Peace

We’re all searching for peace in some way but what does that mean?…

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What is peace?

We’re all searching for peace in some way but what does that mean? When we look around we don’t see peace offered up like a commodity. We can’t buy it in a store. There are no peace vendors, so to speak. So, how do we acquire this ethereal concept that we all want but can’t touch?

Most of the time peace is defined by the use of negation. In other words, what peace is not. Peace is the absence of war and violence. Peace is freedom from disturbances; from antagonism, antipathy, enmity, hatred, hostility, unfriendliness, alienation, breach, divorce, estrangement, rupture, schism, scission, severance, dissent, dissidence, anarchy, disorder, disturbance, strife, turmoil… all things that peace is not.

But peace can be defined by affirmative qualities, too. Harmony, compatibleness, unity, cohesiveness, affinity, serenity, empathy, connection, tranquility, sweetness, empathy, understanding, love… factors that are peaceful or that lend themselves to a peaceful state of being.

Peace is a state of being.

Peace remains an ethereal quality. But it is dependent on certain factors. Truth, non-harming (ahimsa), compassion, empathy, harmony, all formless qualities, yet they are absolutely necessary in the formation of being a peaceful soul. And this is where we hit the nail on the head. Peace is an inner quality. In the end, there is truly no place to find peace except within one’s self.

While peace remains formless, non-peace can take on physical qualities. Dis-harmony brings about tension, stress, loneliness, anger, hostility, disease, all qualities that mire us with outward, mental anguish. And these manifest physically; we turn to drugs, alcohol, unhealthy eating habits, excessive shopping, inappropriate sexual behavior… we are negligent of our bodies, our vehicles, all physical things we use in an attempt to substitute for our general dis-harmoniousness. When we are disharmonious there is no space to explore our inner being, so we turn to external, physical ‘remedies.’

It has well been said many times by great advocates of peace that peace can’t be bought, nor brokered. It can’t be negotiated or contracted. Peace isn’t something you vote for. Peace is ONLY an inner quality of being. And I think peace is only attainable when we learn to live in a state of AWE. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said it all:

“If you are not in AWE you are not paying attention.”

Our souls are mired in the everyday experience. We completely loose sight of the miracle of our existence. Our separateness conditioning is the chain that binds us to our physical form. We seem to forget that life on earth is the only life we have found in the universe (to date). We look upon life as commonplace and we find no peace in that. We find peace when we pay attention!

Meditation is a door opener to peace. In the practice of pratyahara, we withdraw our physical senses from our immediate attention so that we might bring awareness to the qualities that foster inner peace. Meditation is about heightened awareness. It’s NOT naptime. We develop a state of awe. We recognize the miracle of our existence and we tap into the infinite, the timeless. We make peace with life, with the universe.

Because we are a part of this universe, by the definition of Unity, singularity, we always have been and we always will be.

Our being began as a spark in the ‘big bang.’ Everything emanated from that singular impetus. It’s comforting to know that the universe and we are one. Life is not just biological. The universe is life. We are universal beings. And we are peace.

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Follow Your Heart

When I was a teenager I remember someone told me, ‘not to follow my heart.’ This person was…

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When I was a teenager I remember someone told me, ‘not to follow my heart.’ This person was talking about love relationships and how our unbridled passions can perhaps lead us down the wrong path. It struck me as funny then, and now, that we blame our hearts. I have always felt that my heart is the place where love and truth reside. Maybe this person should have told me, ‘not to follow my ego.’

Our Ego is Unbridled Passion

Our ego (mind/body) reacts to stimulation from our senses and then makes suggestions… powerful suggestions; do this, do that. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Our ego drives us to action. But our ego doesn’t care much whether the action is appropriate, or not. At times, our bodies scream at us to act: to buy this, to eat that, to drink this, to have indiscriminate sex, to create recklessly… At other times our ego compels us to NOT act; to resist growth, to be fearful of change, to doubt ourselves, to be uncompassionate, to be irresponsible…

Forested Road

The heart drives the discriminatory function. If you take the time to look, you will find that your heart knows what is truth, what is good, what is honorable, what is appropriate, what is love. The heart is the center of the will and the will is what ultimately controls the ego. Or it doesn’t. How many times have you cringed after some act that you knew you should not have done, but did it anyway? How many times have you thought, “I can’t believe I just did that?” How many times have you thought, “I can’t believe I’m still in this job” or “this situation?” You’ve ignored your heart.

‘The will is strong but the flesh is stronger…’ (Paraphrase from Bible, Matthew 26-41)

Look to your heart. Don’t be afraid. Be strong. Don’t give in to the tempting ego. Let your heart be your guide, literally! When I walk into a room the first thing I want people to perceive is my heart. Not my clothes, my car, my wallet, my personality…

Project Your Heart

We recently interviewed Aubry Wilcher, a social media phenomena about her incredible life change (Aubry Marie on InstaGram). She worked for Apple for about six years and had a promising career. But then she decided to take a leap and follow her heart-bridled passion, yoga and meditation. Her family and friends thought she was crazy. But her heart got a hold of the doubting, fear inducing ego. She quit her job and embarked on a new path. She now has over 200,000 InstaGram followers and is a leading ‘influencer’ in the yoga industry.

Her message: Don’t be afraid to quit what doesn’t serve your heart in this life. Do what your heart loves. Don’t be afraid to fail… keep trying and keep growing…

The seven deadly sins are all ego-driven. The seven virtues are all heart-driven. Our heart has the only power over the ego. Our heart knows truth, compassion and love. Our ego will ‘lie’ to us. Our ego will relentlessly steer us toward maya, illusion, to keep us from living our ‘heart’s desire. Don’t let this be you. Follow your heart!

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The Benefits of Singing in a Group: How Kirtan Affects the Immune System

Did you know that singing, especially in a choral setting like Kirtan, boosts the immune system?…

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Did you know that singing, especially in a choral setting like Kirtan, boosts the immune system? Numerous resent studies (also: google, singing+immune) suggest that singing in a group setting reduces the body’s production of the hormone cortisol, a hormone released during periods of stress or anxiety and which can cause systemic inflammations, effecting the optimal function of the body’s natural immune system and overall health. Further, studies show that singing promotes increases in cytokines, proteins of the immune system which enhance the body’s ability to fight serious disease.

Most of the studies revolve around cancer patients who are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety coping with their ailments. Researchers found a number of changes in hormones, immune proteins, neuropeptides and receptors. Those with the highest levels of stress, anxiety and depression were seen to have the greatest overall benefits from singing in a group setting.

But let’s not think that only someone who is seriously infirm will benefit from choral singing (Kirtan). Taking good care of our immune systems will have long-term benefits for our overall health. In fact, biological evidence suggests that choral singing can have a whole range of social, emotional and psychological advantages to health.

The Icebreaker Effect

On a social level, studies have shown that singing in a group setting (vs. non-singing creative group activities like crafts or creative writing) produced the quickest social bonding among participants. The other non-singing groups eventually caught up in terms of bonding, but singing tended to bond the participants more quickly. The created connection through singing in a group is quick and strong. We can draw on each other’s energy in the choral setting to amplify our positive immune response more quickly.

Smilin Tom

I find this interesting because singing is considered somewhat extraordinary in our culture, whereby only those with talent, training or some ‘gift’ should participate. It seems to be socially acceptable, ‘not to sing.’ In fact, those who claim to be non-singers are the majority. So it might be said that our culture is somewhat ‘anti-singing.’ We even ridicule ‘average’ singers who express themselves (think karaoke). Not very good for our immune systems.

The emotions invoked through singing and music are as numerous as there are musicians. Exposure to a range of emotions through singing and music can enable us to seek out the pleasurable and beneficial emotions and to build on them within: compassion, joy, peace, generosity, forgiveness… immune system builders.

Psychologically, people listen to music to regulate arousal and mood, to achieve self-awareness, and as an expression of social relatedness. All of these motivations are valid immune system builders. Controlling our mind and emotions, uplifting our awareness and being connected to one another surely benefits our overall health.

A Musical Vitamin

Choral singing (Kirtan) has been demonstrated to have positive benefits on our overall psychological and physical wellbeing. But don’t think that you have to be sick to benefit. On the contrary, singing in a group is like taking a vitamin.

Give yourself an immune system boost! Come sing with us.

Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan. San Diego’s ONLY weekly Kirtan practice. Thursday’s at 8:30pm at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio. 3301 Adams Avenue, 92116

See the master schedule for Kirtan, Mindfulness, Meditation and Pranayama classes, and of course, over 80 yoga classes each week.

Here is one of our favorite videos from last year, the traditional Om Asatoma Sadgamaya. You can also find this and many others on our album Jai Ram Sita Ram available on iTunes and CDBaby.

Happy Holidays.

Tom

 

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Simple Living, Through Simple Wakefulness

Lets face it, the act of waking up in the morning is not uncommonly experienced as an uncomfortable thing…

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by Greg Steorts

Lets face it, the act of waking up in the morning is not uncommonly experienced as an uncomfortable thing. Those among us who find it to be a generally easy thing to bounce out of bed like an energized toddler on Christmas morning, might be in the minority. But the form of ‘wakefulness’ this essay is about, is not actually the sort I reference above, though the above example serves as a fitting metaphor for the brand of wakefulness I’ll address here. ‘Wakefulness’ as I intend to mean it here, is being defined as a product or result of employing one’s own capacity for calm critical thinking, mindful observation and one’s own capacity to simply feel. While these may at first sound like simple things, a great many of us have allowed these capacities to atrophy in ourselves, to one degree or another, and I propose that modern culture in the developed world has become a key factor in the facilitating of our inability these days to simply stop and take occasional conscious notice of the otherwise unbroken chain of moments of which our lives are comprised.

Little Room for Individual Interpretation

We have become, in a very real sense, products of the culture in which we live; where dominant social and environmental prompts shape our general responses to the stimuli around us. The official definitions of things and how we’re ‘supposed’ to relate to them, is so often laid out for us in bold type and prominent voice, leaving little room for individual interpretation; at least the sort that might be granted mainstream credibility. Media input offers itself as a prime example of this. It masterfully short-circuits the individual’s own inclination to draw their own conclusions, both boldly and subtly laying-out the parameters within which the subject, article or position is being slickly sold to us. Culture’s architects, (e.g. Madison Avenue, all facets of mainstream media; peddlers of information, social memes and pop entertainments, et al), are best served by a populace that unquestioningly partakes of, and assimilates its manufactured concepts and wares with little to no consideration as to both the overtly and passively inferred philosophies or positions within which they are framed. Culture’s main thrust, after all, is to encourage us to climb onboard the ‘ride du jour,’ whatever it may be, for this is what keeps the wheels of industry rolling.

Disdain of Culture’s Offered Trends

The space of wakefulness I refer to here, and the appreciation for the simplicity it can ultimately spawn, is not one that requires any disdain of culture’s offered trends, products or promoted philosophies, but rather only the presence of mind to simply allow one’s conscious awareness in relationship to them, to reside within the deepest recesses of their own moment-to-moment space of feeling, independent of culture’s peddled stimuli, medications, and all manner of distractions and ‘anesthesias’ (figurative and literal) which serve to pull us away from our own sense of self within the hive society. The ‘simplicity through wakefulness’ I’m speaking of here, is one achieved by the act of simply being willing to unplug occasionally (or better yet, regularly) from culture’s ceaseless flow of stimulus, long enough to allow oneself to truly feel whatever it is that may lie beneath the stratums of content culture so eagerly fills our minds and heart space with. For many of us, even the notion of a ‘heart space’ may ring as something too esoteric to be meaningful, so long have we been disconnected from it by our longstanding immersions into the sensory stimulations to which I refer. The ceaseless and torrential flow of input has become a boisterous child that will not be ignored, we its negligent and enabling parents. Living in the ‘information age,’ as we now do, with technology and its devices serving as the virtual hub upon which our day-to-day lives spin, it has effectively served to dislocate us from a more visceral, human-to-human connection, from our own sense of individualism, as well as a lack of connection to oneself.

Meditators

Sitting Quietly with Do Distractions

No doubt about it, it is not fun to feel uncomfortable emotions, and it is always an easy thing to bury a low-current hum of discomfort with the distraction of a movie, a phone call, a video game, or to check-in with our online social network of choice to see how many people ‘like’ us. Sitting quietly with no distractions has become an alien concept for us, and the notion of simplicity too has become a thing of virtually no relevance. The rapid-fire images of TV programming, commercials and film content, have entrained our minds to overlook, even shun, the simple and uncomplicated, in favor of that which grabs attention with authority. It has become all too easy to look right past open spaces and the relevance of calm reflection. Take notice of how every television commercial and program utilizes an almost universal presentational format; a rapid-fire-flow of incessantly-shifting images. Gone is the camera’s lingering gaze upon the talking head or scenery. Instead we are confronted with flash-fire images that linger for no more than a second or two, and then make way for the next, and the next,… this is nothing less than mental entrainment, teaching us to expect and tolerate only quick sound bytes and millisecond images, to forego focused and prolonged attention on anything or anyone.

Instant Gratification and Perpetual Stimulus Now

We seek instant gratification and perpetual stimulus now, and if we have to spend even a few moments with ourselves and our deeper undercurrent of emotions in a space of quiet, it is considered a nearly intolerable thing, though few bother to articulate this, for to do so would require the lost mindfulness I here refer to. What would we do with ourselves if we didn’t have our phone screens to gaze into while standing at a street corner waiting for the light to change, or wandering a shopping mall, or riding an elevator? We’ve allowed ourselves to become trained to loathe a calm space of mind. I can palpably feel the cashier’s frustration in the air, as he or she is forced to stall their own motion and wait for me to count out my change, preferring instead to simply add more to my already burdening collection of coinage and have me move on so that they may serve the next in line.

Mind you, I don’t speak as one completely liberated from a state of impatience, for I feel it on the road when I am driving; too frequently hostile to the notion of simply being patient with the person ahead of me who I deem ‘too slow’ in the executing of their turn. I know what it’s like to feel in a hurry for no good reason, to feel those uncomfortable feelings of an unspecified nature and want to cover them over with a moment’s distraction. But I have grown even more uncomfortable with the frenetic vibration our culture imposes upon us as a fact of life now, and I clearly recognize the dissonance this flood of sensory stimuli is causing us in our ability to simple be, without doing, to actually listen to the person who is talking to us, rather than merely prepping our next words in our minds as they speak.

Plant Light

The Regular Practice of Meditation

I’ve taken to the regular practice of meditation over the last few months, and in so doing have gained a stark awareness of the connection between an endlessly whirring mind and the emotional state of dis-ease to which it gives birth. I have come to appreciate the spaces in between the stimuli, the capacity to become present to the silence in which all noise resides; that universal context within which all of life unfolds.
Take a moment and truly listen to it, deeply. You might have to search at first, but it is there. Can you hear it? You will recognize it because it has its own sound; not dissimilar to the super ultra-high-pitched tonal frequency heard in those hearing tests we’ve taken. Now become aware of your breathing, allowing yourself as you do, to get in touch with the feeling within your own body; it’s aches and pains, its fatigue and weight, its pockets of stress or muscular constriction and where they reside in your physicality. Keep breathing as you explore it; deeply, slowly. Just observe the incessant flow of random thoughts parading through your mind as you do this, but just let them all pass by, without clinging to any of them. Now feel your emotional space. If you had to articulate where in your body its epicenter resides, where would you point to? Are you feeling relaxed, or is there a current of anxiety there? Breathe as you feel this. Allow yourself to truly feel your inner space of being. Let whatever is there move through you with your every breathe, taking conscious note of what it is like to feel. I promise, it won’t destroy you. In fact, it will relax you, and it will release you from the grip of stress if you do allow yourself to feel it. Practice this regularly, and you will notice your points of focus and priorities start to shift, in both subtle and profound ways. You will become aware of how certain stimulus informs your emotional state, and if you remain committed to exploring those inner spaces of thought, feeling and emotion, you will regain your appreciation of calm space and simplicity again, and you will learn to appreciate your own individual sense of self that’s likely been buried beneath the vibratory resonance of the ‘bee hive’ – that virtually incessant voice of modern culture. What I am inviting you to here, is a process of exploration, not a singular event. So be patient with it, and remember; none of culture’s stimulus is going with you when you depart this world, but it’s possible that your sense of self just might.

G.

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Karma

“My own gratitude heart is all that matters.” — Sri Chinmoy

When we meditate we create a surface upon which we can build…

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Karma

“My own gratitude heart is all that matters.” — Sri Chinmoy

When we meditate we create a surface upon which we can build a platform of stability, where gratitude and compassion can be the grounding sources of our causalities.

I’ve been thinking about Karma and it’s meaning. In simple terms, Karma is the law of cause and effect. Our causes (thought, word, deed) have effects on others (positively or negatively). Those causes we create are ‘recorded’ on our personal ledgers, so to speak, and we are responsible for the effects.

What we do after we create a cause is important.

But Karma should not be regarded only by the effect our causes have on others. More importantly perhaps, karma should be regarded as the effect our causes have on ourselves. Common references to this concept include: ‘An eye for an eye,’ ‘Live by the sword, die by the sword,’ ‘What goes around comes around.’

Dominos

I’ve developed a personal mantra:

The only thing in the entire universe that truly matters is my own personal ledger.

Karma is what we have done to ourselves. Karma is ‘Life-Lesson’. Every day we have to deal with the effects created by others. How we deal is our own. Our response creates good or bad Karma for ourselves. But the causality belongs to someone else, in this case.

But when we create a ‘cause’ the responsibility is all on us. It goes on our ledger.
(Our response to the effects of other’s causalities goes on our ledger, too.) Our ledger contains our causes and our response to causes created by others.

Wayne Dyer Quote

50,000 years from now the only thing that will have mattered is our own life’s record. Everyone that we have ever helped or hurt will be dead. Nothing will have mattered to anyone. Only your own life’s record will matter. And it only matters to you.

What’s on your ledger?

Is your record black… or red… or is it the purity of white? I’ve found that in this life there are but a few lines, which once crossed, cannot be uncrossed. We have the capacity to fix our wrongs. We can correct the karmic influence. We can rewrite our ledger… mostly. We can take responsibility. We can do better. We can learn and grow. We can create the causality of repair. We can move forward in a positive, compassionate manner from this point forward, while we work on our past discrepancies. We can apologize. We can forgive… We can forgive ourselves!

It can be rightfully said that we are in control of our life experiences. We have the capacity to choose: to choose to create with compassion and gratitude and to respond with compassion and gratitude. No one can influence our choice. It’s up to us. We may find ourselves in less than desirable circumstances; circumstance beyond our control. But how we respond affects our karma, our ledger.

I try to consciously remember the truly miraculous nature of life. We are so distracted by the attraction to form, to stuff. We literally identify ourselves with our possessions, rather than our heart, the place where discernment lives. Our lives are true miracles. We’ve lost sight of the miracle. We are more than just the memory of our bygone possessions. We are miracles beyond the capacity of our language to define. Life is a miracle! It’s not commonplace! We are still the ONLY life that we have positively identified in the universe (conspiracy theories, not withstanding). That realization should generate a degree of gratitude. In fact,

“My own gratitude heart is ALL that matters.” —Sri Chinmoy

Coming from a place of gratitude and compassion for our miracle-life enables us to create peaceful, loving causes. Gratitude enables us to respond positively even to negative causality. And it gives us the insight to go within ourselves and correct our causal mistakes.

Open your ledger. Look carefully… and be constantly aware…

Pilgrimage of the Heart offers Pranayama with Lauren, Mindfulness with Joe, Meditation with Sujantra, Papaha and Astika and Kirtan (chanting) with Tom, Sujantra, Sita Rose and ‘Fast Heart Mart’ every week. Check the schedule for times and dates.

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Running 3100 Miles for Inner Peace

The Self-Transcendence 3100-Mile Race is held annually on a concrete footpath around an 883-metre block…

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Running 3100 Miles for Inner Peace

An Interview with Grahak Cunningham from Australia by Sujantra

 

The Self-Transcendence 3100-Mile Race is held annually on a concrete footpath around an 883-metre block in Queens, New York. Founded by Sri Chinmoy, it is the world’s longest foot race. Runners are given 18 hours a day, from 6:00 a.m. to midnight, for 51 days, to run a minimum of 60 miles a day to complete the distance. Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga asked Australian motivational speaker, author and four time finisher of the Self Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, Grahak Cunningham, three questions.

grahak1
 

Why do you run in this event it?

I often ask myself the same question when I am having a difficult day! My running career up to the 3100 was pretty uneventful. I started running when I was 19. I progressed from shorter distances to ten-kilometre races to half-marathon and marathon events. I entered my first ultra on a whim (47 miles) in 2005 aged 28, which was the day after I had done a marathon. It wasn’t easy but after finishing I started to think about multi-day running.

“If we have self-belief we can do anything provided we put our heart and soul into it.”

I heard about the 3100 and watched a friend finish. Inspired, I knew I had to do it one day and consoled myself with the ridiculous thought ‘I did a 47 mile race and a marathon the next day. If I had to I could probably do that all over again, across a number of days.’ I basically shelved the idea of running the 3100 but then Sri Chinmoy, perhaps noticing my interest inwardly to do the race, asked me a few times if I had run the 3100. When a Master asks something like that he is doing a few things: indicating you have the capacity, suggesting you would benefit tremendously spiritually if you do it and of course helping you inwardly every step of the way if you do decide to compete. I prepared, planned, trained and entered at age 30. Finishing the race was a real turning point in my life. It showed me that it really is possible to go beyond our limits—if we just try. I think if we have self-belief we can do anything provided we put our heart and soul into it.

grahak2
 

Do you do Yoga?

I do a lot of breathing, meditation and visualization techniques in the race so that for me is yoga. Often the runners will do different Asana’s to stretch, de-stress or get rid of tightness and soreness. Inspired by them I did try it more and more. I am actually injured at the moment so I have taken it up seriously. I love it and despite being injured, yoga has made me probably the most flexible I have ever been. My favorites are the shoulder stand, head stand and cobra to dog.

You have written a book, Running Beyond the Marathon. Can you tell us about the book?

The book aims to share some of the things I have learnt along the way to completing the 3100 mile race four times. The book helps show the connection to the spiritual and the physical and meditation and running. Hopefully it illustrates to the reader that we can achieve anything in life. Here is an excerpt: “Life itself is a challenge and no achievement worth striving for, whether it is athletic, career-based or personal, is going to come easily to anyone. First we have to work hard and only then can we get the reward and the feeling of achievement that comes with it. If life were easy, if we were handed everything on a silver platter, there wouldn’t be the same sense of satisfaction.

“It is not human nature
To enjoy what we get
With no effort.”
-Sri Chinmoy

 
Completing 3100 miles on foot is tough. To cover the immense distance, to conquer negative thoughts, pain, doubts and despair, takes inner fortitude and a desire to extend yourself. You have to willingly go outside your comfort zone and do whatever it takes to keep moving forward. The Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, for those who want it to be, is a spiritual journey of self-discovery, of reaching towards our limitless potential.

grahak3
 
Every step was taking me closer and closer towards my goal. The feeling I got from bettering and improving myself, reaching miles way beyond my previous personal best, far outweighed the physical and mental difficulties I faced. Soldiering forwards through days five and six my overall total was 342 miles. An average well below what I needed to finish. It had been a hard slog to get to the start. The hours of preparation and thousands of kilometres training maybe wasn’t enough.”

Thanks for talking to us today Grahak, your adventures are a real inspiration!
 
beyond_marathonOne of Australia’s best motivational speakers, keynote speakers and performance trainers, Perth resident Grahak Cunningham is an ordinary Australian who dared to dream. He book Running Beyond the Marathon is available on Amazon.com.

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