Lama Tsomo: Finding the Ocean of Joy: Tibetan Buddhist Practice for Westerners

    —
July 11, 2016
Podcast

Insights at the Edge

Lama Tsomo: Finding the Ocean of Joy: Tibetan Buddhist Practice for Westerners

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Lama Tsomo—born Linda Pritzker—is an author, teacher, and ordained holder of the Namchak Buddhist lineage of Tibet. She’s the cofounder of the Namchak Foundation and the author of two books: The Princess Who Wept Pearls: The Feminine Journey in Fairytales and Why Is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling?: A Westerner’s Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Lama Tsomo and Tami Simon speak about her teacher Gochen Tulku Sangak Rinpoche and what he has to say about karma, taking responsibility for our lives, and transforming resentment. They also discuss the science of visualization practice and how recent discoveries in quantum physics support key aspects of Buddhist philosophy. Finally, Tami and Lama Tsomo talk about motivation on the spiritual path and how clarifying that motivation can lead to lasting happiness.
(67 minutes)

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Coming Awake to Your Projections and Loving Yourself

Coming Awake Loving Yourself Header Image

When I was in my twenties, I noticed something odd.

Hanging out with my more conservative friends often meant that I’d be called out for my hippie tendencies. What was more, I found myself being swept along by the current of their opinion; I felt like a hippie around them. Because of that, I wound up falling into more “hippie-like” behavior.

With my more bohemian friends, though, I was referred to as The Conservative. And with them, I felt and acted more conventional. It was simply easy to fulfill their expectations. “What gives?” I thought. “I’ve been the same person this whole time!”

I wanted so much for everyone to just see me. What a painful and lonely feeling.

I wanted so much for everyone to just see me.

This phenomenon—being mistakenly and reductively typecast­—wasn’t just happening with my friends. It was happening with my husband. It was happening with my family members. And, it was happening within my own mind.

This kind of thing can make knowing and loving yourself a bit confusing.

WHAT IS PROJECTION?

Over time, I’ve come to realize that humans are constantly projecting. People I don’t know very well, my closest friends, my family members, co-workers… everybody does it. This can include assumptions, expectations, stereotypes, attributes, simplifications, unrealistic positives and negatives, and so on.

Have you ever noticed something like that happening to you?

Perhaps, as a woman, you’ve been treated like you’re not as smart or capable as you actually are. Maybe you’ve been feared as a man, seen as more aggressive than you actually are.

Perhaps someone treated you as a doormat when you’re not. Maybe someone thought you had more patience or expertise than you do. It’s possible and common to experience different—even opposite—projections coming from different people.

I’m uncomfortable with negative projections, but I’m uncomfortable with the positive ones, too. Because neither are the real me. At least, not what I believe to be the real me. And they certainly don’t include the whole picture.

Another thing: I’ve noticed that when someone makes a strong projection on me, no matter what I do, I just seem to confirm what they’re already projecting.

Through it all, I still just want to be seen.

By now I’m thinking of that famous saying, “Everyone’s crazy but thee and me. And sometimes I wonder about thee!” We’re thinking it’s everyone else who’s projecting like mad. Um, how about you and me?

Yuck. Is there a way out of this?

COMING AWAKE IN WESTERN THOUGHT

Coming Awake Loving Yourself Western

Let’s start with a look at how some in the West work with projection.

Psychoanalyst and spiritual explorer Carl Jung (1875-1961) had some very helpful things to say on this. He explored the idea that we all have some version of all characteristics and characters—both positive and negative—floating around inside of us, somewhere. And, for one reason or another, there are some we aren’t able to see in ourselves.

As our personalities form, we take some of those characters and consciously identify with them: I’m a savior/warrior. I’m the class cut-up. I’m a geek. I’m a bad boy. I’m the nurturing father. I’m the dependable one.

The qualities we’ve set out in the sunshine, for all others to see, get the chance to develop nicely. How lovely for them. But what about all of the other qualities and characters that we aren’t claiming with our conscious mind?

They’re underground—in the basement.

The ones we really don’t want to claim, we do our best to keep in that dank, dark basement.

Instead of getting a chance to develop and mature, our unclaimed characteristics just kind of… fester. They get frustrated and funky. And trust me—they don’t stay obediently in the basement forever.

COMMUNICATING WITH OUR UNCONSCIOUS

We’re the last to be conscious of our own unconscious. There’s a bumper sticker for you! 

Jung popularized the concepts of dream interpretation and something called active imagination to try to coax our unclaimed natures into our conscious mind.

I was lucky enough to go to a Jungian Analyst who, borrowing from Fritz Perls’ Gestalt work, had me sit in another chair and become some disowned part of myself. I then went back and forth between the two chairs, having a conversation.

I found this approach extremely clarifying and helpful. I immediately tried it out with a client who had a terrible procrastination problem.

I had her go back and forth between two chairs: one was like her older sister, whom she saw as overbearing, and the other was like her more childish self. The two had a rousing debate over what she should do with her weekend—party or study. Each of them passionately insisted they had her best interests at heart. They were both right.

Then, I had her sit in the middle and be the peacemaker. She got her dissonant selves to forge a deal to alternate between partying and studying.

All of this was a revelation to her. She had identified only with the fun-loving gal. Then, in desperate moments, her other side would come out of the basement and become a crazed slavedriver. Through this conversation, she found that she could make a clear plan to have a balanced, happy weekend that didn’t jeopardize either her happiness or her grade point average. And it expanded her identity, her sense of herself. Her view of her older sister changed, too.

COMMUNICATING WITH OUR LOVED ONES

Here’s another idea. It goes something like this: We admit that we’re all projecting on each other all the time, and we’re each the last to know we’re doing it.

Usually, the projectee knows way sooner than the projector. So let’s make a deal: If you gently tell me what you’re perceiving (hopefully with specific examples, because I’ll probably be clueless), I’ll do the same for you.

We both give each other permission to do this. We both learn how to do it with skill and kindness.

Note that this approach works for both parties. The projector can let us know what they’re seeing; the projectee can share what they think the projector might be inaccurately (or incompletely, and certainly unintentionally) projecting onto them. And vice versa.

Imagine if, alongside doing the inner work, we all helped one another, too. We might get better and better at knowing ourselves—both the good and bad—and begin to take back our natures as a simple consequence of self-love and acceptance.

COMING AWAKE IN EASTERN THOUGHT

Coming Awake Loving Yourself EasternThe array of Tibetan practices offer a myriad of profound tools. These help us take our characters out of the basement and bring them into their fullest, most highly developed forms.

There are, for example, the One Hundred Peaceful and Wrathful Deities, as well as practices involving various enlightened masters. Each is an image of an archetype—a facet or principle of reality. Being principles of reality, these archetypes are all everywhere, including in each of us.

An archetype is like one of those snowflake stencils many of us created as kids by making little cuts in a piece of paper. You spray paint through it and when you take it away, voilá, a snowflake you can make again and again.

Once you use the stencil, you just see the painted snowflake. Jungians like to use the metaphor of a magnet hidden under a piece of paper that has iron filings on it. As you move the hidden magnet, it draws the filings into different shapes. We see only the shapes of the filings, not the magnet.

COMMUNICATING WITH ARCHETYPES: THE GREAT MOTHER

Let’s take the Great Mother archetype. 

In Tibetan practice, both men and women practice Green Tara. They invoke that principle from outside, and evoke it from the inside.

Since we have trouble relating to the pure unseen principle/archetype, we use image (a beautiful green lady), archetypal sound (mantra), and even smell (incense).

Coming Awake Green Tara

Image courtesy of Osel Shen Phen Ling: www.fpmt-osel.org.

We all tend to have internal conversations and dramas with people. But in this case, the setup for our connection with Green Tara is perfectly designed to give us a much more profound, powerful, and enlightened experience than, say, imagining calling our earthly mom on the phone.

Though our mom is just a human being, with faults and foibles, Green Tara is the image that naturally evokes the perfect facet of enlightened mind that is the essence of the mother principle.

The classic progression is that we consciously project Tara out from our hearts, where Tibetan Buddhists believe our mind mainly resides. We project her above us, seeing her clearly in our mind’s eye. 

We do this by inviting her, welcoming her, asking her to sit, offering her water, flowers. Then we say the mantra associated with her: Om tarey tuttarey turey soha.

Often we then imagine her descending into us, dissolving into us, becoming indistinguishable from us. We emerge as Tara ourselves, grounding ever more strongly in the owning of that pure archetype.

COMMUNICATING WITH ARCHETYPES: HAYAGRIVA

Let’s take Fred, for an imaginary example. He thinks of himself as a Mr. Nice Guy.

This means that when people want to walk all over him, he doesn’t have the wherewithal, in his conscious array of characters, to assert himself. His Tough Guy or Warrior is in the basement. It’s been lurking there all his life, and isn’t very presentable, as a result.

Whenever Fred gets cornered he suddenly bites the person’s head off … then regrets it later, and may not even get what he needs. Martha Beck refers to this as an “exploding doormat.”

Fred might do well to practice Hayagriva, a fierce, enlightened being of a class known as protectors. They can act with great ferocity, but always with wisdom and compassion.

Coming Awake Hayagriva 2

Magdalena Rehova / Alamy Stock Photo

If Fred were to inhabit Hayagriva the way we talked of inhabiting/owning Tara, he would find his way to the pure essence of that murky, funky character who popped out when he exploded. Once he’d spent time owning and inhabiting Hayagriva Fred is much more likely to skillfully, kindly, and firmly ward off people walking all over him.

Whether it’s a peaceful one like Tara or a more wrathful one like Hayagriva, we must fully own the archetype. It has gone from something we can’t see or feel, to a pure presence that we fully identify with.

COMMUNICATING WITH OURSELVES

Over time, as we get used to owning these presences consciously, we have little need to project it onto someone else. And in owning this purer form, we can often bring forth those qualities in everyday life. They’re much more at our fingertips.

In Tibetan Buddhist deity practice, the goal is to take us from our usual, banal and confused state, to dak-nang, or pure vision—seeing things as they really are.

Imagine if everyone did such well-honed practices, on a lot of different deities. I believe we would then be able to take the various characters out of our basements, develop them, and “play” them in various moments in life.

Playing with a full deck, you might say!

A CULTURE COMING AWAKE

Coming Awake Ocean Culture

Reality is a vast, perfect ocean that loves to create ever-changing waves and play with them. This ocean is bursting, overflowing with love and joy. But most of us waves don’t see it that way.

The essential intent of the Buddha is to use practices to wake ourselves from the dream/trance we find ourselves in. “Buddha” means one who is awake.

We don’t realize that we’re not just a wave, but made of ocean. We are all both wave and ocean.

COMMUNICATING WITH LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE

Imagine if a critical mass of people became fluent in these skills and capacities, bringing us closer together in camaraderie rather than causing us to build walls of protection and projection against each other.

Imagine less of a need to blame others for our own issues. Less excuses to act snotty and selfish and ignorant and even rageful. How different this world would be.

I believe this is something we all must do to solve the problems that now threaten our happiness and our very existence. We must progress from the swarm of projections, both societal and personal, which cause such pain, to really seeing each other.

Then we could all relax our defenses—because those projections feel terrible—and we could work together to solve the dire problems we’re all actually facing together.

Beyond even that, we’d find that human relations can be much simpler than we thought! They can feel deeply connected, warm, and delicious. We can be seen in our full light.

* * *

In our Namchak Learning Circles, we encourage people to awaken to their unconscious selves. We offer a weekend training in working on projections, in which we learn not only about projections but about how to work compassionately and skillfully to talk about them with each other. As you have probably gathered, that last part is important!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lama Tsomo Author Photo

Lama Tsomo is a spiritual teacher, author and co-founder of the Namchak Foundation and Namchak Retreat Ranch

Born Linda Pritzker, Lama Tsomo followed a path of spiritual inquiry and study that ultimately led to her ordination as one of the few female American lamas in Tibetan Buddhism. 

Today, she works to share the teachings of the Namchak tradition, a branch of Tibetan Buddhism. Utilizing her psychology background, Lama Tsomo works to make it easier for Westerners to bridge contemplative practice and modern life. She is particularly passionate about reaching young people and supporting those working for positive social change. 

Fascinated by science from an early age, Lama Tsomo’s teachings often reference the science behind meditation and the proven neurological impact. She holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology and is the author of Why Is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling? An Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice and co-author of The Lotus & the Rose: A Conversation Between Tibetan Buddhism & Mystical Christianity.

Lama Tsomo: Finding the Ocean of Joy: Tibetan Buddhist...

Lama Tsomo—born Linda Pritzker—is an author, teacher, and ordained holder of the Namchak Buddhist lineage of Tibet. She’s the cofounder of the Namchak Foundation and the author of two books: The Princess Who Wept Pearls: The Feminine Journey in Fairytales and Why Is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling?: A Westerner’s Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Lama Tsomo and Tami Simon speak about her teacher Gochen Tulku Sangak Rinpoche and what he has to say about karma, taking responsibility for our lives, and transforming resentment. They also discuss the science of visualization practice and how recent discoveries in quantum physics support key aspects of Buddhist philosophy. Finally, Tami and Lama Tsomo talk about motivation on the spiritual path and how clarifying that motivation can lead to lasting happiness.
(67 minutes)

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Mindful Movement: Walking Meditation 101

The Here and Now

What if you could change your life by doing one thing for just ten seconds each day? What if this thing would make you more contented, more grounded, and less stressed?

Welcome to mindfulness.

We spend almost all of our time worrying about two things: what has already happened (the past) and what hasn’t happened yet (the future). This only makes us miserable. The past is over, so there’s nothing we can do about it. And the future isn’t something we should be thinking about right now—unless we’re taking concrete action toward a goal.

Mindfulness breaks us out of this pattern by turning our awareness to the simple moments of life as they happen. We laser in on our senses as we’re experiencing them, and we feel them deeply.

So, the way to “be deep” is to focus on what’s going on right now.

I have two favorite ways to zap into the present moment.

The first way is to briefly tune in to my breath a few times a day. Set an alarm on your watch or phone to go off at three set times during the day. When it goes off, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Notice how the breath feels as it flows in and out. Let go of whatever else is going on in your mind. Then open your eyes and go back to your day.

The second way is to tune in to the little details of the day. Say you’re picking up a water bottle. Consider this: How does the bottle feel in your hand? Is it heavy or light? When you take a sip of the water, how does it feel on your tongue? Is it cool or warm? What does it taste like? Try this exercise with one small act each day.

deepMINDFUL MOVEMENT: Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is a great way to de-stress and get centered while moving your body and getting some fresh air. It takes only a few minutes, so you can do it almost anywhere.

  1. The next time you’re walking down the street, start by getting your senses alert. Tune in to the pace of your steps and fall into the rhythm of the steps. What do they sound like?
  2. Turn your attention to an object you see as you’re walking. It might be a sign, a tree, or a building. Look intently at that object and observe it without labeling it. Just notice it.
  3. Now turn your attention to the noises that surround you. Don’t label them. Just listen.
  4. Finally, turn your attention to your breathing. Is it fast and shallow or slow and deep? Take a few deep breaths and continue with your steady pace.
  5. When you finish your walking meditation, take a minute and pause before reentering your day. Notice the way your body and mind feel. Carry that alertness and presence with you into the rest of your day

walking meditation

This is an excerpt from the chapter “Be Deep” from Whole Girl: Live Vibrantly, Love Your Entire Self, and Make Friends with Food by Sadie Radinsky.

 

sadie radinskySadie Radinsky is a 19-year-old blogger and recipe creator. For over six years, she has touched the lives of girls and women worldwide with her award-winning website, wholegirl.com, where she shares paleo treat recipes and advice for living an empowered life. She has published articles and recipes in national magazines and other platforms, including Paleo, Shape, Justine, mindbodygreen, and The Primal Kitchen Cookbook. She lives in the mountains of Los Angeles. For more, visit wholegirl.com.

 

 

 

 

whole girl bookSounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Indiebound

Kundalini Yoga to Dissolve the Barriers of Fear

Each of us has amazing potential for creating health, happiness, love, and a life of fulfillment. Deep in our hearts, we know we have the ability to activate and generate a life of our highest calling. The question is: Are we allowing the magnificent brightness of our true selves to shine, or are we hiding the radiance we were born with? Just as a diamond needs light to sparkle, our own true self needs the release of its inner light to be fulfilled.

This book is about clearing our energetic restrictions so our true selves shine as wonderfully as they can, in accord with our natural, inherent ability. The ancient practices of kundalini yoga are incredibly effective tools in this modern age for activating the elusive, hidden release of magnetism we are born with. The exercises open up energy pathways within our body, so we can experience vibrant health, abundance, love, empathy, intuition, and an expanded sense of connection with others.

Many people are experiencing a tangible soul-level drive for self-actualization. It feels like a voice deeply connected with the center of our being that is waiting to be heard. But although we feel it calling inside, we suppress it with self-limiting beliefs, and our unique brilliance remains hidden beneath layers of politeness and emotional armor. We may distract ourselves with our busy lives, stifle our yearnings, and go to sleep feeling so unfulfilled night after night that we become used to it. There are a hundred ways to hide the sensitive, beautiful nature of who we are.

In this era, many of us are noticing an inner voice persistently reminding us to leave behind our fears and step into the magnificence that we naturally possess. And the urging, calling, and whispering of this inner voice can no longer be ignored. If you have picked up this book, chances are that you are hearing it yourself.

The Secret Yoga of Energy

Kundalini yoga is an ancient, time-tested system of exercise and meditation that boosts our energy, synchronizes the impulses of our nervous system, releases energetic blockages, balances our hormones, and uplifts our attitude to allow the pure radiance of our authentic self to shine. While other branches of yoga focus primarily on physical postures, kundalini yoga focuses on how the postures alter our energy and mind-set. Postures, movement, breathing, meditation, mantras, and lifestyle come together to bring about remarkable transformations of personal energy. The term kundalini refers to the concentrated living energy that opens up our potential. It is an energy that is dormant yet calls us to be awakened within. Once activated, it permeates us, energizes our cells to bring health and vitality, and connects our consciousness with the infinite. The techniques of kundalini yoga were developed over the course of thousands of years and are highly effective tools for opening up our energy pathways so the right amount of energy at the right frequency can flow smoothly through our entire being.

Kundalini yoga works on the principle that our physical body and our energy move hand in hand. What we do with our body has a parallel effect on our energy, and, likewise, what we do with our energy has a parallel effect on our body. For example, tightness in our hamstrings is actually a blockage in the energy that otherwise would be flowing through that area of our body. We call that tightness an opacity because it is blocking the flow of inner light. Using the ancient techniques of kundalini yoga to stretch the muscle or move a limb through the energy field that surrounds our body, we can release the corresponding blocked-up energy. Our inner light can then start flowing into an area where it was restricted before. The resulting effect on our body and mind is absolutely profound.

Not only does the muscle itself become more limber, but our consciousness shifts, our mind becomes clearer, and the new energy optimizes our functioning at the genetic level. As the light flows through our energy field, our awareness comes alive. Our energy level soars, and, like a flower emerging from the soil after a long, cold winter, we feel alive and hopeful.

Kundalini yoga was kept secret in India for thousands of years, taught only to devotees who were deemed worthy. In the 1960s, Yogi Bhajan moved from his home country of India to the United States. He began teaching kundalini yoga as a technology for self-improvement, and it quickly became popular. He authored more than thirty books and traveled extensively, teaching kundalini yoga around the globe until his passing in 2004. The authors have studied kundalini yoga extensively. In this book, for historical accuracy, we have sourced the exercises so you can see whether an exercise was taught by Yogi Bhajan, is a classic from the ages, or is a visualization we bring to help explain a topic.

The Kundalini Spirit

Practicing kundalini yoga often results in a natural sensation of oneness with a universal force greater than our limited sense of self. Yet kundalini yoga is not a religion, can be practiced by anyone with any spiritual belief, and does not require any particular spiritual philosophy. It is typical for the practices to enhance one’s feelings of spirituality, whether you belong to a formal religion or not. Flashes of insight, cosmic breakthroughs, tears of joy, and sobs of surrender are normal occurrences when the wondrous flood of our own energy is finally allowed to emerge through the layers of shielding we have put up all our lives. We encourage you to allow yourself to be swept up in the gift of spiritual experience rather than resisting out of fear. In fact, it is high time to give up the fear of your own brightness. Throughout this book, we use the terms God, the infinite, spirit source, and the universe to reflect the oneness of universal spirit in kundalini yoga. However, these are simply terms, and you are invited to carry the sense of spirit that works for you from this book into your life while leaving the rest behind.

You Are Invited

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

ANAÏS NIN

We all have a choice: to access the core of light that our soul has been yearning to express, opening our inner passages to allow our luminescence fully into our life, or to hide our unique way of shining behind a facade of social acceptance that we often have spent many years building. When we make the choice to uncover our true self, kundalini yoga provides exceptional tools to help us. If we practice with courage, vulnerability, and dedication, we are able to entertain a calm, centered power far beyond the ordinary. 

We are inviting you to follow the path of least resistance—the path of flow. By removing energetic blocks and aligning our personal authenticity with the grace of the universe, we take the first step on the path of miracles. We invite you to begin your journey into the light of your own being.

Courage to Shine

If we honestly ask ourselves what in our day-to-day life prevents us from expressing the pure love at the core of our being, the answer is always fear. We hide our true selves to fit in, to be polite, and to avoid offending anyone. Rather than encouraging ourselves to transform, we find comfort in conforming to a world that is struggling. To break free of our challenges, we must be willing to live in our authentic expression of truth. This is our “Sat Nam,” the genuine truth of our manifestation vibrating at its highest frequency.

We are a new creation. All of us. It may be beyond our state of comprehension to acknowledge this in our minds, but our hearts know this truth. We are glowing and growing as a species, and it is essential that we do not fall back into entrenched patterns of fear. The inner light we tap into in quiet moments of connection to the soul is a reminder of the love the universe feels for us. Sometimes all we need is a few minutes to bring ourselves back into the quiet connection.

Kundalini Yoga to Dissolve the Barriers of Fear

Most of the things we fear are not real. Most of the things we fear never in fact happen. Fear is an emotion that gets stuck in the mind and resonates in our aura. It stimulates our sympathetic nervous system to go on high alert, and this takes a long time to settle back out of. The response to fear is hardwired into us from our cave person evolution, but the calling of the modern age is how to be courageous in living our truth as spiritual beings while we still carry the genes for survival from tiger attacks in every cell of our body.

The following set is a quick and potent one that works on releasing accumulated effects of fear that constrict the flow of energy through the life nerve, vagus nerve, and aura. It helps shake off the energetic debris that holds us back from living to our highest, fullest potential.

1 Lie on your back. Lift your left leg up in the air and shake it vigorously for one to three minutes. Lower it down. Lift the right leg up and shake it vigorously for the same length of time.

kundalini step 1

2 Come up to a seated position. Reach your arms up to sixty degrees on either side of your head, creating a V shape. Open your palms toward the sky and flop the hands open from the wrists. Breathe deeply and gaze at the tip of your nose. Feel yourself receiving the light of the divine while you surrender any barriers you hold inside. Let go. Continue for three minutes.

3 Bring your arms down, breathe gently, and relax. Feel yourself opening and allowing the full magnificence of your soul to shine.

step 2 and 3

This is an excerpt from Essential Kundalini Yoga: An Invitation to Radiant Health, Unconditional Love, and the Awakening of Your Energetic Potential by Karena Virginia and Dharm Khalsa.

 

bio photoKarena Virginia is a certified healer and registered yoga instructor who has taught in the Kundalini and Hatha schools for nearly 20 years. Before her career as a spiritual teacher, she worked in the entertainment industry as an actor and model. Karena’s work encourages us to connect with our own personal truth through love, compassion, inner beauty, and radiance.

 

 

 

 

 

bio photo 2Dharm Khalsa is a board member of the Siri Singh Sahib Corporation, the nonprofit overseeing kundalini yoga in the US since founder Yogi Bhajan’s passing. Trained directly by Yogi Bhajan, for whom he was a personal assistant for eight years, Dharm has taught kundalini yoga since 1980. He lives in New Mexico.

 

 

 

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