Category Archives: Spirituality

When Wisdom Comes A-Knockin’…

Knock knock

Sometimes we are cracked open without warning. Other times an unnerving anticipation builds like the click, click, click of the rollercoaster climbing up the tracks before an inevitable fall. Either way, this isn’t the romanticized, sweet pain of the movies.

This is the siren sounding, bathroom floor sobbing kind of pain that kicks us in the gut.

I’ve found that in instances like these, the only way out is in. Inside myself- underneath of the layers of blame and excuses I’ve piled on top of the truth. And if I can press pause on the “poor me” chatter playing on repeat in my mind long enough to ask myself, “Why did I create this?” immense treasures are hidden in these moments.

Many times we miss these treasures because they don’t resemble our mind’s narrow definition of what a treasure is supposed to look like.

On the heels of a very painful break up, where I was cracked open beyond anything I could imagine, I almost overlooked one of the greatest treasures of my life because it came disguised as a question I had massive resistance to answering.

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Intention in Nature

Dear friends,

I am on safari in the Serengeti in Tanzania as I write these words on my iPhone for this week’s newsletter. The power of intention could not be more powerful here where the circle of life plays itself every day. Watching a cheetah scope out its prey, baboons playing in the trees, giraffes elegantly chewing leaves, and elephant leaving behind downtrodden trees as they slowly walk through the bush, a mother lion suckling its young cubs. Such images are nature perfectly, harmoniously, acting out intention in perfect balance. I feel blessed to be here. Here are some photos which I hope give just a hint of the extraordinary magnificence of the gifts of our planet. Enjoy!

Mallika

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The Power Of The Positive Flow

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

I stood outside in the yoga class and listened as a young woman told her friend, “well if it’s meant to be, it will be.” As I always do, the words from the Beatles above filled my head. “Let it be.” One of the lessons I have learned on the journey is that indeed, it is often to let things be.

But there is a second level of the process of more to it than being a passive observer of your life, and this is another very important lesson that I think gets lost in the desire to be in the flow, and to let things happen. I have learned this the hard way as well.

It’s almost a two-step process – especially for Westerners. We live in a society with technology at our fingertips. We’ve modified the organisms of the food chain. We feel that we are in total and complete control of our destiny and of the world around us. We’re not. We need to understand that as much as we think that we have controlled the world – the world still has mysteries and secrets that we will never understand.

Usually, this then translates, in yoga studio lobbies, to men and women talking about other men and women and debating the outcome of a relationship. It usually involves party A who has been trying too hard to force the relationship with party B whom they’ve either been dating, been wanting to date, been wanting to marry or procreate.

Faced with obstacles and frustration, they then declare that “if it’s meant to be, it will be.” It’s as if they have decided that it’s out of their hands and in the universe’s. This is, in my mind, a simple bastardization of the concept of flow and the role it plays in our lives.

To me, to be in the flow is first to listen. You have to understand what is happening around you, and most importantly, within you. You have to eliminate the chatter of the world and most importantly, the chatter within you. You might think that the reason you are nervous / scared / anxious about an issue or person is clear-cut and simple – it almost certainly isn’t and if you think you can see and understand what you are feeling and why without serious quiet and introspection, I’d be careful.

Let’s say you are deciding what you want to do for a new career. You need to think about it and ponder the pro’s and con’s in a logical way. How much money will you make? Where will you live? You will not become a yoga teacher by chance – it takes conscious action.

Once the input has been entered, then it’s time to sit down, meditate and think about it. How does it feel? What does it look like? What direction can you give yourself with the input entered?

If it feels right still, then here’s the important part – the power of positive flow.

I described it once to a friend in Burma last year like this.

Imagine you are standing on a river bank and the water is moving by you. You won’t get anywhere if you just stand on the river bank. The water is not going to come out and get you and pull you in.

You have to step into the water.

Then, you have two choices.

You can go against the current. And here I often think of my friends who are lawyers, and are miserable being lawyers (not all are, but a lot seem to be.) They turn into the stream and trudge hard against the current. They try to swim and fight upstream. They won’t succeed.

So you turn the other way, you are in the river and you let the river take you.

Here’s where positive flow comes in.

The river will take you but you will get there faster if you move with the river. If you have ever swum downstream in a river that’s moving fairly fast, you know that a leisurely swim moves you quickly – it’s almost as if you are flying down – that’s what you want to do.

If the man or woman you are interested in moves to another city, you can’t simply hope it will work out. It’s going to take real work and real effort. I have learned this recently with this wonderful woman in my life. It’s work to talk and communicate and share – more work than I have experienced before. It’s not just simply going to happen.

I also learned a lesson a few years ago. A woman I really enjoyed was flying to South Africa and the schedules got topsy turvy and I wasn’t going to be there for much time at all when she was going to be there. I debated changing my ticket home (I was on a business trip with a good friend.) My friend advised me not to. “If it’s meant to be, it will be.” And I left. The last email that the woman flying in sent was “Wait, we’re not even going to have dinner?”

I should have stayed.

So now, I feel that it’s a combination of swimming and floating. Of listening and acting. Of holding and letting go. The right place for me is a pulsing between the two. I listen now to myself and to the people important to me.

I always make sure that I am in the river. And I always make sure that if I am headed in a direction that feels right, I don’t mind floating and watching the world move by me.

But I also don’t mind putting my head in the water and slowly helping the river push me.

Discovering God and Belief in the Wake of a Storm

GodEver feel like you’ve lost track of yourself? Like work has taken over? Me too.

As great as the last few years have been getting published and getting out there, there’s also been the growing sense of, “Damn –  where’s my vision?”

So, after giving a workshop with Betsy Chasse (author Tipping Sacred Cows) in Sedona, I took the opportunity to run off to the desert afterwards for some down time.

Now some folks might think Las Vegas is the perfect place to unwind. But I ran the other direction, as far away from the craziness of modern life as possible, straight into the arms of a shaman. Well, not exactly his arms. Unless picking me up off the sofa after a particularly intense ceremony, stripping me naked and shoving me (with admirable indifference) into a steam bath counts. (Not!)

But seriously. Medicine ceremonies are just that. Medicine. And there’s a reason for taking medicine. This world is pretty insane. And doing doing doing all the time can “do me” right off-track. I figure if I’m out giving radio and TV talks and workshops then I’d better have my mind open and my head screwed on as best as possible – for myself and everyone else.

So I went on a vision quest.

I’m not going to pussyfoot around and say my two weeks were nothing but
rosewater massages and a no-alcohol, high-fiber diet. There were no massages and no rosewater (and no alcohol!). I did smoke ayahuasca and poisonous toad venom, however. I rubbed frog poison into my upper arm where the top layer of skin had been burned away with a lighted stick to better absorb the chemicals that would give my body the strength and stamina to undergo the ceremonies. And I was given many visions.

And then, after my week with the shaman, I drove myself deeper into the desert in southern Utah and performed a solo ritual to further integrate what I’d learned. And in the middle of that mind-blowing ceremonial morning a Great Dust Storm with 60 mph winds drove up from the south. And I sat in the storm and let it rage around me, watching my mind do its fandango with all its usual crap until it, too, was driven away and I was left with…

God

The Earth as God

The Universes and all Creation as God

The Body/Worlds as THE PINNACLE of creation

Hmmmm…. you know the whole New Age philosophy about every thing being God? About every thing being One Thing? It’s a great philosophy isn’t it?

Thing is, for 30 years I’ve said, “Everything is God” and not really meant it. Oh, I thought I meant it. But subconsciously? (where it’s all really happening) subconsciously I believed God was really “Out There” and not “down here.” In my deepest mind/heart place I didn’t believe/trust that things—tangible things—were really God at all.

Which meant, unavoidably, that I never thought I was God at all either.

Well, all I can say is: now I know better. And in case you’d like to know what I learned that morning in the desert, here goes:

The Earth is an out-picturing of God.

The Earth and I and all things, peoples, stars, meteors, spiders and crickets, children, old men, motorcycles, galaxies and ice cream are the result of God’s passion for itself… God’s passion to know itself, to see what It can do and create… to see what marvels and spectacles It can spin out of the fabric of Itself.

A divine intelligence, God asks for absolutely nothing … although It craves recognition. It longs for the moment when part of Its creation and thus Itself awakens and says, “OH! I SEE! OH! GOD! This is what I AM! DUH!”

Recognition – it’s what all of Creation is for…

To know SELF. To touch self and caress self and inhale self and make love to self and ADORE SELF, looking around, looking in the mirror, singing glory glory glory alleluia… ringing like a bell with quiet epiphany, realizing everything I gaze upon and touch is me—the old Indian man asking for a dollar in the Giant convenience store parking lot, the little girl running past, the ravens floating overhead, the overloaded semi-truck pulling its load uphill …

It’s all me
It’s all you
We are all one.

Meditate to Start the Day

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I would’ve never been someone who meditated.
It seemed to weird. To hippy.
What is a hippy? I wouldn’t say I was even 100% sure what a hippy was but I didn’t think I wanted to be one.

I like things to be orderly and intentional.
Sitting on a mat and lighting incense was not how I pictured myself.

Then I started a job where I worked from home and I was entirely responsible for my own motivation and organization. I thrive in those situations but it was a few weeks in when I realized I was having trouble turning of work. I was getting up in the morning and I wasn’t rested. There was no such thing as work time and home time. It all bled together and it was making me crazier and crazier.

I had a coworker suggest I take a few minutes in the morning to sit and think through the day. Maybe pour myself a cup of coffee and look over my calendar. Get a little perspective. I’d go through the process of getting up, making breakfast, taking a few minutes to sit and think and then get dressed. It was my cue that the day was officially starting. It was a few weeks into this successful practice that I realized I was meditating!

Or at least practicing some sort of meditation.
I was reminding myself of who I was.
I was reminding myself of what I was doing.
I was reminding myself of what it was all for and where I was headed.
It allowed me to approach work tasks with a broader scope and more patience.
It allowed me to feel less guilty when I got to the end of my work day and could shut my computer and move on even though I wasn’t necessarily headed out the door to something else. I could just be.

Maybe meditation sounds to weird and ethereal to you.
A couple of things to help you?

1. Inc listed morning meditation as one of the “7 Ways to Start a Great Day”. If it’s good enough for Inc, it’s good enough for me.
2. Mallika Chopra has a great eBook aptly titled “Meditation with Mallika Chopra” that is a great starting point for people new to the practice.
3. Deepak Chopra has been teaching and speaking on meditation for years now. We’ve assembled some great resources answering the questions of what and why for beginners here.

Worried to be the only one? Many of the folks at Intent.com are starting the day with meditation and love encouraging one another! (You can vote on whether or not you want the incense. It doesn’t hurt, I promise!) Let them help you get started:

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Malaysia Airlines 370 And The Unknown In A Known World

Screen shot 2014-03-21 at 1.04.04 PMOver a week ago, Malaysia Airlines 370 disappeared, leaving more almost three hundred people presumed dead and families and friends in an unimaginable limbo. How could this happen, in this day and age, the pundits and t.v. talking heads exclaim and wonder. How could this happen and a plane simply disappear?

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” they cry.

The news coverage has become increasingly more dramatic and the search for the plane keeps getting wider and wider. The plane could be anywhere. It could be, but there is also the real possibility that it will never be found. Some of the ocean that it may have flown over is miles deep.

It may indeed just be gone.

I have watched with greater and greater fascination as the news coverage becomes frantic, panicked almost, as collectively the talking heads seem to be facing the fact that they may have to entertain the fact that we will never know what happened.

Never. Ever. Know. This will take conspiracy theory to an-as-yet-unseen level of crazy. When historical events happen that we do know what happened, Elvis died in his bathroom, JFK was shot, the Twin Towers fell, people around us generate increasingly crazy theories of what really happened, when what really happened was right in front of you. Imagine if they never find the plane. Ever.

In our world with technology and advanced communication, it appears impossible for some, well, many people, to understand that mysteries can still happen. Things in life can not always be found or solved. This is a glaring example in our face that despite our advances, we still have not conquered the world around us. We are passengers, not pilots, in the universe.

Fifty or a hundred years ago, for most of the history of man on earth in fact, there was an acceptance that the mysterious happened. There was an appreciation that boats leave ports or planes leave the ground and don’t return. Explorers walked into the jungles of Africa and never walked out. Life held a certain mystery – a certain uncertainty if you will.

We’ve lost that over the past few decades. We believe that through hard work and ingenuity, not to mention GPS tracking systems and being able to hold more computer power in our hand than powered a Lunar Module, we have conquered life and the world around us. We haven’t. Despite all the tools and technology around me, the world around me that I enter and explore and try to understand is a wonderful mix of knowns and unknowns.

There are so many things that I can’t explain. How I can feel the presence of my father when he passed away so many years ago. How my best friend knows exactly when to call me. I have been fortunate enough to stand outside on the plains in Africa, in pure quiet, and gaze in wonder at the animals. I have watched the sun rise and filter through the canyons of the buildings in New York City.

The more I explore and the deeper I dive into the world around me, the less I seem to know and the more I am amazed by the mystery of the world. I have come to accept the not knowing more and more but I’m not sure everyone else has. There are voices out there like this regarding the plane. A commercial pilot who simply believes something happened, the pilot turned towards the nearest airfield and didn’t make it.

I greatly feel for the families of those who were or are on the plane. The best ending is that indeed they are on some remote Central Asian runway and are safe. They may be. Or they and the plane may be gone. How long I wonder will the networks stay with a story that has no ending? How will they handle the fact that not everything can be explained or located?

I imagine as the days and weeks continue, they will slowly grasp the concept. I imagine that some will look at it as an important insight into the world around them while others will still be shocked and confused that something like this could possibly happen in our world.

Believing in God in All Shapes and Sizes

GodI thought I’d long ago gotten past believing in some sort of external “God.” (And by God I mean the anthropomorphized image of a guy in a beard and white robes meting out judgment based in rules of obviously human making.) And then, there I was, sitting in stop-and-go traffic one day.

A driver to my right was trying to get onto the road from a Safeway parking lot. Car after car crawled past his front bumper towards the next traffic light, never sparing an inch to let him in. Conscientiously I applied my brakes and gave him some space. He waved “thanks” as he nudged into traffic and I waved back, never thinking a thing about it. And then I suddenly realized…

I’d felt a fleeting sense of satisfaction about how “good” I’d been letting the guy into traffic ahead of me. And all of a sudden I saw the invisible belief implicit in that feeling. OMG! At some level I still believed there was some Guy In The Sky WAY UP THERE with a tote board taking note of my actions like Santa Claus, seeing if I was naughty or nice.

Really?

Really. I saw it and was horrified. Surely I was more spiritually evolved than this? Apparently not.

In that moment a whole bunch of other things I do and their raison d’être came sharply into focus. Rain or shine (and in Western Washington it’s mostly rain) after unloading groceries I always push my shopping cart across the parking lot from wherever my car is parked all the way into the cart-holders, no matter how sopping wet I get. I always let other drivers in front of me (does pissing-off drivers behind me count as a negative?); I often say nice things to clerks, noticing their smile or their efficiency or their new hair-do; I make sure I never let my impatience with slow service show, even if I’m seething and up to my eyebrows in thoughts like I’ve got NO freaking time for this! What’s fracking taking so fracking long anyway you fracking dilbert…??? (internal expletives modified of course for good taste and more points??? ack! )

Yep.

Seeing this, it didn’t take long until I was searching out all the other things I still do to  subconsciously placate this invisible Lord God In Heaven Who Is “Into Judgment.”

Any criticism of anyone I usually follow up with a “But s/he’s got good intentions” (or some such platitude). I guard my tongue against gossip. I try not to lie even whitely (and fail. It’s shocking how easy it is to whitewash even the most mundane incident in order to appear even marginally a better person.) Fortunately I’ve gotten beyond accepting compliments with the de rigeur Christian false modesty… “Oh, it was nothing…” But still…

All these actions are to the “good” I suppose. Being patient, being nice, being encouraging to others are wonderful things. The point I’m trying to make here is: what exactly is the motivating factor behind taking such actions?

Yes. I genuinely like to make other peoples’ days better. I like to pay compliments and only do so if said compliments are genuine. I do think patience is a virtue. Why add my shit onto anybody else? I mean, who cares if I’m in a hurry? Everybody’s in a hurry nowadays. And how nice to give others a break. But I’ve been SHOCKED to realize how much I still harbor the belief that by doing these things it will also pay off to some degree with You Know Who.

EEK! Surely I can’t be the only one with this ancient program nipping at my heels (and conscience?)  And what to do with it if you’ve got it?

Well, here’s what I’m doing. I now sometimes let my shopping cart stay in the walkway (not in the lot where it can (God forbid) actually obstruct somebody else’s ability to park.) And I (GASP!) don’t always take the time to shove the ridiculous amounts of postal junk mail through the teeny-tiny slots in the recycling bins at the post office. I occasionally plop my un-asked-for mail on top of the bins for paid employees (or other do-gooders?) to handle. Maybe if enough people do this they’ll replace the new closed-top bins with the old waste paper baskets that were so much easier?

I also don’t let quite as many drivers in front of me as I used to (easing the nerves, no doubt, on those behind me in traffic, so it probably balances out in the over-all scheme of things.)

Who knows what else is next? If God still made curlers I might even wear them in public.

photo by: Michal Osmenda

Finding ‘True Refuge’ in the Face of Loss and Ego

true refugeKim, Seoku Jong, the reporter for the Kyungyang Shinmun, one of Korea’s major daily newspapers, recently interviewed me about my book True Refuge, which is now available in Korean. Since most of my readers won’t be able to read the article in Korean, I wanted to share the interview with you hear.

KSJ: How are you doing? Please tell us what interests you most these days.

TB: My mother, who lives with us, recently went into home hospice care. What interests me is that when we face the truth of mortality—that these lives can pass like a dream, that we will each lose those who are dear—what most matters is love. At the end of our lives, the question that will be central is, “Did I love well?” It’s clear that the more we remember to live this moment, here and now, in a loving, awake way, the more our lives will be truly aligned with our values and our heart.

I’m deeply saddened to be losing my mom – she is a wonderful being, filled with generosity, humor, and kindness. She meditates, as do my siblings, and by being together in the present moment, by loving without holding back, this time of sorrow is also a time of great beauty. This experience is, to me, possible throughout our lives. If we can remember what most matters to us, our lives will be vibrant, creative, loving, and beautiful.

KSJ: The world is full of suffering and it doesn’t seem to end. No one is free from suffering. Your book introduces to readers the moving stories of people who managed to heal themselves despite their wounds, and to a number of meditation methods that can be applied for the liberation from suffering. If you can briefly summarize the essence of True Refuge, what it would be?

TB:While the pain and loss that is part of life will continue, we each have the capacity to free ourselves from the suffering of feeling threatened, separate, or deficient. This becomes possible when we can see past our story of egoic self and contact the deeper truth and fullness of who we really are. The essence of each of us is loving presence – an awareness that is pure, wakeful, and boundless. This is our True Refuge. Those who have healed themselves with meditation have learned to pay attention in a way that has carried them home to loving presence, our true nature.

A key part of finding this True Refuge of loving presence is bringing a kind and mindful attention to all the expressions of our egoic self. We don’t find True Refuge by eliminating the ego; we come home when, like the ocean, we embrace all the waves that arise from our Being. In a very real way, this means embracing the aggression and defensiveness, the insecurities and hurts. What we don’t love controls us. Yet, as we enfold more and more of our experience in acceptance and love, we realize the freedom and vastness of our awakened heart.

KSJ: What is false refuge, and how is it different from True Refuge? And why is it so important to have True Refuge?

Being human is challenging. We’re aware of the dangers we face—rejection, failure, disease, loss, death—and our habit is to try to control whatever we can. A false refuge is a control strategy that might give temporary relief, but in the long run does not serve us. For example, we might overeat to soothe our anxiety or to feel some gratification, but we then feel ashamed or gain unhealthy weight. We might work very hard to prove ourselves worthy, but become overly busy and neglect our loved ones. We might brag or exaggerate to get others approval, but inwardly feel like a fake. All these false refuges actually take us farther from the experience of being at home with ourselves, secure in the essential goodness of who we are.

To be continued…

 

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photo by: DarkAura

How to Live with Questions Instead of Hunting for Answers

questionsI am a child of the West. More specifically, I am a child of the United States and the mentality of answering a question is deeply-ingrained in me. I often think back to when I was in school, third or fourth grade and the teacher asked a question. I can still see the class, all boys, in sport coats, dress shirts and ties as we collectively raised our hands, we knew the answer. We wanted our teacher to know that we knew.

Someone was picked and the answer was given and then, it was on to the next question. When I worked on presidential campaigns, John Kerry in 2004 and Bill Richardson in 2008, I would sit at the edges of the rooms as the press asked questions. Q&A sessions are the core of journalism. You couldn’t possibly just have a “question” session where a question was left to float and linger; nor have there been many great ‘answer’ sessions where everyone gathers around and shares an answer to a question that was never asked.

We grow up and we want the answers. Why does she love? Why did she stop? Why did this happen or that? We hire therapists and read the books. We seek answers in the stars, our friends, and our family members. Today, in the world of electronic connection, there has to be an answer to every text; there has to be a response to every post and every email.

Not only that, we often read the simplest of pieces of communication over and over for an answer. We want to know why the person sent it; what’s the logic for the use of wink and not a smile. We pull layers off of layers and try and see what lies underneath. We need to find the answer.

Almost two years ago, I set out on my own journey to find out what happened to my father who had died in Southeast Asia in 1984. This was also less than a year after my mother had died in my arms in a hospice in Arizona. I set out with a mission. The impetus for my leaving was  a dinner I had with two close friends in Cape Town, South Africa while on a business trip there. “Go” they each told me, “go find out. It’s what you need to do.” I remember sitting at restaurant, as the waiters bustled about. I remember the feeling of the crowd and the room. I remember thinking, ‘yes I will go.’ So I went.

I learned an enormous amount on my journey. The journey concluded with me being back in that same restaurant last week while back in Cape Town on another business trip. I sat there and thought about what I had learned and what I hadn’t.

I left on my journey with my Western sense of “I need to find the answers” fully intact and front and center. I thought if I worked a bit harder, if I went to one more place that my father had gone to back then, if I stood on one more street corner where I knew that he had stood, I could find the answer. Any answer. An answer to how he felt when he was there. An answer to how he felt when he died. Something.

What I learned is that you should always go on your journey. We each have something that we have either always wanted to do. A place that we went to when we were young that we have wanted to go back to. Or perhaps we want to see where our parents were from, or where they met. We could want to see where someone near and dear to us lived, or died. It can be as far reaching as traveling Southeast Asia as I did, or as simple as wandering an old neighborhood where you grew up at night.

Go on the journey.

But go, not as I did as Westerner looking for the answer, though I suspect that you will leave that way. Go as the Burmese and African friends that I met along the way would go. Go knowing that the answers are elusive and not only are they elusive, the questions travel with you.

When you learn to live with the questions all day and all night, you realize that the answers don’t matter nearly as much as you once thought. When I was in Burma, I would get emails from my friends from the States, ‘did you find out what happened to your father?’ But no one there ever asked me that. They knew that it wasn’t the answers that mattered so much, but the journey itself. And living with the questions.

I wish I could go back to the classroom of my youth and when the teacher asked a question, instead of shooting my arm up and seeking to be the one with the answer, I would be the boy who sat there and just thought about the question.

 

photo by: paul bica

7 Quotes to Inspire Self-Love

This week you’re going to see a lot of advertising geared towards finding your soulmate or getting the best gift for your significant other. It’s the holiday of love after all, right? But we believe love isn’t just about finding a partner – there are so many different types! Each day this week we’re going to showcase a different “type” of love. Today we want to focus on the love for yourself, because until you can look at yourself with pride and joy you really aren’t capable of truly loving someone or anything else. So go ahead and pick up one of those pink and red bags of chocolate, and keep it for you! You deserve it because you’re awesome. In case you forgot, here are a few great encouraging quotes to help you get in the self-love mood!

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What are your favorite empowering quotes? Share them with us in the comments below! Let the self-love begin! 

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