July 21: What Concerns Me

“I am taking it as an expression of the Supreme’s concern and love.”  For the better part of the past 7 days Yuri has forced himself to slow down, to drink more often, and take more breaks.  To behave in short, in a manner that he has never before had to do in any previous event.  But then he has never run the 3100 mile race before or experienced all the steamy torture and torment of a New York summer either. That he is not in any way resentful or disappointed in this extraordinary situation is a mark of the true courage and strength that he has within him.

His outer strength he impressively demonstrated for 4 straight weeks.  Making daily mileage totals for a first timer that were not just good but excellent.  But when the 5th week arrived it literally changed the map for everyone here, and for 49 year old Yuri Trostenyuk from Vinnitsa Ukraine he has had to make adjustments in his life here like he has never had done before.

yuri-wide

All the runners have struggled over the past week here.  It has been 7 extremely challenging days in which the unbearable weather has apparently tried to dismantle and shatter the hopes of all the runners.  The power of nature is a force to be reckoned with particularly when it decides to unleash its might against the puny plans and wishes of mankind.

For Yuri at least he can be satisfied that he has banked a lot of miles before his troubles started.  He has now in front of himself just a little less than 1000 miles more to go, and 17 days in which to do it.  Normally a very doable thing.  It is almost just a simple mathematical equation that is easily solvable, that is if his body heals and he can average 58 miles in the time remaining.

yuri

When asked if he is concerned about what lies ahead, “I am not concerned about difficulties.  What I want to do is make the Supreme happy in his own way.”…………….”But I would really like to finish the distance this time.”

WHAT CONCERNS ME

Failure does not concern me.
What concerns me is God-satisfaction
In God’s own Way
In my aspiration-life.

Sri Chinmoy, Transcendence-Perfection, Agni Press, 1975

Photo By Bhashwar

Photo By Bhashwar

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July 20: Train Your Life For Perfection

Sometimes sport stories have a way of inspiring us like nothing else can.  An athlete or a team when faced with incredible odds and formidable adversity simply rises up to the challenge and performs something just this side of miraculous.  We are instantly inspired and amazed by what we have witnessed and the world around us seems not quite so ordinary.  That special things can and do happen and just maybe we might be able to do something great as well.

Johnny-with-his-momOne of my favorite runners is a man named Johnny  Miles who comes from a small town in Nova Scotia Canada.  He was a naturally talented runner and his father decided to train him so that he could enter the Boston Marathon.  He taught himself how to coach by simply reading about other marathoners, who there weren’t that many of in the 1920’2.

Somehow Johnny’s dad got the idea that he should run 100 miles a week to prepare.  In the summers this was easy, running on country roads in and around where he lived.  But the marathon is in the Spring time and winters linger cold and late in that part of the world.  On his last long training run it had snowed, he once told me, and the roads were impassable.  He said his father told him that he should run on the railway tracks instead because they were always plowed.

When he arrives in Boston in 1926 he is just 21 years old.  He has no real idea of how to run this thing he has trained so hard for.  His Dad says that what he should do is simply follow the favorite in the race named Clarence DeMar who had won the race the 3 previous years.  Quite to his surprise however was the appearance of Albin Stenroos from Finland who was also world famous.  The local press were ecstatic.  Before them they thought was an epic battle between the 2 greatest marathon runners of the day.

Except of course nobody knew this kid from Nova Scotia who simply followed the great ones until they fell apart.  To his surprise he was alone in front of the pack, not really knowing what was going to happen next.  If in fact the other 2 would somehow come back and challenge him again.  Eventually a car came by with some marathon officials who yelled out to him. “You’ve got it, kid, You’ve got it.” Johnny Miles then went on to win the race and set a course record of 2:25.

Johnny-Miles

Nobody probably noticed the moment when it exactly happened.  The clipboards of the counters are always kept up to date but there is always a gap between what they say and the numbers which the big board are showing.  But sometime yesterday Ashprihanal was passed by Atmavir.   The day was also brutally hot for everyone here.  It was once again a day when people were trying just to keep moving.  Not worrying about how many laps they would make but just how to finish the one in front of them.

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What is happening to him now is eerily similar to 2 years ago when his great soaring flight to the finish line was shockingly interrupted.  On day 39 he was overwhelmed by this devilish New York weather.  After this he then had to battle for another 8 days just to make it to the finish line.  An heroic and supreme effort by anybody’s reckoning.

What he faces now though is much more formidable. For what stretches out in front of him is the imposing reality of 870 more miles.  Yesterday he walked all day and today he is doing much the same.  In the days ahead the weather is supposed to improve and perhaps his wings will come out an he will fly once more.

But this race is always much more about what we don’t see then what we do.  For each runner here yesterday the conditions were simply so shocking it was hard really grasp how anyone could go on.  Yet Ashprihanal found in his legs and his heart 74 laps.  Doing so with a courage and strength that we have grown accustomed to now over the years.

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The only thing certain now is with each new lap he walks and each new day at the race, he is entering a new and unfamiliar world within himself.  One that is challenging him in a way that Ashprihanal, the flying Finn, has never had to face before.  Yet the destination has still not changed despite all this.  It has always been and will continue to be his own perfection.

Sri-Chinmoy-with-Arthur-Lydiard

Sri Chinmoy with Arthur Lydiard (NZ running coach)
Photo by Bhashwar

Train your mind

For transformation.

Train your heart

For contemplation.

Train your life

For perfection.

Sri Chinmoy, Two God-Amusement-Rivals: My Heart-Song-Beauty And My Life-Dance-Fragrance, Part 13, Agni Press, 1996

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July 19: All Souls Struggle

“If you rely on the mind and the physical you will start getting weak.  You have to go to the higher conscious level.”  Swamiji ran 14 laps this morning with the runners and is now soon about to carry on with the rest of his day.  His advice is correct in every way.  For all spiritual seekers the goal is to always find the highest path when confronted by both joy and adversity.

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But on a practical level no one here is God realized, at least not yet.  Each runner has given their all for the past 33 days and nearly everyone has passed or soon will pass running 2000 miles.  Each hour this morning as the dawn breaks and the immense brilliance of the sun spills across the city, it gets hotter and hotter.

The relentless weight of the humidity presses down on everyone.  It has been like this every day now for a week, and any kind of relief in the weather is still days away.  A splash of water, a bag of ice, all the little remedies work for an instant.  A flash of relief and then the struggle continues. One in which there is simply no ultimate end in sight for at least 18 more days.

wide-swami

“I do the Guru mantra.  The Guru is so powerful because he manifests himself from consciousness. He meets you halfway.  Because his body is really a manifestation of consciousness.  So if you are able to connect to his body.  Than that automatically puts you into a higher consciousness.”

Guru-82

Photo by Bhashwar 1982

All souls
Struggle and struggle and struggle
Inside the body-cage,
But eventually they bring victory
To their Lord Supreme.

Sri Chinmoy, My Christmas-New Year-Vacation Aspiration-Prayers, Part 57, Agni Press,

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July 18: In My Heart Already

“It is a very serious number.” This number which is so serious for Yuri Trostenyuk is 2000 miles.  In practical terms he has probably been aiming towards this number now for the past 16 days when at that time he made his first 1000.  Hopefully if all goes well in just an additional 16 days more he will also be able to rack up another 1000 miles.  Then all that will remain left in front of him will be that last little bump of 100 miles.

In so many ways his life long dreams are now finding form within the actual reality of his life.  Coming in ways that he perhaps had not exactly imagined yet at the same time, with all his preparation and hard effort they have certainly not materialized out of thin air either.

When he ran up this sidewalk moments earlier his eyes were bright with gratitude.  He had hoped to actually have completed those 4 laps the previous night.  But the conditions yesterday were horrific and unfortunately will continue on this way for several days to come.  When asked about what it was like here for him, “Yesterday was a very serious day.”

Unless you are the most experienced of ultra runners these distances simply cannot be comprehended.   Certainly for even an average marathon runner there is no way of putting his accomplishment into perspective.

yuri-and-20002

Out of curiosity I wondered, if Yuri had set off from his home in Vinnitsa 32 days ago, instead of running around the block here, just how far would he have been able to travel.

I am not sure if he speaks too many foreign languages but he would have needed quite a few before he completed the full 2000 miles west of his home in the Ukraine.   Because if he ran in that direction  he would have just about made it to Madrid.  A journey by car, that Google maps says should take about 34 hours.  That is if you were to use a mode of travel the most of us are more familiar with when we want to travel  such long distances.

vinnitsa-to-madrid

As for that finish line which is getting just a little closer each hot day now, “It lives in my heart already.”

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Guru-1982

Photo by Bhashwar 1982

Anything that I want to find
Is already there
In the depths of my heart.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 39, Agni Press, 2004

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July 17: God’s Job

“It is so far that you can’t even think about it.  It is like 3 weeks.  If you start to think about it now it will kill you.  I am only thinking about today.”  I had just asked Pranjal about what it might mean to him when he passes the 2000 mile mark today, and if he would then be able to just to have a little better perspective of the finish line.

His answer and his tone delivering it were no surprise.  Over 9 years of his doing the self transcendence race his words never surprise me while what he does with his feet is another matter.  His relentless drive and determination never ceases to astonish me.

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Yet just the same in about 9 hours from now, in the very pit of another hot dank NY afternoon Pranjal will indeed cross the 2/3’s mark and without stopping continue on with what he has been doing every day for the last 31.

Now with just 21 days of running time left for everyone it becomes much easier to calculate and to see how some runners here will likely do extraordinarily well, while a few others will simply run out of time in tying to make it to the finish line.

For all those who love the race and would enjoy taking over God’s job, should he for some reason voluntarily choose to relinquish it for the next 3 weeks.   The world, at least here would quickly become a much different place.  Instantly all potential Supreme Beings in waiting, would quickly alter the weather, by shifting in a cool front from Canada.  Injuries would vanish,  pain would disappear, and all the tiredness and fatigue would be a thing of the past.

sopan-service-road

Of course most of us by standers assume we could surpass the Supreme’s decisions on a few very specific matters.  Assuming that maybe this time the cosmic plan is actually somehow a mistake.  That on this occasion perhaps the Lord of the Universe is being distracted by wars or other events in far off lands.  The folly of this reasoning is that should any of us actually have  this power and should we then alter what is happening, even just here on this block,  we would be making the worst possible mistake.

For the subtle transformations that happen here to each runner are most certainly beyond our grasp and understanding.  None of them are asking for any of their suffering, the pain, or fatigue.  Yet they each and everyone knows the strength of the inner command that brought them to this task.  At times they may even doubt their decisions and feel abandoned by the very power that is indeed still working in and through each of them.

For any of us trying to analyze how this will still yet play out is a fool’s errand, and asking for God’s job even more so.  For as Pranjal correctly said, all we have is today.

Photo by Bhashwar 1981

Photo by Bhashwar 1981

Do not plan your life in advance. It is not fair to take away God’s job.

Sri Chinmoy, To-Morrow’s Dawn, Agni Press, 1982

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July 16: Running and Smiling

“They are very surprised that we are running and smiling.” Vasu is telling me this morning about a newspaper, from his home near StPetersburg that is regularly printing pictures and stories about the race here in NY.  He tells me that the readers are also encouraged to check out a Russian language version of this blog.  Which they are told, “if you read it you will be inspired.”

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He says that the paper is calling the 3100 mile race a sporting event but they admit to their readers that they can’t even begin to understand how the runners are able to do it.  For everyone else it is also nearly impossible to comprehend what is happening here by simply looking at the daily result sheets.  And no matter how you view or calculate all the statistics and numbers  they really can’t tell you much about what is going on here.

When you look at Vasu’s picture here you cannot help but take note that he is clearly a man at peace with himself and yes he has a smile too.  But then mentally try and add to this radiant face the additional knowledge that in about 6 hours time he will pass the 2,000 mile mark.  With this simple fact our ability to understand who he really is and what he is accomplishing here on this block in Queens evaporates into thin air.

vasu-silouhette

As someone who has run marathons and longer events I know something about struggling and suffering to reach a finish line.  I have felt the satisfaction of a number of hours of hard effort and then the immediate relief of crossing a finish line and than it is all over.  Here there is also a finish line but it is one so remote and so distant it is almost inconceivable.  For Vasu, who has crossed it once before and will soon be just 1000 miles away, for him it is certainly no longer an invisible or imaginary thing that calls out to him now and one he has constantly been aware of for the past 30 days.

Yet he will arrive there successfully he knows, not by being lost in his body’s struggles nor deterred by the mental suffering of his mind.  He is experienced and aware enough to realize that he will only transcend himself here only by surrendering to the divine within himself.  I asked him one time what his strategy was here at the race.  “I have no plan.  My soul has a plan.”

Puerto-Rico

Photo by Kedar

Run, run, in the inner world run, run!
God’s Lightning-Smiles have already begun.

July 15: Tree Of Life

We don’t know for sure when it pushed forth its first deep red buds.  When it unfurled its first handful of leaves and felt the sun beckoning it to reach and grow up high and full into the sky.  No one has yet to decipher an exact date of when a tree, or in fact nearly all of the other glorious and mighty gifts that nature creates around and about us are born.

We can speculate however that some time in the early 1970’s a tiny spindly Japanese Maple sapling was first placed into a pot in a nursery somewhere in Connecticut.  With who knows how many other small trees all around, it first felt life within its roots, stem, and branches.  For most certainly it was just one amongst so many, all neatly lined up in long straight rows that stretched out across a field.

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For some years it grew there, slowly getting stronger and developing its own unique shape and look.  One that was just a little different from all the rest. Each year gathering more strength from the earth and the sun and perhaps ever so gradually gathering some small sense of where it would one day eventually grow.  But we cannot truly speculate or divine that a tree sees or knows such things.  But for this Japanese maple a destiny was surely calling it.  The course of time would one day prove this to be true.

Then one day when it was mature enough to go out on its own, a gardener came by and selected it alone amongst all the rest.  All the little maples would most certainly find places to live and grow.  Whether in front yards or in gardens and even beside busy city streets for miles around. This maple though made its way to Queens and there in a small brief ceremony it was planted in this spot on Saturday October the 11th, 1975. Which is now a date for many of us, that brims with so many other thoughts and memories.

atmavir-tree

Sri Chinmoy himself planted the tree that day.  If you look ever so closely at the picture you can just make out a little paper sign that reads, ‘In Honor of Sri Chinmoy’s 100,000 Jharna Kala paintings. An achievement that had actually taken place earlier on the 3rd of the month.  A celebration took place as well inside the school immediately afterwards to mark this moment in Sri Chinmoy’s painting life.  One that would eventually includes not just thousands but millions of paintings of all sorts.

It should also be noted that the very first public Sri Chinmoy race took place, a 7 miler, a few weeks earlier on September 28th in Stamford.

No plague marks this tree now to tell this story.  Just the same it has grown stronger and more beautiful each year now for the past 38.  It has been a silent witness to countless events, both great and small, some sad no doubt and hopefully many more that were joyous and wonderful.

At least we know that for the past 17 summers it has been a bright sentinel on guard in front of the school as the 3100 mile race passed back and forth on the sidewalk so close by.  Catching the gaze at least briefly of the runners as they pass.  Some might know at least a little of its history and others perhaps not.  But most will tell you that if they do look its way they will feel at least from time to time a small inner thrill as they drink in its beauty. Not caring to know or wonder just why it is so, but catching its inspiration just the same.

tree2 copy

We do not know now what Sri Chinmoy said that day as he placed his hands upon its leaves and offered it his own unique sweet blessing.  His life was filled beyond reckoning with so many wondrous things.  Most still reaching out and inspiring the world around it.  This Japanese maple now so much more grand and beautiful continues to inspire those who pass it by.  Whether it be the students and teachers trudging back and forth to school  or the 12 runners who circle around and around it again and again, each and every day.

The tree of life can never be separated from the tree of love. The tree of love can never be separated from the tree of realisation. The tree of realisation can never be separated from the tree of transcendental perfection.

Sri Chinmoy, Arise! Awake! Thoughts Of A Yogi, Agni Press, 1972

Guru-Oct.11,1975

Photo by Bhashwar October 11 1975

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July 14: Become A Better Instrument

“It is going to be very interesting.  I hope we survive it.”  Pranjal is talking about the weather forecast for today which is predicted to be repeated over and over again every day for the rest of the week.  He describes a relentless march of metric temperatures all in the 30’s, but to most of us he means over 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

In NY speak what lies ahead, not just for 12 weary runners but also the entire city and a great sizzling slice of the American east coast is simply a long heat wave.

pranjal

In many ways it would almost appear as though nature is playing a kind of cruel trick on the runners.  They have been battling off and on for the past 4 weeks just such conditions, but now it will become for them one long endless sauna. It is a weather pattern that happens predictably though every summer here.   It is one that any runner who has ever done this race before has had to deal with and find a way to overcome it.

weather

The real adversary in this weather mix  is the humidity.  Which for many who have routinely experienced high temperatures in their own countries have simply never had to deal with before.  It is because of humidity that perspiration does not evaporate and the body’s natural cooling system simply doesn’t have a solution.  Normal folk head into the shade, sit down, and have a cold drink.  But when you still have 1347 more miles to go like Pranjal those are not one of your options.

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Question: Sometimes for days on end I don’t feel like running, even though I know it is good for me. How can I overcome this reluctance?

Sri Chinmoy: We have to practise self-discipline. It is by doing something, by becoming something – not necessarily something great or famous – that we can overcome our reluctance. It is through moving – which is progress – and achieving – which is another type of progress – that we can overcome reluctance. In order to overcome reluctance, we have to have a goal and we have to try to reach that goal. By always moving and progressing toward a goal, you not only become a better runner but you also become a better instrument of God.

Sri Chinmoy, The Outer Running And The Inner Running, Agni Press, 1974

Guru-1981

Photo by Bhashwar 1981

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July 13: Significant Places

Just a few weeks ago was the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  Over 3 days of fighting 50,000 soldiers lost their lives in this great struggle that was the turning point of the American Civil war.  Latter that fall the American President, Abraham Lincoln gave a short but immortal speech at the inauguration of the cemetery that was created there as the final resting place for all those who sacrificed their lives on its hallowed ground.

With both the significance of the battle, as well as those most powerful inspirational 10 lines that Lincoln spoke there, people from across the country have been making pilgrimages there for generations.  It is a place in which history has indelibly etched its mark.  Such locations have  always been beacons to pilgrims, scholars, tourists, and the curious.

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Great natural wonders will also always attract those who want to at least briefly separate themselves from the artificial worlds that we so often create around and about us.  But also we are drawn to places in which man as well has achieved greatness by building something that is timeless and beautiful.  Whether it is the pyramids, the great wall, or a cathedral lovingly created to lift up the spirits of those who seek out wonder.

Over the greater part of the year the course of the 3100 mile race does not receive much attention and fewer visitors.  It has no specific name in which to distinguish it from countless other places of interest in NY.  For much of the year it is a busy thoroughfare for students and teachers, and sport teams who want to make use of its fields.  Most if not all who traverse around and about here likely know little of what takes place here over the course of a few months each hot NY summer.

Photo by Bipin January 2012

Photo by Bipin January 2012

Yet it seems to me that gradually more and more people are finding their way here to this little sidewalk.  They come for many reasons.  None of which include an acknowledgement to a specific moment in history, nor to be inspired by its’ great natural beauty, or to view a significant architectural wonder. Something deeper and intangible compels them to come.

“I think what these runners are doing is absolutely extraordinary.  It is hard to wrap your mind around 3100 miles, physically, mentally, and even spiritually.” This morning a young couple from Columbus Ohio are visiting the course.  Sunshine and her husband Jimmy came to NY the other day to celebrate their 4th wedding anniversary and made visiting the race on of their priorities.

Sunshine is very animated as she talks.  “I want to experience what these people are experiencing.  Get a small taste of what they are doing.”

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Question: Is there a soul-significance to the place where something happens?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, when something very special happens, it has something special to do with the heart of the place or the place itself. If something very spiritual is happening, the soul is bound to be there and the place is bound to be significant. This is not the case for silly, ordinary, mundane events, but if something very special is going on at a particular place, the soul’s divinity has to visit that place and stay there for some time to watch what is happening. If necessary, it will illumine or transform what is happening. Again, if something positive is happening, the soul of the place tries to expedite the journey of the seekers.

Sri Chinmoy, Sri Chinmoy Answers, Part 13, Agni Press, 1999

Photo by Bhashwar 1981

Photo by Bhashwar 1981

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July 12: Nothing Frightens Me

“I can’t stay away.  These people are like divinities brought down on earth for these few weeks.  Each time I come I get stronger and stronger.  I can’t tell you the name for it, but I can tell you that it makes me very very happy.”

Snehashila has come by the race this morning as she does on most days throughout the summer.  In fact on mornings nearly all year long she leaves her house, which is about 7 or 8 blocks away and circles around and about the neighborhood in order to get some exercise.

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On Saturday mornings she is usually at the 2 mile race which takes place just across the street. Today is an extra special one for her though, as today is her 88th birthday.

Snehashila-2008

2009

I don’t how a lots of things work, or why things happen the way they do.  For example by this point in the race I just take it for granted that the runners are simply going to show up every day here and then run all day.  Then by some miraculous fashion it all continues on like this for 52 straight days.

Today marks the half way point.   After 26 days of everything happening with such regularity my mind has simply adapted to a kind of logical pattern.  I have become locked into this little daily routine just as a lot of others have as well.  All of this seems somehow just so normal and natural until you step back and take a closer look.

 

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1979

The arrival of the birthday girl however forces me to marvel at just how remarkable she really is.  Once I look just a little past Snehashila’s ageless effervescent beaming smile, I feel a little shock of reality fly up into my thoughts.  It is then that I wonder to myself,  ‘how is she still doing this at 88 years of age?”

A few years ago I made a film about running which she had a not insignificant role in it.  I just happened to be there when she was sprinting towards the finish line of the 2 mile race.  She said then, “I am kicking it in at 83.”

 

Click Link to Film:      Sri Chinmoy’s Love Of Running

 

She used to also run the marathon every August in Rockland State Park.  When I ask her about that, “NOTHING, frightens me.  I would have done this (3100) myself if I had joined the Marathon team when I was younger.”

She doesn’t stay long however.  She visits the race this morning  just long enough to greet and cheer the runners.  Then she goes off at a fast pace down the block and then on towards her home.  Moving along at a speed not unlike some of the runners out here on the course.

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My Earth Activities

I respect greatness.

I love goodness.

I champion the right cause.

I listen to a pure heart.

I frighten the animal in me.

I enlighten the human in me.

I strengthen the divine in me.

Sri Chinmoy, Silver Thought-Waves, Part 2, Agni Press, 1992

Start of 50 mile race 1981 Photo by Bhashwar

Start of 50 mile race 1981
Photo by Bhashwar

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