Browsing Tag

yoga

Family, Guest Posts, Yoga

Yoga

May 16, 2019
father

By Rob Norman

I drove up to my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan after a very long hiatus.  I cruised along once-familiar roads and arrived at the brick-paved Wealthy Street, which back in my early days, at least in that part of town, was anything but wealthy. I stopped and looked for my father Larry’s warehouse that I had worked at for many years of my youth.  I found it, now quite clean and professional in appearance, in the center of a fully gentrified neighborhood.

The building was now occupied with a yoga studio called “From the Heart.” I walked in and checked it out.  I made plans to take a class the next morning.

I was in town to try and find one of my brothers, Steven.  Not only had we grown up in the same house, but we had slept in the same bedroom.  He had written me via text (he would not speak over the phone to me or any other family member) that his girlfriend of over three decades, Cathy, was now sick with cancer and off and on in the hospital.  I came up to Michigan to see what was happening.

Steven spent much of his days driving his bike around town, frequented the library, and God knows what else.  He had always lived at the fringe of society, never able to gain purchase on any semblance of a normal life.  As with our father, as far as I know, he never sought much-needed medical or psychiatric help and was in constant denial as to the severity of his problem.  When my mother was alive, she never seemed to know what to do to help him.  She would provide him food from the Temple Emanuel food bank where she volunteered and gave him cash whenever others gave her money. Time moved on and now he was in his late 60’s, still just as trapped as ever. Continue Reading…

Anxiety, Guest Posts

I’m A Meditation Teacher, And I Live With Anxiety

April 20, 2019
anxiety

By Megan Winkler

When you stand up in the front of a class or – in my case – sit at the front of a class, you’re the expert in the room. The pressure to be perfect is almost permeable for teachers. The same is true for meditation teachers, even though our job should be totally relaxing. There’s a lot of responsibility to the experience.

We are charged with creating a safe environment for complete strangers to take a few steps on the path of their personal transformation journey. We have to deliver our guided scripts in a calm, soothing manner. And we have to be prepared for just about anything: tears, snoring students who fall asleep, the kickboxing gym right next door suddenly starting up their class, stern and doubtful questions from participants, or the guy who got dragged to class by his girlfriend who rolls his eyes more than a sitcom teenager. (I’ve had ALL of these things happen in my classes.)

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve meditated yourself, by yourself. When you sit in front of a class – or even post a video online – there’s a ton of pressure to be flawless, perfect, and utterly expert in everything.

But here’s the catch: I’m not perfect. In fact, although I teach people how to overcome their fears and conquer anxiety, I’m continually battling it myself. Continue Reading…

exercise, Guest Posts, Health

Getting Up Offa That Thing

March 11, 2019
trainer

By Nina Gaby

Before we start, the trainer asks me if I can get up and down off the floor. We are standing in front of a contraption known as PF360. As I am devoted to the idea of changing my life right now and keeping the dark shadows of my mood on the periphery, I force a good-natured laugh. “Now why are you asking me that? Do I look like someone who can’t get off the floor?”

Well yes I probably do. My white hair flies out from its clip, my left arm trembles a bit from the exertion of the Matrix machine that I’ve just done again for the first time in a year, and my numb right hand can be pretty worthless as evidenced by having just dropped my iPhone again. I’m pale from insomnia and worry and disappointment. And then there’s the belly, an appendage with a life of its own. I’ve already been called “hon” and “dear” by staff twice today. No one ever called me “hon” or “dear” until I hit sixty-five and now I rue every condescending sweetness I ever bestowed on any old person in my life. It’s a micro-aggression, I want to tell them, but off course I don’t. At least they are trying to sprinkle a little kindness in an inhospitable world.

Dexterity and stamina suspect, I surprise the trainer by holding plank for 45 seconds and being able to synchronize “dead bug” and move on to the ropes and pulleys without incident. “I do yoga” I tell her. “Not well,” I add. “I used to exercise all the time…” I trail off. She is glancing out over the football field sized Planet Fitness and worries that if anyone else shows up for the training she won’t make it out in time to pick up her kids from day care. She is a working mom who doesn’t have time for my reminiscing. We move on to the kettle bells. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parenting, Yoga

This Surrender

February 26, 2018
surrender

photo courtesy of Suzi Baum

By Suzi Baum

I go to a yoga class with babies.

A college student tends a cluster of children in a room behind the yoga studio while mothers, fathers, people who I don’t know well enough to know if they have kids or not and it does not matter at all, here we are with students, elders, people of all shapes and abilities-all of us stop on our mats for an hour, stop all the else we are about, and center, together.

We are marbles off track.

We run the edge of the singing bowl that is this class, spinning around the rim until the centering pull of breath and asana brings us to the center, of the bowl, of our selves, of this moment.

There is often a shout or a cry at just the perfect moment. We chuckle. We breathe. We go on.

I did not always attend yoga classes with babies. Continue Reading…

Forgiveness, Guest Posts

Not Quite Forgiveness, a Yoga Story

July 21, 2017
forgiveness

“I have lost friends, some by death…others by sheer inability to cross the street.”
― Virginia Woolf

By Nina Gaby

It was with the best of intentions that I shut down my old life as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in upstate New York and packed up my family and got a quick prescription for Paxil and clonazepam and became an innkeeper in a small village in Vermont. Let it now be known that if you need two prescriptions to convince yourself that what you’re doing is right you might want to take another glance at it. Instead I went to a psychic in a strip mall and interpreted her words as confirmation (what she really said was light some white candles, take a bath with herbs, and think on it.) And while I fully understand I’m using this as a seductive hook here–after all who hasn’t at one time considered the cliché of running away to a simpler life of baking scones and turning down crisp bed sheets and not only smelling the roses but actually having time to grow them–that isn’t really the story.

The story is that for the past fifteen years I have been angry that the story fell apart. As it unraveled into petty interpersonal and not so petty financial conflicts, the small community we had moved to took sides. Think wrong table in junior high school cafeteria. We were not only collateral damage from 911 and eventually lost the inn, our life savings in one of the tech industry debacles, my mom, my dog and the old friend who lived across the road in our new village dismissed me in a way that felt cruel and confuses me to this day. I still feel shame for sounding like such a victim, as it was likely the victimhood that put us at disadvantage in our community in the first place.

Forgiveness has never been a consideration, anger being my stronger suit. Sometimes forgiveness is not even an option, even though we want to believe it is, as if we have more control than we really do. And that’s the real story. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

I Didn’t Want to Exist Today

May 14, 2017
chest

By Sarah Dwyer

I didn’t want to exist today. It’s not that I wanted to hurt myself or remove myself from the Earth forever. I just didn’t want to exist—just for today.

I got up to get ready for work, took a shower, and forced myself to blow dry my hair while tears dripped down my red, blotchy, scrunched up face and tightness pulled across my chest. I had this infuriating desire to do a handstand into a somersault—or to burst every inch of bone, muscle, and organ out of my skin. I didn’t just want my insides to escape my body, I wanted to be the one to initiate the explosion, to be in control of the process–to  push the button. 3, 2, 1…be free.

At that moment, I was (and I still am) physically incapable of both doing a handstand into a somersault and exploding, so, naked and sobbing, I climbed back into my bed, pulled my tangled sheets up to cover myself haphazardly, and lay there on my back with the sun shining brightly through the shade and curtain in my window. Continue Reading…

The Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human. In Aruba!

April 29, 2017

The Manifestation Workshop- On Being Human

Join Jen Pastiloff in her signature workshop and see why she sells out with a wait-list everywhere.

A yoga workshop that’s not just about yoga (and can sometimes be NOT about yoga at all). A writing workshop for struggling writers, to-be writers, and non-writers. A dance party and a sing along for dancers, singers, klutzes, tone deaf, and deaf and hard of hearing singers. A trust and love circle. A place to make shit happen. A workshop for humans.

All levels welcome. Expect to flow, sweat, sing, write, dance and laugh and share out loud as you let go of what is no longer serving you.

Please note: There will be much laughter. Maybe a few tears. It’s been known to change lives.
Bring an open heart. Expect to go beyond your comfort zone. Come see why Jen travels around the world with this workshop. Bring journal/open heart/sense of humor. This experience is about life: unpredictable, sometimes messy, beautiful, human.

Teacher: Jen Pastiloff
Date: Saturday 29th April, 2017
Time: 9AM – 12PM
$60 PER PERSON (Excl. 3.5% Aruban tax)

Secure Your Spot.

Anxiety, Guest Posts, Yoga

Yoga Taught Me I Could Stare Down Fear

April 24, 2017
yoga

By Amy Moore

I grew up as a painfully shy, introverted girl in a family with three brothers.  Like many others, my parents were held hostage by their own demons which left them unable to function in a capacity that a child needs as they’re growing up.  At home, it was best to be quiet, obedient, and almost invisible as an effort to keep the calm among the chaos.

As a kid, I sat on the sidelines observing others living life and unable to get past my anxiety to be able to participate in many activities or make many friends.  My life remained similar as I grew into a teenager.  My emotional pain manifested into numerous unhealthy habits, the most profound was my body image.  In early adolescents, I began my journey with anorexia and bulimia and suffered with it secretly for years. Maybe in a sense I was trying to disappear, to go unnoticed and unseen through life.

Although I was physically and mentally unhealthy I longed to be a healthy strong person. I read and researched everything that sparks my interest, which is exactly how I came to find yoga.  When I started reading about yoga I was fascinated about the stories of health and healing that so many people experienced. However, it didn’t seem possible to me.  How could stretching and breathing change your entire life? Regardless of my reservations, I felt drawn to learning more.  I wanted to know more about the practice peacefully displayed on DVD covers and magazines. Continue Reading…

Forgiveness, Guest Posts

Forgiving the World

February 12, 2017
hate

By Lori Holden

We sit on the floor in criss-cross applesauce at the beginning of yoga class, and our teacher instructs us to close our eyes and remember a time during childhood when we were hurt or scared in order to find if there are areas in which we need to release and to forgive. Her soothing voice and evocative words take each of us back to address our own personal boogeymen, troubles that loomed large because we were so small.

This won’t work, says my inner voice. I’ve already exorcised all my demons.

I open my eyes and peek around the room, surprised that my fellow classmates are going crimson in the face as strong emotions rise from their bellies. Something powerful is going on, and if I can surrender my thoughts to my emotions, I may have the chance to release something I’ve carried for a very long time.

Hah, that’s what you think! comes a reply, also inside my head.

With an exhale I allow my hips and tailbone to feel heavy, to sink into the earth. With an inhale I lift my spine, filling the space between my vertebrae with, well, more space. In an instant… Continue Reading…

Divorce, Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, Relationships

Deconstructed: The Adventures of Co-Parenting And Running A Business With My Ex-Husband

December 8, 2016

By Ally Hamilton

You know the fairy-tale about the princess who marries the prince and has babies, and opens a yoga studio with him and gets divorced and has to figure out how to keep it all going? Yeah, me neither, although I’m living that story now.

When I tell people I’m in business with my ex and we have two young kids, they say something along the lines of, “Wow. How does THAT work?!” Most of the time it works really well. Of course I have my moments when I’m reminded of why we’re divorced, and I might even curse him with every expletive I can think of, but those moments are few and far between. I’m sure he has his moments, too.

The thing is, my life looks nothing like any five-year plan I ever would have devised, and nothing like the picture I had in my head of “how things should be”. Growing up, I went back and forth between my mom’s and my dad’s, three nights here, four nights there, switching that fourth night every other week. If you’ve never lived that way, it’s crazy-making. I was forever forgetting my keys and finding myself locked out, or leaving something essential at one place or the other. The rules were different in each household, as was the energy. When I was at my dad’s I missed my mom. When I was at my mom’s, I worried about my dad. When my step-parents joined the circus, it got even crazier. My mom and stepmom did not like each other, and did not hide that fact from me. My dad said disparaging things about my step-dad. You know who never said a bad word about anyone to me, or within my earshot? My step-dad, and I remember that to this day.

Continue Reading…

courage, depression, Guest Posts

I Fought For You

July 3, 2016
love

By Robin Rivera

I’m lucky lately when I don’t go immediately back to bed after giving a morning stroll through the kitchen wondering aimlessly.  My hormones are raging, I’m exhausted, and my bed is the safest place for me. I’m a month and a half pregnant, scared, insecure, and experiencing chronic depression, which I previously thought would never happen to me. I thought my darkest days had been left long ago in the beautifully deceptive streets of Beverly Hills. Oh, my glamorous alcoholic porn star days were hellish tainted with sex trafficking, corruption, and spirit crushers. I thought those were my darkest days.

I was wrong. That darkness, that gut wrenching pain, that out of control lost feeling is back, and I am fighting everything and everyone like a cat clawing its way up and out of danger. One day, I literally felt like I was drowning in hell with no one to turn to. While screaming in my car after being turned away from some self-help meeting for being late, I crazily broke my phone hoping the rage would somehow exit my body this way.  I was in overwhelming emotional pain. I was so desperate for relief from the trauma I was reliving somatically. My partner couldn’t support me for whatever reason, and I felt so alone and abandoned. Like what it might feel like to watch your child be murdered in broad day light & your screaming for help and everyone sees you, but no one lifts a finger. Yes, that’s how I felt a couple weeks ago, but about my own self. I’m still recovering from that day with embarrassing scars to prove what I am going through is deep enough to penetrate all layers of my happiness and hope. I’ve been searching for the lesson in this all… feeling paralyzed with fear and exhausted by anxiety. There are people screaming they love me, but it sounds like the faintest pen drop only muffled by my debilitating resentment for this experience.

I have everything good in my life I thought I’d never have. A really handsome, brave man trying to love me, my chance at stopping the cycle of abuse in my family, a prestigious college degree, a magical relationship with my six-year-old daughter…yet my self-destructive patterns have shown their ugly face again. This time with vengeance. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats

Badassitude

July 1, 2016
happiness

By Chris DeVinney

“You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you.” ~ Maria Popova, Creator and Curator of Brain Pickings

I recently attended one of Jen’s fantastic “Being Human” yoga-but-not-really-yoga workshops in Atlanta. It was sold out and the excited hum was palpable. It involved some yoga and some writing. But mostly, it was about the willingness to be vulnerable in a room full of strangers and share openly.

I hadn’t heard of Jen when my friend invited me to this writing / yoga workshop, but I like yoga and I’m a writer so sure, why not? Then I read the workshop description…

“This workshop is NOT your typical yoga workshop nor is it about the asana, although there is some yoga. You do NOT have to have any yoga experience. A writing workshop for struggling writers, to-be writers, and non-writers. A dance party and a sing along. A trust and love circle. A place to make shit happen. A workshop for humans.”

Dance party? Sing along? Shit, this sounds like it’s going to be good but cheesy, like the new-age-church-youth-group retreats of my early teen years, I thought. Confession: one of my armoring up habits is resisting doing things that I think seem uncool or might make me look stupid. I hate feeling like I look stupid. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Yoga, Yoga Classes

The Arena

May 27, 2016
yoga

By Anne Falkowski

My car flies at breakneck speed to make a yoga class. The sun spanks my eyes.

Its anonymity I seek. To be a body in a flock of bodies where none have crossed my path before. To be a cut-out swatch, side by side, without being pinned to any other. To complete a pattern. To be random. To fall. To float. To fly. To flutter. To feel.

To fight.

No, I have not come to the yoga mat to fight but I just realized I placed my mat next to someone I used to know. Someone I had a fight with. A public fight. I was left beaten, covered in my own invisible feathers. Maybe time has a way of making us more than we were.

It’s too late to move.

It’s subtle how we recognize the past. I knew it was her because of a curve of her skin and an angle of her cheek. The space she took up and the space she didn’t. The negative space of her. Nothing definite. Each of us carry our imprint of the other.

***

It’s been a few years. Does she know it’s me? Does she see my new tattoo spread across half my back? A blue goddess, covered in teeth and snakes. She holds a dagger.

I look down at my legs, one thigh folded over the other, my feet bare, aware that I haven’t showered in two days. My period is on its way. I smell it like moss, sticks, and bits of feather.

Her eyes are closed. Pretend rapture, I’m sure.

I want my blue goddess to aim her dagger between those eyes.

S. is attractive. Dark hair and eyes, tall and thin. Has six-pack abs. When she used to teach yoga at the studio I own, students would comment on how they wanted a stomach like hers. My hands go down and squeeze the flesh of mine which has been through too many rounds of weight gains and losses. My hands amass silvery webbed flesh with a slit for a belly button. Some would say a trophy.

Shit, I thought I was better than THIS. I had let all THIS go. Maybe old demons need to air their foul breath out of pursed lips to remind us what we have not completely digested. Maybe they need to tongue rattle.

I close my eyes. I draw my breath up to my collarbones where it lingers. I purposely hold it there. I watch the pause and wait for it to right me. It kind of does. On the exhale, the breath floods my belly. A wind sound fills the back of my skull. My jaw bones soften. I am finding my way back to what needs my attention. Back to now. Now is breath and sensation.

A yoga teacher once told me: Feed your demons. A strategy for not having them eat you.

Do you need to know the story between S. and me? Does it matter? Did it ever? Maybe I need to tell it.  Maybe the need is why it matters.

The climax of the fight takes place at my studio, three years ago, in the hallway, among carefully placed pairs of shoes. Mostly flip-flops and sandals. The bodies that go in the shoes are inside the yoga room, on their backs, their knees roll to one side and then the other, in a guided knee-down twist.

S. is my studio’s most popular teacher. She has stepped out of the room she is teaching in, and has grabbed my arm. For a brief moment, I think she is in pain. But no, it’s something else, hot and insistent. Her mouth moves open and shut, open and shut. Words come out and spill on the cork floor. Something about quitting, opening her own yoga studio less than a mile away, and taking with her as many students as possible.

I ask her why. She tells me, “You need to look inside. Do some searching. Ask yourself why no one respects you.”

NO ONE RESPECTS YOU…NO ONE RESPECTS…NO ONE…YOU….YOU…YOU….

Her bobbed black hair swings this way and that and her lips get redder as she speaks. Now the students are on their backs with knees bent, feet on floor. They push into their feet and lift hips and torsos up to the ceiling. Their necks are extensions of their spines. Little spines in neat rows. Up and down they go. An assembly line of ribs expand and contract like the small bodies of birds breathing.

YOU NEED TO LOOK INSIDE….

How fucking dare she?

Seeing red is a real thing.

Red is the color of heat,

the tongue.

I have never been able to speak up to her or anyone at my studio.

She tells whomever will listen I am jealous of the amount of students she draws in.

She says she is the reason my studio is a success.

She tells others not to take yoga from me, that I’m not a real yogi.

I secretly wonder if she’s right.

Red is the color of shame.

Deal with red.

I’ve done yoga with weapons. At a workshop. We were meditating on death, while we flowed through standing poses. A live drum pulsed in the room. The space between hitting the drum and the sound it makes is called Spanda. In Sanskrit, Spanda means pulse of the universe. The beat of your heart is called Anahata. It means unstruck sound.

The teacher put various weapons in our hands. In Warrior One, he gave me a staff. I felt nothing. In Goddess Pose, he changed out the staff for a sword, still nothing. Then a loaded pistol, black and heavy. He curled his slim fingers around my hand. Our wrists touched one another. Still no response. Then the dagger. In my hands in Warrior Two. Front knee bent and my bare feet pushing into the ground. There. There it was. The right weight. Its size surprisingly small. My throat opens and the drum beat burrows deep into my hip sockets. My body electrifies. A familiarity. A knowing.

I’ve killed with a dagger. More than once.

Knife-wield, wing-flap, tongue-dance, bone-beat, heart-beat, drum-beat, red rhythm, ancient ones I have known.

Always known.

We don’t make eye contact, S. and me, as the teacher calls out poses in the heated room, and sweat pours from my hair-line. S. was never one to break a sweat but not because she doesn’t work hard. For a few poses, I forget about S.  It’s only me and the rise and fall of my breath in the forest of others, my body folded in half. A silvery belly I am. A long spine I am, making it expand and contract to lightly cage me, to hold me lover-like.

At the end of class, before final resting period, the teacher brings us onto our backs and talks us up into wheel pose. A pose where you bend your knees, feet on the floor, bring your hands behind your shoulders and press up making a big upside down U shape with your spine. It moves stuck energy.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watch S. She pushes up into wheel with me. For a few breaths we are holding together in sync. We are both strong. But then she pushes herself up off her hands to standing. A move requiring huge amounts of leg and back strength.

I know, right there, she is competing with me. Wanting to show me what she can do, just like I wanted her to see my tattoo. For a moment, I feel nothing but awe.

She does five of these. They are called wheel drop backs. A pose I cannot do, but oddly I do not feel less than. I witness each one while I hold my own, more moderate wheel, the one the teacher is guiding. My legs shake in their own right. My boneless tongue curls and presses up against my soft palate.

The yogis believe emotions are manifestation of energy. They purposely raised animal energy: anger, jealousy, lust, shame, and fear. And then they sat in it. Don’t move, don’t flinch. The more you bring up animal energy, the ones that throw you the most, the more you breathe into them and feel them and face them, the more you will learn to ride bareback.

After wheel, we go into final relaxation.

Ten minutes later, the teacher tells us to slowly awaken our bodies. My ritual is to hold every part of me still except to slowly move my tongue side to side. My red tongue, the color of the earthworm, a creature who can regrow segments of themselves when they need to. In this liminal space after yoga, the parts of me which have been cut off, banished, damaged, or lost, have regenerated. Only now, they are different, not exactly the same. They’ve reinvented.

I sit up and wait for S.

I’m not sure what will happen.

Nothing does.

S. remains on her back, covered in a blanket, a small silky pillow stretched across her eyes. I sit there, with my legs tucked under me, until everyone else is almost gone. It becomes obvious she’s not going to get up. She will stay like this forever, covered and motionless, if she has to.

I don’t want her to have to.

I roll up my mat and walk away.

A dagger inked on my back.

My body feels light and full at the same time.

I could take flight off the ground.

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Anne Falkowski is a yoga teacher/workshop leader and a wannabe writer. She has published numerous articles on yoga and body image.  She can be reached at director@samadhiyogastudio.com

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Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. This will be her only international retreat in 2016 and is her favorite retreat of the year. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

 

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Binders, Guest Posts, Yoga

The Gift of Breathing

April 4, 2016
yoga

By Kirsten Palladino

Rainy Sunday mornings are right for praising life with yoga. My first session of the season is going resplendently well. My body isn’t arguing with me as I thought it might—a dedicated yoga class hasn’t been on the calendar in 10 years. A twin pregnancy and decadent, indulgent food in a metropolitan city as a restaurant editor have enabled me to eat recklessly.

Through death and abandonment, my original family of four shrank to one in the course of just a few years. I have grief-gobbled myself into a puffy caterpillar form, minus the legs. Finally, I’ve earned the mockery of the high school girls calling me an elephant, a quarter-century too late.

But my body is strong and limber today, giving me what I need. Hips opened wide after delivering two darling boys in one night—finally, I birthed a living child; full healing lungs breathe in deeply instead of screaming and gasping after a 15-year childhood stint of sucking on the cancer sticks (family legacy).

As we move through our positions, I hear my therapist’s words in my head: “Inhale deeply through your nose as if you’re trying to smell freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Then breathe out of your mouth so strongly as if you’re trying to blow out birthday candles across the room.” In. Out. Mindful breathing. Here we go. Continue Reading…

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