Yoga

365 Days of Yoga. What I learned? And why I kept going?

8365 days and two weeks ago  I stepped into my first yoga studio (and took my first yoga class since 2007).   I had no idea what was in store that Sunday, but since that day, I’ve practiced 365 consecutive days and probably went to about 450 classes (I still need to count the exact number).  This is a short reflection piece of my 365 days.

Daunting?  In retrospect, absolutely.  But I never thought about it in the moment.  I learned to take it one day at a time.

At a studio? Almost entirely. But I did come to see the value in home practice as well.

Which studio?  Core Power was my home studio.  But I branched out quite a bit as well.

Hot yoga? Most classes were hot and above 90 degrees, but I didn’t focus on Bikram style.

How long were your classes?  Studio classes ranged from 60 to 90 minutes. I typically spent 90 minutes for home practice.

By yourself? Yes and no.  I went to the studio by myself a lot.  However, when possible, I went with my friend Ruby.  Last spring, I went a with my Teacher Training “omies” (e.g. kind of like homies but in yoga terms) when I became a certified instructor.  During the 100 day Challenge, I went a lot with Leigh. And the last few months, I was lucky to find my amazing yoga partner B.  We yogz together just about every day and it’s usually the highlight of my day.

Does teaching count?  N/A.  I don’t teach a permanent class yet but I hope to soon.  But I did not include the community classes I taught or teacher trainings in my count.  As many of you know, being a student and being a teacher can present very different challenges and opportunities.

What did you take away?  A lot.  But here are the first thoughts that come to mind, without too much polish to keep it as real as possible.

For me, the 365 days wasn’t about setting any streaks or personal records.  In fact, I didn’t start day 1 with the intention of going for 364 more days.  I was just taking advantage of my free week.  I started with very different motivations.

Feeling Good.  The first was that doing yoga just felt really good. I remember that feeling from the very first class.  I’d never worked so hard and felt great physically but also still had a sense of calmness and relaxation afterward.  This feeling did wonders when it was cold last winter and when my job felt stressful.  It was also just different than my normal routine.  After my first class with Maggie, I was immediately hooked.

3Let’s Get Physical.  There was also the physical motivation.  At times, I’ve wished my initial motivations were more profound, but I honestly just loved the workout, the stretches, the heat and the physicality.  A good sculpt class from folks like Conor at CPY is extremely physical.  And good vinyasa class has proven to be a far better workout than so many of my other activities.  I tend to get an  aerobic and strength training workout. I love working into poses.  And it can be so exciting when you finally nail inversions (thanks to Tricia for showing me what’s possible with inversions).

Looking Inside.  At some point a few months in, my internal motivations also kicked in.  I always love pushing myself, journeying into uncharted territories and trying out uncomfortable classes/poses to see how my body would respond.  In yoga, I found that I enjoyed the challenge of taking on classes and poses where I might fail (I really don’t like falling or failing so yoga helps me get better at this) and where I can push myself to see what I am made of.  Yes, physically but over time more mentally and spiritually.  In the process I became more comfortable with falling out of poses, getting tired and doing things incorrectly.  I still get embarrassed when I get tired and fall out of poses.  And I especially get embarrassed when falling out of inversions/handstands and instructors ask me if I’m OK during the class (for some reason this always happens in Yasemin’s class), but I am learning to focus on the process as much as the outcome.  And I try to think about where my boundaries are (the ones I’ve set mentally and the ones I’ve imposed on myself when I am concerned about what people think).

1The Resistance.   In the process, I’ve found the opportunity to be more honest with myself about some of the fears I have and where my resistance lies.  The fears are some of the things I mentioned above – getting embarrassed when I get tired or fall.  And the  resistance is voice in the back of our heads reminding us of our boundaries.  Telling us to back off or that we can’t do it.  The one that makes us play it safe and care what everyone else thinks.  The power of the resistance has been clear throughout the entire 365.  In my first class when I was afraid someone would notice I hadn’t done yoga before.  Three months in became apparent to me when I pushed through classes to prove that I was athletic enough to get through anything.  A few months after that it was apparent when I wouldn’t try poses because I didn’t want others to see I couldn’t do it perfectly yet.  So instead, I’d practice at home so nobody would see me fall.  And then the same thing happened with handstand. I didn’t try my first one until about 10 months in.   Even today, it happens with Feathered Peacock.  My shoulders are naturally tight, and so the pose still challenges me in ways that no other pose does so often times I won’t try it in class.

And then again it happened on Day 366 when I decided to keep the streak going.  After an incredible practice on day 365, day 366 may have been the hardest day I’ve had as a student.  I got tired and came to my knees 5 minutes into class, I left class to get water, and I had to take more than a few timeouts. The irony is that I felt great before the class, far better than the last few weeks.  Further, the classes in the days before were far more challenging.  So why did I get tired this class?   It was mental.  I listened to the voice that told me I was tired, even when I had more in me. That told me, I was finished after 365 so I didn’t have to get through class today. Sure we should all listen to our bodies in yoga, but I was listening to my head.  The challenge and opportunity with yoga then, is to quiet the resistance, which I’ve gotten a lot better at since Day 1.  It’s been a gift.

Patience.  Further to the point above, through the yoga postures, I am also learning to be more patient. You have to. Changes don’t usually happen right away. It takes time for change to settle in.  This is true for most things but especially when you practice yoga regularly. In the beginning, you see the physical changes rapidly and for me that was a great motivation to keep going. But later the changes starting happening much slower and it started taking far more time and dedication.  Unlike many sports (e.g. track, basketball or baseball) where you can measure results based on statistics and percentages, your yoga practice is more fluid and harder to measure.  One day your body might feel great and you land a handstand but the next day you might not be as open and you might struggle with basic postures.  I’ve had no choice but to be patient and trust the process.  To be patient and OK with where my edge might be on any given day. The good news is, that patience and calmness has had a way of seeping into other things.  For me and most people I talk to it helps with our jobs; our reactions with family members; interactions with significant others and yoga partners.  I haven’t always been naturally patient but the last 365 days have done wonders for me and for that I am truly grateful.

Creating space.  In many cases though, the things above were the easy part. Creating space was often the hard part. At first, making time to travel to the studio after a day of stressful work, sacrificing the time to do other things (including my blog), getting up at 5am to go to 6am classes, carrying around a full bag of clothing during winters felt impossible.   But at some point, I realized that the hardest part is making up my mind. I remember when I did 100 days of yoga in 2013.  The first 75 days were difficult. I scrambled to the studio most days, barely made it into class and still forgot my towel most of the time. But by day 76 everything was exactly the opposite. It was a lot harder to not go to class. To miss how good I felt. To mess up my routine.  All because I committed to making space for it.

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The idea of creating space also made its way into my personal life. When you don’t create space to find a new job, a true job search gets delayed. When you doesn’t carve out time to call their parents, you look back only to find you didn’t call nearly as much as you should have. And when someone doesn’t create enough space for relationships, things usually don’t work out either.  For me, I committed to all of the above and committing to doing things every day did wonders.

The Power of Everyday.  I’ve been doing a lot of research about the power of once a day.  A past teammate and hero once said it best, that if you commit to doing something simple one time each day, at the end of the year you’ll turn your molehill into a mountain.  Don’t get me wrong,everyday for 365 days is lot and it’s almost 20 times more than the 21 days they say it take to create a habit. But in some many areas of my life, I’ve seen that I didn’t achieve my goals when I couldn’t commit to every day.  Checking Facebook less.  Calling friends more. Cleaning out my email Inbox.  In part because I never created new habits.  But what I found over the past 365 days is that the discipline to do the hard work everyday (especially when you don’t want to) was the most relevant part. It adds up. One day at a time, one failed handstand at a time, and one drip of sweat at a time.

5In the end, I think that creating space to do yoga every day has been a gift.  One that has helped refine the way I think and act, in all the ways I mentioned above.  I also feel better than I ever have physically.  I focus more on how I feel that what others think about me.  I feel lighter than ever and have a better yoga partner than ever.  All reasons why I kept going after 365.

So on Day 366 and beyond, I am going to dedicate the next part of my journey to helping others.  Help them try yoga for the first time, find their consistent practice and/or take yoga off the mat.  I’ll be doing so as a student now, but hopefully as a teacher in the near future.

Thanks to all of those who were part of the journey.  I am grateful and can’t wait to see what all of you do next.

“Find the light, spread the light, be the light.”

Namaste’

Jeremy

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Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 Inspiration, Yoga 2 Comments

Grace during transitions

Trballerinabeautifulgirlshadowsilhouetteballet-c14ce22b75a23d557400881d631c0621_h_largeansitions are hard.  And often times feel awkward.

Between meetings at work, where one meeting ends at 10AM and the next one begins at 10AM and you find yourself rushing from one meeting to the next, without any time to prepare.

When a project at work fails.  And you have to tell your boss what happened before starting on the next one.

When you lose your job and you have to find a new one, with limited time and money on your hands.

And in yoga, when it’s halfway through class, and the tough postures are starting.  The instructor calls out one tough pose, then another, then another.  Meanwhile, you’re exhausted and can’t imagine being graceful for one more second.

In life, we often get wrapped up in these endpoints.  We want to get deeper into poses, do well on our presentations, ace our interviews, move on to the next project, or get funding four our company.  And we tend to focus so much on the endpoints that we forget the importance of the process.  Of what we can learn from our experiences.  What we can take with us.  And how gracefully we can move between the endpoints.

Sure, periods of transition always carry with them a fear of the unknown.  But they also provide opportunity.  To do something you’ve never done before.  To find comfort trying something you’ve never tried before.  To learn.  To find balance and composure.  To fail gracefully and refocus your compass and radar to get closer to the right path.

Every big innovation that’s ever existed at some point hadn’t been done before.  Almost every best-seller came after 5 books that never made it big.  And almost every great yoga instructor spent time playing with awkward transitions.   But the people who found success failed often, focused more on the process than the outcome and learned to have grace when transitioning.

So it would seem to me grace during difficult and awkward transitions is one very important step to success.

Just a thought.

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Monday, July 21st, 2014 Leadership, Yoga No Comments

Chicago’s Most Eligible Singles 2014 – Thank You Chicago

SinglesA couple weeks ago,  I learned that Chicago magazine selected me as one of the Most Eligible Chicagoans for 2014.  What a fun surprise!

First off, a big thank you to Nora and Quiana, the two ladies who nominated me.  I love the support I received from New Leaders Council on this one.

After learning that I was selected, I sat down with the editors of Chicago to do a quick interview at a local restaurant in the River North neighborhoodfrom what I did in Chicago, my community activities, my job, what types of singles I was most interested in and of course, how I do yoga every single day.  They boiled my information down into a short profile and the mixed video with a few of the other singles (3-4 mins).

Last Friday, we also had the annual fundraiser! Previously the event has raised over $100K for patients at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and this event proved no different.  The Chicago History Museum was packed, and we had special VIPs from NBC and Northwestern to honor Chicago Magazine’s to Singles.

Like I always say, there’snothing better than being in great company while enjoying a glass of wine.  Although maybe just one thing, doing that  while raising money for a great cause on the first day of summer in Chicago.  See below for the online links.

Online profile – http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/July-2014/Chicago-Singles/

Video (bottom of the page) – http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/July-2014/Chicago-Singles/

Thank you Chicago for choosing me.

 

Thursday, June 26th, 2014 Networking, Yoga No Comments

Practice everyday. Shun the non-believers

skepticsSince starting the 100 Day Challenge, I’ve run into skeptical people, including just a few days ago which prompted this post.  People skeptical about the idea of 100 days.

Isn’t CrossFit a better workout? Why do you like that Teacher X? Why would you do yoga for 100 days straight?

As though I only do yoga for the physical workout.  And little did they know that Teacher X happens to be one of my favorites (and a Yogi 1oo participant).

At first thought, I almost became a little defensive forgetting that patience has been one important lesson I’ve continued to learn my practice.  But since starting, it’s become more obvious than ever that a regular practice is critical.

Every time I get on my mat, the results of how I treated my body the previous day are right there for me to witness.  I get immediate feedback on how hard I practiced last week, how much food I ate the night before, and how present I am at the onset of class. The more I practice these things, the easier the asanas are, the stronger I get, the more I start to see change right in front of me, and the less surprised I am when I flow into poses that once seemed impossible.  (Just yesterday I floated into two new awesome handstand poses! … and forearm stands have never been easier)

In short, the repetition and commitment to the practice makes you feel better, become stronger and shine brighter.

Shun the non-believers.

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 Leadership, Yoga No Comments

Yoga 100 Challenge: 1 Week Down

group yogaA quick update on our Yoga 100 project.

We saw so much energy from people in the first week.  From those making use of home practice, to others drudging through the snow, to one of our Yogis practicing in Canada and another practicing on the road at the airport!

Here are some photos from the week!

Lisa (and her puppy) practicing in the light!

Lisa in the Light

Liz doing Acroyoga at home

Liz Home Practice

Dominika (our most prolific blogger so far) showing that the snow cannot stop her!

Dpminika in the Snow

Christine’s Home Space Away from Home

Christine Home Practice

Darrah practicing with a few friends

Darrah

Andrea excited to get started on Day 1.

Andrea on Day 1

Michelle practicing at DFW. Very nice!

Michelle from DFW

Leigh, Hector and Vivian having some acro-fun on Day 7

Leigh on Day 7

Carla practicing on Day 1.  We found you!

Carla on Day 1

Maggie defying gravity

20140205-223159.jpg

Kim doing yoga … or flying.

Kim Maybe Doing Yoga

Mariel showing us what is possible on day 101. Well maybe for you.

Mariel

More to come later!

Original post here on our YOGA 100 BLOG

 

Monday, February 10th, 2014 Yoga No Comments

The power of once a day. Drip by drip.

sweatOnce a day is easier said than done of course. There are over 360 days and more than 200 working days a year. No matter how you slice it, it’s a lot and it’s way more than the 21 days they say it take to create a habit. Basically in our 100 days of yoga, we’re creating a habit 5 times over.

I think about some of my other attempts to do things that may not have gone so well. The failed attempt to floss every day. Check Facebook less. Or call friends more often. The reason they don’t work is that I didn’t change habits.

But committing to doing things up front does wonders. I recently did my first 100 days of yoga at the end of 2013.  Within a week of starting, I knew I wouldn’t be giving it up anytime soon and committed to it. The first 75 days were really hard. I scrambled to the studio most days, barely made it into class and still forgot my towel half the time. But by day 76 everything was exactly the opposite. It was a lot harder to not go to class. To miss how good I felt. To mess up my routine. And after taking just a single day off, I went 50 more days in a row leading up to this challenge. All because I committed up front.

In the end, I learned that you don’t all of a sudden get new habits, you build them. One day at a time. One asana at a time. One drip of sweat at a time.

The yoga isn’t the hard part (especially for the amazing Yogi’s participating here), it’s the commitment. Making time. Going once a day.

Drip, drip, drip.

 

Thursday, February 6th, 2014 Yoga 1 Comment

Secret office

CR ViewI just got back from a trip to Costa Rica. The trip was extraordinary.  Not only because the country is beautiful and the weather was warm but also because I thought more about my secret office.

The office isn’t Costa Rica, and it’s also not the beach.  But instead it’s getting out of the office.  Stepping away from emails. Being out in the country. Being away from the hustle and bustle and instead being at the beach and the mountains.

In those places, it’s like having my own office. More time to think and write. Spending time  with the best company. Having the best views and the best time to think. And of course having time to meditate and do more yoga.

Instead of writing emails to clients, I wrote blog posts, scribbled in my journal, and took photos. I caught up with friends and did yoga in the sunlight.  And in the end I felt renewed and had more ideas than ever.  I even started the blog for Yoga 100 (and now have a lot more participants) and managed to come back to happier … all while having an experience I won’t forget.

In short, we are often very productive at work and at home. But sometimes, it’s good to change things up and find your secret office. Sometimes you can get more done than ever, all in just a few hours, and spend the rest of the time enjoying the trip.

Just a thought.

(This is a view from my office in Costa Rica)

CR View

Saturday, January 25th, 2014 Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Yoga 1 Comment

100 Days of yoga blog is live and ready to share

challenge-and-changeHow can we be more connected to ourselves and those around us? How can we find change not just in our bodies but also in our minds?

I hear people talk about these questions all the time. And often times, I like to bring up the topics in my small group sessions I do.  Often times, I’ll share my experiences with them and one of them is from my recent time of doing 100 days of yoga.

Over the past few weeks I’ve shared the experience. And the response has been better than expected.   So we’ve created a project for people to do the same thing in 2014,  to complete 100 days of yoga and meditation and find change for themselves.

We have a blog.  It’s totally free to read and share.

It took a lot to get here. A lot of yoga,  a lot of making time, and a lot of conversations about it.  So I encourage you to take a few minutes to check it out after we get started on 2/1.  And perhaps consider joining.

http://yogi100.wordpress.com/blog/

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 Inspiration, Leadership, Yoga No Comments

Inspirational video on never giving up

ArthurThis is a must see video. I love stories like this, ones that help us understand what we could we accomplish in our lives if we didn’t give up. More people need to see this! But be warned it’s a tear jerker.

I love this video because it’s about the triumph of the human spirit. About working toward your Wildly Important Goal even when others tell you that it’s impossible. Another reason I love this video is because it shows yoga can create change.  This is great inspiration as we head into our second 100-day yoga challenge starting on 2/1.  Stay tuned for a blog being built for the challenge!

Thanks to my friend Kim Lampaglia for sending me this video this weekend.

“They said I’d never walk again. Show’d THEM!”

~ Arthur Boorman was a disabled veteran of the Gulf War for 15 years, and was told by his doctors that he would never be able to walk on his own, ever again.

 

aurthur6

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Monday, January 6th, 2014 Inspiration, Yoga No Comments

How I just completed 100 straight days of yoga

yogaJust two weeks ago, I completed 100 days straight of yoga. In addition to meeting a lot of great people at the studios and feeling better than ever physically, I also had the chance to see first-hand how much change can come from doing anything, but especially yoga, for 100 days in a row.

I remember when I decided to go to my first class like it was yesterday.

It was just after lunch on a Tuesday afternoon in August. I was taking a break outside of my office, and I get a text from my one of my really good friends, Ruby, asking if I wanted to try out her new yoga studio, Core Power Yoga. I had enjoyed doing yoga a few years before, so I said “Sure”. Work was busy that week, so I didn’t go that day or the next. But after a few texts and reminders throughout the week, I finally “caved in” and agreed to go to a class Sunday night.

We went to a C2 class, which at the studio is a Power Yoga/Vinyasa class.  Ironically it turns out, that the class/instructor became one of my favorites months later, and her Sunday evening class is a staple in my routine today.

“What a remarkable class” I thought to myself after the class. I felt more energized and excited about the class than any of my other workouts at the gym.  So I figured I’d make good use of my free week and go every day to maximize the experience. My friend Ruby came as well, and eventually one class turned into one week, which turned into a trial membership, which turned into finishing the 30 Classes in 40 Days Challenge (except I did it in 24 days), which eventually turned into 100 days.

The first reaction people usually have is “WOW!” and “What kind of yoga?” Students, athletes, friends and yoga instructors alike have pretty much had the same reaction and found it pretty cool. Except one of my instructors who immediately told me she did 108 … and here I was hoping to impress her.

100 days was not the initial goal. In fact, I did not start with a goal at all. It was initially just making use of my free week, and then hitting the 30 classes in 24 days so I could have a chance to win a free gift from the studio. But the change I felt, even in the first few weeks led to a lot more than that.

Cup

It’s extraordinary to know what change can come from doing anything (but especially yoga) consistently – the progress, patience, connection and persistence – but the change that comes after one hundred days is profound.

Upon reflection, here are a few of the lessons I learned from the experience:

 

Making Time

At the onset, my first thought was “things are pretty busy”, hopefully I can fit a few classes in. After all, I am an M&A lawyer at a large law firm in Chicago. But after a week or two, things changed. I started planning my schedule around going to the studio. I went at 6am on many days as well after 8pm on many days (after getting to work before 7am). In the beginning it was a little bit of a juggling act and I had to make lots of adjustments to make my schedule work. But eventually, it became a habit and was easier, more seamless, and more exciting than on day one.

More than creating a habit, it also helped to build in the ability to schedule things when you’re busy, to prioritize what you care about and find time even when you don’t have time. Studies are very clear that some of the most successful people in the planet (world class CEOs, entrepreneurs and politicians) do that  They get up at 5am and find time to do things like exercising before most of the world is awake.

The Process of Progress

When I first decided to practice yoga daily, I knew I’d improve physically, but the physical benefits were far more immense than I first thought. The aha moments really kicked in right around the three weeks in, when I started realizing I could do things that were totally new. Getting better inch by inch.  Holidng poses longer.  Sliding into poses I never imagined.  And conquering the fear that comes from poses that look impossible.  It’s like a coder who finally gets learns HTML, then Java, then coding platforms like JoomLa, and then gets her new URL to go live. Or the applicant who finally gets a few more questions correct, and then a few more, while studying for the GMAT, and after scoring a 620, 650, 670 and 690, finally hits a 740 on the exam. In the end, you keep record of what you’ve achieved and start to appreciate small but important amounts of success.

But more important than any physical progress was the mental benefits that came with the physical ones. The fact that little things didn’t seem to get to me as much. That I had more mental energy and focus throughout the day. That things were more clear and I was more decisive and calm. Seeing the progression of these benefits has been extraordinary.

Persistence

The process of being persistent has also been a really big benefit. Like studying for the GMAT/LSAT, preparing for the bar exam or doing anything new but difficult. These things all take persistence to get through. The ability to push yourself to new levels constantly.  And just when you reach the goal you’ve set, you have to do it again on another topic. But mixing in the physical element makes everything even more complex. During the process many things happen: you learn to become OK with where you are, you keep record of your improvements, and start making smaller incremental goals of what you want to achieve. Meanwhile, pretenses about how good you are go away. You learn how to be OK with where you are, even if it’s not where you want to be. Or even if it’s not as good as you were yesterday.  You stop comparing yourself to other people around you.  And in the end, you become far more aware of where you want to go and what it will take to get there than ever before. These feelings help you to continue persisting not just through a class but also throughout the month and for the entire 100 days.

Finding your edge (See my blog post on this)

In yoga one of the most important parts of practice is finding your edge. That means understanding just how far to go into a pose. Because if you don’t go far enough, then you won’t be challenged, you won’t get the full stretch, and as a result you won’t get the open heart, mind or body that you want. On the other hand if you go too far, that increases not just the pain but also the possibility of injury. And it’s more likely than not that you won’t make it through the full class. Somewhere between these two points is the perfect balance: your “edge.” One of my favorite instructors, Yasemin, talked about this in two classes, and I thought the idea was spot on.

Embracing the Pain (See my blog post on this)

In yoga another important part of practice is the ability to embrace the pain. In yoga, you feel the pain in the class, especially when you’re new or challenge yourself to go further. But by the end you feel more flexible and stronger, and at the end of class, feel like you can do anything. In sports, the same thing is true. Through the pain that comes with training you get better. And if you embrace it, you’ll get faster, jump higher and perform better when the game starts. In life, pain helps you learn to endure failure, learn how to make better choices, and learn how to stand up and fight back the next time around. In the end, yoga, like anything else, takes work to do well. But 100 days later, the work becomes more fun and the benefits are outsized if you can embrace the pain along the way.

Change

More than anything, the last 100 days is about change.  Changing how you prioritize your activities. Understanding that you can change your body and your mindset with persistence and focus. Changing what you believe, and understanding that what seems impossible at first doesn’t have to be.

With that said, I’ve decided that I’ll be doing it again in the next few weeks. Maybe 108 days this time to match my instructor.

Anyone interested in joining?

yoga

Thursday, December 12th, 2013 Leadership, Yoga 8 Comments

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.

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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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