Journal

What If We Can’t Go Astray?

What If We Can’t Go Astray?

On these hot summer days, there is only a small window in the morning when the air is cool, and it’s not too hot and humid for outdoor activities. Therefore, I have to plan my “magical morning power hours” carefully, prioritizing exercise and other outdoor activities because if I don’t do them first thing in the morning, they probably won’t get done at all once the heat of the day sets in. When I wake up late (as I did this morning), the window is much narrower than when I wake up earlier – let’s say 5:00am, which is my goal. There are so many benefits to waking up early. It feels amazing to experience the morning air, the sunrise, and to feel aligned with the fresh energy of a new day. But today I had to really prioritize morning self-care activities.

I started by walking the labyrinth. I left the house this morning with the Omega Institute 2016 catalog on the kitchen table opened to the Energy Psychology page. As I walked the labyrinth listening to the late summer sounds of crickets and cicadas, I wondered: Is it too late to do what I love? Do I have to choose one thing to love and do? I’m still drawn to the same interests I was drawn to when I was in college 30 years ago. When choosing a grad school, I was aware of some very intriguing schools and programs. But I played it safe, stayed close to home, and pursued a Masters in Social Work, which I found incredibly dry and ultimately didn’t finish. My real interest was in transpersonal psychology. But I sought the quickest, safest route to a private counseling practice. At the time, a four-year doctoral program seemed too long, and graduate programs in expressive arts therapy or transpersonal psychology without a more conventional base (such as an M.S.W.) felt too risky. Ultimately, I found that not going with my passion resulted in rapid burnout – which is why, when I came across the following quote in the Omega catalog, it went right on my vision board:

“Your wildest dreams are not frivolous. In a changing economic climate, true passion is your greatest job security.”

Back then, everything I was truly drawn to seemed too progressive and pioneering. Alternative. Risky. I took the boring, safe, generalist route, which in the end proved to be neither safe nor wise. I did that in my 20s, and I did it again at 40 when I pursued a career in public education because it felt like the safest path since it paid more than teaching in a private school and offered an attractive retirement benefit…if you stayed in the game long enough. Which I didn’t. Because it was not the right path for me. And I knew that was the case from the start but let practicality convince me otherwise.

I didn’t have the confidence to take the risk and study or pursue something that didn’t seem like a safe bet, and that is one of the greatest regrets and lessons I have learned during this lifetime, for sometimes playing it safe is the most dangerous thing we can do. Had I stepped out of my comfort zone and gone to a new place to specialize in something I really had passion for, I wonder what alternative path my life would have taken. I imagine it would have involved less poverty because I would have activated something within me that is incongruent with poverty mentality. I didn’t take the path less traveled – the path I suspect would have made all the difference.

Is it too late now? Too late to follow my bliss in earnest without compromising too much due to my current life situation? Did I miss my calling? Did placing greater importance on relationships earlier in life compromise the focus and depth with which I followed my vocational calling? The answer to the last question: Absolutely.

But maybe the path of relationship was part of my calling and every bit as important. Maybe it was planted in me with a reason and purpose. Perhaps relationship has been my primary learning laboratory, and establishing right relationship with relationships is part of my work. To reconcile someone else’s life situation and energy with my own calling and integrity, without compromising what lights me up..

Work. Relationships. Does it matter how you do your inner work as long as you do it? I have learned through experience (including two marriages) that the shiny illusion of The Other eventually fades, and I have learned by following through with my calling to be a teacher that shiny illusions around vocation can fade, as well. Relationships and vocation feel like the same basic work. Both point us inward, where the real work and awakening await. Ultimately, it is not about anyone else or any specific pursuit. And it’s certainly not about the shininess. It’s about cultivating inner qualities like peace and authenticity, which are available in every moment regardless of life circumstances.

Whether it’s bhakti yoga (path of love) or karma yoga (path of work), the question is the same: What flavor of shit sandwich do you prefer? Because it’s not all lovey-dovey awesomeness. After the initial attraction wears off, there’s work to do. How deep down the rabbit hole do you care/dare to go? The work is the same, whether it’s vocation or relationship – just a slightly different flavor. The work is the same whether it’s this person or that person – just a different flavor. The work is the same whether you are here or there. Whether you are involved in this vocation or that. All roads lead inward, where the outer details don’t make that much of a difference. Not as much as we tend to believe anyway.

Maybe I have lived long enough in this lifetime, and there are more parameters in place now. Maybe we have a certain window during which infinite options exist, and as we make choices and proceed along our life journey, some options fall away, and our available options narrow. And maybe that’s not a bad thing. Because we can do the work whether we are here or there. Location, vocation, relationship: Ultimately, it’s all the same.

Maybe we can do our soul work better or more efficiently by not resisting where we are right now by convincing ourselves that we need to be somewhere else or do something else in order to be fulfilled. Maybe in the lifetime of the soul, what we accomplish in this human life isn’t make-it-or-break-it because we have eternity to expand and evolve.

Maybe it’s not as complicated as we try to make it. Maybe it’s really more about becoming less by shedding the unnecessary layers we’ve accumulated by living in this world, rather than trying to accumulate more – so we can embrace our original Wholeness (enhanced by new experience and awareness) and respond to each moment with greater intuition, love, authenticity, groundedness, etc.

And on the other hand (which is really the same hand), if you really want to manifest something, then go for it! There might be something we need to experience from the process of manifestation, and I believe the universe needs us to express our unique nature and talents every bit as much as we need to express them. But no particular outcome is the be-all-and-end-all. No pursuit, place, person, or anything outside of yourself ever is. But we can play – and see what we can do!  We might just amaze ourselves!

What if we can’t go astray after all because everything we need is inside us, and it’s not about the scenery or the details but about cultivating, growing, and expanding the Self, which also expands the Universe? What if the path is like the labyrinths I walk, with one path that leads to the center, rather than a maze in which we can get lost – and each of us will arrive eventually? Even as we make certain choices – and sometimes in spite of our choices – we continue to walk toward the center?

LOH Labyrinth-1

Vocation, location, relationship: It’s all kindling for your soul fire. This work or that, this place or that, this partner or that: It doesn’t matter so much to our greater Self. But we owe it to our human self to choose wisely because at the level of personality, some options might be more distracting or draining, whereas others might be more compatible with our own energy and our vision of how we want to experience and express ourselves. Ideally, we make choices that allow us to use more of our precious time and energy in service of expanding and expressing our greater Self than in putting out one fire after another of unnecessary drama.

What if there is a soul map, and before incarnating we mapped out where we wanted to go? And what if I’m nowhere near where I wanted to be?

Well, what would happen if I had a geographical destination in mind that I wanted to get to – like the Bahamas or the Grand Canyon? And what if I got lost along the way, ran out of gas, broke down, missed my flight, etc. and ran out of time and had to return home before arriving at my intended destination? Then what?

Well, I’d hope I could at least make the most out of where I did go. Hopefully I experienced and appreciated the sights along the way, learned more about my world and myself in the process, and reflected on my experiences, including what I might have done differently and what I could try next time (based on a greater understanding of what might get in the way) to get closer to where I ultimately want to be. Live, learn, and make the most of it!

But I am still alive and hear the voice of intuition in my head more clearly than ever. I am open to inspiration and create quiet spaces for inspiration and creativity. I have stared down fear and taken courageous action. Raised two children. I have reclaimed some of my own power that I’d given away to others. I am learning more about who I am and how to navigate through life despite whatever setbacks or obstacles I have encountered, especially those that are inside me. I am still traveling through space and time in this body. There is still hope.

What if I didn’t fit in aerobic exercise this morning before the heat of the day set in?  What if, after walking the labyrinth, I composed these words instead?

I have to believe it’s all good. That we keep moving toward the center in spite of everything.

SC Labyrinth-1

This morning, I woke up to a supportive text from someone who loves and cares deeply about me and realizes it might be a difficult day. I’d awakened early this morning feeling worried about how the day might go but managed to get back to sleep for a couple more hours, and receiving that text, literally within two minutes of waking up for good, made a difference. It was comforting to begin the day knowing that I am not alone and that someone truly cares.

In order to get back to sleep a couple hours earlier, I focused on releasing my thoughts and replacing them with thoughts that brought relief, and I scanned my body to become aware of and release any tension. I told myself it’s okay if I don’t fall asleep and had a Plan B (yoga nidra meditation) if I didn’t. And then I fell asleep and awakened to that wonderful text.

Through half a century of living in this world and being dedicated to personal and spiritual growth, I have developed an well-stocked toolbox to help me regain my sparkle when I’m feeling down. The toolbox is filled with resources that empower me to embrace my wholeness and shine my inner light. I’m sure you have such tools at your disposal, too. Each of us has our own toolbox, though the contents will vary from person to person according to personal preference and what gets the job done. Personally, gratitude is one of my power tools that yields consistently effective and amazing results, and I have many specialized, go-to tools in the mindfulness compartment of my toolbox, as well.

And thank goodness for that because July has been an emotionally tumultuous month here on the Hudson! For example, I took my son (my youngest) to college orientation for incoming freshmen, and it hit me that he really will be going away in less than a month and that I will have an empty nest for real. Not just practice, like when he’s seven minutes away at his dad’s house, but for real. I’ve also been witnessing the decline of a close friend’s mental health and feeling there’s nothing I can do to help. My dad’s physical health is suffering, and another friend is dealing with an alarmingly heavy load that life has served up. 

It’s worthwhile to open our toolbox and do maintenance and improvement on a regular basis because the greatest gift we can give one another is our whole, loving self. It is that wholeness I strive to cultivate so I can give those around me the gift of my best self rather than a smaller version of myself that depends on them providing me with the relief that ultimately comes from me taking personal responsibility and doing the inner work only I can do

But there are times when our energy and resilience are low – perhaps from exhaustion or overwhelm (which can happen when we’re not using our daily maintenance tools) – and encountering a great loss or challenge leaves us feeling needy, vulnerable, and incomplete. We might not even have the strength to open our toolbox and might forget we have a toolbox in the first place.

That’s when a kind and caring communication from someone who truly loves us can make a difference and give us that burst of strength and positivity that makes a difference. So surrounding ourselves with people who are naturally kind, loving, and supportive is a great tool to have in our collection. And it’s important to maintain our toolbox by discarding what doesn’t work for us. Life is too short to waste time sifting through our toolbox to locate useful tools in a pile that includes tools that are broken or never worked for us in the first place, even if others swear by them.

The other night, I felt very sad and lonely. It was an uncomfortable feeling that I realized I probably should sit with even though I wanted to flee from it. I sensed that if I ran from it, it would lodge in my body, whereas if I sat with a witnessing presence, it might dissolve or transform. But the idea of sitting and “being with” the uncomfortable sensations felt daunting. I wanted a distraction to whisk me away from the acute discomfort I was experiencing.

It was a clear indicator that life was offering me a tremendous opportunity for healing and growth…disguised as pain.

And then the image of a water lily came to mind.

White Water Lily-1

I’ve been drawn to water lilies even more than usual lately and have spent hours photographing them on the river. There’s something about their energy and form that speaks to me. So when a water lily appeared in my mind during a moment of acute anguish (aggravated by being overtired), it inspired me with a simple movement that helped me to inhabit my fullness again and expand beyond feeling tattered and diminished. I call it “water lily pose,” and I made my first-ever guided meditation video to share with you. It’s simple and brief, and it’s the newest addition to my spiritual toolbox that can be useful when you are feeling disempowered in the face of personal or world events and long to return to your whole, sparkling self. Water lily medicine.

© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

Water Lily Medicine: A New Tool

Water Lily Medicine: A New Tool

This morning, I woke up to a supportive text from someone who loves and cares deeply about me and realizes it might be a difficult day. I’d awakened early this morning feeling worried about how the day might go but managed to get back to sleep for a couple more hours, and receiving that text, literally within two minutes of waking up for good, made a difference. It was comforting to begin the day knowing that I am not alone and that someone truly cares.

In order to get back to sleep a couple hours earlier, I focused on releasing my thoughts and replacing them with thoughts that brought relief, and I scanned my body to become aware of and release any tension. I told myself it’s okay if I don’t fall asleep and had a Plan B (yoga nidra meditation) if I didn’t. And then I fell asleep and awakened to that wonderful text.

Through half a century of living in this world and being dedicated to personal and spiritual growth, I have developed an well-stocked toolbox to help me regain my sparkle when I’m feeling down. The toolbox is filled with resources that empower me to embrace my wholeness and shine my inner light. I’m sure you have such tools at your disposal, too. Each of us has our own toolbox, though the contents will vary from person to person according to personal preference and what gets the job done. Personally, gratitude is one of my power tools that yields consistently effective and amazing results, and I have many specialized, go-to tools in the mindfulness compartment of my toolbox, as well.

And thank goodness for that because July has been an emotionally tumultuous month here on the Hudson! For example, I took my son (my youngest) to college orientation for incoming freshmen, and it hit me that he really will be going away in less than a month and that I will have an empty nest for real. Not just practice, like when he’s seven minutes away at his dad’s house, but for real. I’ve also been witnessing the decline of a close friend’s mental health and feeling there’s nothing I can do to help. My dad’s physical health is suffering, and another friend is dealing with an alarmingly heavy load that life has served up. 

It’s worthwhile to open our toolbox and do maintenance and improvement on a regular basis because the greatest gift we can give one another is our whole, loving self. It is that wholeness I strive to cultivate so I can give those around me the gift of my best self rather than a smaller version of myself that depends on them providing me with the relief that ultimately comes from me taking personal responsibility and doing the inner work only I can do

But there are times when our energy and resilience are low – perhaps from exhaustion or overwhelm (which can happen when we’re not using our daily maintenance tools) – and encountering a great loss or challenge leaves us feeling needy, vulnerable, and incomplete. We might not even have the strength to open our toolbox and might forget we have a toolbox in the first place.

That’s when a kind and caring communication from someone who truly loves us can make a difference and give us that burst of strength and positivity that makes a difference. So surrounding ourselves with people who are naturally kind, loving, and supportive is a great tool to have in our collection. And it’s important to maintain our toolbox by discarding what doesn’t work for us. Life is too short to waste time sifting through our toolbox to locate useful tools in a pile that includes tools that are broken or never worked for us in the first place, even if others swear by them.

The other night, I felt very sad and lonely. It was an uncomfortable feeling that I realized I probably should sit with even though I wanted to flee from it. I sensed that if I ran from it, it would lodge in my body, whereas if I sat with a witnessing presence, it might dissolve or transform. But the idea of sitting and “being with” the uncomfortable sensations felt daunting. I wanted a distraction to whisk me away from the acute discomfort I was experiencing.

It was a clear indicator that life was offering me a tremendous opportunity for healing and growth…disguised as pain.

And then the image of a water lily came to mind.

White Water Lily-1

I’ve been drawn to water lilies even more than usual lately and have spent hours photographing them on the river. There’s something about their energy and form that speaks to me. So when a water lily appeared in my mind during a moment of acute anguish (aggravated by being overtired), it inspired me with a simple movement that helped me to inhabit my fullness again and expand beyond feeling tattered and diminished. I call it “water lily pose,” and I made my first-ever guided meditation video to share with you. It’s simple and brief, and it’s the newest addition to my spiritual toolbox that can be useful when you are feeling disempowered in the face of personal or world events and long to return to your whole, sparkling self. Water lily medicine.

© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

Two Years Later

Two Years Later

“You let time pass. That’s the cure. You survive the days. You float like a rabid ghost through the weeks. You cry and wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months. And then one day you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun and you close your eyes and lean your head back and you realize you’re okay.”  -Cheryl Strayed

The second anniversary of my mom’s death (or “angelversary”) has come and gone, and although it was a month ago, I want to write about it, to offer a message of hope…because I have found that the difference one year makes borders on miraculous.

The first year was spent mostly recovering from the shock and coming to terms with her absence as the parade of birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions marched on. Year One was like one big, long noooooooo! I was acutely aware of the brevity of life and of everything that felt misaligned in mine. Her first angelversary – actually, the whole month of May 2015 – was brutal! It found me about as downhearted as I’ve ever been in my life, standing at the confluence where a year’s worth of grief, discontent, and confusion in different areas of life converged – for sometimes the tears from big losses give birth to tributaries of thought and action that lead to additional disillusionment, heartache, and letting go, thus complicating the process. The first year felt a little like my mom was away on vacation somewhere, but when the anniversary rolled around, it came with a sense of permanence. It had been a full year, and she wasn’t coming back.

Still spinning from the realization, “Life is short, so do what you love,” the second year was a big time-out for soul-searching and letting go of what no longer seemed to fit. Big things, like leaving my teaching career (which, despite how long it took to muster up the courage, I haven’t regretted for a moment). I decluttered my house and my life to make space for new possibilities and did everything I could to build a foundation for new beginnings. Mercifully, there weren’t any more “first” holidays to get through – although the first member of our family’s newest generation was born in January.

At the beginning of Year Three, my youngest child graduated from high school, and I anticipated that my mom’s absence would be felt at graduation. But it wasn’t so bad after all. I wore my necklace that contains some of her ashes and carried her with me in my heart – as I do every day. In Year Three, I feel ready to resume my life in earnest – albeit a different version than I was living a couple years ago. I have lightened my load, tried a lot of new things, and assumed some new roles. I still don’t know “what’s next” but am at peace with not knowing. I’ve always sensed there was some kind of divine hand involved in the events that transpired following the death of my mother and that important work was being done, no matter how bewildering it appeared on the surface. “Believe in the integrity and value of the jagged path,” advised Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild. Amen to that.

Although I still miss my mom every single day, thank God her second angelversary was nothing like the first. On the actual anniversary, I took it easy. I walked the labyrinth just as I did the day she died, and it felt quite the same. The weather was the same, and feelings of loss and sadness lingered in the humid air. When I stepped out of my car, a bunch of purple irises greeted me, just as they did the day she died. As I walked the labyrinth, two young girls noticed a butterfly right next to my car, which reminded me of when my daughter told me she noticed the first butterfly of the year the day my mom died.

I took a long walk and felt grateful for having such a wonderful mom in my life for as long as I did, for her voice that continues to echo inside my head and heart, for the dreams in which we are together again for a few awesome moments, and for the dear souls who have come into my life as a result of our shared grief. A couple days earlier, I’d found in my dad’s freezer the last remaining bags of strawberries my mom had picked. I visited my dad on the evening of my mom’s angelversary, and we enjoyed strawberry shortcake made with her hand-picked strawberries.

As the sun set, I took another walk and felt strong and peaceful. Strong because now I can handle the grief that threatened to shatter me last year. I can handle my mom being gone, although I really miss talking with her (though sometimes we have conversations in dreams). It occurred to me that a year ago, I wanted nothing more than to feel the way I feel now, and I am immensely grateful for that.

Cheryl Strayed wrote:

“It took me years to take my place among the ten thousand things again. To be the woman my mother raised… I would suffer. I would suffer. I would want things to be different than they were. The wanting was a wilderness and I had to find my own way out of the woods. It took me four years, seven months, and three days to do it. I didn’t know where I was going until I got there.”

I wondered how long it would take to find my way out of the woods. Would it take that long?

When it feels as if your grief will last forever, you have to realize it’s just an illusion, a trick of the light. Something is blocking you from seeing the greater picture and finding hope. Maybe it’s the belief that things should be different. Maybe they’re exactly as they need to be so you can awaken for your highest good. The image that comes to mind is a flower plant underneath an overcast sky in early spring, when winter refuses to relinquish its hold. After several gray days, it seems like the sun will never come out, and spring will never really arrive, and the flower wonders if it will just wither where it is, without having the opportunity to bloom. But the weather can change any moment. The clouds can shift enough for a beam of light to come through. The next day or even in a few hours, the clouds might give way to blue sky and warmer temperatures. You just have to know that it won’t be overcast and wintry forever and trust Divine Timing. Eventually, the clouds will break, the sun will come through, spring will overpower winter, and you will bloom. The wonderful secret is that growth was taking place all along, even when it felt like nothing was happening or that you were going backwards.

My blooming moment was when I realized that what felt like it was going to destroy me and break my heart to pieces no longer felt so big. What a wonderful feeling! Moments of shock and sadness may still arise, but they don’t endure. I’ve found my mom’s voice inside my heart and have learned to look forward to when she appears in my dreams or there’s some kind of wild serendipity or “sign”. I really miss picking up the phone and talking with her. I miss her loving and exuberant energy and the unique light she beamed into this world. But as much as I still miss her physical presence, I feel more deeply connected with her essence.

I’ve learned how to use my breath to breathe over the top of a wave of grief so as not to be overwhelmed by it. I’ve learned to be much more aware of my thoughts and to choose thoughts that are more positive and hopeful. And I’ve practiced leaning in to my feelings and learning what I can from them and watching them dissolve. I’ve learned to face my fears and release what no longer serves me, and to listen to the loving voice inside me that feels like my mom’s essence, or perhaps my Inner Mother, growing stronger. To know that whatever arises, this, too, shall pass. I’ve learned that on days when the wind picks up, and the waves are strong, it’s best to keep things as simple as possible, practice self-compassion and nourishment, and treat myself as my mom would want me to be treated. I’ve learned to cultivate the essence of what I lost, only to realize it was within me all along – and that what was taken from me is a part of me, so I can’t actually lose it in the first place.

Now, when grief-waves arise, they don’t tend to last more than a minute or two. They still crash into me, but they don’t come as often as they did last year, and my recovery time is much quicker. A year later, there is much more space between the waves, and more often than not, when I think of my mom, it is with more gratitude and appreciation than sadness. There is a new a voice in my head and feeling in my heart, and when they arise, I feel closer than ever to my mom’s essence .

Every now and then, it stuns me to realize that she died and that I will never see her again in this lifetime. It strikes me as the most inconceivable reality ever and sends a chill through me. So I have learned to lean in and sit with it, rather than resist or struggle against it. And then the feeling passes. It can’t feel that big for too long because you just can’t live like that! You learn to allow the bitter reality and to have a more accepting relationship with what is – even if only because arguing with reality only compromises your peace of mind and quality of life – and you finally get tired of suffering and decide there must be another way. And in the mercifully expanding spaces between the waves, peace enters in, and you learn the waves will pass. You learn how to let them pass right through you without holding on to them, losing your footing, or running away. You allow yourself to be touched by them, like a cool wave that crashes against your skin when you stand at the edge of the sea. And you learn that who you really are is so much bigger than any loss you can experience in this lifetime.

The point is that the loss gets easier to bear in time. It doesn’t mean that love has gone anywhere or diminished. It just means you’re able to pass through to the other side and grow. And that’s actually quite wondrous.

When someone leaves, holding on and carrying the weight of grief isn’t something we need to do in order to prove our love for them. There are so many other, less self-destructive ways to continue loving a person. But sometimes grief sets other dominoes in motion, and the waves get bigger until you become tired of suffering for real. And then an inner voice arises and asks: Do you really want to do this work? Do you really want to give up suffering? Do you want to transform your life into something higher? And if you answer yes, then you have to love yourself enough to break the habits that cause suffering, beginning with the thoughts you allow to take root in your mind. You realize you have a choice in the first place and choose thoughts that bring relief rather than suffering. Or at least, that’s the radical and empowering transformation my grief produced, and I am ever so grateful because it has set me free from so much more than grieving the loss of my mother. It applies to everything – which is some serious blooming.

If you are grieving, please know that no matter how much it hurts now, you are going to find your way to the other side of this grief. I don’t know how or when, but time is your friend. For me, it’s been a jagged path, but whatever it takes, thank God for it because what I feel now is night and day from what I felt then. The anguish that came with the reality that I would never see my mom again in this life has evolved into feeling more connected with her than ever. Finding her anywhere.

And sometimes jagged paths make the most interesting and inspiring stories. I’ve been living and writing mine for the past two years so far and feel certain that someday I’ll be able to place it within a context that will make more sense. But that time is not now. And that is okay.

© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

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