RE: Was that Body and Mind? And crossing the A/P, me??

Kemono Zapiens, modified 23 Days ago.

Was that Body and Mind? And crossing the A/P, me??

Posts: 4 Join Date: 3/20/21 Recent Posts
Howdy all,

new to town.  Been sitting for a while, but still feeling like a mushroom: pretty much in the dark about what I'm doing and where I'm heading.  Feed up with it, so here I am. emoticon

Here's (quite) a bit of background, followed by my questions. Apologies in advance for the length, not sure what is relevant.  I've bolded the bits I bet on though:

  1. I Headspace intermittently for a couple years, and get very good at feeling my tummy and counting (up to ten anyway) for 30 min.  My interest in meditation is to become more diligent  (took me a good while to understand it's the other way around).
  2. Meet someone that attended a (some kind of Tibetan) retreat.  Explains the difference between focused attention and peripheral awareness (to use TMI terms).  I don't get it, *but* instead realise what I've been banging my head against in every sit: most of the time, I'm not aware of "my" thoughts, nor do I control "my" attention!  Start exploring other teachers.
  3. Steven Procter introduces me to belly breathing.  Funky stuff starts (and it's still going on):
    1. Occasional feeling of "guts falling" or vertigo on exhale.
    2. Torso starts swaying on its own.
  4. Why Buddhism is True says that a retreat is best for hard-headed people.  So 1½ years ago, I jump half-blind into a Goenka (expecting a Mahasi: Robert Wright doesn't bother to mention there are such different Vipassana traditions, even just from Burma...)
    1. Cycled 250 miles in 5 days through desert and mountains to get there so I was unintentionally primed.
    2. Quickly adapt to the switch from tummy to nose.  The second day the funny tickles start in the cheeks, followed by tactile hallucinations and a contraction of the shoulders.
    3. When the teacher asks who gets distracted for more than 5 min., I'm the only one to raise its hand.  "Focus more on the breath" he says.  Next day he conveniently turns his clock sideways.  Enough for me to sneak a few peeks when I "wake up": it's actually less than two min., even if it feels like ages!
    4. The tingling and throbbing in cheeks and nose solidifies as intense pressure (felt my face as a literal, flat brick, at times).
    5. The fourth day, during the first body scan (a surprise 2h sit), the shoulder contraction gives way to six knots of piercing pain along each arm, besides currents of electricity.  This lasts for the rest of the retreat, and a couple of sits afterwards.  I've the cry of the century, rationalized as "How can this madness be the best way to know the mind?"  Teacher says "it's nothing, go back to sitting" and nothing else (and to prevent krijas).
    6. I get used to the knots and electricity.  They disappear with movement (unlike my injured rhomboid's pain).  Sits become monotonous, though I can feel softer vibes slowly appearing in most of the body.
    7. I decide to make the most of the 9th day by doing 2h sits, but stick to following the breath and give the elecroshocks a break.  90 minutes in in the first sit, the morning chant gets the vibes flowing strong.  "Ok ok, I get it..." and switch to body scan.  The knots and currents flare as I get to the arms, as usual.
    8. After a couple min., midway through the torso, a veil/weight is lifted, like being buried in tar, and it suddenly evaporating in a expanding mist.  The knots, electricity and back pain vanish in the mist.  Body and sounds are very clear.  Boy am I glad!  A half-smile prompts the shoulder contraction, so I quickly straighten my face.  "Equanimous, equanimous, equanimous!"  I remain in such state until the end of the hour.
    9. The knots and currents return in the following sits.
    10. I leave more confused than before, and thinking my arms have a neurological condition, but even more intrigued and motivated. 
  5. Can't do the recommended daily 2h for long, settle on 1h.  Do the breath as warmup, then body scan for two months.
  6. Wanting to see what else is out there, I go to a week-long retreat with Jill Rayna.  A Metta infused slumber party with no dull moment nor efforting.  Sitting, walking, Qi Gong, ecstatic dancing, eating, heart-breathing, and a bunch of other games, everything marinated in Rick Hanson's Neurodharma.
    1. I'm not the toughest macho, but Metta feels unauthentic the first days.  Later on, I actually feel loving (and only slightly cheesy).
    2. Walking meditation quickly produces the shoulder contraction, but no electricity or knots.
    3. Jill gently assures me the knots and electricity are a "normal" thing, specially in intensive dry practice.  A U Bah Khin pamphlet in the library confirms as much.
    4. She also recommends allowing krijas; and later on, getting into full swing! (They do make it difficult to stare at a screen for a couple days post-retreat).
    5. During a sit between ecstatic dancing, I feel a spherical field projecting from my chest.  I don't mind it much, elated as I am with the full-body krijas, but it recurs when I wake up in the mornings, together with my arms feeling numb.
  7. So, lots of ways to walk the path.  So, lots of paths too???  Need more research, but I go back to what I know: the breath and body scanning (with an added Metta shot when waking up).  My arms might feel numb, heavy, hands huge.  Then the whole body feels like a gummy bear (except the face, collapsed under heavy Piti? pressure).  A couple times, the veil is lifted again after switching from the breath to the body.  I feel my sense of self expand beyond my head.  The breath almost disappears, and still, its very clear, as are other sensations.  There's still internal arguing ("Ok, congrats, we did it.  Now let's get to work, we're late!"  "No way!  We're here, and we're staying.  Work can wait!")  I can remain there indefinitely, it seems.
  8. I encounter r/TheMindIlluminated.  Culadasa is compelling and comprehensive.  I've got a clear objective: access concentration, and getting vaccinated against the Dark Night.  Gradually phase out body scanning, and focus entirely on the nose.  The pressure, throbbing and tingling get more intense and distracting; feeling the actual breath gets harder.
  9. I do a home seven-half-day retreat following Santikaro's Anapanasati instructions.  My experience doesn't quite match his description of long and short breath, and I can't grok what follows, but he mentions that for many people following the breath at the nose is too intense to be useful.  And here I was thinking that was the point!
    1. At some point during walking meditation I feel a whirling of air breathing in and out of my forehead.  Keep feeling a "bump" there for weeks.
  10. After six months, feeling stuck in TMI's stage 3, I go shopping.  I join a get Enlightened in Six Weeks program.  I learn more about marketing than meditation, but still some stuff happens:
    1. First half is a Goenka all over again, with some Metta and gratitude.   By the end, the body scan is doing itself.
    2. Second half is assorted non-dual practices, something entirely new to me.  Instruction is not particularly clear and feedback is vague (done by volunteers).  I abide in wide open awareness, trying to turn it upon itself, somehow.  No luck on glimpsing, but I start feeling a lump in my throat, burning around the eyes, and tears that won't come.
  11. Practice crashes for some weeks, then I go back to the breath,
  12. One night, I do a body scan to fall back asleep.  The intense vibes of the nose take over the entire body, which eventually dissolves in a fine mist of sparks.  Next thing I know, I'm firing guns and throwing karate chops at some baddies.. 
    1. Next day, the "Piti sinusitis" is almost gone: only light pressure and vibes on the face; the legs, however, are full of soft tinglings flowing up and down for several days.
    2. Two days later, I'm doing Metta and gratitude before sleep.  Things get funky and this big penny drops, but I can't recall a thing in the morning. (A week later, I dream that I dream another big realisation; then I wake up, still in the dream, to find the fruits of enlightenment waiting on the bed: a pyramid of cereal boxes; might reconsider my disdain for Kellogs xD).
    3. Practice crashes again shortly after.  The excuse is work.
  13. Back to the breath, one day I feel the lump on the throat throb for a minute, slowly dissolving.  Gone ever since.
  14. Later I feel cold.  Like my feet and hands have their own polar vortex.  And like I'm unable to feel compassion or joy for a couple weeks.  Crash.
  15. I have been listening to Sam Harris for a while, so back in January I cut sitting time to 20 min. of his open monitoring-glimpse cocktail. and added some light Qi Gong to chill.  Still feeling chilly, but springing back.


So.  Having had a good look around, I'd like to see where I am, to start with.
Someone suggested I've crossed the A/P.  I didn't take it seriously, for I thought that stuff was for proficient Vipassaners; I've never paid attention to the 3Cs, and I've yet to feel everything A&PA every instant.   But on the biographical half of MCTB I read that it's actually very common.
I still don't relate to most of the stuff described in the Progress of Insight chapter, but the veil drops (bolded italics) have bits of Mind and Body.  As for the rest of the fireworks, any conjectures are welcome.

Specifically, I'd like to know:
Is it plausible I crossed the A/P?  Can I chalk on Darkie the shittiness I've felt and done lately? (I'll settle for half emoticon 
Is it common  to move through the cycle by doing attention to the breath, or the occasional body scan?
How about Dzogchen/non-dual stuff?
Short of going into long term retreat with a good teacher, how does one goes about figuring this stuff out?  A diary and a hunting hat?
Does any of this sound like energy "blockages/imbalances", or is that another name for Darkie?  Should I douse myself with duck eggs, Hakuin style?

Thanks for any pointers, and mucho Metta.

 
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SushiK, modified 23 Days ago.

RE: Was that Body and Mind? And crossing the A/P, me??

Posts: 113 Join Date: 6/11/20 Recent Posts
Welcome Welcome !

Can't really help you with diagnostic but damn I hope you will stick around here for a while and send us more report.
I had a good laugh, love your writting ahahah xD

Giving you my 2 cents beginner opinion anyway, you probably reached AP based on your experience + the lenght of your practice and your continuous enthusiasm for the path.

Edit: To answer your other questions. Yes you can achieve some progress with body scan/attention to the breath (The border between insight and concentration isn't always clear).
And without teacher I encourage you to open a meditation log here so more experienced meditators can weight in on what's happening and I can have a good laugh reading your adventures. 
George S, modified 23 Days ago.

RE: Was that Body and Mind? And crossing the A/P, me??

Posts: 1519 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Welcome to the forum KZ! emoticon

Interesting journey you've had so far! Sounds like pretty classic A&P -> Dark Night experiences. Noting as per MCTB/Mahasi should help you get some more clarity around your experiences and help you to navigate the transitions/cycles.

Starting a log on here is a great idea! Look forward to following your journey ... emoticon
shargrol, modified 23 Days ago.

RE: Was that Body and Mind? And crossing the A/P, me??

Posts: 1529 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Well, I just lost a long reply and I need to get to the next part of my day... so here's the punchline: basically yes, you have had an A&P and it seems like you are in the dukka nanas.

Your detailed report was very helpful, but I don't hear much about emotions and thoughts so I want to mention that those are as important to notice as sensations in the body. Also your goal/reason for practice is also unclear, is it adventure or something else?
Kemono Zapiens, modified 20 Days ago.

RE: Was that Body and Mind? And crossing the A/P, me??

Posts: 4 Join Date: 3/20/21 Recent Posts
Thanks for the welcome.

Oh dang.  I was thinking of a "dear dead tree diary", hadn't discovered the Practice Logs forum.  After TMI, A Path with a Heart and MCTB I was left thinking books were very short in experiential detail... too many possibilities I guess, or perhaps writting doesn't lend itself to intuitive knowledge (which would explain the emphasis on oral interviews and dharma talks...) WROOONG.  Beautiful stuff, this public display of path weaving, even when not directly relatable to my own tapestry.

I wouldn't have thought of making others laugh as a motivation to share my experiences, but after this brief interaction, it doesn't sound that bad...  Does one have to ask for advise somewhere, or just wait for the unfettered genies to manifest?​​​

Headspace introduces noting early on: name the organ sense, valence and label it.  I'm still unclear about Vedana, so I settled for naming the sense for random stuff (thinking, hearing...), and only labelling recurrent distractions.  I still do it, sparingly, but have never felt it do much.   Shinzen's seems to reinforce peripheral awareness, but have only toyed with it.

Perhaps I need to use it more often for it to be useful? (though hopefully not on Theravadin hero levels)  I thought it might have mostly unconscious effects... how does it produce clarity?  Any examples in the Logs you could point to?
Kemono Zapiens, modified 20 Days ago.

RE: Was that Body and Mind? And crossing the A/P, me??

Posts: 4 Join Date: 3/20/21 Recent Posts
shargrol
Well, I just lost a long reply and I need to get to the next part of my day... 
Ouch, that's a bummer.  Karma moves faster than ever, on these virtual waterways.  Thanks for trying anyway.  I'll have to settle for your post compilation.  Good stuff, and lots of it, so I turned it into an ePub, for easier digestion  --you can find it here, together with the HTML, which I cleaned up quite a bit (might prove easier to modify than the one in your blog, if you ever need to).  Pro tip: never write for long without autosave.  I bet this it's not the first time... but could be the last.  Google Docs, Evernote, Wordpress, Libre Office should cover yer back(up), if you don't mind copy pasting (and will produce cleaner code to copy to a blog, too).
​​​​​​​
Your detailed report was very helpful, but I don't hear much about emotions and thoughts so I want to mention that those are as important to notice as sensations in the body. Also your goal/reason for practice is also unclear, is it adventure or something else?

Initially, I just wanted to improve my concentration to become more responsible, and have the resources and focus to start doing my own thing.

I already had a hint of there being more to the self than meets the I, but realising my thoughts and most (all) decisions were not "me/mine" sent my curiosity haywire.  The wackiness of the retreat straight squared that.  I'm still mostly trying to get to know my Self.

Having said that, Sam Harris and the (least-spaced out) Vedanta masters have given me a conceptual glimpse of no-self, and the belief that it can be embodied without resorting to the aforementioned Theravada heroics. Heck, I have the theory figured out all the way to the birth of consciousness, 3k years back:

We all lived in Non-Dual Paradise©, letting the natural and mystical masters guide us, until our verbal process rose to prominence, tasted the forbidden fruit of Self-Reference, and expelled itself from the grace of being the messenger of the whole, to being master of its exclusive delusion; the transition was anything but smooth, with contemplatives constantly piercing through the veil and this constant nagging pushing people to go to their local oracle or shaman for a (conceptual) taste of paradise; no-self even rallied a lucky win in the second round during the Middle Ages; but in the third act, the I rose in vengeful Enlightenment, armed with mirrors, selfie sticks and post-rationalised materialism, and more sure of its self than ever, vanquished all form and image of the actual masters from more and more people... one neurotic master to rule them all!

...until neurotic Christian pressure in the East pushed monks to start sharing their trade secrets with lay people in droves... and here we are.  Round four, fight! emoticon

So now it's all clear: all I "need" is to look *at* the looking glass, instead of through it!  How hard can that be!?

Well damn.  As hard as one's-self makes it.  Which in the case of hard-headed thick-as-a-brick intellectual types, can be, well, that, I guess...

After Jill, I related excitedly the involuntary dancing to someone at a Plumb Village; he went inwards and answered "Whatever... is of use." (he could have skipped "is of use", but he was nice).  I'm unclear on where I am; doubly so on what is important/of use.  emoticon

Now I know (though not quite 'grasp') that krijas and most Piti fireworks are just low-hanging side effects.  I'm still unsure if it's better to allow krijas or pay attention to Piti, as I've been advised to do and not both, but I'm guessing in the end it doesn't much matter, right?  (as long as the pot is simmering, not boiling)

Were the bolded bits in my account more important/useful than the rest?

The A/P happened during the Goenka, I guess.  What about the half-dream of the body going Bangha?  A/P, or some kind of purification?

What about the gummy bear expansive state? Mind and body?

Ingram says to forge ahead even during the Darkest Nights.  I changed following the breath for Dzogpen-monitoring and Qi Gong, however, trying to find the brakes (simmer, not boil).  Is that reasonable?

Things have brightened considerably.  Could that be a reset to A/P?

Answers to the previous would be very welcome; monosyllables are fine by me.

The following is mostly for my benefit, to sort the toys out.  There's something to this journaling thing, indeed.

I want to keep chipping at my Self, with the occasional moonshot at non-duality.  It'd help to know what's important, so I can discern which practices are of use on my weaving.  Apparently I'm a 50% delusional Buddhist, so I should've done the research first and just stick to the first practice.  Now I can't pick one. xD

In the Goenka, life was simple.  "Sensations, sensations, sensations."  Which makes sense, to start with.  But it's high time I paid attention to the more complex formations.

Sam Harris' Dzogpen-monitoring is feeling good, but I'm really partial to his eloquence and nothing "particular" seems to happen, though I'm taking a small 20m dosage; same with Mahamudra.  The Headless Way's wacky mind twisters are more relatable, but no glimpses either.  Following the breath was almost pleasant for a while after Jill kindled my Metta, but it's flickered down and the breath is again a chore.  Body scanning and Qi Gong get the tickles going; the legs might start flowing at any time ever since the Bangha dream.


The one thing I got from the chilly months is that I've always been out of touch with emotions , and that I have been enclosed in a cocoon most of my adult life.  I don't have (or don't know about) any big issues.  My drugs of choice are information and games.  But I'm learning Internal Family Systems (aka Inside-Out therapy, ala Pixar) which works a lot with body sensations to access emotions and parts of the self, just to explore connecting the dots (and see if any knots or lumps come out).  In three months I didn't associate the lump in the throat to anything particular.  There was a sweet sorrow, some times.  

Awareness is at an all time high.  Concentration, meh, as expected, though I don't get lost for long.  Top distraction is thinking about my practice, closely followed by rehearsing *preaching* about meditation.  Then there's guilt about being irresponsible, and assorted grievances.

I've become much less reactive, to the general rejoice of gaming friends.  I still can chew things for days on when I'm crossed outside the board, though.  Saviour complex is up;  I'd love to do some volunteering, if I wasn't always chasing behind procrastination.  I'm more negligent than ever at work, but/because I don't give a damn anymore.  I drove away my romantic partner, but that was meant to be, as long as the cocoon strands.  I'd run off to a Thai Forest or Tibetan temple if my 30% aversive part didn't consider chasing cessation a red herring, and Tibetan trappings insufferable.  The cocoon herds me in... but there's gotta be a structural flaw.  Use the force: Luck!

May you laugh loud and clear. emoticon
shargrol, modified 20 Days ago.

RE: Was that Body and Mind? And crossing the A/P, me??

Posts: 1529 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Your first A&P might have come even earlier, but that really doesn't matter... Usually the gummy bear/warm and puffy state is the 1st jhana side of mind and body. If it's pleasurable and rapturous then it's more likely the 2nd jhana side of A&P. Yes, things re-brightening can be a return to the general domain of A&P again.

Yes, the main goal is to become better at looking AT the looking glass, but it helps to have a goal/intention. Why would we trouble ourselves with all of the work to stop looking through the looking glass? I'm still not quite hearing a statement of a goal. Maybe less reactivity, more in touch with emotions, more responsibility? Maybe investigating what causes reactivity, avoidance of emotions, and irresponsibility?

Luck isn't as much of a factor as intentional, non-dramatic, daily practice and wise use of retreats. emoticon
Kemono Zapiens, modified 17 Days ago.

RE: Was that Body and Mind? And crossing the A/P, me??

Posts: 4 Join Date: 3/20/21 Recent Posts
shargrol
it helps to have a goal/intention. Why would we trouble ourselves with all of the work to stop looking through the looking glass? I'm still not quite hearing a statement of a goal. Maybe less reactivity, more in touch with emotions, more responsibility? Maybe investigating what causes reactivity, avoidance of emotions, and irresponsibility? 
Yes, and yes.  And more.  I want to diminish or change the avoidance patterns that cause me and others conflict and suffering, starting with being irresponsible and disconnected, in and out. Finding what's behind these would surely help.  Even better, it would help find out how the mind actually works, for the mind, our experience, is all we have, as Sam says.  Also, I want to awaken.  And to keep my trapezius lean.

TS;WTRM (Too short, want to read more):

The first time I rolled a Lacrosse ball against my back, I was surprised at how intense the pain was, all over it.  Even more surprising, after a month of doing it every day, the pain disappeared entirely.  Why did everything hurt?  How does myofascial release actually works?  Why no one told me before???  I've not found a conclusive answer to any of these, but I keep on the ball, twice or thrice a week, religiously, and it keeps untangling the knots, whatever they are.

The surprise has been quite more shocking with deep mind contractures, even though I've barely got the ball rolling on those --for I've yet to grasp that ball.  Balls, for there are many, and its not clear which would be more useful.   Watching The Man from Earth earlier, I was laughing with A/Pish tickles all over, and some strong bouncing in the stomach.  I've added laughing yoga to the bucket list. xD

Your Getting burnt out checklist is pretty useful.  These two are why I'm here:
Are you ignoring the fact that you don't understand what you are supposed to be doing?
Are you failing to seek expert advice?

I can follow the basics of most practices.  I can feel funny tickles with most, and get what I guess are light purifications.  I hit the jhana side (whatever that means) of M&B through following the breath and body-scanning a couple times until I focused on the first. It's been a wild intellectual ride and I've matured proportionately along, if only to better appraise my ignorance and rough edges;  it's not obvious how it works, but I will keep on rubbing the ball of attention onto senses and awareness, religiously.  Knowing what to look for could help find a matching practice, identifying progress and celebrating it.

I know a (not quite) brief post is not much to diagnose and advise, but seeing that interview time in most retreats is preciously short (and nonexistant in most online courses), unless one has a dedicated teacher or paid consultations, I'm guessing DhO is as good as it gets, even for the ones that don't lean heavily towards Insight.  (with r/streamentry a distant TikTokish cousin).

BTW, isn't there a DhO-like Wiki somewhere, or at least a glossary?  The amount of dedication and patience you guys display answering the same questions again and again is inspiring, but having your knowledge in a structured, living organism would make things easier for everyone (remember the time before Wikipedia??  I don't... want to!)

Back to the pains, on the shallow mind, however, it's hard to feel them.  No surprise there (yet).  I've had a colorful, but easy life.  Why would I hurt?  Dunno, but after getting a basic grasp of IFS (which is pretty close to your take on anger), I'm betting the avoidance and disconnection are protective patterns ("never again!") maintaining hurt parts exiled, lest they are triggered again.  I don't know if the Dark Night exacerbates these patterns, or just makes them bitterly clear, but I'm pretty sure it was not the vortex nor the pandemic that gave me the chills.

So, color me surprised, in body, mind and (eventually) heart (hmmm, is this what A Path with Heart is talking about?  Who knows!  --only the ones that already went through it?).  Good thing is, the surprise has been mostly invigorating, like a cold shower after sauna.

Why trouble myself to get to know my self, patch the rough edges along the way, and get a shot or two at awakening?  My curiosity, health and happiness departments answer in unison:  "what could top that???"

Luck isn't as much of a factor as intentional, non-dramatic, daily practice and wise use of retreats.
I'm going by Richard Wiseman's definition: be open, aware, game, positive, intuitive.  His book and Luck School are like Deepak done right.   But yeah, gotta sit.  As Culadasa says, awakening is an accident, but meditation makes you accident prone.

May all beings break a leg.
shargrol, modified 16 Days ago.

RE: Was that Body and Mind? And crossing the A/P, me??

Posts: 1529 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Okay perfect, if you understand through experience the classic lacrosse ball treatment... just apply it to meditation. It's almost the same thing.

Find a practice that helps you notice not just interesting sensations, but also mental contractions, resistances, avoidance, repressions. Usually this involves having an intention before starting practice, something specific to work on (anger, avoidance, etc.). Then the beginning of a sit is all about letting things settle, calming and centering the body/mind -- not working on anything quite yet. Make peace with yourself, as best you can, and calm the mind, as best you can. Then after everything has settled as much as it will during the particular day, in the last part of the sit try investigation: where is there over-protection? where is there hurt? Can I fully experience the things I avoid? What would it be like if I went _into_the_mental_discomfort/pain_ in the same way the lacrosse ball goes into the physical pain? Where is there subtle clinging, aversion, or indifference? What does clinging, avoiding, or ignoring feel like? Spend some time rooting around like a lacrosse ball rolling it out, by putting your mind into any experience that seems like it is normally ignored. (Some people ignore pleasure and need practice moving into the pleasure that appears in the mind/body. Some people ignore pain and never use the mental lacrosse ball.) And after practice is over, spend some time reflecting on how the small seeds of the over-protection, hurt, three poisons etc. are like the little micro-tears in a muscle, it's what become solidified into muscle pain if there is a critical mass of them. Think a little bit about what you want to work on during the next sit.

Meditation is a very simple "treatment" like just rolling a lacrosse ball on the stuff that feels icky, no need to make it complicated. Establish a foundation of calm/ease and then go _into_ the experience that normally are avoided. Do this every day, consistently, simply... and you will follow your personal path to basic sanity and awakening. 

Hope this is entertaining and helpful in some way. The consistent, simple, daily practice aspect really is the important thing for actually breaking up the old ineffective patterns in the subtle mind.

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