Life By Design

“When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life”. ~Greg Anderson

I was thrust out of my comfort zone…

Just Not Good EnoughThe “art of the pause” has been on my mind, as I was recently a participant at a Cindy Biggs retreat ( The retreat entitled CONFIDENCE, COMMUNICATION AND CREATIVITY Women’s Leadership Retreat was held at Mohican State Park.

I attended this retreat in order to bond with three amazing women. My intention being, to get to know them at a deeper level; to build a stronger relationship than is possible across the board room table or in our local coffee shop. What I walked away with however, was the sense of being more comfortable in my own skin.

What does, “to be more comfortable in my own skin” mean?

The Art of the Pause…
Consider taking a moment to take a few deep breaths. In…and Out…extend the exhale as long as it’s comfortable for you. Ask yourself, what does it mean to be comfortable in my skin? And simply note the physical sensations that arise. You can journal any ah-ha’s or words that arise in your awareness.

The day and a half retreat focused on confidence, communication, and creativity, and it was the creativity piece of this retreat, led by Lauren Rader, which moved the entire learning aspect from a mental dialogue about confidence and communication, to experiential learning.

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

-Pablo Picasso

The retreat, for me, was timely. If your reading this post, most likely you know about my new business, Mind Body Align, and the vision I have for women in our community.

Starting this business has thrust me out of my comfort zone and into the public eye, triggering all of my “not good enough”, “not smart enough”, and “who are you to…” gremlin thoughts. Starting and building a business with these gremlin thoughts as consultants can be crippling and would, over time, have a devastating effect on me and the business.

So, what do I do about the Gremlins?

Interestingly enough, the focus for much of the creative part of the retreat was confidence. The act of using pastel pencils to draw the sensation of no-confidence and then inversely, the “knowing” sensation that accompanies confidence, shifted something inside me. The image shown above is how I visualize myself in the state of being not good enough.

I teach and practice a form of meditation called Yoga Nidra and Mindfulness. These practices are great for noticing and “being present” to the thoughts, emotions, and sensations as they arise, and for accepting rather than resisting the thoughts and emotions.

Take a moment to bring your attention to your body. What physical sensations do you notice? You can start at your feet by noticing the felt sensation of your feet on the floor. Then move up your body and include your heart and your breath. Are there any thoughts or emotions present? If it feels right, journal what you notice.

You may have heard the quote, “What you resist, persists”; mindfulness practice, and the practice of Yoga Nidra supports attention to, and acknowledgment of, all of the thoughts and emotions that are moving through your awareness.

In some ways, I feel this retreat experience has closed a circle for me. My drawing of the image of the Gremlin, “Just Not Good Enough”, simply poured out of me onto the paper.

When the image was complete, I felt a deep sense of relief; something akin to opening the closet to reveal the “monster.”

Drawing the image; giving the experience shape, form, color, and texture (possibly even a face), on the heels of my practices with Mindfulness and Yoga Nidra; attending to the thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations of an experience, felt like finally slaying the demon. I left that retreat center Friday afternoon after having opened the closet door and illuminating all of its dark recesses.

Take a moment to pull out some markers or colored pencils and draw. Draw anything that you might feel at the moment. There is no judgment here…and no one will see the result, in fact, I challenge you to keep it as your very own secret…like a journal entry.

In conclusion, I want to thank the amazing leaders of the retreat: Cindy Biggs, Lauren Rader, and Ethel de Jesus Tabora.

Thank you for giving me another powerful tool to support my voracious appetite for personal growth and learning. I can honestly say I am a better, more enlightened, person today because of the gift you generously give through your work. Namaste’ my friends, I look forward to working with you again in the future!


Delivering Happiness!

Originally Posted on January 6, 2011by

Hello Friends…

Now is the time…the time to look back over the last year and evaluate our successes and failures.  The purpose of this exercise, of course, is to set goals or “resolutions” for the coming year.

I recently read a book called Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of  It is a business book describing a new age in corporate leadership.  I happened to pick up this book because I was looking for something to read, and it was sitting on my coffee table.   I’m not clear how the book landed on my coffee table.

Tony Hsieh and his team, over a 10 year period, intuitively evolved “happiness” as the business model for  WOW, happiness…not profits? hit over $ 1 Billion in gross merchandise sales in less than 10 years.  It seems that profits are the welcome byproduct of a “value based” leadership team.

The turning point from chasing profits to chasing passion, for Tony, lie with the buyout of his company LinkExchange.  Tony gave up approximately $ 8 million he was to be paid had he continued for 12 months in his executive role with LinkExchange after the buyout.  “…I went to the office, sent my good-buy e-mail to (Microsoft), and walked out the door.  I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, but I knew what I wasn’t going to do.  I wasn’t going to sit around letting my life and the world pass me by.”  “I thought about how easily we are all brainwashed by our society and culture to stop thinking and just assume by default that more money equals more success and more happiness, when ultimately happiness is really just about enjoying life.”  Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness.

Tony and his team drive based on their defined set of core values.  They hire and fire associates based on these values, not on job performance.  They also place customer and employee happiness above the “bottom line”.

“Ok…so what does this have to do with New Year’s Resolutions?”

If the byproduct of a company driven by core values is profits, maybe the byproduct of a life driven by core values is self actualization; or the achieving of one’s full potential.  That (achieving one’s full potential) is the reason you make a New Year’s Resolution…Right?

In 2011 I am not making resolutions.  I am defining my core values based on what it will take for me to enjoy life.  Living my life in joy and happiness may seem like a gluttonous way to walk through this world, however, I am adopting the Aristotelean concept, eudemonia, that the goal of life is happiness, to be achieved through reaching one’s full potential as opposed to through the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure.  (The Thinkers Thesaurus)

In order to realize my core values, I went on a journey; an exploration of the mind, body, & spirit.  Following is the result of my pilgrimage

  1. Keep life simple and close to nature
  2. Exemplify whole health through the mind, body, spirit connection
  3. Face my demons and welcome opportunities for personal growth
  4. Be adventurous, creative, and open minded
  5. Cultivate beauty and fun
  6. Love passionately
  7. Build open and honest relationships through compassionate   communication
  8. Embrace change
  9. Live and speak my personal truth
  10. Be humble

I have found that the form of happiness achieved from reaching a “goal” is short-lived.  No sooner are you patting yourself on the back; acknowledging your power, than you are feeling restless; needing to “find your purpose” and climb another mountain.  While living within the framework of a set of core values I am living my desirable quality of life.  This quality of life shapes a happiness that is dense and rooted.  It is based on what I intuitively know about myself and what will guide me into living at my full potential every moment of every day.

Happy New Year!


Practicing Mindfulness: The Critical “Thinker”

Following my earlier post, I had a number of questions about applying mindfulness as a practice.  Mindfulness is a practice of conditioning the mind to: 1) live in the present moment 2) with awareness of what’s happening in your mind and body, and 3) with acceptance of what is (without judgment).  At the beginning of my mindfulness practice I spent a lot of time figuring it out in my head.  How, in the midst of a really gripping negative mind loop, can I step back and practice presence, awareness, and acceptance, what do the three elements actually look like in practice, and what are the best “exercises” for practicing them, in the moment?  Of course, all of this “trying to understand” is happening in my thinking mind.  Finally, I just started the practice to figure out, by trial and error, what worked for me.

I finally accept my craziness!

I finally accept my craziness!

The “trial and error” period is similar to the moment when you first start lifting weights and your muscles react to the unfamiliar with physical pain.  The pain I experienced when first practicing mindfulness, was self-doubt.  I was hyper-aware of my thoughts, and became acquainted with a “voice in my head” that I now lovingly call “crazy bitch”.  Wow, if this “voice” was a real person, she would not be my friend; she is mean, complaining, and – bitchy.  In hindsight, I realize I was applying two, of the three, elements of a mindfulness practice, presence and awareness, but not the third element, acceptance.  In fact, I was looking at my thoughts with a very critical eye, and the more judgmental I was, the louder “crazy bitch” shrieked.

Try this Practice:  This writing exercise helps me “turn down the volume” of the critical thinker.  Keep with you a small notebook and pen or pencil.  When you notice a persistent thought or mind loop playing out, transfer the thought(s) to your notebook.  As you write, feel your hands gripping the pen/pencil, notice the vibration of the words as they form on the page, the pressure of your hand holding the notebook – and notice what happens in your body and mind as you pull the words out of their thought stream.

An effective mindfulness practice is about going back, again, and again – and again, to the three elements of Acceptance, Awareness, and Living in the Present Moment; it means every time you notice you’re in the thinking loop, bring yourself back to the present moment, notice your thoughts and your physical reactions to the thoughts, and accept them for what they are – just thoughts.  In the beginning, the best way may be through doing one of the described exercises, transferring your thoughts to a notebook, following your breath to stillness, or becoming fully aware of your body.

For more in-depth information on mindfulness and the critical thinker, two books I suggest are The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears by Pema Chodron.

Thank you for reading!



It’s not about change!

Hello Friends,

I have many clients, friends, and family ask me, how do I change my negative thoughts, and my answer is, without hesitation, start with mindfulness practice.   But, mindfulness practice is not about change. Through the practice, you will have self-knowledge and the perception needed to bring about permanent shifts in thinking and behavior, that can lead to change.

Mindfulness is defined as the “nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment”.  So, how does that definition translate into a mindfulness practice?  Following is my drill down on what that definition really means.  Let’s start with Acceptance.


My first element to a mindfulness practice is acceptance, and although the above definition uses the word non-judgment, I prefer to soften my focus on non-judgment for two reasons: 1) You must first judge a thought before consciously not judging it (which defeats the purpose, and takes up energy), and 2)  the more you try not to judge your thoughts, the more those judgments will persist in your mind, as noted by Carl Jung, “What you resist persists”.

I have selected to sharpen my focus on acceptance.  Acceptance implies a state of surrender; surrendering to your habitual thoughts as they are, without judgment or the want to change them.

“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.”

~ Pema Chödrön

Practice Tip:  Buddhist, Pema Chödrön, has a very effective practice of complete acceptance of habitual thoughts.  Whenever habitual thoughts arise in your mind, instead of labeling the thoughts bad/good, true/false, or right/wrong, you label them “thinking”.  In distinguishing the thoughts and labeling them “thinking” you allow the thoughts to move through your thinking mind without resistance, judgment, or grasping the thought; it is simply “thinking”.

Cultivate Awareness

Cultivating awareness is the second element in practicing mindfulness.  Awareness is the perceiving and knowledge-gathering element of a mindfulness practice.  According to Aristotle, “the ultimate value of life depends upon awareness”.

There can be no acceptance of your thoughts (the first element of mindfulness) without first being aware of their existence.  Awareness, for mindfulness practice, is to notice thoughts and the physical response the thoughts trigger.  Sometimes it is one thought over and over, and in some cases it is a whole series of thoughts which create a conversation in your head.

It is helpful to recognize that mindfulness practice is about cultivating awareness, in so doing, you are accepting the unfolding nature of awareness, and the fact that everything you need to know about yourself and your habitual thoughts will become clear over time.

“Be the silent watcher of your thoughts and behavior.  You are beneath the thinker. You are the stillness beneath the mental noise. “
~ Eckhart Tolle

Practice Tip:  One practice to cultivate awareness is to follow your breath.  Take a moment to notice your breath and follow it as it enters your body, feel for stillness, or a pause at the end of the in breath, and then trace its path as it exits your body.  Once you’re still, what do you notice about your thoughts?  What emotions do your thoughts trigger, where in your body?  What do you notice using your five senses?

Live in the Present Moment

Living in the present moment is my third element of a mindfulness practice.  It is in the present moment that you cultivate awareness, which then gives you the knowledge and perception to finally allow for total acceptance.

The statement that all life happens in the present moment seems pretty obvious, but is it really?  Have you even driven home from work, and after you arrive home – in a moment of clarity, you realize you don’t remember anything about the drive; you can’t remember if you stopped at traffic lights or stop signs?  When you begin to look at your thoughts, you’ll begin to notice that most, if not all of your thoughts, are a judgment about something in the past, or a fear about something in the future, all the while, a whole life is playing out and you are completely unaware.

“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

Practice Tip:  One practice to bring you into the present is to take a moment to feel your feet; feel your feet in your shoes, or touching the floor.  Then wiggle your toes; notice how your toes touch the inside of your shoes, or contact the floor.  Now feel your hands; what are they touching?  Notice the point of contact to what they are touching.  Now continue in this way until you are fully present in your body.

Mindfulness practice becomes the foundation which supports habitual change by giving you an awareness and deep acceptance of your life in the present moment.  It is from this place, the place of knowing and accepting yourself fully, that you will begin to shed the habitual thoughts and behaviors that no longer serve you.

For more information on creating your own mindfulness practice feel free to contact me.

Thank you so much for reading!



The Intentional Life: Blogging the Journey

Hello Friends,

Four years ago I existed in a state of questioning, who am I, and what do I want out of life?  After months of suffering through these spiraling thought streams, I sought another way; I needed a way to get to know Annamarie.

I first tried talking, but found that most people hear through what they know; they want to fix and not listen.  I then tried journaling, but the lack of connection created words that seemed flat, hollow, and superficial.  Finally, I found blogging; at once I recognized the value in having accountability to my word, and connection to others who may hear in my words their own thoughts.

I started blogging at as a way to work through my thoughts and feelings, not to find answers, but to hear my true self.  Now, Four years later, I’ve answered life’s questions, befriended my authentic self, and I’m working as a personal coach, assisting others in living authentically and on purpose.

My blog has evolved as well.  This blog continues as an expression of my personal journey, however, now it is about my self-coaching; my coaching to stay present and mindful, live my core values, and be “on purpose”.  The hope is that you can hear my journey and take away some practice that may serve you in your personal evolution.

Mindfulness, presence, living your values, and being “on purpose” in life is a practice.  There is no right or wrong way; there is only the way that works for you.

Thank you for reading!



Suspended In Transformation

Hello Friends,

As I breathe into and notice the morning sunshine melting the dew, and the wind gently fanning the leaves of the tree outside my window, this message, posted on my Daily Dose page, April 9, 2012, keeps popping into my mind.

Strong for too long!!!!

“People cry not because their weak, but because they have been strong too long”. One of my habitual behaviors is burying my emotions behind a smile, and when I finally release emotions that have been bound tightly inside, they get released in a torrent, like a pressure cooker that explodes. The irony of the statement is that it doesn’t take strength to hide and bury emotions; strength and courage are found in the honest expression of emotions.

Interestingly, another part of my brain is playing a video of my past weekend, Labor Day weekend, which was a whirlwind of family, food, house guests, and – busyness. I’m noticing who I was being, what I was doing, and the result of “being” and “doing” at any given moment. The thing that encourages me to stop and notice my thoughts is peace; I’m not hearing my “gremlins” or “crazy bitch voices”; The, “you should have done…”, or “oh man…why did you…”, or even, “it would have been better if…”, voices are silent.

In this moment my voices of judgment and criticism are absent, however, they were talking loudly this weekend, in fact, because of my mindfulness practice, these mean girl voices have become a road sign to recognizing when I have succumbed to thinking in an habitual way, in lieu of expressing my feelings honestly. This weekend, in the moments (often, but not always) that I realized the mean girls were talking, I listened to them with curiosity, and I asked my “self” three questions, what’s happening now, what do I want, and what will honor my values? These three questions always lead me to a place of choice; the choice in how I want to think, and about how I want to act/react to something.

This weekend, I didn’t go KA-BOOM; there was no waterfall of anger or loud burst of words, in fact, I am noticing that my practice of being curious about my mean girls acted like a release valve.  It allowed me to continually release emotional pressure and move through passive aggressive (which at times I was) to wholehearted conversation.

Two blue birds just flew past my window; one blue flash chasing the other and careening out of sight into the woods. The bluebird is the symbol of transformation, signifying the tipping point between transforming and transformed; it’s like the pause between the in-breath and the out-breath.  I sense that the replay of my past weekend is the “pause”; it’s the moment of suspension when I can see and grasp the connection between the “practice” of mindfulness, presence and honoring self, and the “being” of them; the stepping from the learning into the knowing

In the Pueblo Indian tradition the bluebird is the mascot of the winter solstice, heralding the moment that moves us from winter to summer and darkness to sunshine. I’m in that moment, suspended in the space of transformation. Thank you for sharing it with me!



The World Wide Web: Heart Connection and Global Consciousness

Hello Friends,

This morning as I cruise through my favorite inspirational web sites, and alternately (I am practicing being present) have an awareness of the wind in the trees, and the subtle color changes in the field and forest of my landscape; I am noticing a common theme to what I am accessing on the web.  It feels serendipitous enough to encourage me out of my blog posting hiatus.

I am finding myself drawn to, and bringing up on the web, information on global connection.  Here is an interesting 7 minute video that can describe some of the current science.

If 7 minutes is just too much, here is a short 1 minute video.

In this moment, in a very palpable way, I am connected via the World Wide Web, and yet, my sense is that I am tethered energetically to the plants, trees, animals, lakes, oceans, deserts, mountains, and humanity.  I have always felt this sense of connection and, traditionally, my access to this world has been through hiking woodland trails, paddling quiet lakes, and riding our nation’s lonely highways on a BMW (motorcycle).  In recent years, my work as a life coach has intensified, and given me the tools, to step into this experience of global connection.

While coaching I tap into what we (co-active coaches) call “level 3 listening”.  This listening is a kind of tapping into the flow.  It feels like wading into a warm eddy of water where I feel enveloped, safe, and comfortable.   I can feel the soft rhythm of the current moving me one way – then another, and I get a sense that I have connected to something greater than myself; it’s like my physical edges soften, and I am not separate from the water.  It’s truly a “heart connection” between me, my client (or group of clients), and something greater.

Interestingly enough, the client feels it also, and through coaching, learns to open this heart connection to reach the flow, which brings them greater clarity, creativity, and limitless depths of compassion and gratitude.  Connecting to the flow truly is like having a “wireless access” to the infinite wisdom of the collective consciousness (God, the universe, spirit, etc.), which I’m naming the “world wide web”!

If you are interested in pursuing more information about global or collective consciousness, here is an interesting movie  and, if you want more information please send me an email and I’ll send you a collection of resources.

So, now I’m noticing the darkening sky and I can feel myself moving into peacefulness.  Thank for the opportunity to share this information and be a part of bringing unity and connection to the globe!



Spring Meditation

Hello Friends,

Welcome to this rainy spring day in Central Ohio.  I am drawn to the metaphor of rain as a method to purify, cleanse, and wash clean the cobwebs and soot of winter.  Please enjoy the following 8 minute meditation and feel free to comment. I would love your opinion!



In Memory of Sophie and Aprilia

Today I’m morning the loss of my 14 year old German shepherd, Sophie.  I’m drinking coffee and indulging my need to be melancholy and cry.

“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” ~Agnes Sligh Turnbull

crying eyes

The view out my large window of fields and trees spotted with rain washed snow, is mirroring my inner landscape.  At times the rain rages and screams, then calms and whispers, and then dyes down to a soft mist, just to rage again unexpectedly.

By degrees, I notice that the grass is a lovely shade of green, the only color in this otherwise grey and brown landscape.  Green is the color of life and growth; it is the color of renewal.  My crying eyes rest on the color of renewal and I find myself reflecting on growth.  Sophie and my other girl shepherd, Aprilia, who passed two weeks ago, were my teachers.   They modeled for me, unconditional love, patience, authenticity, joy, presence, perseverance, and loyalty; I could go on and on.

In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog. ~Edward Hoagland

Their ability to be totally “in the moment” was a gift to my learning to be present.   I would walk with them and act like them.  I would notice the sounds, standing motionless, to determine the location of the squirrel or the bunny.  I would sniff at the air trying to discern the fragrance of the recently passed deer or turkey.  I would get curious about the tracks in the snow or the lair of some little critter.  Sometimes I would bark at the Canada geese and chase the swans into the water just so that I could feel the exhilaration and joy that the dogs seemed to feel.

They didn’t care in what condition my body was, or take my moods personally.  If I was angry, they gave me space, and sad, they were by my side as a comforting presence, not concerned with “why”.  Sometimes, in my isolated moments, I would talk and talk, and they would listen with their heads tipping from one side to the other.  They never had much to say, but they were really listening.

If I walked in Aprilia’s direction she would lift her head and clap her tail with delight, and when I came home they barked, laughed, and greeted me with enthusiasm, their entire bodies shaking with joy.  Upon my leaving, they stood very still watching my movements, and showing me their sad faces, although there was always a bit of mischief behind their beautiful brown eyes, and independence, and self-sufficiency.

My girls were not from the same breeder; Sophie was a wedding gift and Aprilia came from the dog pound.  They were also not the same age; Sophie was 14 and Aprila was 12 (past the expiration date for Shepherds). And yet, they appeared to die from the same fatal rupture of the spleen.  Aprilia, the first to die, had a difficult passing.  We didn’t know what was happening, thus she lingered in agony for many hours, dying at home at 3 in the morning.  Sophie on the other hand, was found perched regally in a mound of snow on the hill overlooking the pond.  It was as if she wanted to reflect on her life before she passed.  I believe she knew she was leaving us.  When I found her she looked up at me with a peaceful and contemplative look; it was like she was just hanging out their enjoying the scenery until I got home.  It wasn’t until my husband picked her up that we knew she was dying.  She was hypothermic and, although conscious, had cloudy eyes and a firm abdomen.  We had her peacefully put to sleep.  Both died with us loving them and holding them, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Some unknown author once said, “My goal in life is to be as good of a person as my dog already thinks I am.”  I say yes and, my goal in life is to be as good a person as my dogs were.  They were the best!  I will miss them terribly.

In Memory of Sophie and Aprilia

In Memory of Sophie and Aprilia

May you rest in peace and joy Aprilia and Sophie Fernyak.  I love you!



All Is Not As It Appears!

“Help me! Help me!”

“How can I help youuuuu if I can’t find youuuuuuuuu!”

These two lines are part of a story told me by a rowing teammate many years ago.  (Tom, if you’re reading this, and I screw it up please feel free to set me straight.)  My teammate is kayaking and hears, in the shrill voice of an older British woman, “Help me! Help me!” He searches frantically in the direction of the voice.

Help me! Help me!”

Ultimately, he calls into the brush, “How can I help youuuuuu, if I can’t find youuuuuuu?”

In my work as a personal coach, there are times during a session when Tom’s story  plays out in my head.  As I listen, in my mind, I  hear, “Heeeeeelp me,” in the accented, shrill voice that Tom used in the retelling of his tale.  There is a hint of curiosity and playfulness in the way his voice rode the “e” in help. In his voice, was revealed the sense that there is a truth that was not being told; there was a subtle subterfuge.

The voice playfully calls out to me: “Heeeelp me! Heeeeeeeelp me! It’s a signal that all is not as it appears. I realize I need to lean in and listen.  My client is usually in the midst of a story. It might be a tale of their day, their week, or their life.  I know this particular voice as a sign that I am caught up in an unintentional subterfuge. I believe the story I am hearing is the truth, and for that short period of time, I forgot to be curious.

I can almost hear the echo of the “youuuuuuuu” as the voice fades into the texture of the cattail brush.  In my mind’s eye, I see the pursing of Tom’s lips as he attempts to keep a straight face.  The anxiety builds, and I try to find the real you to whom I am speaking.

The coaching conversation is one of curiosity and discovery.  What important values are revealed as we speak?  How does this story, or this conversation, point to your life’s purpose?  What is important to you about the story?   In essence, I invite the client to show himself-his true self.  I hold the possibility of the client living in fulfillment in the present moment.

As a personal coach, my purpose is to help the client recognize his or her  unique gifts, to rediscover their true self.  Our true selves are just waiting to be heard.

Get curious about your own stories and enjoy the discovery that your curiosity brings.  We, all of us, in our essence, and at our core, are magnificent, and  full of knowledge.  We are also full of love and exuberance.  We each hold the key to our own fulfilled and abundant life. Sometimes, we simply need to look a little closer, and really listen, to find it.


Annamarie Fernyak

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