Shrine Room Flowers

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    Dharma glimpse by Dave

    As well as being a tenant at the temple, I have various roles that I have taken on here.

    For a couple of years now I have volunteered to do the flowers in the shrine room, I tend to do these first thing on a Saturday morning before practice with the exception of a few months in mid-winter when I buy some dried flowers to see me through. I get up fairly early, collect the vases from the shrine room and take them into the kitchen, I then discard all the wilted and dead ones before heading into the garden with my scissors and flower basket to cut some replacements. After arranging these I place them carefully back on the alters and hoover up all the pollen and debris from the week with the mini hoover that lives in the kitchen.

    Another role is a weekly clean of various rooms in the temple. This is actually one of the conditions of living here, we all do it. There is a rota and we are assigned a different room each month where it is our responsibility to do any extra cleaning required for that particular room and keep it looking nice for the other residents and any visitors.

    Thirdly, I have recently taken on the role of occasional bell master during service. I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to do this and am thankful for the training I have been given. A big part of the role of bell master is carried out before service begins. All the alters are replenished with fresh candles and incense sticks and the water jugs are refilled, finally all the cushions and service sheets are straightened and arranged neatly before service begins.

    The first time I performed the role of bell master I was very nervous and wanted to get everything right. It was a Saturday morning and I had already done the flowers and given them a little bit more care and attention than I normally do. It just so happened that the shrine room was my room to clean on the cleaning rota that month as well. I had hoovered the carpet and arranged all the cushions and service sheets with the utmost precision, adjusted the cloth on the main shrine and spent a bit too much time making sure the flowers in their vases were perfectly symmetrical. I stood in the shrine room doorway admiring my handiwork and feeling very proud of myself when I noticed some smears on the big mirror hanging on the wall. I rushed to the kitchen, got some window cleaner and proceeded to start polishing. I started in the top and began working my way down, until I found myself staring at my own reflection. Seeing myself manically polishing away with very serious look on my face suddenly made me realise that I had got a bit carried away.

    I genuinely love doing the flowers in the shrine room, and it is my favourite room to clean on the monthly rota. The added responsibility of performing the task of bell master had tipped me over the edge. I had made the morning all about me and my ego. These three tasks should be an act of love and service. A gift from Amida. There was nothing wrong with what I was doing but there was definitely a problem with some of the reasons I was doing it.

    I am grateful that I was able to notice my lapse into pride and self-congratulation. This moment of clarity was a reminder that we are only able to perform tasks of service through Amida’s grace and that everything is a gift handed down to us and not really of our own making even though we might trick ourselves into thinking otherwise.

    Namo Amida Bu

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    Two Feet on the Ground

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    Dharma Glimpse by Philip

    I went to garden practice here at Bright Earth one Saturday recently. I love going as it feels like starting the weekend in a positive way; fresh air, nature, noticing inner and outer worlds much more, doing an activity with Sangha members, feeling calmer, more observant and more grateful…..

    I remember one respected Sangha friend had told me a while ago now about waiting for both feet to be on the ground whilst doing the walking practice.  I always bore it in mind, but didn’t feel ready to try it.  Instead, I had practiced balancing on one leg at times during garden practice to strengthen my legs and core from my days doing Pilates as a bit of sneaky exercise.  But today I felt like trying this new approach for me, partly as I have been feeling a bit unsettled in recent months. 

    Perhaps inevitably, I felt more grounded and stable.  And gradually felt I had a clearer mind for making/taking my next step.  But it also felt slightly strange and unsettling.  I wondered afterwards if balancing on leg reflected, to some degree, my approach to (adult) life.  About making things more challenging than they necessarily need to be in order to strengthen myself physically and mentally to be independent.  And I feel there is some merit in this.  But I wondered if this new way of walking during garden practice had provided a new and valuable experience, teaching me something in the process.  Perhaps that it takes clear intention and courage to put one foot in front of the other and take a step forwards.  Whether that’s a seemingly ‘big’ decision like a place to live, a relationship or a job.  Or a seemingly ‘small’ decision to get out of bed in the morning and face the day.  Or an intention to put a foot forwards with an open mind and heart to see what happens, instead of gritting my teeth and steadfastly staying where I am.  And that whilst it might be me, or seem like it is me, planting that front foot forwards and transferring my weight on to it, I’m not doing this on my own; I have Amida Buddha with me at all times.  Maybe it felt like Amida was my back foot, providing that surety and stability.  But then that back foot becomes my front foot so that the distinction between what is me and what is Amida becomes irrelevant and indistinguishable when I get into a flow of walking like this.  And it felt nice to think, and hopefully start to know and feel, I’m never truly on my own as I journey through life.

    Namo Amida Bu

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    The Dharma Dance

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    DG by Paramita

    Walking meditation in the Temple garden always wakes me up a bit. Not in the literal sense, but in the Spiritual sense. Immersion in the freshness and raw energy of Nature. The sights, sounds and feelings that offer themselves, generously, in place of discursive thought.

    Today the birdsong was particularly striking. Like an excited and cheerful summons to practice. An audible celebration of life, beauty and the power of coming together.

    My mood fluctuated in the usual way, shifting seamlessly between contemplative joy, and existential worry – in this instance, how my lifelong insomnia might have contributed to the brokenness in my brain. And then, as I came back into my body, noticing the spring buds on the young trees and remembering the many years of meditation, which must surely have forged new and healthy neural pathways. The natural world is very good at showing us, and reminding us of balance.

    More loud cars and the sound of life, noisily trundling along in the background, despite our quietness and the protective bubble of this sacred space.

    Somehow, this reminds me of how unseasonably warm it is in mid-February. Some of my usual winter clothing layers have been shed, a good month earlier than usual. The relative comfort, no longer really anomalous, and accompanied by an ominous sense of consequence.

    Again, back, out of my head and into the walking; tentative footsteps around windy paths. Ivy intertwined with galvanised metal, creeping around, over and underneath, as if to claim it, and naturalise it. The contrast between the organic and the industrial becoming lost in a seemingly unlikely embrace.

    The dance between idle thinking and pure doing, and the distinction between them, is measured by the frequency of my steps and the rhythm of my corresponding breaths. I can’t think while I’m really walking, and I can’t really walk, while I’m thinking!

    The dance goes on!

    Namo Amida Bu!

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    We’re all the same

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    Dharma Glimpse by Luna

    I’ve noticed that the judgment my ego makes as a way to keep me safe, or to get a need met, can get in there first before my desire to be connected & supportive. This shows up particularly in my family, as I’ve become aware of dynamics & patterns. (Remembering the Ram Dass quote ‘If you think you are enlightened; go home!’.) Then my expression is received as annoying, smart, & can be triggering, causing disconnection & leave me feeling misunderstood. Since learning more about our bombu nature from Satya & Kaspa’s book, I feel more humble & able to hold space for the discomfort of the mirrors I see in my parents, & am working my muscle of compassion & understanding with them.
    During a recent visit to my parents, I was out walking the dogs with my mum. She was telling me how she’d lost one of her favourite earrings when gardening, & was really gutted about it. I acknowledged her frustration, noticed where I’d sometimes feel judgment here, & shared gently that I’ve been squeezing the hooks tightly closed on my current favourite earrings, which are whale tails made from vintage spoons by a friend in Tasmania that I got myself as a special gift when I lived there. I did this as I said it, feeling that they were safely in my ears. We continued our walk, during which I really opened up to her about where I’m at with my spiritual journey, which was a beautiful conversation where I heard & learned more about her beliefs, her openness & acceptance. On the way home, I realised one of my earrings had fell off it’s hook & I was left with just the hook in my ear! Despite my extra earring security measures, the fact I’d been switching the pendant out & opening/ closing the loop on the hook repeatedly & often in a rush, had meant it had still not been secure after all. Mum said it could be anywhere, without much hope in her voice, & that she was tired so she’d carry on home, I said I’d retrace my steps. I walked off & spoke out to the infinite, ‘I believe in you either way, but I’d really like to find my earring – please let it come back to me’. I scanned the ground feeling positive & hopeful I could find it, all the way back to where we’d been, & it was getting dark, but no luck. I smiled as I felt this was a reminder that me & mum are both the same; that we’re all human & fallible; something I am feeling increasingly safe to admit. It felt like this was a little offering, for me to put my newfound perspective to practice.
    I arrived home & as I walked in, my brother told me mum had found my earring on her way back! We were both pleased – & I let her kindly advise me to be careful with them. I’d let down my guard of needing to ‘have it together’, & let more of me be seen, which had allowed this growth- enhancing, quite magical experience this evening.
    Perhaps my hopefulness & believing I could find my earring, helped her to see it shining on the ground. Perhaps this will stay with her. Maybe she’ll even find hers. Either way, accepting my bombu nature & mum’s, & showing more of myself, dissolved barriers between us & brought mutual support, understanding & appreciation. A beautiful reminder that everything is in flux, always, & the more of us we reveal, the deeper our connections can be.
    Namo Amida Bu x

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    Dharma Glimpse by Alexandra

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    I have been calling out to Amida a little more frequently recently, not really asking for help as such but just to be there for me and embrace me in what I need.

    I spend a lot of time looking at or being in my garden as nature is so important to me. It is a hive of activity and we have so many birds who visit. Robins are one of my favourite birds, to me they bring the energy of a loved one who has passed away. Territorial by nature, as they want to protect me!

    However, just recently I have noticed that the robins I often see haven’t been around, I’ve put it down to them finding places to nest and too busy to pop by and say hi as they are preparing for parental duties!

    This morning I have been watching the comings and goings in the garden whilst I engage in my therapy session. For this is the place I find most comfort.
    I have just started to have some typed therapy through work and as I sit here, I have just finished my second session.

    It was a difficult session as I had completed my timeline of my life of certain events and had to reflect upon how in more recent times the impact of work has been having on me. The events of the timeline and work are different, yet the theme remains the same.

    Sadly, upon entering today’s session I had to explain that my beloved Doreen who was 92 years young passed away yesterday, she was my mum’s cousin, but more like a nan to me. She was so similar to my grandad, who passed away over 20 years ago. I loved them both dearly and was always the apple of their eye, from such a young age. Having typed therapy enables me to sit quietly in my kitchen overlooking my beautiful garden.

    Talking this through with the therapist was tough and the tears were falling. She was asking me to visualise what my grandad and Doreen might say to me when I feel sadness or anger caused by certain events in my life and I knew exactly what they would be saying to me.
    As I was trying to process my thoughts, the therapists’ interventions, and guidance, out of nowhere, two robins flew down into my garden and sat on my fence just a little way from my window. They were back! They were here at my time of need, despite being busy building nests elsewhere they came to hold me up, surround me with love and remind me of exactly who I am and what I deserve. I am so very grateful and thankful for Amida for giving me this gift when I needed it so very badly today.

    Namo Amida Bu.


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    Embracing Redemption: The Healing Power of Forgiveness

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    Dharma Glimpse by Jules

    Lately I have been repeatedly triggered by what I believed to be lies and deceit, and my reactions to them have been exponentially destructive to those around me – causing harm to those I love and cherish.

    As a sufferer of complex-PTSD I am unable to regulate my emotions in a typical manner, which can manifest into heightened emotional reactivity and the inability to form stable responses.

    Enraged with anger, I knew I was in survival mode. Words tumbled out of my mouth, like a tumultuous cascading waterfall, powerful but unrestrained. They were ugly, venomous and hurtful. I wanted to redirect their course, but was unable to stop them even though I was acutely aware of the damage they were causing.

    In that moment I needed nothing more than a hug, to feel safe and secure. I needed to feel grounded and for someone to tell it would be ok. But it wasn’t forthcoming and instead I recognised the survival mode dictating my actions, a state of constant reactivity, driven by fear and self-preservation. It contradicts Buddhist precepts, as it fosters actions rooted in attachment, aversion, and ignorance, hindering the cultivation of compassion, mindfulness, and ethical conduct. Embracing the Dharma involves transcending survival instincts to attain a more awakened, harmonious existence.

    I couldn’t rewind nor take back my words, the damage was done. However, I recognised the impact of my words and actions, and acknowledged the suffering I had caused. Apologising is consistent with the Buddhist teachings on ethical conduct and the importance of cultivating wholesome actions. It reflects an understanding of the interconnectedness of all beings and the potential for transformation and healing through mindful and compassionate communication.

    In line with the Fourth Noble Truth (the path to the cessation of suffering through the Eightfold Path), I desperately wanted to transform the destructive flow towards understanding, healing and stillness. So I took full accountability and offered a sincere apology, expressing deep remorse.

    The Buddha said, “If it were not possible to free the heart from entanglement and greed, hate, fear, and delusion, I would not teach you or ask you to do so.” The power of forgiveness releases us from the power of fear. With this in mind, I needed to let go of the pain I was carrying and needed those I’d hurt to see kindly with a wise heart by letting go of hatred and fear and rest in peace and forgiveness. It was the only way to end this suffering and bring harmony back to our lives.

    Having recently read the chapter about the concept of Bombu nature in ‘Just As You Are’ Buddhism For Foolish Beings 2nd Edition), written by Kaspa Thompson and Satya Robyn, I realised that bombu nature recognises that human frailty and fragility is something that will always be with us. This Buddhist concept identifies that I am human, I make mistakes and may never get things completely right. It made me realise the impermanence of the situation and that I should not be too hard on myself. I needed to extend forgiveness to myself and hold the pain that I had caused in the heart of compassion.

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    Hello Body, How Are You Today?

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    A Dharma Glimpse by Frankie

    A week or so ago I came down with flu – a gift from my husband who in turn was gifted it by his Doctor’s waiting room.

    I don’t think I deal with illness very well; I see it as something that must be resisted at all costs, because I have things to do, I have an elderly husband to take care of, a small dog, responsibilities to Sangha. In the past I have seen it as almost as a kind of weakness and this has led me to be less generous than I should be toward other sufferers.

    I’m trying to soften towards self- care and to understand the difference between taking care of me and being me-centred; I’m also working with adopting a more somatic approach to my practice. And perhaps it was the combination of these elements that really caused a shift and empowered me to ask this question of my body:


    ‘How are you today. What do you need from me?’


    And, more importantly, listen to the answer.

    I heard that it’s perfectly OK, and actually vital, to give space to not feeling good. To not feel guilty because I have to cancel some things. To not force myself to get out of bed to wash some dishes or get out of my PJ’s because ‘I should’ and that to not get dressed or do housework is irresponsible or letting things slide in some way.

    Strangely, I relaxed into the flu. I knew it would run its course. That no amount of wishing it gone would make any difference and would only make me more frustrated, more feverish. As I relaxed I was so attuned to my body that I actually felt, physically felt, the fever quite suddenly subside and slip away. Although there were still a few days of achy bones and brain fog ahead I felt fine in every other way. I could take care of myself by listening to my body’s needs and responding to what I heard. This was a big step forward for me.

    This year I’ve chosen the word Embrace as my guide for the year. I chose Embrace because it feels robust, it can be passive, accepting embrace, it can be active, stepping up to embrace. Above all I like it because it’s physical. I can embrace my practice by taking a really embodied approach to it. I can embrace the importance of my body on this path. After all without the body, the vessel, the conduit, that which holds the self, there can be no practice. I embraced the flu and it paid off.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Allowing Ourselves to Come Home & Be Held

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    Dharma Glimpse by Luna

    I’ve been wandering & exploring for the past four years, since fleeing to Australia after a very long PhD. My spiritual connection has deepened through many practices & experiences during this time, & I feel like I’ve been on a long pilgrimage to come home to myself.
    In the past few months, it landed for me; the magic I experience when I allow myself to feel held, supported by life/ God/ the Divine – (in whichever form they present themselves to us; whichever form feels supportive for us; whichever way/ language we can relate to) –
    I started to feel more witnessed & encouraged to go to the places where I feel called to go – to follow my heart. Through this process, my values have been revealing themselves; at one point I thought I wanted to travel more, but when I really looked at what I was desiring – community, nature, to feel welcome & valued, & actually to put down roots & allow myself to build a nourishing life where I can feel connected, of service & aligned all year round, not just when visiting or traveling – I realised it was time to let myself surrender into the way that I have been paving; to trust in the Divine & in myself. To see the beauty & everything I desire is right here.
    After a challenging experience this Christmas with multiple house moves & family tensions, following a very supportive year of living with my friend, I was humbled by the reminder that supportive conditions are really important, no matter where we are in our spiritual path. In my hour of need, all of the amazing connections in my life revealed themselves in a deeper way & everything felt like it got richer.
    I know that I have this deep longing to be home & to be with the Divine. The idea of Devotion no longer causes resistance in me – my perceived capacity is no longer being judged through the lens of my ego, but feels like an opening in my heart & deep calling.
    So now that my practice has brought that to life in me in a way that is accessible everyday, & is being woven through my everyday life, I am really excited to be exploring different language to bring me closer to that.
    I just relocated to Devon, & have been reflecting on my practice & the practices that do bring me to this place – one of which has been the Gayatri mantra for the past few months. My friend who introduced me to it, tells me that this mantra is never not being chanted, as it is chanted throughout India. It feels really powerful for me to sense this interconnectedness & this collective desire to feel at home with the Divine, in ourselves & in the world when hearing/ chanting this.
    When I practice this within, it is mirrored in my life. A deep sense of where feels like home for me, one particular place of which, I appreciate on a new level after a recent visit, is the temple in Malvern. As I stand in my new back garden, looking out over the River Dart for the first time since moving to Devon, feeling the sun on my face as I close my eyes & enjoy the patterns that appear behind my eyes, I chant Namo Amida Bu. I feel a wave of gratitude for the depth of connection I feel with people & in my external world, that are closer to home – the clarity that I needn’t search, the support is here. I feel the power & beauty of feeling connected to the Bright Earth Sangha & how I’ve always felt so supported, welcomed & accepted, just as I am. I feel very blessed to have this intentional community & teachings, to help me sense feeling at home with the Divine & help me live & serve from here. I remind myself daily, to connect to these feelings that feel like home; to choose to live from here, & let everything unfold from here.

    May we all allow ourselves to come home & to have the conditions around us that support this. To allow ourselves to feel held & supported, by the warm sun on our face, the birdsong, the hills around us.

    Namo Amida Bu

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    Permission to be Vulnerable

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    Dharma Glimpse by Paramita

    I recently had to leave a job, as a combination of problems with it were making me ill, and so I did it quite suddenly and without securing anything else to fall back on.

    I couldn’t afford to have too much time off and so, I started making job applications and went on the old familiar rounds of paperwork, interviews and waiting around to hear back.

    I had applied for a carer job and it seemed to be going well but the process was complicated by the fact that it was happening so close to Christmas, and there was some uncertainty about my availability for the fixed rota patterns.

    Not long after the first interview and in a state of ambiguity and anxiety around the outcome, I found myself overwhelmed in a social situation, when I was bombarded with career advice by my colleagues and friends about how to proceed with it. All well meaning input but communicated in, what felt like, quite an overpowering way, which didn’t seem to leave much room for my feelings about things. I sputtered out something defensive, angrily dismissed the advice and managed to steer the coversation away from the subject.

    I immediately felt frustrated, as I struggle with expressing myself verbally and couldn’t manage to say what I wanted to say at the time. It all left me feeling a bit hurt and vulnerable. After sleeping on it I decided to clarify myself with a message to the community about my feelings and the reasons why I had been quite stubborn about my position. I made it clear that I understood the sentiment behind their intervention but that I had my reasons for maintaining my approach and apologised if my reaction had seemed harsh.

    The message was met with understanding and grace from my friends. They appreciated the honesty and that I had taken the care and thought that went into the message.

    A few days later a friend who was present at the social event, mentioned the incident and that they’d seen me being pressured and were so impressed and inspired by my message response, that they took a similar approach to an ongoing issue that they were struggling with at the time. My example helped them to muster up the courage to open up and say what was really on their mind, even after the initial event had passed, which made them feel lighter and more at ease.

    I thought about what had happened. How my initial reaction was restricted and unclear because of my social frozenness, and how reflection on my part in the situation had produced a more balanced response. It struck me that the active ingredients in this transmission were vulnerability and humility. My honesty and willingness to expose my feelings like that showed a kind of softness that was interpreted, on some level, as a permission to be vulnerable, on the part of my friend.

    It really showed me the power of openness and how authenticity can spread in a good way, even when we’re attempting to clear up the mess after the fact.

    I felt this as a kind of sharing between friends, colleagues and practitioners.
    The softness that happens when we practice Buddhism is a kind of transmission between us and the Buddha. We catch a bit of love and compassion and then, in turn, pass that on to others around us, who hopefully will do the same as they walk their respective paths.

    We can’t always be in control of our behaviours – we are, after all, inescapably Human. But we will  transmit what is in our hearts and minds, and if we stay close to Amida, it might just be enough to cut through the misunderstandings that happen between us, and help to bring us closer together.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    To be continued

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    A Dharma Glimpse by Mat Osmond

    This is a glimpse that arrived in two halves.

    The first half came a few weeks ago as I was giving my daughter Zoe a driving lesson. We had the Sat Nav on, but for some reason we kept turning aside from the route it offered back to where we’d started out from. If you’ve used a Sat Nav you’ll know what happens next. The App just reorients, and begins directing you again from whatever way you’re now facing.

    Sometimes a moment lingers in the memory like an odd little question mark waiting to be understood. I think this is what a ‘dharma glimpse’ means to me, but maybe koan would be nearer the mark. The Sat Nav’s patient recalibration, over and over as we failed to follow its advice, felt like one of these moments. No opinion offered – and no reproach. And where we’re making our way back to, regardless of how often we turn aside from it, hasn’t moved or changed, has it? It just happens to be in this direction now, instead of that.

    The second half happened when I was praying silent nembutsu a week or so later.

    At some point I must have slipped without noticing it from saying Namo Amida bu to saying Maranatha, an Aramaic version of the Prayer of the Heart which I learned from the Benedictine teacher Fr John Main, and have come back to many times over the years. 

    It must have been a good ten minutes before I even realised what had happened , and when I did, it seemed oddly funny. As if for once I’d been accidentally honest with Amida, and with myself. As if, the most honest way I could say nembutsu was in fact to forget the correct words, to muddle them up and get them wrong.

    This isn’t about advocating a mix-and-match approach to prayer though. Trying to find the right blend sounds quite … tiring. It smells of calculating mind to me – which is to say, mixing and matching different approaches until I finally hit on the right formula basically leaves this whole finding the way home business up to me. Like I said, tiring. 

    But whatever it means to open the defended heart to measureless, un-measuring Life, I suppose coming to Amida ‘just as I am’ has to include, then, this curious inability to settle on a given name.

    If I were to call myself a Pureland Buddhist it would be in exactly this sense, I think. After decades of putting on one form of prayer after another like so many borrowed shirts, it seems I’ve failed at even this simplest of bombu practices: calling the name.  And it’s right here in this obscure inability to settle that Amida finds me as I am, irrespective of how often I veer off one way or another. 

    I’ve no idea what comes next, to be honest – but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe that’s the point.

    To be continued. Namo Amida bu.

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