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Category Archives: yoga

light up your life retreat 1.0

you plan and you pray and you pray and you plan and sometimes an experience defies your wildest dreams. these women. this place. beautiful. sacred. all of it makes me weep. they showed up in the most magnificent ways  for one another. my heart is full. my life is changed. how this is my path, I’m unsure. grace. gratitude. joy beyond belief.
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Prana Del Mar

http://pranadelmar.com/

what kind of yoga I teach

I get asked often what kind of yoga I teach. I don’t teach a brand. The “masters” I once followed keep proving how human and flawed they are – like me. It’s not that I expect them to be perfect. Really, I don’t. However, sometimes their flaws (i.e., sexual misconduct, emotional abuse, narcissism, etc.) taint the brand, and I can’t, in good faith say, “I teach X Yoga” any more.

And I’ve tired of teaching fast classes. The pace of life is too fast for my taste. I’m looking for ways to slow down and stay present and savor each moment. My yoga practice seemed a fine place to start. On a 68″ mat is always where I start to try new, scary things. And the way in which I teach yoga is a reflection of the way I practice yoga. Of course, I modify the practice to suit the bodies and souls I see before me. But, mostly, I teach “deliciously slow.”

And I know there are students who need to cross their cardio off during their yoga practice – to kill two workout birds with one stone. They just don’t have enough time, so they have to get both done as quickly and efficiently as possible. And I say this without judgment because I make it a practice never to judge a path that I used to find myself upon. There’s a ton of good yoga to go around this town. You can find those classes at every studio, every hour on the hour.

In years past, I might have revolted at who I’ve become as a teacher. My ego wouldn’t have liked me much.(My ego still doesn’t). But during those years, I didn’t live inside my body. I couldn’t teach what I didn’t know. 

And, if I’m to be honest, sometimes I still don’t live inside my body. I ignore the signals. Until my body says: no. While my mind is a sophisticated wordsmith, my body speaks mostly in single syllables.

No. No. No.

And after no: Slow. Slow. Slow.

I was flattened by a Mack Truck of an illness last week. And the truth is that for about a month leading up to that illness, I’d known something needed to give. I’d been meditating on how to create some changes. I’d been talking with my new less famous spiritual “masters,” my business advisers, my wife, my parents, my therapist.

Dana and I see this really no-nonsense therapist. This is not by my choice. But, there was a dark night of the soul back in January of 2014 when we looked at each other after I’d already separated our cd’s – the same cd’s I’d merged in the hopes that mixed hers and hers cd’s might serve as a binding legal contract for our commitment. We looked at each other and realized that we didn’t want to give up. I knew that every problem we had, I’d revisit in any future relationship. I could change partners. My same character defects would still follow me.

I won’t speak for her, here. I don’t really know what changed. But, she agreed to go to therapy…under the condition that she could pick the therapist.

No airy fairy metaphysical karmic nonsense. (We’d been to therapy together before).

And this new no-nonsense cut-to-the-chase save-your-drama-for-your-momma therapist has saved our relationship. Sure, we did the work, but we couldn’t have done it alone. She translated for us when we were speaking different languages.

And a couple weeks ago, she says to me, “Amber, what would it take for you to rethink your schedule?”

The question prompts me to spend 20 minutes – the equivalent of around $75 for those of you keeping score at home – attempting to answer that question. I can rationalize anything. It’s a gift left over from childhood. Most addicts, I find, have this talent/defect. And at the end of the session, after all of my bull shit, she says, “Interesting.”

“How?” I want to know. Sure, I love everything I do. It’s interesting work. But my schedule? Demanding, unmanageable, unsustainable. Insane. These are the words others have used to describe my schedule.

“Interesting that you’re in a career where you teach people to connect to themselves and you’re so disconnected from your own needs.”

All of this for $150 I give her. $160, actually. She doesn’t have change.

Thank you. See you next month, we say.

For a couple weeks, I brood over her comment. The truth in it. The irony. And meanwhile, I journal. I reflect. I realize that I’m exhausted, which is not news to anyone who lives with me. A few good naps might cure all that ails me.

I don’t think anyone, including me, was surprised when I lost my voice and began coughing up colors of the rainbow and aching with pain and sleeping for days at a time.

In his book Divine Therapy & Addiction, Thomas Keating writes about how in aviation history, planes had an automatic pilot which would signal with a beep into the pilot’s headphones when he was off course. To the right was one beep. To the left, two beeps. When he was dead center, no beeps. Silence.

I’ve found the same to be true in my own body. When I’m connected to my highest Self and wisdom, when I’m acting within what my intuition deems to be God’s will, I feel at peace. And, when I’m not, my body gives me signals. The sound starts as a series of intermittent beeps. And soon, my ears are ringing and I know something is not right.

How intelligent the body is, to notify us when something is amiss.

I’m grateful for the time I spent on the couch last week. A forced landing of sorts. A divinely ordained change of course.

And, now I’m back, and I’m realizing, yet again, that I don’t have to teach any sort of way. How liberating. How frightening.

A couple weeks ago, I asked a few regular students for a testimonial about my ability to teach inversions. I teach inversions every day. Slowly. Progressively. I’m not sure what I was looking for other than something to put on a flyer. And one replied with something that’s stuck with me:

“As you probably know, I still can’t kick up into handstand. It’s happened maybe 2 or 3 times in the last year.  This is more of a reflection of my fear than your teaching skills. However, if I’m being honest, the allure of a handstand pales in comparison to what you have taught me about love, forgiveness, compassion, peace, balance, strength, and patience. <3

Sorry if this wasn’t what you were looking for, but it’s the truth.”

Of all the testimonials I received, hers is ironically the only one I’ve used. Though handstand hasn’t quite happened in the physical form yet, she’s nailed it as far as I’m concerned.  

Spiritual principles are what I hope I embody and emit and, in some way, transmit through osmosis to the beautiful people whose mats find my classes.  I’m going to teach what I need to learn. And right now, I need to learn a second speed: slow. Ergo, my classes: deliciously slow. 

Headshot below captured by my beloved after she told me to think of the time when Cash Diehl photobombed my camel pose (also pictured below).

cash photobomb camel

SoulSpace Yoga Community | Fort Worth Yoga

Somehow with the help of my two amazing assistants, I got to be both behind the camera and in front of the camera for this shoot, which was (I think) a first for me. I was nervous. Being nervous is part of my process, as is neurotic overplanning and tragically rehearsing everything that could possibly go wrong. The fact that we pulled this off together gives me hope for my sister’s wedding that I’ll photograph in November.

I love these images because they’re clean and modern + edgy and fashion inspired + sweet and strong – with some sun flare. And SoulSpace Yoga Community, as I was telling a student at the car wash during a chance encounter the other day, has a little bit of everything. Yin + Restore, Hatha Flow, Power…what’s your pleasure? You can find a style of yoga to suit you under a single roof. There’s a beginners class every single Tuesday at 6 pm. The growing community of students is warm and welcoming. And these people, pictured, are professionals. Each shows up in his or her own unique way. Together we are stronger. Many of them, I’ve photographed numerous times through the years. And each time they get a little more comfortable, which translates artistically. I’m blessed to call them friends. True friends will tell you when you’ve got lipstick on your teeth. I love the outtakes perhaps more than the ones that were on the posed portrait list.

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a passionate story

One night this week, I didn’t sleep. I’d been to the doctor that day and received some medication for an upper respiratory infection. And, I am really sensitive to drugs these days. So, I embraced the time awake. Reading. Writing. Editing photos. Watching documentaries on Netflix. And before the day break, I decided to go scope out a spot for a sunrise shoot I have scheduled in the coming week. Because my self-dedicated and ambitious spouse had already left for the gym, I took the dog with me.

As we loaded the car, the rain fell steady on the pavement. And so I knew there would be no sunrise. Well, there would be. The sun rises every day. But the clouds and rain would leave it concealed. I’d have to rely on a compass and my imagination to see where the sunrise might take place.

Occasionally, we parked at gates and took 90 steps – fewer for Cash Diehl’s long strides – to plant our feet on what appeared higher ground. For about 30 minutes we drove. At some point I found myself driving on a main street where I saw a jogger out of the corner of my eye. She wore black runners shorts and a neon green rain jacket. Had it not been for her jacket that announced her presence at the the crosswalk long before she set foot in the street, I might not have seen her.

And as she jogged across the bridge of my Jeep, I thought with some distinction, “She must be crazy.” To run in this rain like this, she must be crazy?! And the thought occurred to me that though the Cowtown Marathon just occurred, she might still be training for the next race. An amateur she was not.

And, then, it hit me: passion. She was running – rain or shine, dawn or dusk. Because running was her passion.

And I was driving around scouting locations – in the dark, recovering from illness, at a severe lack of rest – for my latest art escapade. Because art is my passion.

By the time the woman had made it across the street – which was mere seconds due to her skilled gait – I realized the essence of every spiritual teaching: the other person is you.

She is I. I am she. Both possessed with a fair degree of crazy – a little spark of madness…the Divine substance which causes our hearts to beat and our hair to grow. Both dedicated to our respective passions.

The word passion connotes two things for me:

  1. a thing that rouses enthusiasm. Writing, yoga, nature, taking portraits – these activities rouse enthusiasm for me. Enthusiasm stems from the Latin root, enthousiasmos, or “possessed by a god.” Enthusiasm means you’ve got the Spirit inside of you. You feel It.
  2. suffering. Passion takes its origins from the Greek or Latin word, passio, which at one time meant “suffering.” Later it evolved to mean a strong emotional desire.

When I am living my life from a place of passion, I experience a connection to Spirit that once completely eluded me. Connection to Spirit, I’ve realized is not static. Feeling it hungover from steroids and a lack of sleep is more challenging than it is on a day when I feel vibrant and at ease.

And when I am living my life from a place of passion, inevitably I still experience suffering. Now let me just say that, in a literal sense, I rarely run – unless someone’s chasing me…or I’m paying the trainer to make me. Figuratively, however, over the past five years as an entrepreneur and artist chasing my dreams, I’ve run many a rainy day. Some days I wanted to run. Some days I didn’t. Dread all too often places a stumbling block before my quick feet.

I was supposed to present at a middle school career day this week. “What should I tell them?” I had scoffed when they initially asked me. I make it a point not to give advice. I mean, quitting my day job to teach yoga and take photographs has worked out for me. But, I had help. Financial. Emotional. Spiritual. I didn’t have other mouths to feed. I wouldn’t suggest my path to everyone. And I think of all of those young kids who want to be famous athletes. I was once one. But, hello, I’m 5’3″. When I get off the plane to teach an out of town workshop, it never fails, the studio liaison says, “I thought you’d be bigger.” Some dreams we must let die. And even still, passion – more passion, other passion, better passion – remains. 

“Follow your passion?” Yes. That’s what I would tell them, if I had a voice to speak. I’d say: Find what you’re crazy about. And follow it. Follow your passion like your life depends on it. Even when you’re sick. Even when you’re tired. When it’s raining. When you’re crying. When you feel as though what you’re doing is a waste of time and it would be much easier to play it safe – especially then – follow your passion. Your soul did not incarnate for any other reason than to follow your passion and encourage others to do the same. And, by the same token, give up the stuff which doesn’t bring you closer to your passion. “Stuff” might include self-limiting beliefs, negative thought patterns, self-destructive behaviors, substances, and people. 

“But I don’t have a passion,” I can hear the choir sing. “I don’t know what it is.” People write to me all of the time about this.

Not to worry. Immerse yourself in serving others. Even if you don’t find your passion, you’ll forget to pity yourself for not having any passion. You’ll feel fulfilled. And connected to Spirit. So you arrive at the same destination with different transportation. You can drive. You can run…walk…crawl. The transportation is always up to you. But whatever path you choose, take it enthusiastically.

why I use chanting in meditation | live your truth malas

People ask me almost daily if I design jewelry. Honestly, I’ve never had the aspiration. People ask me because every single day, I’m adorned in at least one mala / bracelet / earring / crystal from Live Your Truth Malas. I use a mala every day in my chanting practice. And I photograph these malas and inevitably one always “calls to me” as the very first one pictured did last year. For my wedding, I had the multi-talented momma / yoga goddess / studio owner / effortless fashionista / friend / fellow Buddhist soul, Lauren Dashiell Wessinger, create one for me to wear through the weekend to remind me to stay where my hands and feet were. That one is unpictured but absolutely gorgeous.

A mala has 108 beads and is used in Japa Meditation where you chant a mantra 108 times. It is one of my favorite meditations – often the only one that truly quiets my mind. There are days when I simply cannot sit still without twitching and itching and climbing out of the present moment to plan my busy day. And these are the moments when I know I need the meditation most. So, I started chanting. 108 times with my middle finger and thumb stringing each bead toward my heart. And then sitting for several minutes in the silence.

After you chant the Gayatri mantra (seen below + hear it here) 108 times,

om bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ

tát savitúr váreṇ(i)yaṃ

bhárgo devásya dhīmahi

dhíyo yó naḥ prachodáyāt

there is a deafening and beautiful silence that only the Divine can break. I’ve not been so consistent with the aforementioned Gayatri mantra because it takes around 45 minutes to chant. However, “Oṃ Maṇi Padme Hūṃ” for compassion and “Om Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha” for abundance take around 8 mintues. Both of these mantras I chanted (separately) for 40 days straight. I chanted Lakshmiyei leading up to SoulSpace Yoga Community’s opening when I knew I needed a change. I didn’t have enough time, strength, money, etc. Lakshmi changed me daily. And, om mani padme hum helped me in the realm of forgiveness like no therapist ever could.

People say, “Why chant sanskrit?”

I’m sure there are a number of reasons but for me there are two main reasons:

  1. Sanskrit vibrates at a beautiful frequency that actually raises my own vibration. it’s not unlike the way the National Anthem feels or a beautiful rendition of Silent Night or Ave Maria. The words move me beyond the translation.
  2. My mind cannot compete with sanskrit. When I chant “I am peace” more stuff slips in between. I meditate to calm the bad neighborhood that is my mind. I don’t go in alone. I always take a mantra or a spiritual friend to help me hash through the stuff inside there.

You can find Live Your Truth Malas on Instagram and purchase these beauties at the website here.

live your truth malas

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live your truth malas

Fort Worth Power Yoga | SoulSpace Yoga Community

I had the privilege to photograph Elizabeth Daigle’s SoulPower class on Saturday. She is one of three owners at SoulSpace Yoga Community, soulspaceyc.com. Her style is nontraditional and traditional, powerful and alignment based Ashtanga yoga. Man, even my cameras were sweatin’. On the first Saturday in April, in correlation with Lululemon Athletica Fort Worth, she’s offering a free class from 9:30 – 11 am.

Occasionally, people send me a note and ask me where I’m teaching, if I’m an owner, when I’m going to start a teacher training program. For now, I’m focusing on creating beautiful images, teaching plenty of private sessions each week in addition to a handful of well crafted group classes at SSYC, and bringing to birth two books that have been stirring in my bones. I’ve got a couple online offerings in the works, too 😉

Not long after SoulSpace opened I wrote 10 stream of conscience reasons why I love it so. Read them below. And, if you’ve yet to check the studio out, find the schedule online here: soulspaceyc.com

10 reasons I already love SoulSpace Yoga Community :

1. It’s clean. Organically. Professionally. I typed some unkind and gross things I’ve experienced in yoga studios over the last 12 years but have elected to sweep my side of the street, spare you the disgusting details, and delete them.

2. The expertise and professionality of the teachers. Their willingness to share what they know with each other, to tailor their teaching to meet the needs of the students in the room, to remain authentic to who they are.

3. Compassionate collaboration. Everybody’s got my back. No doubt. I don’t have to hold the vision and mission alone. We all do our part and support each other.

4. A beautiful private room with an Iyengar rope wall in which to camp out and teach individualized sessions.

5. Infrared heat. When I set the temperature to 85, it’s 85 and breathable. The sweat comes from the inside, out.

6. Enthusiasm of the students. They’re up for anything and everything. Eager beginners looking to learn. Intermediate students ready to take their practice to the next level. Advanced students who realize a beginner mentality is the way to progress. All seeking to breathe fresh life into their lives.

7. Saunas + showers. Better products in the bathroom than the ones I own at home. I look for more opportunities to bathe here.

8. Variety on the schedule. Within these four walls, I can find Ashtanga, yin + restorative, hatha, vinyasa, and magical spiritual substance I can really sink my teeth in.

9. Rich relationships. My friends are there. Teachers I’ve known, respected and loved for years. Students who’ve followed me from my Azle living room to Karmany to my South Main loft to here: 3425 W. 7th, aka home.

10. How it feels. Brimming with possibility. How blessed am I for this opportunity. The Universe whispers that to me each time I enter or leave. The best feeling in the world is to know that the best is yet to come.

#gratitude #gratitudeallyear #noneedtowaitfornovember #thankyouthankyouthankyou

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how yoga and meditation have helped me deal with anger

When I think about why I teach yoga, it’s not to teach people to perfect their handstands. It’s not to learn how to lengthen the spine in trikonasana. I find in the “real” world – whatever that means – nobody cares how good your vashistasana…or any pose, for that matter…is. It’s not to say that I don’t teach alignment…I do – perhaps more than most…because I want my students to be safe. But I recognize the pose as secondary.

Because I believe what matters is how we show up in the world. What happens on my mat is preparation for the events that play out with less certainty on my life mat.

Last week I was returning to the studio after a couple in-home private sessions. The Kundalini mantras were playing. When I put down the sugar, I turned up the Kundalini mantras. Even in the chanting, the hamster wheels were turning because I’m awaiting my taxes and in the midst of a couple changes – I’m just not sure what they are quite yet. And, let me just be the first to admit that I’ll never win an award for driver of the year. I had three car accidents last year. Only one was my fault. But, still, I’ve had some collisions.

Suddenly, a man in a Subaru came up next to me and rolled down his window to curse me out. He had a “Feel the Bern” bumpersticker. I’d just had a conversation with Arthur, my accountant and most dedicated yoga student, about politics – over restorative yoga…which I don’t recommend.

I don’t know what I did, if anything, to provoke this man. I didn’t roll my window down to reason with him. I did, however, feel triggered with adrenaline – what I logically know as fight or flight…or (the lesser known) freeze. He swerved in front of me and hit the brakes hard. I went around him and turned the corner early to return to the studio on a back road. He followed and when we met again, he wielded his fist wildly. And, finally, he turned the corner in haste.

Had this same experience happened several years ago instead of last week, here’s how the story would have likely ended: I’d have pulled my car over and told him what a piece of shit he was … (Fight) … All gender and size differences aside, I would have come out of my car swinging and might not have stopped until he was humiliated or I was bloodied – whichever came first. And I would’ve gotten shitfaced afterward with my drug of choice in a futile attempt expel the experience… (Flight)…Then I’d have called everyone I know and built a story around how fucked up humanity was and is and always will be… (Freeze) … And I’d have carried the energy and resentment acquired from that experience around for years to come.

Instead, I sat in the studio parking lot to eat my late lunch. Snatam Kaur kept singing. I said a prayer for the man and for myself. I put my feet on the earth and discharged the energy of the experience from my cell tissue. The moment passed as quickly as it came. Life went on.

Why would I pray for him? I can hear my reluctant-to-soften-quick-to-anger students ask me. Because I don’t ever know what someone else is battling. And because I know what it’s like to harbor the sort of hatred and anger he exhibited toward me, how much pain and fear he lives in. And because I believe the light I find in others is a reflection of the light that’s found within. And so, for better or worse, the converse is true too. In others’ shadow behaviors, I see my own. It famous Kundalini teacher, Yoga Bhajan, who said, “Recognize that the other person is you.”

There is much in this world over which I’m powerless to change. Our political candidates for starters. However, I’m committed not to add to the aggression on the planet. This is what a regular meditation practice has done for me. This is the yoga, which is far more important than any asana.

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straight outta meditation

My morning meditation is the time when I get real with my Self. I once thought meditation was all about returning to the breath. “When a thought arises, return to the breath.” This is a great strategy for mindfulness. However, after working with Gabrielle Douglas in meditation over the past month I’ve realized that I am ready to go deeper. “Allow yourself to think the nagging thought,” she’s encouraged. and in doing so, I’ve realized how many of my thoughts are (still) rooted in fear. fear blocks us from our True nature, which I believe to be Love. and the only way to overcome fear, I feel, is to go in and touch it – with breath, with compassion, and with confidence that it’s likely not real. this morning, I realized it was February 22nd, that we’re in the 8th week of the new year, that I’m not gaining much traction in my writing and that I’ve lost the balance in a few realms. And, I’ve got legitimate and noble reasons, of course.

meditation web dream hotel

According to the Handel Group, there are 3 voices of self-sabotage: the weather reporter, the inner brat, and the chicken. The weather reporter objectively reports a sad state of affairs as a meteorologist does the weather. “You are spending 42 hours each week teaching yoga or holding a camera, just slightly below average this time of year. A change is not forecasted. If you’re looking to find time for writing in this season of your life, don’t expect to find it in the morning. You are not a morning person. Never have been, never will be.” The inner brat says, “I’m too tired to write…I can’t get up any earlier than 6 am…I’m working so hard…and I deserve my sleep.” The chicken says, “I’m afraid. I’m afraid to write. I’m afraid to publish anything longer than a Facebook status.”

And while the weather reporter and the inner brat have some merit, it’s the chicken who keeps clucking me over. Every. Single. Time.

But the thing is, there’s another voice within each of us. It’s the voice of love. And s/he might not be as loud as the chicken, as ostentatious as the bratty kid, or as matter-of-fact as the weather man. But s/he’s Real. Velveteen Rabbit real. And the only way I get to Real is through meditation. Because routine meditation is the only practice I’ve found that quiets the other three down. If you’re looking to begin a meditation practice or to take your established sitting practice to the next level, join us for SoulSit, a series in meditation Tuesday’s at noon in March at SoulSpace Yoga Community. 

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the best compliment my business has ever received

She teaches yoga to 3-year-olds. how cute is that? and also in Austin here: https://www.facebook.com/FuerteFitnessAustin/
I’ve been privileged to watch part of her yoga journey, and it was wonderful to reconnect again.
After the shoot, she sent me a series of compliments that distilled my entire business model into 3 statements:

“Wow! I have to say I am impressed with your business acumen:
1. You called me back within 24 hours of my email (hearing from you rather than an electronic response was nice).
2. You have “under promised and over delivered” (I wasn’t expecting to see anything for another week.)
3. The shoot was so fun and relaxing – so much I forgot to even touch my tea! I love the way you made my friend feel at ease.”

I’m a creative, but with 5 years experience running my own businesses, I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of things. Haha. One of my yoga teachers says it takes at least 5 years to become a master of anything. I think it’s more like 50. Anyway, it was nice to see reflected back to me what I strive to offer: superior service and an outstanding artistic product. I strive to make the process as personal as possible with phone calls and face-to-face meetings and in person sessions to view and order your prints. I didn’t get into photography to lose my photos in a digital file oblivion. I love the relationships that develop in my work. 

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2016-03-10_0030Nicole Duran Austin Yoga Teacher

Gabrielle Douglas | Fort Worth Yoga Teacher + The Cush

In my industries, I’m fortunate to share space with people who keep me inspired. Each Thursday, I’ve been meeting up with Gabrielle Douglas of Slow Flow yoga and The Cush band fame. We are collaborating in an online meditation series that will be available soon. I look forward to this time each week, as does my dog, Cash Diehl. She’s got a great husky lab named ZZ, and he and Cash have really hit it off. Some projects evolve like that where you wonder – is this “work” or is this “fun?” Both.

And we’re also offering the series at SoulSpace Yoga Community every Tuesday at noon in March. It’ll be an amazing offering: 30 minutes of meditation plus the option for a to-go lunch from My Sweet Roots. On Friday, I took a few updated photos for her and then I went to take her yoga class, which transported me to another planet. I’m learning, through my work with her, that the goal of life is not to live on another planet. Not every meditation will feel transcendent and cosmic…many won’t. Certainly, we can enjoy the ones that do, but the point is to live in the body – grounded in the present moment.

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