Synchronicity in Action – I Have a Couch!

syn·chro·nic·i·ty
ˌsiNGkrəˈnisədē/
noun
  1. 1.
    the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.
    “such synchronicity is quite staggering”
  2. 2.
    another term for synchrony (sense 1).
I love the concept of synchronicity. And I really love when I see it in action!

Last week I received an email about the upcoming Care Partners Estate Sale. I saw a settee IMG_4315that was one of those must have items for me so I made a point of getting to the sale early. I found the piece to be in great condition. I didn’t necessarily like the upholstery and the piece clearly lived with a cat at one time but I visioned it’s potential beauty – when I ultimately purchase a house and reupholster the pieces I’ve collected over the years. At the Estate Sale items are full price on Thursday and then reduce in price on Friday and many items are 50% off on Saturday. I just wasn’t willing to take the chance of losing this piece so I paid full price and said I would pick it up on Saturday.

While I was there I also came across a couch. Now THIS COUCH was absolutely meant for my living room and the price was incredible reasonably – $150. BUT it had a broken leg and I don’t usually buy anything that needs work. I mean yes I ultimately need to reupholster the settee but the furniture itself is in perfect condition. So I wasn’t quite sure I should take home a couch with a broken leg. IMG_4295
I thought about the Saturday deal – this couch would be only $75!
A friend of mine met me at the sale Saturday and sure enough, the broken couch was still there. My friend can be much more analytical and pragmatic with purchases than I can be so I sought her opinion. We looked at the leg and decided it would be easy enough to repair. I removed the price tag and walked around the room to think about it – would it fit in my living room and how would I feel about it sitting in the living room broken until I could get it fixed? I decided to go take another look…
While the condition was good I wondered about any odors. I couldn’t smell anything but you know, this was a used piece of furniture. I saw a man looking at a table and chairs next to the couch and asked what he thought about it…
Me: Excuse me…will you come here for a minute? Will you smell this couch? Do you smell any mildew or anything?
Jake: Sure. No. I don’t smell anything. It’s a nice couch!
Me: It’s only $75 today BUT it has a broken leg. I really think the leg would be easy to fix.
Jake: Oh! Well I fix furniture for a living. Let me take a look. Yes I think it can be fixed fairly easy.
Me: Really? Can you do it? Can you do it at my house? How much would you charge?
Jake: Yes. $50
Me: Great! Here is my card with my address and phone number. I’m going to go make the purchase.
Jake: (Looking at card) Oh you give massage?
Me: Sound massage – explained what sound massage is.
Jake: I was going to buy my wife a gift certificate for a massage for Valentine’s Day. Maybe we could just swap.

Me: I love when the Universe brings everything together! Yes, let’s swap!

So that evening Jake came to my house and repaired the broken couch. IMG_4317 Before he left the house we were talking and discovered that he and his wife got to Asheville about six months before me AND they moved here from Baltimore AND we lived within a couple blocks of one another in Baltimore! We visited the same neighborhood restaurants and probably passed one another a time or two.
Evidently, we were meant to meet! I’m looking forward to meeting Jake’s wife Veronica so I can give her a sound massage. For now, I finally have a couch and can actually lay down on it – no more love seat!
IMG_4324 And that settee I purchased… Well, Buddha Baby loves it!
IMG_4322
I’m not a fan of the movie The Secret and find that focusing on things can create a lot of suffering. But being open to possibilities and aware of our surroundings allows that magical flow of synchronicity in every aspect of our lives. Who is the stranger in a store standing next to us? What can we offer one another? Approaching the world with an open heart and curiosity will bring countless good fortune our way – whether it’s things or relationships – what we need is always available when we surrender to the flow!
With metta,
Kate
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Course Correcting Those Newly Made Plans

2016 Happy New Year 2016

We’re 15 days into a new year. How’s your new diet going? Your exercise plan? Your commitment to spending more time with your friends? Going well? Then keep it up! If it’s not going so well, you might want to take a look at what’s working or not working, without beating yourself up or considering yourself a failure. Here’s how you can do that…

I’ve never been one to proclaim new year resolutions. Well, maybe when I was much younger. I found them to be quite futile and yet another way to beat myself up. So I just stopped. At some point I decided the new calendar year would be a good time to commit to a theme for the year…developing non judgment, becoming more compassionate, or maybe strengthening the flexibility and openness of my mind are all examples of the themes I’ve adopted over the years. I didn’t realize at the time that I was setting my intention for the year but that’s really what I was doing and it worked much better than setting the same old goals, over and over.

A few years ago I began a new annual tradition to mark the ending and beginning of the calendar year. Each year on December 31st, I write myself a letter to open the following New Year’s Eve. IMG_4072After the first year of this ritual I now have a letter to read in addition to a letter to write. I find this process to be a great way to reflect upon the previous year and consider my intention for the new year arriving. IMG_4110

I wrote myself a letter this year. I also developed a plan for how I wanted to improve my daily routine in 2016. It was a great plan – a beautiful plan! And I was confident (sort of) that I would implement everything in this plan – which targeted every aspect of my daily life; from eating whole foods to working out, meditating, reading, spending & saving money, and everything else (and more) that one thinks of when planning the perfect healthy lifestyle. Today is my mid-month check-in and not surprisingly, I’ve experienced successes, partial successes, and for lack of a better description, failures, while implementing my perfect life.

I can’t help but laugh at myself right now…perfect life! I thought I was over that delusion!

As I looked over my plan today and reflected upon how I feel, I actually feel really good. Rather than look for successes and failures, I decided to look to see what’s working and what’s not working. It was important that I take a deep look at what wasn’t working and ask myself a few questions: Was this a new habit I wanted to develop this year? If so, do I still feel that desire? If so, and I haven’t followed through with my plan, had I committed to the new routine? In most instances where I didn’t achieve my desired result I realized I had planned but not fully committed. I also looked at how I might better support my commitments from today forward.

First and foremost, too much change at one time, no matter how well intentioned or committed, is difficult in my daily life. So the first step for me was to prioritize the new habits I want to create.

Secondly, I determined there are four foundations that create a healthy lifestyle for myself and support everything inside my plan. I think these four foundations are supportive to each and every one of us (and are listed in no particular order):

IMG_4079    IMG_4091    IMG_4106     IMG_3107

Eating Whole Foods – Getting Enough Sleep – Getting Exercise – Meditating

While all of these are important and in general are equally important, I find that if I don’t get the right amount of sleep, everything else falls by the wayside. And the right amount of sleep for me includes the timing of my sleep cycle. I feel extremely fortunate that I can wake up when I want to – unchained to an alarm clock or someone else’s idea of what time IMG_2225I should start my day.    But in the past few months I’ve gone to bed later and later, which means I wake up later and later; sometimes 8:30 or 9:00! And this doesn’t support my daily routine the way I need it to.

So tonight I’m changing my routine to getting to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier. To make that easier, I need to turn off all electronics one hour before I go to bed. I don’t know that everything will immediately fall into place when I make this change but I do know that focusing on small shifts or tweaks to a plan can make huge differences in implementing a plan.

I’ve also noticed that it’s time to change not only my language but my intention from planning to committing. As I shared earlier, I develop beautiful plans. But without commitment, they are just plans. So today I commit to turning off all electronics one hour before I go to bed and going to bed no later than 11:00. I’ll see if that helps – I might need to change bedtime to 10:00. Perhaps even more than commitment, clarity of intention is required. For example…

Why do I want to go to bed and wake up earlier? When I wake up early I feel rested and have a long morning at the beginning of my day. Morning is my most productive time of day for meditating and when I wake up earlier I’m more likely to eat a healthy breakfast. If I’m meditating and eating right, I’ll have more energy to exercise. And with a firm foundation to start my day, all those things I planned to do like daily journaling, weekly blogs, and taking Paz on more walks will be easier to do. The easier they are to do the more likely I will develop a daily routine.

In short, if you’ve fallen behind in your new year goals, take a deep breath and relax. Then…

  1. take a little time to review what’s working/not working. There’s no need to judge yourself or categorize the first 15 days of the year into successes and failures.
  2. Determine what is really important to you; review your initial intention.
  3. Prioritize the changes you want to make in your life and approach them incrementally, not all at once.
  4. Review your foundation activities – eating whole food, meditating, exercising, and getting the right sleep. What will best support you and your needs – don’t worry about what other people say is most important.
  5. Review your intention again and make sure you have clarity about why you are making your changes – what’s the real result you are looking for? If you want to lose 15 pounds, why do you want to lose 15 pounds and is your intention strong enough to support your commitment? This has nothing to do with willpower!
  6. Finally, state your commitment and congratulate yourself for sticking with it. Sure, you may be course correcting – you may have skipped a few days at the gym or eaten a chocolate bar. But you are also mindful of what you are doing and thinking. You are mindful of why you are doing what you are doing. And that’s the tough part. That’s being present in the moment. And THAT is what will create your new habits, routines, and healthy lifestyle. It’s easy to go through life without paying attention. By virtue of reviewing and reflecting on your actions so far, you’re already doing the hard stuff. Keep it up!

Once we are clear with our intentions and our commitments, we might find ourselves facing more challenges. This too, is a normal part of life and nothing to beat ourselves up over. In my next post I’ll share my own experience with difficult mind states like desire, aversion, boredom, doubt, and restlessness. How might those states of mind get in the way and what can we do when faced with them?

With metta,

Kate

 

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Ode to My Mother

MomColoradoSo often I find myself not just thinking of you, but conversing with you…as if you were right there with me. Yesterday when I was so busy with commitments that I felt I couldn’t stop – in the kitchen preparing for Thanksgiving guests, yelling at Paz and Buddha Baby to, “Scat Cat!” and “Just go lay down somewhere else Paz!” I looked at them both and laughed, “So you think you’ve never met your Grandmother?!” I soaked in the moment, looked at your picture on my refrigerator and gave you a kiss, “Love you Mom…and miss you!”

I thought about how many people might have thought your favorite holiday was Christmas. After all, not a surface went undecorated once we were done with Thanksgiving. But I remembered you once told me that Thanksgiving was your favorite holiday of all…I think because the focus of Thanksgiving is family and gratitude. And one thing you shared most in your life was gratitude for family.

I thought about the many Thanksgivings I took for granted…sometimes I didn’t even want to be there. It was too hard for me then. I’m grateful today that my last Thanksgiving with you was appreciated beyond compare. I’m grateful that every Thanksgiving since then, there are moments throughout my day that I think, “Mom would love this!” I’m grateful that deep in my heart I have no doubt that even for those missed Thanksgivings – and especially for those I didn’t miss and did not behave well – I am forgiven…and loved…by you.

Cherish your family this Thanksgiving!

With metta, Kate

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By all means please…put my face on it!

DSC00340Someone who loves me very much once started going on and on about how she hated a pop star who was so trashy with her drug abuse and sexual escapades. I thought about it and wondered if the pop star had done anything worse than I’ve ever done or had I, loved by the person, done something much worse than the pop star. I wondered what would happen if the person trashing the pop star could just put my face on the pop star’s body – would the pop star still be worthy of so much hate?

I often see hateful and vitriolic posts on Facebook about anyone who voted for Barack Obama or who believes in stricter gun laws – you know – liberals – those horrible, demonic, ignorant liberals. If you need to label what I am (some feel it’s much more important than who I am) then by all means, label me a liberal. And when you post your hate and vitriol please…put my face on it.

Sometimes people piss and moan about people on food stamps; how they get something for nothing. Some people want those people drug tested to make sure they are worthy of food. I think it was the late 70’s when I applied for and received food stamps – and was smoking pot in my spare time – so please when you talk about those people…don’t forget to put my face on it.

It’s a tragedy when someone surrenders an animal – a family pet – to the shelter or decides to give the pet away for all kinds of reasons. I hear those people should be shot or at the very least, dropped off a bridge and drowned. And since I, too, have given away a beloved pet oh please won’t you please just put my face on it!

Whoever it is you hate…for whatever reason you might hate him or her…please…before you open your mouth to spread such unwise and unloving beliefs, put my face on the person who did that harm. And knowing me, if you don’t want to understand why I did or did not do what you hate me for doing or not doing…if you cannot forgive me for making an unwise choice or for acting out in the only way I knew at the time…if you honestly believe that I am a person worthy of hate and vitriol then fine…sit and stew…allow the pain and suffering of hate and vitriol to run its course inside your body…to spew out your mouth…give the gift of your pain out to the rest of the world.

BUT if you put my face on him or her, or upon an act committed by someone, and even a small softness can be found in your heart…a softness that says, “Remember Kate…remember love…remember why you love her…I love her…” then perhaps you can focus on that softness and allow it to spread within you or at the very least, share that small softness with the rest of the world – a token of appreciation to those who love you in spite of your heinous acts – the past mistakes you don’t share with anyone – the ones you can barely forgive yourself for committing – the ones that cause you to lash out at others who got caught doing what you would never do – but perhaps did.

If we are all connected…if God created us all as one or if we are all made of the same stardust…can we hate any particle of the greater whole without hating ourselves?

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Metta,

Kate

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Celebrating Life – A Quick Reflection

34 years ago this month I tried to take my own life – 17 years ago today I said no more to drugs & alcohol.

I stopped drinking alcohol the year before I stopped drugs. I was addicted to the pain meds I was taking for migraines. There was a lot of recreational drug use going on too. Believing that I could only be happy with the aid of distractionsBLUEGOWN2 (drugs, alcohol, food, sex, buying things, etc) I finally realized that by attempting to escape my suffering, I was actually creating MORE suffering for myself and also for others.

A friend once said she couldn’t understand how I could meditate while drunk or high…she said it sounded to her like showing up drunk at God’s door. Her words were more powerful than she knew, IMG_3107and they inspired me to do what needed to be done. I knew I couldn’t go deeper in my spiritual life if I was unwilling to fully surrender to life itself – the light and the dark, the joy and the suffering.

When things get tough I sometimes look back at 1981 and my life since then. I look at 1998 and my life since then too. I am able to see by my own experience that everything in life is impermanent and everything in life offers me a doorway to deeper contemplation. What doorway I choose determines the degree of suffering I experience (or don’t experience).

I often say I’ve lived many lifetimes in this one lifetime and today I’m grateful that I was able to create a new life for myself – especially when the old lives just didn’t serve love – and therefore didn’t serve me!IMG_1766

With metta,

Kate

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This is Practice and it Doesn’t Make Perfect!

IMG_3830 I want…

to meditate two times every day,

to chant every morning,

to exercise in a way that promotes weight loss and optimum health every day,

to eat real food that I have cooked every day,

to experience companionship and develop relationships every day,

to spend ample time alone in reflection every day,

to spend time engaging Paz & Buddha Baby every day,

to write – blog or journal every day,

to study the dharma every day,

to read books – Buddhist and fiction to name a few – every day,

to watch TV – yes watch TV – but maybe not every day,

to experience nature at least almost every day,

to sleep well – for as long as my body needs – every night,

Oh and I can’t forget my hospice volunteer work, Sundays and Thursdays at AIM, the book club, potluck, hiking club, singing bowls, extra classes, teaching, writing and giving dharma talks, being present when someone needs me, keeping a clean and organized house, feeding the birds, weeding the flower beds, sweeping the porch, responding to emails, surfing the web, and yes, posting on Facebook.

Is that everything I want to do? No wait! I forgot Spa de la Paz…I want to do that too. And maybe get a massage for myself, or some Reiki, or acupuncture, or go see a doctor, deposit a check, or buy that food I want to cook.

I want to do it all. There is no “job” in my way; nothing I have to do. Really, aside from feeding me, Paz, and Buddha Baby – and tending to their toilet needs – there is nothing on this list that I have to do.

Everything on this list supports my values; feeds my soul (so to speak). Yet trying to do them all usually (always) results in the opposite of achieving my goal to mindfully act in accordance with my values – always.

What if I’m kind to myself? I’m not talking about giving myself a way out – a free pass to not do what I want to do. But a more wholesome perspective regarding what I want to do…a more realistic approach to what I do…every day. What if the only thing I did every single day was be present in the moment of that particular day?

What if while I’m meditating, exercising, cooking, eating, writing, or doing anything at all, I’m just fully present with what I’m doing right then and right there – and not in my head thinking about what I’m not doing, or should be doing, or will be doing later, or how what I’m doing will or won’t give me something I can cross off the to-do list?

I think I’ll try that…again.

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Resentment: Christianity or Christians? Or is it something else entirely?

ChoirGirlA couple of months ago I published a post explaining why I changed my mind about walking the Camino de Santiago. In that post I said, “Until recently (the past several months) I didn’t realize I held a resentment towards the religion of my family and ancestors.” That statement was disturbing to some – as I knew it would be – and others were just curious. At the time I wasn’t ready to explain my resentment because frankly, I didn’t understand it. I knew very well what sort of situations triggered my resentment, but where was the resentment coming from? I feel like I’m ready to share my feelings now and it’s important to me that I speak from my heart and my experience without denigrating anyone else and their very personal beliefs. If I share anything in this post that you find offensive, I ask you (those who know me at least) to feel my heart in the words you read. Even if we completely disagree, there is nothing for either of us to defend more than our love and respect for one another.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an interest, or more accurately a curiosity, about religions and spiritual beliefs. I was raised in St James Episcopal Church. I was baptized and confirmed at St. James StJames and in my twenties I was confirmed again, at a church in Virginia. At a very young age, Christian teachings made no sense to me. Well, not the teachings per se but more like the behaviors of Christians. I was young and impressionable during the 1960’s and it was difficult for me to understand the inconsistency between my favorite childhood song (I used to sing with a friend while we played on the swing set), “Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World,” and the brutal beatings and hurtful language against people of color that I saw not only on television but in the world around me.

I think the first time I decided that something was really wrong with the world was when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered. MLK_front_page_1_1       I asked someone – an adult who I admired and respected, “What do you think of Dr. King getting shot?” And I’ve never forgotten her answer…”I won’t answer that because I don’t want to get struck down by lightening!” My perception of that answer was confirmation that she believed he deserved to die. But how could this be? Aside from the fact that killing anyone goes against the Ten Commandments, this man was a Holy man…a pastor. And from what I could determine, his only crime was that God gave him black skin. I was ten years old when Dr. King was murdered and while I had no idea there was a psychological term for what I was feeling,  I was painfully aware of the cognitive dissonance I was experiencing.

“The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feelings of discomfort that result from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance.”

My conflicting beliefs were something like this… As a good Christian I know that Jesus loves me, God is good, and I must follow the Ten Commandments. However, people I love and believe are “good Christians” also believe in war (Viet Nam), practice hatred and judgment (white vs. black), and can be really mean to me and others.

I once asked our priest, “What about people in the world who have never heard of Jesus? How can they accept him as savior and more importantly, how can they be punished and sent to hell for not believing in something they know nothing about? I only remember my question – not the answer.

Upon reflection I see that the cognitive dissonance I experienced at ten years old has shaped my entire life. Without realizing it, I spent a lifetime confirming what I found to be true at that early age – not everyone who claims to be Christian is good and most people who claim to be Christian spend more time defending their beliefs and imposing their beliefs on others than they do actually living their so-called Christian beliefs. I need to add here that I find this true of people in general – not just Christians – and I suspect that if I was born into Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, or any other religion, I might have experienced religious cognitive dissonance. 264533_10202953669389889_1643382241_n

Throughout my life, my experiences with Christians have not been all bad. I was blessed with a Mother who, while not perfect, was the closest I’ve ever experienced to a perfect Christian. MomsPlaqueMy Mother never preached the gospel to anyone, although she was there to love and support everyone she met, regardless of race, religion, and even sexual preference. I say this because when I was 12 years old, my Mother and I visited her niece who had children with a black man, even when the rest of her family disowned the niece. We had conversations about my gay friends when being gay was not as acceptable as it is today. And when I told my Mother that I didn’t believe in God the way she believed, she said, “That’s okay Honey because I know you are a good person and you believe in something bigger than yourself.” My Mother taught Sunday school, cooked for the Episcopalians, Methodists, and Baptists, and until her health became an issue, attended church religiously. Yet when I wrote to her and Daddy to tell them I was on a Buddhist retreat and thanked them for supporting my search for answers, she never spoke an unkind or judgmental word about it. In fact she once told me that she often read my letters over and over because she felt they helped her get to know me.

There are others who were or still are in my life who live their Christian values the way my Mother did. They do not feel threatened by anyone else’s beliefs. They live the best life they can and they live their values through actions – not empty words. They don’t appear to hold themselves above others but rather live a life that reflects the teachings of their beautiful teacher and savior. I don’t understand their beliefs, but I understand that it is their belief and I respect them and love them for their compassion and kindness. We really don’t even need to discuss our religious or spiritual beliefs when we are compassionate and kind to one another – or when we live in a secular democratic society. I believe that in the end we might all be wrong about some things, but the one thing we will never be wrong about is that we are all one with each other and with love.

The_ScreamSo why at this time in my life do I feel resentment toward Christianity? Especially when I know that resentment is self created suffering?

The simple answer and what I’ve come to realize is that I don’t resent Christianity or Christians in general. I only resent those who continue to hide behind selected Bible verses to defend their own beliefs and oppress/impose upon those who do not agree with them. I’m referring to those Christians who insist that the United States is a Christian country and who also insist that there is a war on Christianity in this country, simply because people of other religions – or non religious people – don’t want pubic dollars or citizen rights to be determined by Christian doctrine and dogma. The-Salem-Witch-TrialThe Christians I’m talking about are the congregation of Westboro Baptist Church, supporters of Kim Davis, and the people on Facebook (and those who are not on Facebook) who claim to love Jesus and have faith in God while condemning, judging, and denying their own human imperfections; their unwillingness to (among other things) not steal, not commit adultery, not covet anything of their neighbors, or not bare false witness against that neighbor. In other words, those whose actions are not in alignment with their stated values and beliefs, and who focus on the shortcomings of others instead of their own shortcomings.

So what does this resentment have to do with walking the Camino? Aside from the historical atrocities committed in the name of Christianity and my own tendency to question modern day Christianity and its historical roots, absolutely nothing. It’s likely that some day I will walk the Camino. Camino de Santiago Map Although I suspect I will walk it with a lot less fanfare and no big announcement a year before my trek. Having never stepped one foot on the Way of St James in France or Spain, I see now that my pilgrimage began when I was baptized as an infant at St James Church, and it was my desire to walk the Way that has given me a new understanding and appreciation for Christianity and my ancestral roots. It was Christianity, friends, family, and Jesus’ teachings that created my discomfort with an unjust world. It was and still is my belief that Jesus taught through his actions that only love, kindness, compassion, non judgment, and forgiveness will relieve us all of suffering. I believe he demonstrated his teachings that any human being has the ability to do what he did if they truly believe what he taught – and what others have taught.

Writing this post I realize I no longer carry the burden of resentment I thought I had. I have clarity regarding the root of what I thought I resented and it’s neither Christians nor Christianity or even religions in general…those are just physical manifestations of what really troubles me. What I now understand is that what I thought was a resentment of those things is much broader and is deeply engrained in my psyche. It’s those things that (in my experience) religions tend to foster. And those things that as a young child and even in adulthood, have made me feel hopeless and ineffective. For one thing, as evidenced by all my negative memories with religion, is my intense aversion and disdain for injustice of any kind and towards any being.

My practice right now is to observe myself when I experience or witness an injustice or an inconsistency in my own or someone else’s stated values and behaviors. I know that it doesn’t serve me to swallow my anger, so can I sit with it? Can I let the anger be there without trying to deny it or distract myself from it? Can I have compassion for myself for judging others? Can I have compassion for those I find myself judging? Can I forgive myself and can I forgive them? By sitting with anger and resentment in this way, will I neutralize it without becoming apathetic to the injustices of our world? This approach has worked for me in other areas of my life so I am definitely willing – and already am – sitting with these questions. And I think Jesus would be okay with that.

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