…all the different words that has an association with arguments….)”. And as they explain them all, none of them has a neutral connotation such is “debate” or “argue”.

And at that same time, in school we were told that it is important to learn critical thinking and “to think for ourselves”.

No wonder I have always found the way things are discussed and communicated are always murky and slightly vague at times.

We literally have a cultural difference even though we speak the same tongue.

“Not to debate right or wrong is the most effective way of communicating”

I ponder on.

And love.

This has nothing to do with yoga.

Or does it? Because yoga is just, is. It is life as the purest form as it is.

But I want to talk about love.

Of the various kind, at the various time, with the various people.

I am caught up in the “call me by your name” craze. Summer/ Spring of 2018, new movie about a boy and his first love.

I saw this analysis about this particular type of love stories, and it hits me so hard.

It is the dream world, the commentator/analysis says. Where things are just helping along, where the world is just so friendly and encourages your first love to be; free, daring, sour, stinging as you wish it to be.

The never had I ever experienced it before; the longing to understand; the non-jaded approach. Before any hurt, any pain, any realisation would have happened.

The purest, scariest, most exciting, almost orgasmic first love.

It is the idea itself; the anticipation; the wanting to cross the border but didn’t dare. The enjoying of the crossing the border. The beauty in the pain, the excitement, the struggle, the shame.

 

And then we tried. Maybe with great, lasting affair, maybe not.

But nonetheless it is the journey.

Is it the idea of the person we were in love with, is it is the idea of love, on its own; the very materialisation of love, after seeing all the movies, reading all the stories, listening to all the corny love songs, that is to ecstatic? Or is it the potion of love, soul-crushingly, addictively, in itself?

Nothing is quite like the first love, they say.

Call me by your name, and I’ll call you by mine, Oliver says.

To become one, the single entity where home is.

Love is home.

 

Nothing is quite like the first love.

But nothing is quite like the second, or the third, or the other ones afterward either.

Nothing is quite like love, be loved, and living and breathing love.

 

It is the moment when human connection sinks in, when what we are programmed to do, as homosapiens, finally makes sens.

Some would say I still love my first love, to this day. And it would not have been incorrect. As it would not have been incorrect to say I still love my second, my third.

Once you find that connection, the real, intimate passing of two separate entities, becoming one, in a way that is beyond just what we understand as mentally, physically, transformatively (which, in my regrets, is not a real word) or metamorphosiscally (that is not a word either, but should be).

Call it what you wish, it is what is going to make sense, that it had made sense, to you, already.

You feel it in your bones, when the connection, the pairing signal, the translation becomes the norm; the very reality.

It doesn’t have to come in the pairing of romantic relationship either. It can be without the hormones, the mating call, the love as modern culture depicts.

Here I am, in all my contradictions, looking at the clear blue sky, thinking about that time, in the capsule of time, in the daring of the youthful mind. Thinking about the idea of time capsule, the idea of love, and most desperate form of love.

And the love that I have for the ones that’s about to come, the ones that I have in my life, the ones that both me and them know, mutually, without naming, right now.

The love I have for you, and you, and you and you and you that comes across this journey in my life.

 

 

It is love.

 

 

And how I wish for life to slow down, in this capsule, this exact moment, the exact view, smell, colour, and feel.

And life moves forward.

 

Like the old man I am looking right now, topless, on his own balcony, rubbing his outdoor table.

 

This sound, the sensation of the wind, this thought of my first love, will stay with me, for the rest of my life. Without me being able to pinpoint, to replicate, to even tell it as it is.

Just as the sound, the sensation of this temperature, this thought of my current love, it is the now, the details you can see, from the colour spectrum, the sound, the underlying feeling of it all, will stay with me, for the rest of my life.

It is exactly why,that is all worth living for.

Live now, and not a moment earlier, or later.

And love

be love,

To truly be seen

When I first moved to Denmark, I very quickly learned the lesson that I shouldn't share myself too much.

I never dawn to me that as someone from the Cantonese culture, I'm very prone to sharing what I have done, what I am proud of, what I am in pain for.

I remember distinctly comments from my husband, about conversations I would have with my mother-in-law. And he was almost a little embarrassed that I was telling her how I was in the singing team and was a pretty decent singer. He thought that I was bragging, and it was embarrassing for him.

For a long time I took his advice and became very hyper aware of this behaviour.

I was becoming so afraid of showing my pride, and along with it, showing my weaknesses.

When I came clean to family and friends about my depression, what people said to me was, why didn't you come to me, or, you know you could always talk with me, right?

But I was ashamed of it.

I was deeply, agonisingly worried about how I would then be seen.

Worried about how I would draw too much attention to myself, how I would become a baggage to others, particularly to the people I love.

Familiar?

I believe we have a problem in this society. I have seen, with my own eyes, students in a restorative class, lying and twitching in discomfort, and say not a single word. Despite me having said it specifically, and distantly that it is the point of the practice to ask for help.

I have witness my own husband, friend, family who tried as hard to hide and conceal their sadness, their pain instead of venting it out.

I have this talk with my dear friend about how we need to make this a practice for her to stop brushing it off as "I'm okay, I'll prow through it".

One of the greatest TedTalk I have ever seen is from Brene Brown, and that of vulnerability:

It strikes me so hard that without being able to see my friend, my family, my husband's vulnerability, I do not know how to connect with them. Without showing my own flaws in all its glory, I do not know how to wholeheartedly believe they love me.

Yet we are living in a place where people are so used to going into hiding. So used to "not bothering someone else", "not to draw attention to myself", or feeling guilty just to ask for help.

But like Brene Brown says, with numbing just the selected negative emotions, how are we ever going to feel alright?

How can we truly connect, and truly be seen?

Practice your vulnerability, and practice it with passion and conviction. For it is then, we can truly embrace our own perfect little flaws, for it is then, we can truly and unapologetically be happy.

 

Sending you lots of love,

The epitome of being

I taught a good class this morning. A honest, heartfelt class where I was calm inside the whole way, where I felt in sync with the students at the end.

So one of the students there at the end of class, told me, “you are a good teacher”. As I was chewing that over in my mind, and thanked her, my inner voice says “it’s you who are the good student”.

At the beginning of my teaching life, I used to fly over the moon for such a compliment. In my lesser confident day my mind will dig up that compliment and rewind it, so to give me a boost and reason to feel better.

Even though getting these comments are still a big inspiration for me to keep teaching, and keep learning to teach better. I couldn’t help but notice a shift of mentality in my head.

I don’t feel I should be taking credit for this, I thought to myself.

Being on the other side of the fence of teaching has shown me that, more often than not, it is these particular classes that were good, despite the teacher. While being more experienced, having a stronger practice definitely helps, some days it is just not possible, within the setting, to conduct as good a class.

As teachers, our roles in others’ practice are limited.

There are days where everything just makes sense, words glide off the tip of my tongue on their own. There are days where I feel haunted by my own messy thoughts, and have a harder time guiding.

I’m not perfect, and I refuse to sit on this pedestal.

And I ponder on, if there are teachers out there, who just facilitates amazing classes, day in and day out.

Has anybody out there who has reached the epitome of teaching?

And my inner critic laughed a little, and said to me “has anybody who has reached the epitome of being?”

So perhaps, as we are dragging our feet through the mud, brushing my hair off the sand, and sniffing the air through the dust, we are already at the epitome of being.

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Honour the less honourable

When I first started studying and attempting to understand my own state of mind, I was so surprised and even a little ashamed to find out what the inner me thinks.

My inner critics, as I have long suspected, speaks poorly not just of myself, but to others as well.

I have a complicated relationship with my mother, or rather, the inner critic that takes on my mother’s voice, disguises as memories of what my mother was like.

This faux mother voice that I have talks exactly and precisely like how I (hazily and hormonally, during teenage years) perceived my mother had.

Many times, without a great reason, I get incredibly defensive and angry whenever I talk to my real mother, even though she was, and still is my best friend. More often than not, as I reflected after these conflicts, they weren’t very justified.

About 4 years ago, I moved the furthest I have ever been away from home. So every time I go back, I get excited and had so much love before I go, but whenever I was home, we ended up fighting and hurting each other.

And at times it felt as though I had so much anger towards her.

I used to cry every time on the night before she would fly home/I would go back to Denmark, mourning the time we lost fighting, being upset at myself for not holding my shit together, agonising over my intense feeling of love and anger at her.

So I make up my mind to be better next time, to be calmer, a nicer version of myself next time.

I never quite fully comprehend what it is that I am so angry with her about.

I often joke about how I think both my mother and I went through teenage years together. To think that she was only two years older than I am now when I went through teenage years, a young adult nonetheless, with just me, my brother and her at home most of the time. To think that we would struggle to learn the way to be, to pretend to have our shit together more than we actually did, at the same time.

Yes of course we fought, ferociously, like two tigress in the same cave, without any choices, tearing at one another. But there was also so much tender love and companionship as well.

But at times I was caught up in episodes of being so angry with her, way into my adulthood, into my 30s.

I never quite comprehend to what extend this is until I came across this video recently, of a speech a father gave to his child. “You don’t always have to be happy, you don’t always have to be silly or funny. But the important thing is, whenever you are feeling in a mood like this, is not to just stay there all the time. You want to accept it, you want to honour it, you want to acknowledge it and let it go, and then it will get better, you are still loved and you are still safe.” he said.

And then it strikes me how I, without much thinking, was comparing this to my mother, more precisely, the inner critic version of my mother. It strikes me how much contempt I have towards her, towards this inner critic. It strikes me how in my little subconscious zone, I have decided my mother never let me honour my bad moods, and how part of me decides that’s why I was miserable going through my teenage years.

But this is not true, my real life mother never just told me to forget how I felt, never discredited what I thought.

I realise this is one of the critics that’s inside of me, being angry at the version of my mother that she had remembered. The helpless, the irritable, the bad tempered, the hurt version of my real mother. It is a memory imprint, a evil clone of when my mother was having the most difficult time of her life.

And some part of me was angry at her, more precisely at her at that particular time, after all these years. Even though she is so much more than that, even though she has came such a long way since.

And this evil clone is really a old fragment of my mind, an old version of my inner critics, who used to tell me to hide, to armour up, to defend. And another part of me is trying to defend my right to stay open and vulnerable.

To quote Jack Kornfield’s “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry”:

“As in a dream, all the figures in such a story can be found within us. We find the scaly dragon and the attending princess, the wise grandmother, the irresponsible king and queen, the hidden prince, and the unknown one who cast his enchantment long ago.

What this story reveals from the start is that the journey is not about going into the light. The forces of our human history and entanglement are tenacious and powerful. The path to inner freedom requires passing through them. Receiving grace, opening to illumination, becoming wise has not been easy even for the masters. It is described as a difficult purification: cleansing, letting go, and stripping away. Suzuki Roshi called it a “general house cleaning of the mind.”

It is painful to cast of our own scales, and the dragons guiding the way are fierce. It requires the inspiration of angels; it requires diving into the ocean of tears.”

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Ground zero

And here I am, bearing it all.

Hair is somehow a very sentimental thing to people, to us.

It always feel as though it is a monumental moment to make a drastic change in our hair styles. It’s more often than not spoke of in relation to being reborn, renew.

And here comes the third time I’m reborn.

Maybe it’s the shredding of a layer where we usually hide from; maybe it’s the act of getting go of something we are so accustomed to.

I’ve been eyeing this buzzcut, this change for a while now. It feels necessary, it feels as though the longer I postpone and push off changing, the more urgently I need change.

It’s like spending all your saving on a long trip around the world; it’s like putting all your eggs in the basket that making a life, move, career change is going to work. It’s a gamble, it’s a risk. But god does it feel good to have that leap. It doesn’t even have to be a rainbow at the end of it; or even a silver lining to whatever is beyond, but the leap itself feels good. It feels cleansing, rebirthing.

Perhaps it’s the ritualistic part of transformation; perhaps it’s the change in the weight you feel in the head and neck; perhaps it is just having no fuss, no disturbance from the breeze to the hair to the face; perhaps it is the adrenaline of making a drastic change, of wowing people. There is something very monumental, celebratory, and exhilarating about the simple move of cutting one’s hair.

I remember the first time I made this cut, from long to short, I hated it so much. It’s like my femininity is suddenly gone, that I can see my angular face, my pronounce jaws. All the imperfections that I didn’t even realise I thought I had were coming right at me, every time I looked into the mirror.

But it is like a practice.

And I did it again, and again.

The change is just as monumental.

In the Chinese language, hair is sometimes also referred to as the threads of worries. And in some way, this is also so accurate.

You know how in science fiction movies, it is often depicted that people in the future will all have buzz cuts, because seemingly, at one point of humanity, hair wouldn’t matter anymore.

But with a constantly growing and becoming fossil dead threads of cells, it somehow is so damn important, ridiculously important.

Look at the thousand of millions of dollars that goes into researching hair grown products every year.

Logically it makes no sense that little things that sticks out from our scalp should have any impact to our identity, but it does.

And is it because we have so thin self esteem? Is it because we like to hide and camouflage even from ourselves? And why is being angular in the facial features (in my case), perhaps having mono lids, having thin hair somehow make us feel inferior to others.

If we do understand our truth identity, from beyond the external realm, beyond the hair, the muscle tone, the pants we wear, the way we portrait ourselves to other people, why should dead little threads of proteins growing from our follicles matter to us at all?

And yet here I am, feeling vulnerable, naked, and feeling great.

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Into the forest I go

With all the noises, the chatters my mind became so restless. It is one of those days where I couldn’t savasana.

Have you ever caught yourself having an opinion about something/someone you haven’t experience first hand? Or have you ever caught yourself changing your opinion about something after some chatters with people that you know?

My dear ones, I’m stressed out today.

With all the noises, the chatters my mind became so restless. It is one of those days where I couldn’t savasana.

Can you imagine your yoga teacher being so stressed out she couldn’t savasana? Well, here I am.

When a practice, a passion, a pure space becomes a source of living, things get a little complicated. The chatters from talking about yoga asanas and nice tea to have after class to, so how do I make this work? The chatters from talking about spaces being cozy being nice to chatters about which one pays better and which one has a nutter of a owner.

This is a very conflicting component to a craft that I love very, very much.

Oh, but don’t let me confuse you; I LOVE the teaching. It is the things that comes with trying to do it as a source of living, that I find terrifying.

Your teacher, the human attached to the voice telling you to calm and take deep breathes is in need of some serious reminding today.

And that is ok.

I tell myself, that it is ok.

For I do believe this is for a good reason, that along with all the stress, what I need to learn is within them. For I believe along with all the noises, the voice I need as my guide, is amongst them. For I believe the feeling I have in my gut, the restlessness I experience in my savasana, is the teacher that will take me to a higher, better place.

On a day like this, it’s easy to fall into the softness, and want to hide. And hell do I want to hide.

But tighten my core, lengthen my spine I go. And I believe, much like surfing, the only way to travel far, is to ride onto the wave, despite it being scary, being wobbly in the beginning.

For I believe, something very, very good is waiting for me at the very end.

And into the forest I go.

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Home away from home

I want to document this yet I am not sure how to start.

Got back home away from home, this feeling is complicated. Having spent 2 weeks with my family at home throws me off balance.

I moved away from Hong Kong when I was 22, almost 10 years ago. From Shanghai to Beijing, to Copenhagen. From being too excited to be free and on my own to wishing that I live just a little closer, that I could spend a little more time with my parents, my brother.

To tell you the truth, it is not until the recent 2 years had I started to realise how much I have missed out. I missed my brother’s last years of high school, missed watching him grow up from a wee teenager, to the adult man he is today. I missed the yacht trip that i know my mum really wanted me to join every summer, I missed her teenage again spirit. I missed my own grandmother’s funeral, I missed the many appointments my brother managed to bring my other grandmother to.

Living in a culture so very far removed from them makes it so difficult to have something to talk about every time we are on the phone. Living half way across the world makes family gathering so condensed, so intense.

Being constrained by geographical location, space and time. It takes me 2 weeks every time to get in synch with them again, just in time for me to fly “home” again.

I flew back to Copenhagen this morning, decided to teach.

But I quickly realise as much as I do enjoy teaching, there’s a part of me who’s not quite in the mood.

My inner child is mourning, not about saying goodbye again, but the time I am going to miss being away.

I can’t help but think about the remaining years that my grandmother still has, my mother, my father still have left. And that I can only manage to see them 2 weeks at a time, twice a year. Yet every time I go, I feel as though I am not allow to show this sadness, for I am the one who has chosen to move away, chosen to live the life I live today.

Perhaps I’m just being a big cry baby but how does one remain whole being so far removed from the lives of those that one love, that one literally share the same history, root and blood with?

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Ahimsa

I just finished a practice that I didn’t really enjoy. Not so much in the sequencing or the pace or the poses that I didn’t like, but more the teaching.

Being a teacher has its downsides; it is difficult to let go of the teaching brain sometimes. In a practice in my own home, following just a video, I should be able to relax and forget about the teaching, but that’s not quite how it works.

I caught myself thinking that this is dangerous, wondering how many people get hurt from online yoga classes of this sort. To when I couldn’t help but shouting to my computer screen what she was saying was utter bollocks (not very yogic, I know). It infuriates me that there are someone out there giving so little care about how people would be practicing it; and worse yet getting injured by it. I asked, how is this even legal?

And then I caught myself wondering, if there is really a reasonable way to do this digital teaching, so far removed, so the opposite of tailored classes. In the yoga teaching world it’s often discussed how ancient yogis practice one-one classes following their master, and the practice is unique to the person. Our regular yoga classes have about a 1 to 20 teacher-student ratio. And then we go further, into the digital realm, we are have a 1 to however many thousands maybe tens of thousands teacher-student ratio. How are the teachers suppose to know what level they are to teach? How are they suppose to know what kind of modification/cues they should give?

And then I asked myself, how do I know? Yes sure I can see my students’ physical bodies, their energy and expressions, but how am I to truly know what is going on inside of their meat and bones?

I am sure that ought to have happened, students came to classes, me not knowing their body, gave them a strain or worse yet, an injury. And I am willing to bet that I am not the only one. We, as guides, are but to try our very best, base on what little we know.

“To respect your body” or “to listen to your body” have been said so much it has became a cliche, it became one of those mumble jumble that yoga teachers love to say. But if it wasn’t you who is practicing that is going to be the guard, who is in a better position to do so? In a regular teacher speaks, students follow class setting, how are the teachers suppose to know when something like this is taking place?

I started my yoga with home practices. I used to follow this teacher who loves to set an intention of ahimsa (non harming) for all the classes, and ironically, having tried to do that every time, I have had multiple injuries under her classes. For a while I thought that means I really should be going to class having a teacher in real life instead. But over time I realise practicing at home, having had my own share of injuries, have instead taught me to be very aware of my own limits and sensations. It is through the injuries, the trying, that I have learned ahimsa.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, as I assess my still somewhat busted ankle, used to be busted knee and hip, my no longer hurting lower back, I suppose that is somewhat the truth.

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Welcome to Sandy’s yoga ramble

After being a yoga teacher part time for a year, I have decided to go the full time path. So in this blog I’m going to document what I think, what I observe, what I learn as a broke ass yoga teacher.

After being a yoga teacher part time for a year, I have decided to go the full time path. So in this blog I’m going to document what I think, what I observe, what I learn as a broke ass yoga teacher.

Welcome to this personal dialogue of the pain, the fun, the sour and all the favours I endure in this journey. Maybe it’s humor, maybe it’s information, maybe it’s inspiration or anti inspiration, whatever it is that brought you here, I hope there is a little something in it for you 🙂

Sandy

Love every moment

When that single minute of sun ray shines onto in the middle of practice. I smiled to myself and made my day a little brighter.

I love the sun. I never thought I would end up in a country this north, and this dark for the majority of the year.

I remember very distinctly 7 years ago, backpacking around in Europe and having a sort of realisation why in ancient times sun was worshipped and often seen as a source of divinity.

I never realise how lucky it is to grow up in Hong Kong, being so close to the equator, we more often than not complains about the warmth, the humidity. Having grown up in a place where substantial amount of sunlight is normality, the first winter in Scandinavia was a rough one.

First I realise I miss the colour, then I realise I miss being outside, and I realise I miss being energetic.

It took me a good two years to get used to the colour spectrum of the winter colours here. It took me even longer to start appreciating the change of seasons.

Danish people have this mentality of practicality. On the darkest day of the year, they go – great, now the days are starting to get longer. On the brightest day of the year they go, now we will get ready for the days getting darker. Living in a climate where season, weather, lights are in a constant change, I think, has shaped a lot of the attitude and mentality in people. It teaches you to be buoyant, to be resilient, to be practical. And that, I love about the Danes and living in Denmark.

For life is an interesting constants of fluctuation. There are days, weeks and months where I feel active, in need to exhaust the energy. Some days I just feel like resting, watching a video on YouTube and doing absolutely nothing.

There was once where I would spend hours on end to practice asana every single day, and now I am devoted to my meditation practice and only practice my asanas twice or three times a week.

Do I miss it? Yes. I miss loving my mat so much and never want to leave. I miss being in such tip top shape in my body and everything feels easy peasy.

But such is not what I need nor where I am at right now.

Stages of life is like the different colour spectrum of the rainbow, once my stage was red, now it has moved onto a different colour, different energy. Red was beautiful but so as the one I am in right now.

Loving the moment you are in, the colour that is you today and loving that there is the future colour you will experience and turn into.

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Synchronicity

Most people who know me know that I love animals, and at the moment we have two little cockatiels at home.

Birdie is not really my first bird, but she is the first bird that I managed to bond with. She loves sitting on me when I do things, writing, eating, walking around, doing business in the toilet, doing yoga. To me she has always been such a special bird…. so intelligent, so loving, so easy to understand.

And then the other day I came across these videos of wild cockatiels in their native home, Australia. And it strikes me that these animal usually live in such a big flock in the wild – whilst our flock is only four (including the two human members that is me and my husband). And somehow that really touched me, my little birdo, small, grey, and really not of anything special, could easily disappear and blend in has she been in a wild flock, yet somehow she has became this very special little thing to me, that I connected with without any logical explanation; that I love not quite the same way as I have loved my other pets. She, is my birdo.

And I thought to myself, in a way isn’t it the same with people?

With the 7 billion of us, as much as we like to think ourselves special, physically and genetically there really isn’t much of a special thing about us compare to our neighbour, compare to this guy on the other side of the planet. But it is through the crossing of our different paths, through the process of connecting with other people, that our being becomes significant.

And I thought of the people who I had crossed paths with, connected with before, and of those who I never cross the same path, or see, or connect with again. They still left an impact, and traces of past tangle in this big webbing of interconnectivity in my being. And we may never know if our paths cross again. And that in itself, is nothing short of a miracle.