with Melinda Rodriguez

Archive for March, 2013

The Healing Power of Your Voice

de79798c664cf0d86dac7c3ea20a2467When I was a little girl I had a four-poster bed.  The tips of each post came off which served as the perfect make-believe superstar microphone.  I could entertain myself for hours by playing records and singing along like I was a star.  I bet you did something similar using whatever gadget could replicate your own make-believe superstar microphone…right?  For me it wasn’t the pretending I was a star that was such fun; it was the act of singing that brought me so much joy.  I loved to sing!

In junior high I joined chorus, but never found it as joyful as my superstar imitations.  In chorus our voices were analyzed and then put into a category such as soprano, baritone, alto, etc.  So now there were boundaries around what I could sing and not sing.  To add to my dissatisfaction of the choral experience, I was at an age and in a culture where judgment ruled my world.  Not to mention the fact that my hormones where influencing my vocal range making it difficult to fit into any one choral category and effectively causing a sense of being in a vocal prison.  I’ve never liked rules.  Just ask my parents.

It wasn’t long before I ditched chorus and pretty much began to feel disheartened about any skill I might hold for singing, and in general, any musical talent I might have altogether.  Such a shame.  And so, after utter exhaustion from my parents and there endless attempts to help me find a natural talent through piano, guitar & flute lessons, a variety of types of dance classes, gymnastics, formal art training, etc., I ended up giving up altogether and really focused on fitting in with the “cool” crowd, which in those days, had NOTHING to do with music making or singing.

It wasn’t really that I didn’t have any talent, clearly I did and do, we all do.  After all, a large chunk of my bread and butter earned today is through drumming on stage, dance movement and song shared with audiences of hundreds.  The talent was always there it was just stifled by the formalities in music my Western civilized culture has implemented.  I had to essentially unlearn the nonsense of musical parameters and uncover my inherent right to sing, dance and make music.  Since I had already rejected the directive conventional music teachers had attempted to instill in me, it was just a matter of inwardly saying “screw you” to any judgments or confines I might feel from the world around me.

Although all types of music-making are amazingly therapeutic, I really want to focus on the healing power of our voice, for it is the instrument our creator embedded into every human.  When you use your voice as an instrument through singing, toning, even poetry, you are not only creating a biochemical reaction in the brain, you are also exercising the abdominal and intercostal muscles and stimulating circulation which shifts the energy of the body.  Of course you are also allowing your soul an exquisite opportunity to express and your subconscious mind the ability to unlock blockages and articulate suppressed emotions.  All of this profound mental, emotional, physical and spiritual activity can change your immediate and long-term trajectory!  Ever wonder why Karaoke is so incredibly popular?

Your song is your prayer.  Think about the indigenous people and their singing.  Do you think there is some choral director amongst their tribe that teaches them a right or wrong way to sing?  Do you think they are criticized or chastised by their peers if their voice doesn’t sound like the next American idol?  Can I get a “HELL NO!”  They sing as part of their tribal spiritual expression.  They sing to the Great Spirit; they sing to the Earth Mother; they sing to heal; they sing in ritual and ceremony; they sing to celebrate and mark the passages of life.  They don’t stop to analyze and critique their voice.  They just sing.

Our ancestors instinctively knew of the healing power of the voice for music-making.  There are many factors that influence the wellness of a community.  Could singing and music-making be one of the key causes of excellent health in indigenous peoples that are still untouched by Western civilization?  Can I now get a “HELL YES!”  Indigenous peoples, of the past and present, don’t need a verified reason to sing.  They just sing!  There is a beautiful song called “Oglala” by Lakota artist Quiltman.  The opening lines of the song are “My relatives, don’t be afraid to sing.  The common people talk to the grandfathers through our songs, then our hearts.  My relatives, don’t be afraid to sing.”

Native American drummers and singers at North American Indian DaysIn Native culture, the drum and the songs that are sung with the drum are central to the society.  When various nations or “tribes” of Native people come together, it is important that everyone be able to sing songs to the Great Spirit.  Using voice as prayer is what is important, not the words.  As a way to transcend the boundary of language, when different tribes join together in song, they replace the words of the songs with “vocables” so everyone can sing together without words.  Although there is immense honor and respect around the songs that are sung, no one says “hey, you can’t sing so be quiet.”

The call and response chanting tradition of Kirtan, originally performed in India’s Bhakti devotional traditions has gained enormous popularity here in the West.  Jai Uttal, noted Bhakit and Kirtan leader and Grammy nominated artist beautiful describes the phenomenon as this: “Kirtan is for all people.  There are no experts, no beginners.  The practice itself is the teacher, guiding us to ourselves.  Kirtan allows us to enter into a mystery world – a world where all the logic of our minds and all the conditioning are left aside.  With Kirtan, we create a temple inside the altar of our hearts.  A place of refuge, a place of love, and a place of just being.”  Yes, yes, YES!  Although I have never publicly practiced Kirtan, I have sung the chants in my car and living room through CD’s.  I yearn to find a nearby Kirtan community that I can pop into.  It is not the lyrics or any religious affiliation that draws me, but the experience of singing.  When I sing I connect with that inner temple Uttal refers too, whether it is in English, Cherokee, Lakota, Sanskrit or gibberish.  And I know, without a doubt, you do too whether you are mindfully aware or it or not.

So I invite you to sing – today (if you haven’t already, and if you have, sing again!).  Sing in the car.  Sing in the shower.  Sing while you work.  Sing with your kids.  Sing with your partner.  Let any silly notions of not having a good voice be flushed down the toilet!  YOU CAN SING!  You were born a singer – don’t let anyone tell you different.  Let the sound of your vibrating vocal cords send waves of healing energy throughout your body, seep deep into your brain, and lovingly free the expression of your soul. It doesn’t matter what you sing, just sing.  To get you started, below are some lovely songs to sing along too.  Who cares if you screw up the words…use vocables.  Just unleash that voice of yours and the sweet healing ju ju that flows through you.

Although these songs I’ve shared are of a softer nature, don’t shy away from the harder variety if that’s what you are attracted too.  When I need to blow off some steam, some good Metalica or LinkinPark’s “Faint” keeps anger from settling into my being by singing it out!

I want to hear from you in the comments or the Pathways Of Wisdom Facebook page.  What is your favorite sing-a-long song and why?  Heck, I dare you to link a video of you singing.  Inspire me.

In Rhythm & Harmony,

Melinda

 

Ong Namo by Snatam Kaur

 

Oglala by Quiltman

 

Cherokee Morning Song by Walela
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The Wisdom Of Wild

What sorts of images come to mind when you hear the word “wilderness?”  Is it a lush forest untouched by man?  Is it a jungle inhabited by unknown animals of which you have never seen?  Maybe it is more local than that and as simple as a nearby nature trail.  What about the word “wild?”  What does wild mean to you?

sacredwomanbeach (2)We are all born wild.  We know nothing but instinct at the moment we enter this world.  These instincts stay in tact for months, even years until slowly the civilized world begins to erode away the wilderness of our psyche.  But no matter the manners we are taught, or the education we pursue, or the expense of the clothing, cars, and fine houses we perceive as necessary, there is a wild autonomy that our body retains from the moment we were conceived through the last breath we take.

Civilized ideals and conformist medicine may temporarily quiet and quell this biological wilderness, but should we awaken to the diseased consciousness of modern technology and misguided conventional interventions, our wild woman (or man) will unapologetically reemerge and begin to remember its nature and organic sovereignty.  Due to the evolution of contemporary culture, it is the wild woman who more often lives in the shadows, for the wild man is more readily accepted and even celebrated.  Men also have less outwardly obvious biological activity, so there is less to “quiet” by convention.  But women, well we are a biological force to be reckoned with and should we unleash the wilderwoman within, our bodies magnificently respond and deep healing for the whole being ensues.

The “wild” that I speak of is not necessarily an unruly, ferocious, uncultivated characteristic, although it can take on those mannerisms when necessary.  Every synonym that is connected to wild is accurate and applicable.  However, I am referencing the natural wisdom that once dwelled within our psyche and still, quite powerfully, is the very fiber that makes up our physical body.  We women, we bleed, we birth, we cry, we love, we nurture, we fight we are complicated, yet once the veil of conventional cover up and cultural insistences are removed and rejected, there is actually a beautiful simplicity to the female creature.  This is the wild woman I’m talking about and who Clarisa Pinkola Estes so beautifully wrote about in her epic best seller “Women Who Run With The Wolves.”

When we stop resisting and dishonoring the organic beauty of our wild nature and stop buying into the lies that conventional culture, media and medicine are spewing our way, we have the power to release a great deal of suffering and surrender to an enormous force of healing and harmony.  When we stop plugging up the blood, being repulsed by it and ingesting artificial substances to control its presence, we heal.  When we remember our bodies were made to birth without the need of a hospital or medical intervention (in most cases), we heal.  When we stop listening to the surgery hungry, pill pushing doctors that try and silence our wild woman, we heal.  When we turn to our kitchens for medicinal support, we heal.  When we tune into the earth and recognize our connection, we heal.  When we listen to the plants and discover their ability to correct disruptions in our body, we heal.  These acts of healing dear sisters, and brothers, is how we access the wisdom of the wild; the wilderness of our being.

It is time to stop silencing our wild nature and instead turn those silencing skills onto culture and conventional medicine.  Every step we take to embrace the wilderwoman is an invitation to our daughters and sons to reject the criticisms of culture and own their power of wild.  Every day that you honor your authentic self, your earthly biology, your wilderness, you are creating a movement, a shift in the planetary consciousness.  Every time you listen to your body, treat it with the very substance it is made of and allow the nature of your biology to blossom, you become your own medical insurance.  Health care becomes unnecessary when we treat the root of our dis ease with the roots of the earth.  Our bodies have their own wisdom and know how to heal.  When we unleash our wilderness our psyches, our bodies, and our spirit dwell in a state of harmony and wellness.

902a3fda39e50243dfd2af9caa6283b7 (2)As you welcome spring and all that is bursting forth in your life, it is the perfect time to rock your inner wild child.  Let her come forth and awaken your wilderness.  Put your bare feet upon the earth, smell the flowers blooming, feel the breeze upon your face and let nature remind you of who you truly are.  Let the sacred earth that surrounds you uncover the natural beauty that is you and the wild tendencies that are thirsting to be liberated.  Step by step be bold and chuck the conventional nonsense that attempts to cover up who you are in an effort to sell you something.

Be free.  Be you.  Unleash the wisdom of the wild exquisiteness that you are.

 

With Love,

Melinda

Synchronizing With Your Inner Seasons

“If a man does not keep the pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears the beat of a different drummer.”

~Henry David Thoreau

 

302298_10150985814623020_1640581035_nThe room was electric with laughter.  Forty nine out of fifty people were hitting the drum at exactly the same time, creating a powerful pulse – except for Janice.  It became a comedy. At this point in the team building drum program I was facilitating my instruction was that on the count of five, we all hit the drum together and then continue…1, 2, 3, 4, “BOOM” 2, 3, 4, “BOOM” 2, 3, 4, “BOOM.”  It is actually a very poignant moment when a room full of sometimes hundreds of people that have never drummed before come together and synchronize, everyone hitting the drum at the same time.  In most events, one or two people miss the beat on occasion which is a learning moment because everyone can really feel it when someone is off and it then becomes a team building metaphor.  But within seconds with the support of the group, everyone always synchs up again.  But not this time, not for Janice!

I have presented over 300 events with Drum Café and this was a first time experience for me.  You see, Janice was hitting the drum on 6, instead of 5.  No matter what I did, no matter what my team did, no matter what all forty nine of her coworkers did to help her see she was “off” she just couldn’t feel it.  To her, she was hitting the drum exactly when she was supposed too and for whatever reason, she did not hear the difference.  We were all in hysterics over this because she just had a bewildered look on her face like “what are you all laughing at?”

I guess you could say Janice heard the beat of another drummer.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  We all got a kick out of it, but in all seriousness, there is more than just a team building metaphor to be gleaned from this, but also a lesson on the significant magnitude of knowing our personal cycles, our unique rhythm and then following that all important pathway of our own music.

Each of us has our own unique cycles – our personal inner seasons. Our energy ebbs and flows within its own unique rhythm.  The more tuned in we are to our individual cycles, the more we can observe that they are often aligned with another cycle around us, which can give us clues on understanding how to live our life with the most serenity.  For example, all energy on earth – human animal and otherwise – waxes and wanes with the moon.  So many people are unaware of this and then wonder why they might have lower energy during the waning stage.  In fact, when women’s menstrual cycles are left to occur naturally without synthetic hormones, they will often align with the moon phases.  Imagine the serenity, for both men and women, from understanding this wisdom.

In Cherokee, there is a chant I like to use in ritual “To hi u a lu ni” [too–he–ew–ah- lou-knee).  This translates as Serenity It Resounds!  I love this because when we surrender to our cycles and rhythms, our own inner seasons, serenity resounds.  When we stop trying to compare ourselves with others and honor and accept our beautiful uniqueness we strip away a huge element of incredible pressure and strain.  Also, when we honor the diversity of the different cycles and rhythms amongst each other, we save ourselves the madness of misunderstanding and the insanity of trying to insist that someone fit into a cycle that is not natural for them.  Or worst of all, trying to realign our own cycles in an unnatural way.

Let me offer an example.  I know that at this point in my life, I function at my highest potential when I can go to bed early, get a minimum of eight ours of sleep, and wake up with the sun. This requires intention and direction to carry out. Ironically, at the very moment I am writing this, I get a text from Drum Café’s logistics manager about a flight to Seattle in April.  I fly in the night before with an early morning gig.  She had me landing at 11:30PM!  So, I asked her if she could please get me in earlier. She texted me back stating that there was a flight getting in at 5:00PM, then said “but that seems so early to me.”  I told her that was perfect for me.  Clearly her cycles are quite different from mine.  Neither are right or wrong but when we are aware of our own cycles, we then become aware of others’ and this wisdom can mean the difference between stress and serenity.

Returning briefly to the subject of women’s bodies, I would like to share with you an excerpt from a powerful article written by fellow blogger Lisa Erickson from her blogspace “Mommy Mystic” – http://mommymystic.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/the-energetics-of-midlife-burning-in-the-fire: “our subtle body follows a predictable pattern of centrifugal and centripetal action corresponding to our menstrual cycle. In the 2 weeks or so leading up to ovulation, our subtle body shifts towards a more outward, expressive, emanating mode – what some call the ‘intention’ phase of our cycle. In the following 2 weeks or so leading into menstruation, this reverses, and our energy gradually becomes more inward-focused, absorbent, and receptive – sometimes called the ‘intuitive’ phase.”

This awareness can change lives!  When I discovered that for me personally, I need to go into an introverted, introspective, somewhat secluded phase just prior to my moon time my life shifted.  I decided to honor this cycle in any way I could.  I don’t apologize for taking a day or two to do very little if any work during that time (when I can of course).  I have no regrets for avoiding social gatherings and just enjoying the secluded serenity of my garden.  And I don’t think twice about sequestering myself as possible during those few days.  If I don’t honor this cycle, PMS takes over and shoos everyone away in a not-so-nice way and serenity leaves the building!

Can you see the bigger picture here and apply this wisdom to other cycles?  Imagine the peace this awareness could render if families everywhere took the time to go within and understand their own cycles and rhythms?  This understanding of individual inner seasons applies to everyone, every gender, every age.  So similarly, we all might feel the cycle of wanting to hunker down and go within during the winter alternated by the desire to be out and about more during the summer.  But how many times have we dishonored these natural tendencies?  How many times have we talked ourselves into something that we were not feeling only to regret it later?

There is a rhythm to every inner season and cycle of our life.  Rhythm surrounds us.  We eat, sleep, work, and play to a rhythm.  There is a rhythm to our daily life and our work environment.  You know the cool and groovy feeling that permeates your being when you are aligned with that rhythm.  Everything flows smoothly.  You also know the failing, chaotic sensation of being out of synch.  The rhythms of the cycles are always changing.  Sometimes we just have to stop everything for a minute.  Take a breath, go within and ask ourselves, “How can I support the cycle in my life right now that is trying to get my attention?  How can I resynchronize with the rhythm?”

225672631297246454_CtcVhBIJ_cYour cycles and the rhythms of those cycles will shift and change throughout your life.  By living in awareness and tuning into your inner wisdom, you will know the right pathway to take at the right time to honor your cycles.  Don’t be afraid to slow way down.  Life is not a marathon, it is meant to be sipped and savored like a cup of something delicious.  It is not intended to sprint through. If that’s your story, consider a rewriting.  Sometimes we need to downshift and sweep away any time-sucking debris that is keeping us from the leisure necessary to be in tune with our inner seasons.  Don’t underestimate the power of contemplating the leaves.  In that space, serenity resounds.

I would love to hear from you.  What cycles have you discovered for yourself?  Have you found your serenity groove? What struggles do you have in falling into synch with your inner seasons?  Let me know by leaving a comment below!

In Rhythm & Harmony,

Melinda

The Myth of Balance

balanceDo you feel totally and completely balanced in every aspect of your life?  What if I told you that the notion of such a state of total balance, 24/7 is an illusion?  One of my greatest inspirations, Susan Weed is quoted as saying “Balance is the step immediately preceding death. The Wise Woman Tradition defines health as flexibility. In the Wise Woman Tradition we nourish wholeness rather than trying to achieve a mythical balance. The essence of life is, in the words of E.O. Wilson, dynamic disequilibrium.” 

There is a great deal of power and freedom in this concept.  If you stopped chasing balance and instead surrender and relax into wholeness, what might your daily life look like?  What if you exchanged the unfounded notion of balance with the concept of harmony, which is found in wholeness?

The paradox of living a “spiritually connected” life is that you are already just that.  It’s like looking for the glasses that are hanging around your neck.  You can spend hours in meditation each day seeking wisdom, peace, centeredness and heightened awareness and what does this really achieve?  I believe it can create a state of living that is very ungrounded and unnatural to your purpose of harmony.  The real wisdom of life is found in the natural world; it is found in the trees, the animals, the elements and most importantly, your body.  When we are acutely attuned with the natural world we LIVE in a state of harmonious awareness; we are always connected to the inner peace and centeredness we desire.  When we are tuned in to nature we are fully present, in the body, aware of our innate holiness and able to hear the voice of spirit speaking to us.  This way of living is a dance of harmony with the “dynamic disequilibrium” that is wholeness and a whole heck of a lot easier to embody than the elusive and illusionary “balance” that we seem to hear so much about.

If you are being bombarded with stress, an inner nagging, fear, pain or any of the negative forces of polarity that exist in the earthly realm, it is nature that will restore a blanket of divine thinking and feeling.  Meditation certainly has a very noble place and is a useful practice in its own right, but sometimes the efforts of trying to quiet the mind and feeling the opposition of stopping the thoughts may actually create disharmony and not be the best medicine in the moment.  But when you step outside, take a walk or sit on the ground and look around at the wonder of the natural world there is an instant exhale from the body, mind and spirit synchronized.

Believe me; I spent hours upon hours in meditation in my early years of spiritual awakening.  I could achieve amazing feats of speaking in tongues and channeling enlightened beings.  I could access incredible portals into alternate universes and deep, deep states of awareness.  And during that time in my life I was so incredibly ungrounded in my day-to-day doings that I sometimes felt depressed when I wasn’t meditating.

As the awakening process evolved, I realized through connecting with indigenous ways of spiritual practice, ceremonial ritual and drumming that spending all that time in the ethers, with my upper chakras wide open while my lower ones were closed off was not supporting me. I was disconnecting with my body and the earthly realm. I needed to explore a more nature-based wisdom pathway to wholeness and harmony.  After all we are here in this bubble of biology we call a body for a reason.  We are not here to escape our earthly reality through meditation or chasing an unreal state of balance, but rather transcend the polarities, center our whole being, and align with who we really are – nature.  We are raw, thinking, feeling, always-changing, wild creatures roaming the earth realm to anchor our spirit where it is needed.

What I discovered was that I could walk through life awake, aware, tuned in to my wisdom and all those cool ethereal experiences meditation had brought me without having to shut myself off from the world around me.  I was able to integrate the benefits of meditation into my daily activities in a conscious sate.  Through nurturing my wholeness and aligning with nature I felt more harmonious than ever.

Wholeness creates the pulse in which you craft the music for your dance with constant change.  Living in wholeness is living in rhythm and when you are aligned with the ever-changing rhythm of your life you are harmoniously contributing to the symphony rather than creating chaos.  You already have heaven within you – you came here to infuse it into the very soil you walk upon.

Wholeness is a nurtured state of being.  It honors all of you, your body, your mind, your spirit.  So if you struggle with conventional meditation, what if you put down the practice of trying to achieve inner silence and instead engaged in an act of self nourishment?  It too will raise your vibration and re-calibrate the brain and put you back into the flow of harmony through divine gratification. Perhaps a warm bath with relaxing music to delight those senses that are intended for pleasure.  Maybe a sitting in a garden where a gentle breeze and the song of birds reminds you of the wisdom that you are.  Or possibly a stroll upon a trail, or a shoreline, or even on a sidewalk that meanders through a serene neighborhood.  What if you made a ceremony out of preparing a nutritious AND delicious meal for yourself?  How about sitting with a pet and exchanging the unconditional love that animals are absolute experts at?

Nourishment is not about discipline, it is not about work, it is not about drudgery, it is about joy, pleasure, feeding your soul and disconnecting with opposition, difficulty, technology and negativity.  Nourished Wholeness does not contain the word “should” in its nomenclature; it is all about the essence of “could.”

Wholeness does however require consistency and regularity to maintain.  At the end of the day, and eventually at the end of your life, your moments of nourishing wholeness will far outweigh how many dishes were washed, how clean your house is, how many hours you clocked at the office and how many chores you accomplished.

Another powerful practice that nourishes wholeness is community ceremony.  Here in the West, where culture has been washed away through the cultural “cleansing” that has occurred in what we call the “melting pot,” people are thirsting and down right parched for ritual in a community setting.  When we come together around a theme or common cause and honor the spirit that we are and the natural world we are a part of we automatically heal the wounds that block us from our wisdom and the life we desire.  Through ritual and ceremony we align our thoughts, our words, and our actions and create the congruency necessarily for manifestation.  Ritual is active meditation.

In ceremony I access the sacred portals.  I synch up with the ethers while remaining firmly grounded.  I channel divine wisdom and disperse this grand light within my community.  My body is active, my mind is focused, and my spirit sings hallelujah in the divine, harmonious alignment of my being.  Ritual is my meditation.  And there are many pathways to this wisdom, countless ways of engagement, and numerous traditions to incorporate.

feet in grassSo here I share some ways in which I nurture harmony and wholeness as inspiration for you upon your own journey:

Hot sea salt baths

Cuddles with my fur babies (3 cats, 2 dogs)

Long walks in nature

Daily walks (sometimes runs) with my dogs in the peaceful suburbs where I live

Making the time to create a wholesome meal

Preparing and drinking herbal infusions like my beloved Nettle

Dates with girlfriends (which often requires me saying NO to other things that pop up)

Dates with my sweetheart Luis

Time with my daughter

Working in my garden

Weeding – yes weeding, it is an incredible metaphor

Sitting in my garden and doing nothing

Taking a day every now and then where I don’t get out of bed

Putting my bare feet on the earth and drink in the energy (known as earthing)

Receiving a massage

Receiving Reiki (where I naturally go into the silence and meditate)

Reading

Browsing through a magazine

Drumming

Community ceremony

…the list is always evolving and expanding

These activities are a meditation for me.  I am grooving with my rhythm when I engage in nourishment.  When I am hiking a trail in nature, I am so fully present.  Nothing else matters but that moment.  None of the issues I might be facing are even in my awareness.  I am completely soaking in the beauty that surrounds me and feeling the resulting alignment of my being through the holy force of nature.  I return refreshed, renewed and in a state of harmony ready to deal with life once again.  Nourishing my wholeness does not require I escape life, but rather deeply immerse myself in the organic earthly realm that is Spirit.

And for the sake of clarity, let it be known that committing to this nourishment is not always easy.  Just like meditation, I must set aside the time, often sacrificing.  But sacrifice is not a word of profanity, but quite simply a divine exchange of one thing for something else of greater value.

In closing I share one last quote from the lovely Susan Weed “Wisdom springs from connection. When we are connected to ourselves and to the Earth, then Wisdom flows through us. Listen to Nature. Listen to your gut. Listen to your heart. Drink nourishing herbal infusions. Eat wild salads. Breathe deeply. Every breath is a give-away dance with the plants. Every breath is filled with green blessings.” 

Tell me how you nourish harmony and wholeness.  Tell me where you might struggle with it…I’m happy to help.

Harmonious Blessings,

Melinda

 

 

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