The Practice of Returning Home

Mind is space.

Space is the multidimensional canvas in which Thought appears.

Consciousness brings Thought to life.

Regardless of what Thought and Consciousness are bringing to life, each moment, return home to Mind.

So What?

My clients come to see me with sometimes sad, crazy, unpredictable, irritated, altruistic, calm, sublime, lustful, brilliant, anxious, poetic, ugly, murderous, hideous, self-centered, terrified, thinking.

My thinking can also be sometimes sad, crazy, unpredictable, irritated, altruistic, calm, sublime, lustful, brilliant, anxious, poetic, ugly, murderous, hideous, self-centered, and terrified.

When my clients leave and move on with their lives, their thinking is sometimes sad, crazy, unpredictable, irritated, altruistic, calm, sublime, lustful, brilliant, anxious, poetic, ugly, murderous, hideous, self-centered, and terrifying.

The only difference is that now they see thinking as thinking and ask, ‘So what’?

Peace Already Here

We can never find peace in thoughts – at least, not permanent peace. Real peace is before thought. It is the space in which thought arises. This space is Mind.  This space is what all of us and every animate and inanimate object already are. Just stay here. No effort needed.

Personal Thought or Mind?

We usually walk around imagining that our moment-to-moment experience of life is the result of situations and people around us:
* I’m irritated because that guy cut me off in traffic
* I’m cranky because I have to go to work early
* I’m bummed because my boyfriend or girlfriend wants to end our relationship
* I’m lonely because I’m not in a relationship
* I’m worried because my retirement account is shrinking

The Three Principles understanding of human experience tells us to look in a different direction. This perspective says that we are always living in the feeling of our own thinking. This is really important to grok: moment-to-moment, we are experiencing our thinking ABOUT what is happening, not what is happening. This is our personal thought system talking and it rarely leads us in a helpful, peaceful direction.

We can only be listening to one thing at a time: we are either listening to our personal thought system or we are listening beyond our personal thoughts to the deeper wisdom that comes from Mind – the formless, infinitely creative Source.

How do we know to which we are listening? By the feeling that we are experiencing in the moment. If we are feeling excited or agitated or irritable or cranky or bummed or worried or fearful -or any permutation of any of these – then we are listening to our pea-brain (as my teacher, Keith Blevins calls it), personal thought system. If we are feeling a sense of ease and peace, then we are plugged into a deeper source of wisdom that we can trust. We are always listening to one or the other.

Just notice the feeling you’re in right now – it will tell you whether you can trust your own thinking in this moment. If the feeling is off – do nothing. Wait. Leave your thinking alone and you’ll find that a nicer feeling returns and with it will come a wiser, more peaceful perspective that will provide guidance for this moment now. There is nothing other-worldly about it. No bells or whistles – but a sense of peace that is worth its weight in gold. Try for yourself.

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The Wasps in Your Head

Last week, I was with a client who was struggling. We were discussing the role Thought plays in creating our moment-to-moment experience of life. When I asked him if it was making sense to him, he said, “Yeah. So what you’re saying is that I need to push away or smack down the bad thinking and just think better thoughts, more positive thoughts.”

The idea that we need to ‘manage’ our thinking, or do something to think ‘better’ thoughts or ‘more positive’ thoughts is a common stumbling block to really getting this understanding. And, by ‘stumbling block’, I mean just another thought to which we can cling believing that it is ‘understanding’. Really understanding this means getting that thoughts roll through our consciousness all day, every day. We don’t need to shape them or stop them or color them in any way. They take shape and pass away on their own without any help from you or me.

Still, many of us (me, too, sometimes!) are just like my client – believing that we need to make our thinking ‘better’ somehow in order to really enjoy life and live at our best. When I understood the thinking he was stuck on, I offered him this analogy:

I asked him to imagine that my office was just like the inside of our heads – a few pieces of furniture and some paintings on the wall, but still largely empty (pun intended – at least in regards to my head). Imagine, I said, that you had to be in this office and that there were four or five wasps in the office with you. What would you do? He said immediately, “I’d try to kill the wasps.” I asked him to imagine that the wasps were particularly quick and slippery and that no matter how hard he swung at them, he couldn’t strike them. What did he think would happen if he tried to ‘deal with’ them? If he swung and swatted and flailed – how would the wasps respond? What would you do now?

He looked stumped and said he didn’t know. I pointed out to him that there was a window in the office; what would happen if you opened the window? I asked. He thought for a moment and then the light came on and he said, “I’d do nothing. I’d just wait because the wasps would find their way out without me doing anything.” I told him that was my experience and that, in fact, not dealing with the wasps at all was just about the safest and most efficient way of addressing wasps.

This always-open window in our head is our Innate Health – our inborn wisdom and understanding. Mind is the space in which and as which wasps and desks and windows and waste cans and paintings appear. The truth is that Mind is always wide-open and available – we are living it and it is living us. Just leaving the wasps (thinking) alone allows them (it) to move through awareness and out the open window (we rest back in peace of Mind). This is what it means to rest in and as Mind.

The natural state of the ‘room’ in our heads is one of peace and ease. There is nothing we need to ‘do’ to get back to that. In fact, the more we try to ‘do’, the more we stir up the wasps – it’s no wonder they sting us.

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Leave It Alone

There is something far deeper in all of us than our thoughts, emotions, or sensations. Even the word ‘deeper’ doesn’t quite capture it – it is not only deeper but bigger, wider, clearer, wiser, calmer. This ‘something’ is the foundation of everything else that can be experienced and the ‘space’ in which it all takes shape and passes away. It comes before everything else that can be experienced and it stays during and remains after whatever is experienced. The ‘something deeper’ is our Sanity, our Wisdom, our Innate Intelligence.

I use capital letters because I want to distinguish what I’m pointing towards from the typical way we usually conceptualize the words ‘sanity’, ‘wisdom’, and ‘intelligence’. Usually, we define those words in personal ways, as if they say something about us or our personal, little brain. What I’m pointing towards is so much bigger than that. It is available to anyone and everyone who has ever taken form as a human being regardless of ability or disability.

If you’re like me, you’re probably asking ‘so, how do I get to it? What do I have to do to access this Sanity, Wisdom, Innate Intelligence?’ The answer is good news: nothing. We don’t need to do anything to access or ‘live from’ this something because it is what we are. All we need to do is leave our thinking, our emotions, our sensations alone. Do nothing with them. Nothing.

This can be tricky for us because we are taught to ‘manage’ or ‘change’ or ‘replace’ or ‘avoid’ much of our thinking, feelings, and sensations. We learn that there are ‘good’ thoughts/feelings/sensations and ‘bad’ thoughts/feelings/sensations and we attempt to keep the good ones and get rid of the bad ones. It is rare to find a person who learned that it is OK to just let everything be as it is without doing anything to it, for it, from it, or about it. The great secret to living a life of greater peace, compassion, and ease is to leave all of our thinking, feelings, and sensations alone.

What might this look like in daily life?

Just last night, I visited my 91 year-old mother as I do every day. As you can imagine, she takes a lot of medication and needs help managing it. I typically put all of her medications for the week – morning and night – in a pill caddy. This past week, I got off schedule and forgot to do it. Last night, I happened to look at the caddy and realized it was empty. I said, “Mom! I can’t believe I forgot to fill your meds. Why didn’t you tell me!?” She responded in a way that sounded (to me) helpless and needy – she is neither (beyond some physical limitations). My thinking really started racing with ‘why didn’t she tell me?’ and ‘how could I have forgotten?’ and ‘why does she have to act so helpless when she isn’t?’ (and many more thoughts critical of her and myself) and along with it came lots of uncomfortable emotions/sensations that I would describe as mainly irritation, frustration, sadness, and worry. As soon as I felt the discomfort, I did my best to just relax my body and mind and left all of the thinking and sensations alone. I just let them be and rested back in this openness that is completely present even in the midst of the storm of thought and emotion, just as the open, spacious, sky is always present even in the midst of black clouds, driving rain, lightning and thunder. I did NOTHING to, for, from, or about any of the thoughts or feelings. Just like clouds, in time, all of my thoughts and feelings about what had happened – which seemed so solid and real and ‘called for action’ – just dissolved like a fog burns off in the morning sun. All of this happened naturally and effortlessly by doing nothing!

There are only four basic actions we can take with any thought/sensation/emotion:
* grab hold of it and jump into the middle of it – making it seem real
* avoid it (oddly enough, this makes it seem real, too)
* try to change it
* leave it alone and just rest

See that your uncomfortable feelings or racing thoughts are really friendly reminders to leave everything alone for a moment. Do nothing. No matter how intense the feeling or convincing the thinking, leave them alone. I promise you that they will dissolve on their own – dissipate like a puff of smoke in a gentle wind – and you don’t need to do a thing for that to happen. What you will discover is this clear, open space from which you will be able to see clearly the next step that is most compassionate for all involved. Practice leaving your thoughts, emotions, and sensations alone and let me know what you notice.

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How to Access Great Intelligence

There isn’t a lot you need to do to access this great intelligence that runs all of reality because, in fact, we have never been separate from it. It is only our being mesmerized by our own thinking that makes it seem otherwise. All that is needed is to stop. Do nothing for a moment. What happens to thinking? What happens to feeling? What happens to experience in that moment of stopping? Nothing! It just continues on. The nature of thought is to just keep tumbling, bubbling, flowing along. We can’t capture it and fix it in place.

This is good news. Seeing this in our own direct experience reminds us of the impermanence of the world of form (thought, feeling, experience). We see clearly that we have never left the spaciousness that contains all experience in every moment. Regardless of what kind of thinking/feeling experience is arising right now, like every other experience (pleasant or unpleasant) it, too, will amble along and dissolve. All of it just naturally flows on by. Even all of our deeply held beliefs arise and pass away like the rest of reality, the rest of experience.

The constant in us isn’t our thinking or our beliefs or our ideas about ourselves or others or life. The constant is this formless space that is aware of all of it. Even right now, stop for a moment and notice how experience just tumbles on. Isn’t there something present that is watching it? THAT is what we are – that is our Innate Wisdom, our Innate Sanity. I say innate because it has always been there and will never leave. Regardless of how dysfunctional or unhelpful our thinking might become, this Consciousness is always present watching it flow along. It is Consciousness which makes this experience or any experience ‘knowable’. We can rely on that in the midst of all our crazy, upset, hurt and hurtful thinking.

By just stopping and resting for a moment and leaving everything alone, we reconnect with Source. We are always at a fork in the road: do we focus on and rely on this ever-changing flow of thinking or do we rest in and rely on this vast, silent, spacious intelligence that is our Innate Sanity? We choose each moment. You are choosing even now.

Reconnecting with Sanity

In the last post, I talked about the Principles and attempted to define them based on my current understanding. In this post, I want to talk a little about what seeing the Principles at work in our lives can mean for us and how it can help us reconnect with our own sanity and wisdom in real situations in our lives. Along the way, I want to point out some of the stumbling blocks that I’ve experienced in learning this understanding.

First, knowing about the principles doesn’t mean that we will always feel happy. At least, I can say that has not been my experience. We still experience lots of ups and downs. Sometimes our state of mind is up and sometimes it isn’t – we all experience those ups and downs virtually every day. There are some days that are more up than down and some days that are more down than up. We still sometimes feel irritated, bummed, angry, sad, worried, overwhelmed – the full catastrophe.

What it does mean is that we know that life is full of highs and lows and that those experiences are coming to us via our own thinking. We know that events in life aren’t inherently good or bad, happy or sad. We can see that our thinking about the event is what is creating our experience of the event in the moment – moment-to-moment – EVERY moment!

Second, knowing about the principles and seeing them at work doesn’t mean that everything always works out in our favor. Far from it. My bank account is not bursting at the seams, our house lacks curb-appeal, I could stand to lose 15 pounds, I am still bald, and I still drive a 13 year old Eurovan that needs new tires.

What it does mean is that we understand that these external events and things are not creating our experience of life. Our state of mind is creating our experience of life – and as our state of mind varies, so does our experience. When I’m in a good state of mind, I’m grateful for what I have, that my body is still working relatively well, and that my Eurovan still runs and I don’t have a car payment! When I’m in a low state of mind, well…suffice to say I am far less gracious and grateful and I see those events and things very differently.

Third, knowing about the principles and beginning to see them at work in life helps us understand that ALL of our experience is originating in our own thinking. Strong emotion and upset still comes, and sometimes it lasts longer than we prefer. Uncomfortable feelings do not immediately disappear when we experience them just because we know they are being created via Consciousness and Thought.

What it does mean is that we are no longer freaked out by strong emotion. We know where it is coming from and we know there is NOTHING WE NEED TO DO ABOUT IT! That is a very big deal. We don’t need to believe our thinking; and, we don’t need to believe that the strong, uncomfortable feelings are telling us something about our lives! They are telling us something about our state of mind and that’s it! What a relief that has been!

Knowing that all feelings are just feedback about our thinking and that they will settle on their own if we do nothing about them helps us not make (as many) really stupid moves in life attempting to correct/change something or someone ‘out there’ in order to manage the upset we feel ‘in here’. We know that if we just wait the internal, self-correcting mechanism that is standard equipment with every human being will activate and gently guide us back to neutral where we will be able to more clearly see the next sane, healthy step to take.

One of my clients – I’ll call her ‘Jane’ – showed up very agitated about a friendship. She was upset that her friend didn’t really attend to her in the way she attempted to attend to her friend. Her friend had done something that she interpreted as betrayal and she was loaded-for-bear and anxious to let her friend have it! She felt slighted, angry, betrayed, and sad all at the same time. Her thinking was running fast and furious and it was obvious to me that she was in a very low state of mind. I did nothing other than let her talk, and I did my best to not add any fuel to the blaze. Very near the end of the session, I could hear the momentum of her thinking slowing down and her state of mind began to rise bit by bit. She knows about the principles but really didn’t see how they had anything to do with what she was experiencing at that moment.

Suddenly, Jane’s eyes brightened, she looked at me and said, “Wait. This is all my own thinking. I’m feeling upset because of all of this yucky thinking right now! I don’t have any idea what my friend was really thinking when she did that – she may not have been thinking of me at all!” In that instant, she really saw the principles at work creating her own upset. She knew she needed to do nothing to get back to a more balanced state of mind – she was already reconnecting with her own sanity – in fact, she had never lost connection, it had just been covered up by her thinking.

We talked more and Jane understands that she will still want to have a talk with her friend about the situation. But, what a different talk it will be! As a result of understanding the principles at work, she’ll be able to have a heart-to-heart with her friend in a way that will allow both of them to feel heard and understood rather than attacked and defended.

Try it out for yourself. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy and natural it is to reconnect with your own sanity and wisdom. And, if you want help (shameless plug on the way…), please call or email me for an appointment.

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The 3 Principles

I talk about the principles (Mind, Consciousness, Thought) in the articles I write. I didn’t discover them myself. I learned this approach from many people including George Pransky, Keith Blevens, Sandy Krot, Dicken Bettinger, Valda Monroe, Mavis Karn, Jack Pransky, Roger Mills, and others that I’m certain I’m forgetting. The realization of the Principles themselves, however, began with Syd Banks. Syd (who died a few years back) was an ordinary man living and ordinary life on Salt Spring Island off the coast of Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Syd had one of those epiphanic moments that some human beings have that suddenly made everything very clear for him. Syd really saw the nature of reality in a very deep and lasting way. Following that experience, he began talking to others about how the principles of Mind, Consciousness, and Thought are the building blocks of all human experience. The more Syd talked to people about these principles and the more those people began to see the reality of the principles in their own lives, the better they felt. Slowly, word spread and others began to see what Syd* saw and incorporate it in their own lives and work.

In this article, I want to explain my understanding of the principles to hopefully clarify some of the questions I’m getting from readers. Before I do, let me say something about the word ‘principle’ and why it is used here.

A ‘principle’ in this understanding is roughly equivalent to what a scientist might call a ‘law’ – such as the ‘law of gravity’. The word ‘principle’ is used in this understanding to indicate that Mind, Consciousness, and Thought are irreducible. The principles of Mind, Consciousness, and Thought are always at work creating our moment-to-moment experience. These principles are the essential ingredients for all human experience, just as atoms are the essential ingredients of what we know as the physical universe.

The rest of this article is my attempt to explain or describe the principles. Please know that these are my descriptions as I currently understand the principles. There are others who see them at a much deeper level and they might describe them in different ways. I’d encourage you to look at Syd’s website below to get a fuller understanding. Here goes…

Mind
In this understanding, Mind is not what we typically think of when we hear the word ‘mind’. It isn’t referring to our thinking apparatus/brain or whatever the current understanding of ‘the mind’ is.

Instead, Mind is referring to the formless, Universal Intelligence that underlies all creation. This intelligence can be seen in simple, quotidian ways:
– a cut on your arm heals without any intentional effort
– a pumpkin grows from a tiny seed and becomes a pumpkin, not a rose or dandelion
– an ovum and sperm unite and grow into a tremendously complex human being
– vast ecosystems blend and support one another to maintain a nearly infinite variety of life on earth.

Mind is this vast, infinitely deep intelligence that grows our bodies, beats our hearts, and breathes our lungs. There is a lovely and intelligent design that creates, animates, and guides our little life and the seemingly infinite life of the universe.

Consciousness
The principle of Consciousness refers to the capacity to simply know that you are, and to be aware of all of the ‘objects’ that coalesce and dissolve in awareness. Consciousness is the capacity to be aware of life.

Thought
The principle of Thought points to the fact that thinking is happening all the time and takes the form of language and image. All thoughts are either language or image. All thoughts carry feeling with them. Thought-Feeling might be a better way of phrasing it. We don’t experience feeling without thought – they are two sides of the same coin. Feelings are the physical experience of thinking.

How It Works
While Mind powers life, Thought and Consciousness combine to create our moment-to-moment experience of living. Without Thought there can be no ‘flavor’ to experience. Without Consciousness there can be no awareness or knowing of experience. Without Mind, Consciousness and Thought can’t exist – there is no ‘power source’.

It’s An Inside-Out World
Sandy Krot is the first person I ever heard refer to the ‘inside-out nature of life’. I had no idea what she was talking about! My current understanding of what Sandy was attempting to point me towards is that we are always experiencing the effects (feelings) of our thinking moment-to-moment. Our feelings don’t come from our circumstances but from our thinking! We are always and only – EVER – feeling our thinking.

We have been taught to believe that the world ‘out there’ causes how we feel ‘in here’. For example, “my job bums me out” is a version of the outside-in world view. It says that my circumstances (out there) make me feel a certain way (in here). The inside-out view of the world recognizes that it is my thinking about my job that bums me out. The good news is that my thinking is always in flux, always changing without my needing to do anything about it. Seeing that can make a big difference in how we experience our lives.

*You can find a lot more about Syd and purchase his books and talks at http://www.sydneybanks.com.

Vacation Mind

It’s vacation season and a client recently sent me a photograph while he was in Florida. It included a view of the ocean, a few people playing in the water, sand, his tanned ankles and feet, and closer to the camera, some pages of an article I’d given him to read about the 3 Principles understanding.

When he returned, we laughed about the photo (I was jealous!) and then he told me that he’d gotten ‘so much more’ out of the article when he read it on vacation than the first time he’d read it several weeks ago when I first gave it to him. What’s the difference? Why did the article strike him so much more deeply while he was on vacation than when he was living his usual life here in the corn-and-bean-strewn heartland? Was it the ocean? The sand? The sun? His tan? I’d suggest to you that it was none of those. It was ‘Vacation Mind’.

Anyone who has ever been fortunate enough to take a week-long (or more) vacation might know the feeling: everything just seems to slow down. You relax. You breathe easier. Rushing drops away.

The trick for us is to realize that it isn’t vacation that is causing that wonderful, easy, warm, relaxed feeling that we experience. It has nothing to do with the surf, the sand, the mountains, skiing, great shopping, uninterrupted time with our significant others – it has to do with Thought. Your thinking (hopefully!) takes a vacation, too. Thought on vacation is a lovely thing – it thins-out and slows down; thoughts just don’t feel important. Have you ever had that feeling on vacation where thinking feels like too much effort so you just let your thoughts drop like heavy rocks? That is Vacation Mind at its finest!

So, what is really happening? It’s really pretty simple: when our thoughts settle, there is more room for new thought to ‘get in’. New ideas, new creation, insights into problems at work or at home – all of these can come rushing forward in Vacation Mind. Heck – they can even come rushing forward in the shower because the same dynamic is at work – we are leaving our stale, habitual, old-version-of-life, stuck-in-a-rut thinking alone and that leaves room for the nice, relaxed, easy feeling that always lives just under our thinking to come bubbling to the surface. Aaaahhhhh…

George Pransky, the man who introduced me to this approach, has a great metaphor for what’s happening. Remember when you were a kid and had a fan in your room? Maybe you, like George, would play the game of attempting to throw playing cards through the blades. If you did, you undoubtedly noticed that when the fan was moving at high speed, it was virtually impossible to get a card to go through. But, when you slowed the fan down, more ‘space’ appeared between the blades and your were able to flick some cards through to the other side. When the fan really slowed down – as in on its way to stopping – there was a lot more room and you could get lots of card through.

The very same thing is happening with our thinking all the time. The slower the ‘blades’ of our thinking spin, the more new ideas and insights about life can get through. Those new thoughts and ways of seeing life are always waiting to get through to us – that’s our wisdom and it’s always present. It’s the speed of our thinking that gets in the way. A slow ‘fan’ is Vacation Mind!

So, if our thinking slowing down leads us to Vacation Mind, the obvious question I usually hear from clients is ’what in the world do I need to do to get my thinking to settle (because I want to live in Vacation Mind all the time!)?

Well, I have good news and I have bad news. The bad news is that there is nothing you can do to get your thinking to settle! Aaaarrggghhhh! What?! You’re leading me on a wild goose chase!?

No. While there isn’t anything you can doto get your thinking to settle, the good news is that there is nothing you needto doto get your thinking to settle. Wait, wait – let me finish…

When we leave our thinking alone (stop jumping into the middle of it and thinking more or harder and stop attempting to change, modify, or adjust our thinking) it naturally slows down. Get that? It naturallyslows down! This happens all the time. You have never thought the same thing forever.

Huh? I know that is a little awkward to read (and write!), but it’s telling you that not a single thought you have ever had has lasted forever. All of our thinking changes and fades over time – usually a very short time. I’ll bet that you aren’t thinking the same thoughts right now that you were when you started reading this article.

While it’s completely natural for our thinking to get stirred up, it is just as natural for it to settle down. We drop our thinking all the time – in fact, we don’t drop our thinking at all – our thinking just drops away on its own (thank goodness). And, if you’re one of those people (like me) who is thinking ‘sure, but some thinking just can’t be dropped because it’s too big or too important’, then it might help to realize that’s just a thought, too, and it will fade away like all of the rest of the thinking you’ve ever had.

Consider this. Have you ever seen kids playing in a pool and trying to get the waves on the top of the pool to stop ‘waving’? I have. I saw a little boy trying to ‘push down’ all the waves as they were appearing. You know what happened. The more he walked around trying to push down the waves, the more waves he created. We’d probably laugh if we saw that happening, but we are doing the very same thing in trying to ‘settle’ the ‘waves’ of our own thoughts.

You can see clearly that the little boy just needed to stop everything! He just needed to stay still and the waves would settle on their own. You’d know that he doesn’t need any special ‘wave settling’ techniques; he wouldn’t need to ‘deal with’ all of his ‘past waves’ before the waves would settle down, or ‘work through and process’ his future wave concerns. All he needs to do is…NOTHING!

What you can see from this perspective is that the fastest way to allow the waves to settle is to do absolutely nothingto settle the waves. You know that the natural inclination of waves is to settle on their own. You can see that the ‘natural state’ of the water in the pool is calmness and clarity. The same is true of our own thinking – just under the surface of the waves, our natural state is calmness, clarity, and ease.

The more we allow the waves of our thinking to settle without attempting to do anything to make them settle, the more we find ourselves living in a nice feeling. Our wisdom and guidance is there in that nicer feeling; and it’s the same feeling we might have experienced on vacation. It can be ours anytime we allow our thinking to settle and it doesn’t require sand, surf, sun, or loads of free-time. It just requires awareness to feel when the water is stirred up and willingness to do nothing. Do nothing and drop easily and effortlessly into your own Vacation Mind.

If you are interested in this approach and want to learn how to live in Vacation Mind in the middle of board meetings, screaming kids, bills, and dish-filled sinks, that’s why I’m here. Email me or give me a call to set up a time to talk.

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