dance_with_life

The quality of my life has improved since I moved to a village. I adore the space I have now.

One of such offerings is a big garage. But even such a garage can easily be filled in no time. And, indeed, our garage has imperceptibly become a land of stock and stuff.

Not on purpose, of course, but merely as a result of our careless storage.

The garage has not called for an immediate attention, so it has patiently waited for its turn.  I’ve had more pressing issues to handle for months. It has gracefully stored everything needed and not, or perhaps needed-one-day-in-the-future, islands of old articles, heaps of papers, buggies, tables, chairs, car seats, garden equipment,  paints, tools, toys, boxes and whatever you will think of – surely we have had it there.

It was a mess.

The cleaning of the garage was on my to-do list as a some-day project. And perhaps it would have stayed there for a long time, but there was a sudden call for action.

While we were away, the garage was flooded by unexpected heavy rains. As a result, on return I was welcomed by unpleasant smell, rotten card boxes and damaged stuff.

“OK, I’ve got it now. No more excuses.”, I said to myself.

I decided to clean the garage.

“Easier said than done”, I thought.  The mess was truly overwhelming.

I was standing there in the middle and feeling the heaviness of the space filled with stuff. I heard a cry for order. The things were not happy, to say at least. However, instead of having a clear plan of action, my thoughts were cluttered and foggy as if in response to the disharmony around.

I had no idea how to start and how to end. I had no clear sense of direction of how to sort things out. It was too much stuff everywhere in all sorts of shapes, sizes and condition. And I felt small, overpowered and tensed by the task. Yet, it had to be done….

I decided to shake these feelings off. I took a few deep in-breaths followed by long out-breaths. I slowly started to relaxed.

“Let the dance begin”, I’ve smiled to myself.

“I need the space back”, I thought.

 I decided to take the stuff out.

“But … hey … I am in a dance.” I’ve reminded myself.

“I like the free-style.”

So, instead of a dedicated effort to move things out,  I took a series of seemingly unrelated or even distracting small steps. From the same dance, of course 🙂

As with dancing, I needed to warm up, with various exercises first. In doing so I gave myself the possibility to both feel and appreciate the space and surroundings. I wanted to feel the dance floor, as you can imagine 😉

I was moving out the bulky items and the small ones, both in collections and individual ones. At the same time I was introducing other steps. For instance, when I discovered a few garden tools I had been desperately missing for some time (that I knew were there but had no idea were), I choose to collect them all in one place first. There was no logical order of moving things out, but inspired by what I thought was compelling to focus on at a given moment.

The moving-out steps were easily interlaced with floor sweeping ballet, re-packing and sorting hip-hop, gracefully jumping over the rooms and collecting new members for the garage, and some lovely speed-ups with the kids playing outside.

Such an approach is certainly unusual for me. When I set to do a task such as cooking or cleaning the house I simply do it. Now, I’ve set myself to a creative (even if chaotic) dance. What did cause the difference? Well… I usually know what to do and how to do it. I have a vision. Now, I had no idea but the motivation for a clean and neat space.

The challenge of garage un-messing was new, or at least very different from my usual undertakings.

There was a hidden structure in my free-style dance. For an outside observer I would have been randomly jumping from a task to a task. For myself, I have acted in response to the moment following the natural choreography that has slowly revealed itself.

After some hours, I’ve finally arrived at a place of space. The bulk of the stuff was outside.

I was again standing in the garage in the appreciation of such a big storage space. Even though I still had no clear vision for order, the insights were there. I’ve paid attention to the sorts and kinds of stuff so I’ve slowly gathered the impressions.

I decided to place the most bulky yet not-to-be-moved items first so that they could define the space in a solid way. Then, I decided to place the opposite – the stuff that would often be in and out such as kids bikes or garden equipment. Finally, I was left with a vast land of stuff of varying sizes and heaviness.

In creating the space for all these items I’ve pre-classified them based on purpose and I was dancing some of them away towards garbage or donation boxes (to be taken to a recycling center and charity shops). The dance has continued but now it was fast paced. I was moving, shifting, holding, pushing, repacking and re-boxing things around. The space was there and I had the freedom to move as I wished.

Every number of steps I made myself stop to feel the space again and the overall surroundings. When I recognized any discord I repeated the parts of the process of moving, shifting, holding, pushing, repacking and re-boxing. Whatever was needed.

The hours flew fast and I arrived at the final result. I was pleased with it. The garage has become a welcoming and very spacious space. The stuff found their new places in friendly neighborhoods. The light came in.

“I’ve done a good job” I thought.

***

The whole dance of space creation was a pleasant experience in contrary to what I anticipated from a tedious task of moving bulky stuff and getting dirty hands.

What is the moral of the story?

When faced with new, uncomfortable challenges, be it a serious disease of your child, a threat to loose a job, a big loss, an accident or a serious injustice, choose a dance approach. The conditions of your challenge are the music but it is your style and your moves that matter.

You need the space, the feel of the music and environment, the freedom to move and the dancing steps. It will make a difference.

Create the space first. This can be done in small steps by either creating it in a physical environment or in a mental/emotional one. Perhaps you need to reorganize your office, shift stuff around the house or clean the garden. Or, perhaps you need a mental space created through relaxation such as a walk in a park, climbing mountains, a long bath, volunteering help, or a good book. Or, perhaps you need to create an emotional space by letting flow the emotions freely through a physical exercise, cry and talk, reflection or a deep tissue massage. 

Every tension is contraction. Contraction means the space is restricted and confined.

Every relaxation is expansion. Expansion means the space is abundant.

Be present. Feel the situation, the circumstances and the environment. Hear the music. It is by probing, taking small actions and experiencing the responses, you will begin to feel the way forward.

Take the natural steps. Make them in the direction that feels natural. Learn about the problem, the circumstances, the disease, the people, the negotiations, the skills or whatever needs to be dealt with. Dance freely. Interlace your learning, thinking and doing with other activities or aside tasks. Take a day off. Go hiking. Rent a boat. Do a bungee jump. Reset.

Your mind needs to digest the information and experience without your inner control freak. This is possible when you begin to feel the in-and-out rhythm. The out is necessary for progress.

***

Breathe.

Expand.

Be present.

Dance.

***

The image above shows a beautiful quilt by Inge Duin. See more of her works on  www.ingeduin.nl.

 

Do opinions matter?

People often have opinions on things that are trivial, easily understood or based on common experience. They may either like or hate your style, your decisions or the way you rear kids. They may easily criticize your actions and your work.

 How do you take it on?

  • Are you upset or depressed after the slightest criticism?
  • Do you feel a knot in your stomach when people judge both you and your work?
  • Are you defending yourself to prove the critic is wrong? 
  • Are you debating over and over again of how to respond to a negative feedback?

Or, … do you just notice it, register and move on?

Well, one of the keys to personal mastery is the ability to distinguish whom to listen to and whom to ignore. It is of course not always easy because opinions can be harsh and they may evoke strong emotions. They may touch you at some very personal level. They may deeply hurt you, especially when you feel they are unjust.

If somebody judges you as fat, ugly, unskilled, stupid or alike, does it affect you? Even if you are such, so what? If this is a fact, it is a fact and that’s it.

But …

Is the critic perfect herself? Is she skinny, beautiful, skilled and smart? Does she provide you not only with the opinion but also a practical way of making things better?

Why do people criticize?

A simple answer is this: people either want to add value (contribute) to your (or their) development or put you down so that they can feel worthy and successful. The latter usually happens because of jealousy, feelings of insecurity or their lack of self-esteem.

However …

Even if they want to add value it doesn’t mean it is of use to you. A general piece of advice may be well meant but completely irrelevant.
Even if they want to put you down, it doesn’t mean that you need to respond to it. Just thank them for the feedback and perhaps challenge them with naming their intentions.

Opinions matter

When people are confronted with a difficult subject, they stay silent. On the other hand, when people are confronted with an easy subject, everybody has an opinion.

There is an interesting concept by Parkinson on the Law of Triviality or the importance of the bike-shed. I now cite a big piece from Wikipedia because it is perfect to explain the point. Read on.

Cyril Northcote Parkinson’ [..] dramatizes this “law of triviality” with the example of a committee’s deliberations on an atomic reactor, contrasting it to deliberations on a bicycle shed. As he put it: “The time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved.” A reactor is used because it is so vastly expensive and complicated that an average person cannot understand it, so one assumes that those that work on it understand it. On the other hand, everyone can visualize a cheap, simple bicycle shed, so planning one can result in endless discussions because everyone involved wants to add a touch and show personal contribution.

 

[…] Parkinson writes about a finance committee meeting with a three-item agenda.

 

The first is the signing of a $10 million contract to build a reactor, the second a proposal to build a $2,350 bicycle shed for the clerical staff, and the third proposes $57 a year to supply refreshments for the Joint Welfare Committee.

 

The $10 million number is too big and too technical, and it passes in 2.5 minutes.

 

The bicycle shed is a subject understood by the board, and the dollar amount within their life experience, so committee member Mr. Softleigh says that an aluminium roof is too expensive and they should use asbestos. Mr. Holdfast wants galvanized iron. Mr. Daring questions the need for the shed at all. Mr. Holdfast disagrees.

 

Parkinson then writes: “The debate is fairly launched. A sum of $2,350 is well within everybody’s comprehension. Everyone can visualize a bicycle shed. Discussion goes on, therefore, for forty-five minutes, with the possible result of saving some $300. Members at length sit back with a feeling of accomplishment.”

 

Parkinson then described the third agenda item, writing: “There may be members of the committee who might fail to distinguish between asbestos and galvanized iron, but every man there knows about coffee – what it is, how it should be made, where it should be bought – and whether indeed it should be bought at all. This item on the agenda will occupy the members for an hour and a quarter, and they will end by asking the Secretary to procure further information, leaving the matter to be decided at the next meeting.”

It’s interesting, isn’t it? There are multiple parallels to it in real life.

So …

You will always be faced with opinions of others or given unsolicited advice, especially about surface issues. Why? Because these are easy to make, there is a conversation / confrontation going on and the sense of fulfillment that the critic’s day has not been lost 😉

Some people choose to be offended by what you do or say, or like to play the victim role, just because it is their style. They love to gossip, judge and make you feel inferior, so that they can feel better themselves.

Sometimes, the criticism is intended for your best interest, simply because your friends, family or teachers do worry about your decisions, your kids and your future. This is their worry though, not yours.

Sometimes, the criticism is meant to save the critics because your acting or thinking shakes their world too much.The best defense is attack, as some say, and the criticism will be as sharp as a laser to protect their own homeostasis.

Although opinions matter, you need to take them with a pinch of salt. Or, two ;).

How to handle criticism

If you get opinions, judgements and criticism, just notice them and determine whether they are of any value.

The key is to ask yourself:
“Is this person in the position I want to be? Is he/she an expert on the subject involved?”

Are you getting criticism of starting a business from people who have never had one?
Are you getting marriage advice from friends who can’t hold their own relationships?
Are you getting judgements on your change in carrier from people who are scared to change?

It’s easy to point out things you’re doing wrong, or how you should think, act and achieve things. It is sufficient for you to recognize a negative feedback, look at it with your filter of indifference on, apply it when appropriate and discard it otherwise. It may take you years before you learn this attitude, but you will eventually reach this point so if you decide to.

The power to control your reactions and attitudes to bad comments or harsh judgements is necessary for a personal mastery.

You don’t have to listen to everyone out there.
You don’t have to take all the criticism on equal basis.

Just remember that opinions are in the eye of the beholder.
Only some opinions deserve your attention.
The rest is to pass.

 ***

The image above shows a beautiful quilt by Inge Duin. See more of her works on  www.ingeduin.nl.

 

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Recently I’ve found my Request Box I’ve long forgotten about. It is a small cartoon box I created seven years ago. It holds my dear wishes.

Inside the box you will find a few pieces of paper, each dedicated to a single request. Different colors are meant for different types of wishes.

Each request is described only briefly, but it contains the necessary details. I explain why I want this particular event happen in my life and how I want it to happen. 

What is more important, however, is the ritual of writing. At that moment I was seeing, hearing and feeling the circumstances around the request. On the canvas of my imagination I created a short movie of how it would have been to participate in the events if the request was a reality.

How would I feel? I felt the feelings.
How would I think? I thought the thoughts.
What would I say? I said the words in my mind.
What would I be hearing around me? I heard the sounds and the silence.
I spent a day per request to remember the feelings well.

The requests are written in a form of a prayer to Holy Spirit, who is the Doer and the Performer on the Earth. The prayer is structured in a simple way but it is a free-flow within it. In fact, it is more a demand than a request. I don’t beg, but explain, ask and command.

I open and close each request in the same way. In the beginning I say “Dear Holy Spirit and my High Conscious Self“. Why do I address the request to myself as well? Because I deliberately ask my Super-conscious Self to become aware of the longings of the present down-to-earth Ela and make her prepare well for the things to come. In the end, communication is the key, even within yourself, isn’t it?

I end my prayer by saying “Holy Spirit make it so to the highest good of all involved“. My ending is meant to be open so that the request comes to life in a way which is beneficial and rewarding and perhaps still beyond my imagination.

At that time all these wishes were far beyond my reach. There were perfectly legitimate wishes, in general, but seemed impossible for me because of the real or imagined limitations and obstacles. At that time I did not believe they would come true.

Now, seven years forward and all the requests have become reality. They are fulfilled in abundance and in ways that surpass my imagination. They have not come to life neither at the time I wanted nor exactly the way I imagined. They however closely matched the feelings I created.  In fact the feelings were my guide because at some point I had to discriminate between a number of responses that seemed to fulfill my wishes, yet weren’t. I knew I had to yet wait for something different, because the feelings didn’t match. It was worth it.

Prepare and let it go

Why to wait seven years, you may ask? Well…. what else is there to do except conscious action and trust?  It has taken me less than seven years, but still a few long years. Why? Looking back I was certainly not ready at the time I wanted the requests to be fulfilled, even though I was convinced otherwise.

I was certainly motivated and excited to have the wishes granted, wanting them from all my heart, demanding them and pushing towards them as goals. Over the first two years I had made little progress by my conscious efforts. Whatever I did to move towards my goals, I was pushed away. There were always new obstacles and challenges, simply growing out of nowhere. I couldn’t grasp it. In all my self-coaching efforts, I was pushing myself forward, yet it didn’t work.

Until I have finally understood it. My over-motivation, over-determination and over-excitement were counterproductive. It was the best learning I got on goals and what is beyond them. Two years after the creation of the Request Box, I finally relaxed and let it go. And then things slowly started to happen. Not that I realized that at that time – I can only see it now.

Readiness is an intention or a state of sharp alertness, when you are prepared to do / welcome something in your life and gracefully handle the consequences that follow. Oftentimes you believe you are prepared simply because you want something deeply and desperately. Oftentimes, you are not. (For instance you may easily get kids to later find out that you were not yet prepared for compromises, sleepless nights, cuts in spending and new responsibilities.)

If there is desperation to your wish, you are not ready yet for it to come. You need to let it go and free yourself from the outcome.

What is the purpose of the Request Box?

Writing is tangible. It is a physical act that creates an anchor for our abstract thoughts. Without an anchor, our thoughts are like clouds that sometimes are there and sometimes fly away. Writing is like planting a seed.

The structure of the request and the box are there to create a ritual, a distinct form. This is to make the requests important, to mark particular thoughts and feelings as special. The box is to create the imaginary space for germination without your influence.

The feeling and imagination are the principles for characterization of what we want and the recognition when it arrives. The key is to ask yourself the question “How would I know / see / feel / hear what others are saying when my request is fulfilled?” Simple yet powerful.

The requests are closed in a box and left for germination. No, please don’t open the box every hour or every day to remember what is there. You will remember it anyway. Your seed will be disturbed or perhaps even die if you are going to constantly dig in the soil. Open your box, say, once or twice a year (unless you want to add a new request, of course).

The best strategy is to plant the seed consciously and let it grow. Forget the box. Really, forget it. Forget the box until one day the feelings will make it clear to you. There is your seed which has grown into a tree :).

***

I am going to fill in my Request Box this month. What about You?

***

Photo courtesy Fe 108Aums, available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

***

 

 

Coaching is a practice of conscious development

Coaching is about paying attention.
Coaching is about acceptance.
Coaching is about asking questions.
Coaching is about listening.
Coaching is about learning.
Coaching is about rising your consciousness.
Coaching is about the right actions at the right time.

In the traditional view, coaching is about setting goals and taking actions to achieve them. Coaching is also focussed on solutions, instead of what is not working.

While this is true, it is only a partial truth.

Why?

Because coaching is much more than that.

Coaching is about powerful transformations. And you can make them happen either with or without goals. Goals are helpful but not necessary.

Coaching is about asking powerful questions

It starts with the most important questions:

  • Who are you?
  • How do you feel in this moment?
  • What do you notice about yourself and your feelings?
  • What makes you joy?
  • Whom do you want to become?
  • What are your deepest desires?
  • What do you want to achieve in the coming five years?

But it doesn’t stop there. Coaching always wants you to go through a process of learning: observation, thinking, feeling, action, reflection and change. Coaching encourages you to go for a direct experience because coaching asks for a balance between action and thought.

Coaching is a process

Oftentimes, coaching or self-coaching is presented as a bag of tools and techniques that once implemented will lead you to a particular result. This is a partial truth, again. The tools work when short-term efforts are required for achieving specific goals or challenges, but they fail when a transformation or change is necessary on multiple levels.

Why?

Because general tools are insufficient. There is much more happening beyond the surface of You (and who You are) that needs addressing before a real transformation may happen. Be it fears, guilt, lack of motivation, values or limiting beliefs. Only specific, person-tailored or situation-tailored exercises and practices can help with that.

True coaching goes hand in hand with the process of change, encouraging you to dig deeper, ask better questions, find better answers, act on them and learn.

Willing to change

Coaching only makes sense if you really want to change and are willing to transform. Without that, coaching can only lead you through avenues of frustrations.

You can easily understand that by watching coaches of the famous athletes.These sportsmen really want to achieve a particular result. They don’t lack the motivation in a big frame although they may lack it on a particular cold and wet morning. Coaches are their ultimate supporters, the guys who will join them in effort, pain and joy.  Coaches are there to encourage, acknowledge, support and challenge, while going alongside until they feel comfortable enough to do it alone.

In my early enthusiasm I used to coach anyone who was interested. It was a great learning time. Now, I know that selection is the key. Not everybody is willing to go through coaching and only few are willing to grow. No quick fixes bring satisfactory results. Coaching others who are unmotivated and refuse to take the actions is useless.

True coaching

True coaching always touches the deepest issues of our being: identity, spirituality, desires, motivations, core values and beliefs. So, if you want to go through coaching or self-coaching, be prepared to tackle such issues. You will remarkably benefit from that! Not even mentioning your enormous growth.

You don’t need to have a personal coach for an effective and long-term growth, although having one is helpful. Self-coaching works very well if you are prepared to ask yourself questions and act upon the answers you find.

Finally

Remember, the miracle of coaching lies in its focus on the solutions, instead of the problems.

Coaching always looks for the way forward.

***

The image above is a photo of a painting of the remarkable Chester cathedral. I made it some years ago when a number of paintings were collected there.

 

 

  • Are you the one who despises intuition, or are you the one who respects it?
  • Are you the one who thinks intuition is a word coined to cover the criterion-free and otherwise arbitrary decisions?
  • Are you the one who neglects the power of intuition in favor of a rational thought? The thought can be explained in the end, right?
  • Or, on the contrary, are you the one who believes that intuition is a mystical revelation for a chosen few?

Nothing more wrong than any of the above.

Intuition is not more than you think it is. It is much more! Much, much more.

Let me explain.

Are you the one who dwells in analysis? If so, perhaps you don’t pay sufficient respect to intuition. Perhaps you think intuition is run by emotional triggers, or it is a woo-woo phenomenon of emotionally unbalanced people. While it is true that

  • intuition may lead you astray (when undeveloped), and
  • it does not follow a rational conclusion of a detailed analysis,

intuition offers a unique approach to a more effective and satisfying living. And this is good enough to start using it.

Intuition is available to you and me at any time. It is not a magical power offered to a few individuals. It is a skill of a conscious person.

Intuition is a point of inner knowing, your inner knowing that happens now, in this very moment. Intuition is a creative workshop, a meeting place in which your consciousness is an artist who creates a new insight by blending knowledge, perception and feelings. It  is a new phenomenon arising by a higher level combination of a rational thought and emotion. In an active process of knowing.

This intuitive act is about delivering something new, similarly as you create a new color, green, by mixing blue and yellow in proportion, or as hydrogen and oxygen molecules are connected to create water. Such combinations have qualities that are way beyond the qualities of the ingredients themselves.

Key understanding

Being more practical: the idea behind intuition is threefold.

  1. First, it is your powerful subconscious mind that is able to process an amazing amount of information and read your senses and emotions. All without you being able to describe it.
  2. Secondly, it heavily relies on the non-verbalized tacit knowledge. It is the know-how that is built by experience and your own understanding and models of these experiences.
  3. Thirdly, there is a conscious spark. Call it imagination, inspiration, God’s guidance or wisdom in a moment. It is the spark, the joyful observer in you that combines the tacit knowledge and emotion into an insight.

So, the key understanding is this. Intuition is largely about … pattern recognition.

Yes, indeed. Intuition relies on a sophisticated pattern recognition system thanks to which you are able to evaluate both external and internal cues, perceive non-verbalized unspoken information, recognize patterns, discriminate between typicalities and anomalies and draw a conclusion in an instant.

Consequently, your intuition is usually lame when you enter a new field or encounter a new idea. It develops with learning, experience and reflection. What is means is that intuition can be trained.  It is great news, isn’t it? Because you can take a conscious effort in developing it.

Developing intuition

TRAINING
As any pattern recognition system intuition can be trained by examples. These are events, learning points and experiences. What you need are examples of standard situations and examples of outliers, atypical cases or anomalies. And as explained in the posts about learning accurate concepts and generalization, you need many more outliers and atypical examples than the typical ones in order to refine your concepts well. Your exposure to a variety of cases, analyzed or experienced, forms your data. Your inner understanding and the building of mental models are your generalizations.

Hence, the richer and wilder the experience and the better the understanding, the greatest your intuition (can be). And the other way around. The poorer your experience, the worse your intuition.

In other words: intuition sucks when you have not laid your foundation well: the data of experiences and the learned generalizations from  your reflection. So, yes, intuition may lead you to poor choices in the beginning, but it greatly improves with experience. With training, it leads to effective and fast choices. And of a high quality.

TESTING
Intuition heavily relies on spotting the patterns and an instantaneous evaluation of such internal and external cues. It communicates with you with a bodily emotion, such as the feeling of “this is right” or “this is to be done”. How you feel it in your body is your personal experience. You may simply know the answer or direction, imagine it, hear it or even sense it. You may have a gut feeling about it. You may feel expansion in your body or a feeling of congruence.

TRUST
How do you recognize that the feeling comes from your intuition? You recognize it because it guides you toward knowing in a moment and being in integrity with yourself. There is no fear, no rush but a state of calmness in which you clearly see, sense or know what to choose. It takes practice to tell the difference between intuition and other contributions such as ego, rational mind or emotional mind.

The only way to learn is by following intuition (or what it seems as intuition), see the results and learn from feedback. You need to trust.

Experts rely on intuition

Experts collect and ensemble patterns to quickly make sense of what is happening. Note that these patterns are not facts, neither rules, nor procedures. They are constructs built from knowledge, abstract prototypes and intuits derived from all the experiences the experts have lived through and heard about.

Professionals in any field rely on intuition. While standard situations can usually be covered by a set of procedures and rules, any deviation from the typicality asks for much more. And this is an every day experience for all of us. What we learn from leaflets, protocols and books has to be evaluated and refined by experience. Oftentimes, there is a gap between theory (written knowledge) and practice. Practice and experience lead to the development of your personal inner knowing.

And this is what makes the difference between mediocre and passionate. Between average and professional. Between boring and interesting. It is the use of intuition. As simple as that.

The learning point

In summary, what you need to understand is that an intuitive act happens in a given moment. It draws from learned concepts, generalizations and experiences. It is where your rational thinking and detailed analysis serve their roles – to form the mental models. Once these models are formed, they provide a model base for an intuition to act. Perception, senses and the emotional feeling provide the ‘green’ light  for the direction to choose. This intuitive knowing is painted in a moment from learned experience, recognized patterns and your feeling and judgement about the situation.

The good news is this. Your intuition is fed by experience, reflection and understanding. The richer your experience in a given subject, the better your intuition can be. The more you apply it, the stronger it becomes.

In the chaos and floods of information, intuition is not merely a tool. It becomes a necessity for making informative decisions and living your life fully.

Don’t let it slip your attention.

Your intuition is at work. Train it. Test it. Master it.

***

The image above is by my friend David.

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