Holistic Survival
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Find the Moment That Can Change Your Life

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HS - Jason Hartman Income Property Investing (1)Throughout our life, we often experience “aha” moments of truth and clarity, but why don’t those moments of clarity last? Jason Hartman’s guest, Elisha Goldstein, PhD, author of The Now Effect: How This Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life, explored the reasons and asked the question, “What if an awareness of that space, that moment, could change the rest of your life?” Elisha explains that what we practice and repeat becomes habit. Our brain is wired to routine and to the negative. By becoming aware of automatic thoughts and processes, we can stop them and make different choices. The space in which this awareness happens, Elisha refers to as “choice points.” Practicing and repeating new and positive choices, such as compassion and kindness, creates new habits of thinking. Elisha elaborates on how this process works in the brain. He also discusses intuition and provides some basic practices to help rewire our brains to make our intuition more reliable, to make better choices, and how to become grounded in the here and now and learning to recognize the good in any given moment. For more details, listen at: www.HolisticSurvival.com.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the book The Now Effect: How This Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life and co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He synthesizes the pearls of traditional psychotherapy with a progressive integration of mindfulness to achieve mental and emotional healing. He contends that we have the power to transform our traumas and habitual patterns that keep us stuck in perpetual cycles of stress, anxiety, depression, or addiction and step into greater freedom and peace. He offers practical strategies to calm our anxious minds, transform negative emotions, and facilitate greater self-acceptance, freedom and inner peace.

Dr. Goldstein, who comes from a family of psychologists, advocates that mental health comes from an approach that looks at all aspects of the self – physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual. As a licensed Psychologist, he teaches mindfulness-based programs in his own practice and through InsightLA. He has spoken at the UCLA Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Conference headlining Thich Nhat Hanh, Daniel Siegel, and Jack Kornfield, The NICABM Conference, Psychotherapy Networker, FACES Conferences, UCLA Semel Institute and Anxiety Disorder Clinic, the University of Washington with Dr. Alan Marlatt, and often hosts daylong courses at UCLA Extension. He is author of the popular Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog on Psychcentral.com and writes for the Huffington Post, Mindful.org and Mentalhelp.net. He has designed the 12-week Mindfulness at Work™ program that is currently being conducted in many mulinational corporations and has been published in The Journal of Clinical Psychology and quoted in the New York Daily News, Reuters, NPR, UCLA Today, Examiner.com,Beliefnet.com, Body & Soul, The Week Magazine, among others. In addition to his books, he has created popular CDs and MP3 albums including Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and Relapse Prevention, Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work, and Mindful Solutions for Adults with ADD/ADHD.

Narrator: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show with Jason Hartman. The economic storm brewing around the world is set to spill into all aspects of our lives. Are you prepared? Where are you going to turn for the critical life skills necessary for you to survive and prosper? The Holistic Survival Show is your family’s insurance for a better life. Jason will teach you to think independently, to understand threats and how to create the ultimate action plan. Sudden change or worst case scenario, you’ll be ready. Welcome to Holistic Survival, your key resource for protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Ladies and gentlemen, your host, Jason Hartman.

Jason Hartman: Welcome to today’s show. As you may or may not know, every tenth show we kind of do a special tradition here that originated with my creating wealth show where we do a topic that is actually off topic on purpose. Something just to do with general life and more successful living, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do today with our special guest. Again, tenth show is off topic and it is very much intentional, just for personal enrichment and I hope you enjoy today’s show. And we will be back with our guest in just a moment.

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Start of Interview with Elisha Goldstein

Jason Hartman: It’s my pleasure to welcome Elisha Goldstein to the show. He is a PhD and author of The Now Effect and I think you’ll learn some interesting stuff about how we can make change in this very moment and for the rest of our lives. Elisha welcome, how are you?

Elisha Goldstein: Great. It’s wonderful to be here Jason, thank you.

Jason Hartman: The pleasure is all mine. So you’re coming to us from one of my old home towns growing up, Santa Monica, beautiful place. Tell us a little bit about your work and what started you down this path.

Elisha Goldstein: Well for me it was kind of a search for getting in touch with what really matters in my life, what’s really meaningful in my life. I mean I was one of the ones that was part of the kind of dot com revolution in the mid to late 90s living in San Francisco and working hard and playing a whole lot harder. And I was successful at what I was doing in the corporate world, and I thought as long as I was successful it didn’t really matter how hard I was playing, meaning like drinking and experimenting, even with drugs and stuff like that. And it got to a point where it became untenable. And a moment of awareness, a moment of clarity kind of washed over me that this isn’t the way I want to go – I don’t need to live life this way. There’s so much more than this and that started my search into how to start to train my mind, train my brain to be more aware of what’s meaningful in life, not to get caught in the traps of automaticity with bad habits. Which is something that all of us, we might touch on this thing.

Jason Hartman: We all do it at some level, right?

Elisha Goldstein: We all do it at some level, we all get caught in habits and we don’t really know why we get caught in them but there’s certain neurological reasons why that happens, but there’s also certain ways that we can start to train the brain to become more present, to become more aware of what actually matters and have that start to happen more automatically. We all love books like Tuesdays with Morrie, The Last Lecture, The Power of Now, all of these things feel good. We get moments of insight from reading these types of books of ah, ah, this really matters to me.

But the question is why did those insights, those moments of clarity not really last? And that has to do with just how our brain takes the road most traveled, just makes sense what we intentionally practice and repeat in life starts to become more automatic. This guy Donald Hebb who’s a psychologist out of Canada had a great quote which says, “Neurons that fire together wire together”, which basically means that when we think certain ways and we behave certain ways, our brain actually gets wired in that way. Our brain is what controls our perceptions and our reactions most of the time, about 95% of the time, in our waking life of the way we react to things. And so we want to start to, and what we’re learning in the field of neuroscience is that we can actually rewire, we can change the architecture of our brain in ways that are healthier and actually work for us.

And that’s what The Now Effect is really about. It’s about tapping into more of those moments of awareness, intentionally practicing this in certain ways, just in our everyday lives at work and at home. And being able to kind of trick our brains in some ways by sort of priming our minds towards the good in life, priming our minds towards the choices, the spaces of awareness, so that these start to come to us automatically. And this is real and research is showing this as well.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, yeah. One of my favorite quotes that I learned years ago is from Dennis Waitley and he says that “the habits are like tiny cobwebs that grow into cables that shackle and strengthen our lives”. And I mean, can you teach an old dog new tricks? How do we do that? It’s easy to say, but what’s the actual action plan for doing that? I love that saying you just said, you said “Neurons are like when they fire together, they wire together? What was that?”

Elisha Goldstein: That’s right. Neurons that fire together wire together. So you know, what’s interesting about this is that you know, that old phrase, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, that actually influences our belief. That phrase influences our belief about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks.

Jason Hartman: If we know the saying, we make it true. We bring it right into reality, don’t we?

Elisha Goldstein: That’s right. We believe these limitations and so we act that way. But what was interesting, also in the field of neuroscience, the belief was up until recently that there was a lot of plasticity, what’s called plasticity in the brain, we could actually change the brain up until our adolescence. And then the belief was then your brain is kind of hardened the way it is and you know, only atrophy happens after that later in life. Which means certain parts start to go away. But what we’re learning is, in the past few years, we are actually seeing changes in different areas of the brain, across the 8 spectrum entirely. So you can actually whether you’re 50, 60, 70, 40, 30 and certainly younger, you can actually change the neuro structure of your brain so you can, which again just to say what that is, that’s when an event happens, let’s say it’s at work, a stressful event at work, occurs and the event comes in through our eyes and our ears, our senses, and our brain tries to make sense of it, it does that through the basic wiring.

So if you can change the wiring of your brain to maybe help regulate your nervous system easier, be able to pop into more flexible decision making, maybe prime your mind towards maybe the good more than the negative, which is our default, is to give more attention to the negative that’s happening, we can change our experiences and it doesn’t matter what age you’re in. That’s what we’re learning. It’s fascinating.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, it really is amazing. Some of the new brain science that’s really upon us right now, especially in the area of the functional MRIs, the FMRIs, is fascinating to me because we can almost read our minds. Scary and fascinating at the same time for sure, but I think it’s going to lead to a lot of progress in all of these areas that you talk about. But what else can people do? What are some of the action steps that people can do to improve their lives, change what they want to change, strengthen what they don’t want to change and take advantage of all of these technologies?

Elisha Goldstein: You know, I’ll give you just some basic things to understand, actually implement because part of what I want to give all the listeners today is just some very practical ways to start doing this right now. And one of the things that you have to understand, is that there’s basically a couple of pieces of bad news and we have to understand it and accept it and then we can work with it. It’s best when we know all the chess pieces that we’re playing with because then we can see the board and know where we want to move. One is that the brain is wired towards routine. Basically what you and I were talking about.

So it’s basic learning theory – what you intentionally practice and repeat in life starts to become more automatic. So if you’re practicing being stressed and anxious or rehashing past events, that’s going to just start happening to you automatically. And you miss the spaces of awareness where there’s a sense of choice, sense of clarity, and that’s okay. Abraham Joshua Heschel who was a peace activist, a rabbi had a great quote that said, “life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder”. So life is routine, routine is resistance to wonder, and that’s basically again, neuroscience is kind of showing that. So that’s basically one of the bad news, is that we get wired towards routine and we miss out on the choices and spaces in life.

Okay, so the second piece of bad news is that our brain is actually wired towards the negative. And just one quick way that you can experience this is, you could be walking down the street and you could have five people that who say how wonderful you look. Wow, you look so great and confident, we’re really impressed by the work that you’re doing. You have one person that walks by you and says, you’re such a jerk, wow you suck or whatever, something like that. And which one sticks with you? It’s the negative one. And neuroscience, again, there’s research studies that show that when we get exposed to a negative event versus a positive one our brain is way more active to the negative event than the positive one. It just means that our brains, negative events are stickier. Self-judgments, that kind of stuff that keeps us trapped in limited beliefs of not being able to realize our true potential in a lot of ways. It’s just easier for us to get caught in the web of that. That’s all. So life is routine, our brains are wired towards routine and that our brains default towards the negative.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, is that the amygdala that’s working there, that’s defaulting us towards the negative? That’s a survival mechanism, right?

Elisha Goldstein: Yes, so the amygdala is otherwise known as the fear circuit of the brain. It also fires up when we get angry, but it’s known as the fear circuit, so when anxieties are here, stressful events are here, the amygdala kind of fires up. You’d see more activity in the amygdala which will lead to more worried thoughts, which then would activate the nervous system because the nervous system is getting ready to go into a fight or flight response and then again that cycle kind of continues so we get caught in constant states of stress. Even though there’s not really a danger that’s happening. There’s no tiger chasing us, there’s no car coming at us or anything like that necessarily. It’s just we’re worried about our mortgages, we’re worried about whether we’re going to be able to keep our jobs, we’re worried about whether our wife or husband or partner or you know, whoever, friend is thinking poorly about us. Whatever it is.

Which kind of increases this stress hormone that’s in us called cortisol. Cortisol eats away at this area of the brain called the hippocampus. Again, it shrinks this area of the brain that’s involved in learning and memory. That’s why when we’re feeling really stressed in life, our brains are wired towards routine, so if we practice and repeat this it starts to happen over and over and over again.
I created this 12 week mindfulness at work program that is in many multi-national corporations. And I was explaining this to one of the people who I was working with and he was like, well I must not even have a hippocampus anymore. Because I’m so stressed and that cortisol eats away at it. But the wonderful news is that in 2011, just to relay this quick point, in 2011 a study that came out showed in doing the practices that are kind of woven throughout The Now Effect, over a short period of time they showed actually growth in the area of the brain called the hippocampus. Again, you can regrow certain areas of the brain, we’re finding, which are particularly involved in learning and memory. And that’s again fascinating.

So to come back to how do we practically bring this into our everyday life, we have to start practicing and repeating, just intentionally becoming aware of more of the choice points that are there. So we start to recognize that we have more choices in our life. I don’t have to be enslaved by this limited belief that tells me I can’t do this, I can’t get this raise, I can’t get this promotion, I can’t connect with my partner, I can’t make this basketball shot, whatever it is. The choice points, and once we start doing that we start seeing them more in our everyday life and they start coming to us automatically. I’ll give you an anxiety example. I have a very good friend and he used to have, he does have, he’s very anxious in public speaking as many, many people are. I think that’s the greatest anxiety. i think people are more anxious about public speaking than they are about death.

Jason Hartman: Death by fire, yeah.

Elisha Goldstein: Yeah death by fire, exactly. So here he is getting in front of a large group, because he wrote a book called A Mindful Way Through Self Compassion I think, and here he is in front of a large group, starting to feel really anxious, the thoughts, his body’s starting to activated, the thoughts of am I going to mess this up, are they going to like me, is what I’m going to say of any value to them, and whatever it is. And his body starts getting activated. And what automatically starts washing over him is these thoughts, it’s going to be okay, may I feel well, may I be effective at conveying my message. And that happened automatically because in his life through many different choice points, many different moments of awareness, he chose to practice a sense of being kind to himself. A sense of wishing himself well. Not as an affirmation necessarily, but as a wish for himself. He practiced and repeated that, that started becoming conditioned with his anxiety and started happening automatically.

We can do that in all different areas of our life. And our greatest teacher inevitably is ourselves because once we actually put this stuff into practice, we start to experience it and you and I know, and a lot of listeners here know that we’re not as motivated, it’s not enduring motivation when we just listen to experts or read books and this kind of stuff. These are all wonderful things that we can give us insight. But it’s putting stuff into practice and having the experience of it, that really allows us to believe what’s there and start changing maybe the cognitive distortions of how we’re, what we believe in life, how we’re relating to stress, this type of stuff.

Jason Hartman: Let me take a brief pause, we’ll be back in just a minute.

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Jason Hartman: Can we make our intuition more reliable? I mean is that what you were just really saying? Was just reduce the distortion and then your intuition does become more reliable? Or was there more to the intuition concept?

Elisha Goldstein: Yeah, I think intuition is, Malcolm Gladwell wrote the great book Blink, which basically, he doesn’t use the word intuition but it’s talking about that first moment that you kind of get hit by something and you kind of know if something is authentic, not authentic, real or whatever it is. But we’re really influenced by our mood. Our intuition is really influenced by our mood, how we’re feeling, an immediate proceeding event that happens, so if we are getting in touch with actually what’s here in this present moment, where we’re more connected over time to our emotions, what we’re experiencing, our thoughts, that first hit that we get we can automatically start checking in to see if this hit is based on me feeling depressed or anxious a moment ago or if this is authentic to this experience I’m having with this other person or the situation I’m in.

So I do think it makes your intuition more reliable and makes you feel more self-reliant and that you can actually rely on and trust yourself. Trust your own judgments; trust your own sense of discerning what’s most effective, what’s best to do at work and at home. But again, it comes with some kind of practice and repetition.

And one basic practice that I’ll give people right now to be able to start tapping into, and there’s videos of this online, there’s 14 videos actually woven throughout The Now Effect to give people the experience of immediate practice throughout their lives so they can start rewiring their brain and also start giving themselves more of these experiences. But this is just a basic practice and I say this one often because over listening, when we’re listening, we can acronyms are really helpful because our brain loves to chunk information and so you might be able to remember this. And this is, and you may have heard it before from me if you’ve ever heard me speak before, which is the stop practice. And I just want to tell people here what it stands for and I want to give you the opportunity to weave this into your day, once, twice a day. And just see what you notice.

At the end of the day, again, treat this as an experiment and you’re experience is going to be your best teacher with this. And so this stands for Stop, Take a few deep breaths, that’s the T, take a few deep breaths. What that’s doing is that’s automatically popping you out of the automaticity of the moment, that autopilot and it’s kind of helping you become present to this kind of here and now that’s here. And then you’re basically observing your experience and again that’s deepening your awareness of what’s actually happening, so you’re observing just your body, how you body’s feeling right now. If there’s any tension in your body, any tightness, and also in this moment if there is, you have a choice and the choice is maybe to let your shoulders down or let your face soften. And you’re also observing your emotions, if you’re feeling stressed, if you’re feeling anxious, if you’re feeling calm, if you’re feeling restless, irritated, bored, whatever it is, and you’re just naming it.

This is as best you can without any judgments, so none of this, an emotion by itself is not good or bad, right or wrong. You’re just basically being aware of your experience. And then you’re noticing, whether your mind is busy, calm, distracted, cluttered, whatever it is, and again that further pops you out of the automaticity of the moment and helps ground you to the here and now. And then the p stands for proceed and proceed is followed by the question, what’s most important for me to be paying attention to right now? So stop, take a few deep breaths, observe your experience, and proceed by asking yourself the question, what’s most important for me to be paying attention to right now?

And after running through this I often ask people to consider what would the hours and days and weeks ahead look like if you were able to weave in a few couple moments of the day where you were stopping, taking a few deep breaths, observing your experience and proceeding by asking yourself the question, what’s most important for me to be paying attention to right now?

Jason Hartman: Very good point, very good point. Certainly something good for anybody in sort of any high stress situation including parenting, I would assume. Or even with pets too. What else would you say that you’d like people to know in terms of any specific actionable items? I love how you’ve been really specific about that stuff because a lot of people, Elisha, I think nowadays, they get the concepts, a lot of people sort of know what they should do, they should be more mindful, they should be more thoughtful, they see benefits to that, but you know maybe one final technique or thing that people can really do you know, maybe that they’re not thinking of as much as they should, right?

Elisha Goldstein: Okay, so this is a great question. Again this comes with the understanding that our brain is wired towards and defaulted towards kind of the negative that’s there and another way of understanding that is a guy John Gottman came up in Seattle that works in relationships, and studied relationships very closely and this is in the book, and he would video relationships and he’d slow the tape down and see the interactions and what he came up with in this certain study was that a relationship basically needs a ratio of 5 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction to last.

Jason Hartman: Wow…

Elisha Goldstein: And he can, because he’s practiced and repeated this so many times, his brain is so, he’s so refined, his intuition is so strong with this that he can look at a couple and within a few minutes tell you with a certain percent of accuracy whether the relationship’s going to last or not. Which is amazing to here and this is kind of backed up by his studies. So again, that just shows you the bias toward the negative, how our brain is much more active when we hear negative things. So what do we do then to help balance that out? What’s something practical that we can do to help balance that out?

I’m going to give you some suggestions. There’s a section in the book called Prime Your Mind for Good. And it has to do with this idea of priming. What does the word priming mean? Priming basically means you’re doing certain things to your mind that has your mind be on the lookout subconsciously for things, so you’re influencing your mind subconsciously by doing certain practices and exercises so that your brain can be more on the lookout for the good that’s there, which ultimately leads to a sense of resiliency during difficult times in life.

Imagine if a difficult event happens and you’re feeling well, you’re more likely to take it in stride. Or you’re more likely to be more care free about it. It’s not likely to stick with you as much. But if you’re feeling depressed and anxious and a difficult event happens, you’re way more likely to get hit by that, get knocked down by that and it’s harder to get back up. And that could be at work, at home, wherever.

And so a couple things to do when it comes to priming your mind for good, is something you may have heard before but this is a term that I created which is called present nostalgia. Basically what it means is, nostalgia is the act of kind of looking back onto a meaningful time in your life and having kind of warm feelings about it. It was a good time and you feel kind of good. The problem is, since our brains are kind of wired toward autopilot, if you’re sitting at home and your kids, for example, are sick and you have to be at home with them. Your mind may be festering with, I need to do a lot of work today, this is so awful, I’m at home with them, what a pain, I have to keep getting them food and Kleenex to blow their nose.

But years later, ten years later, your kids are grown, it’s all done, they’re out of the house, you look back at that time with a sense of sweetness, it’s really interesting. Oh, I was with them, my kids, you have a different perception of that and maybe there’s even a good feeling about it. How do you get that in the present moment?

So I have this term called present nostalgia, which is basically, just as a practice, putting yourself in whatever position you’re in, if you’re feeling stressed out and anxious, it’s a difficult moment, putting yourself in your mind, looking a year ahead, and imagining yourself a year from now or five years from now, looking back onto this moment as it is and seeing if you have any advice or what’s the perception of that person a year or five years from now, looking back onto this moment right now? Because that person has a bit more perspective because they have a little more space. They’re probably a bit wiser because they’ve had some more life events. And the reality is that perspective and that wisdom, actually resides within you right now. But how do you access it? And this is a way of kind of tricking your mind to do that.

And if you practice and repeat this during some difficult moments in your life, you know some moments of discomfort or whatever it is, this starts coming to you more automatically so you start recognizing the meaning in moments. Even in difficult moments more readily because you’ve conditioned a certain practice of this idea of present nostalgia. Putting yourself ahead into the future, looking back onto this moment right now and conditioning this type of response to not just focus automatically on the default of the negative, but to recognize maybe the good that’s here in this moment. Which again, if you have more of these moments in the days and weeks and months ahead, you’re going to be more resilient during the difficult moments. Whether that’s at work, the stress at work, other whether that’s in your relationships at home or with friends, or with friends or anything like that.

You’ve also heard, there was also a study that came out of I think University of Davis, years ago in 2003 called blessings vs. burdens. And this is something, and again, put your judgments aside for a second and I want you to take the opportunity to actually practice this in your life and let your experience be your teacher, not your automatic judgments that are there. So this was a practice where they took a bunch of students and they had some students write down 5 blessings, 5 days a week for 3 weeks. Some write 5 burdens, and some write a list of just 5 neutral things, things are were going on in their life. And what they found was the group that actually engaged the 5 blessings in their life, things that they were grateful for, whatever it was, experienced quantitatively, statistically, significantly greater sense of what is called subjective wellbeing, which is just happiness. A sense of life satisfaction, a sense of more positive emotion that’s there. They had a significant impact on that area of their life. The burdens went the other direction, the neutral didn’t really make a difference.

So if you start engaging again, priming your mind by just considering what are your blessings, intentionally on a daily basis, and again let your judgments kind of go aside for a minute and just actually engage this in your life and see what you notice. Another way of priming your mind for the good in life, counteracting that negativity bias that’s there and cultivating a greater sense of resilience in your life.

Jason Hartman: Good stuff. Well hey, Elisha give out your website and tell people where they can get the book and learn more.

Elisha Goldstein: Yeah, the website is just www.ElishaGoldstein.com and the book, The Now Effect is available everywhere. It’s available on Amazon or your local bookstore or Barns&Noble, all these places. And I also want to add just one more thing, one of the things that helps people actually make change in their life is being part of a community or being part of a group that’s supportive to them. Again, it primes their mind to be more aware of the changes they want to make. So part of my community that I’ve created around The Now Effect is this ability to get daily now moments to your Email box. Some people love this, some people don’t want daily things to their Email box, which is fine, but these things can help prime your mind and they’re free. You can get them from my website. Prime your mind on a daily basis, just reflect on more of the choices, more of the various things that are woven throughout The Now Effect, and also popping into a community where people are interacting around this work in their life and so you get to learn from peers not just experts or me. I interact in there, but also peers who are having experiences which again primes your mind toward being more focused, being more present and making the changes you want to make.

Jason Hartman: Good stuff. Well thank you so much for joining us today Elisha, we appreciate it.

Elisha Goldstein: This is great Jason, thanks so much.

Narrator: Thank you for joining us today for the Holistic Survival Show. Protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Be sure to listen to our Creating Wealth Show, which focuses on exploiting the financial and wealth creation opportunities in today’s economy. Learn more at www.JasonHartman.com or search Jason Hartman on iTunes.

This show is produced by the Hartman Media Company, offering very general guidelines and information. Opinions of guests are their own, and none of the content should be considered individual advice. If you require personalized advice, please consult an appropriate professional. Information deemed reliable, but not guaranteed. (Image: Flickr | Max-B)

Transcribed by Ralph

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