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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D., has helped hundreds of thousands of people from over 87 countries find happiness, success, and fulfilment in their social, professional, and love lives. His presentations – whether keynotes, seminars, or workshops – leave clients with insights into their behaviour, psychology, and keys to their empowerment. His training methodologies are the result of over a decade of coaching and education of thousands of students around the world. Join him on the “DTPHD Podcast” as he explores deep questions of meaning, success, truth, love, and the good life. Subscribe now.

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About Stefan Ravalli:

Forever studying masterful humans and the art of service the world over to bring their practices to our (sometimes “service-deficient”) culture, Stefan Ravalli combines all that with his expertise in meditation, mindfulness, and communication/listening to raise the game of service professionals – and anyone looking to upgrade how they connect with others (and themselves). Learning meditation was a game-changer for Stefan. It gave him the inner strength to be his unique self (without the negative self-talk!), connect with others better, and live a healthy happy life. Meditation also makes you realize your potential and gives you the fearlessness to pursue bigger and better things you never thought possible, so Stefan left a leadership role at a high-profile bar/restaurant to India to teach meditation. After doing that for years and deepening his tea ceremony practice, Stefan realized that the art of service was the richest path of self-cultivation available to him. Serving anything anywhere was the best way to apply and accelerate all the upgrades he got from meditation. So he started Serve Conscious to bring these tools and practices to anyone where service is part of their life – to awaken us to the power of service as a means of growth and self-mastery.

Learn more about Stefan Ravalli here:
http://serveconscious.com

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Episode 25 Show Notes:

1:29 This is what most people do about their comfort zones

5:05 How to become comfortable with the uncomfortable

10:25 Is experiencing tension good or bad?

14:22 What causes resistance and repression?

18:50 How to know whether you’re feeling fear or excitement when you’re at the edge of your comfort zone

22:08 How to step beyond your comfort zone with the least effort

26:20 The mindset you should have in order to grow out of your comfort zone naturally

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How to Grow Out of Your Comfort Zone Naturally (w/ Stefan Ravalli)

  • David Tian Ph.D. and Stefan Ravalli talk about comfort zones and why do we need to pull ourselves out of it.

  • People like staying in their comfort zones, David Tian Ph.D. and Stefan Ravalli deliberate about the reasons why we do this.

  • In this podcast episode, we are walked through the process of changing our mindset to overcome our fear of the uncomfortable.

Truth, love, and the good. Here we go.

David Tian: Welcome to the podcast. I’m David Tian, one of your co-hosts, and I’m joined here by Stefan Ravalli. How are you doing, Stefan?

Stefan Ravalli: I’m doing great, excited for today’s discussion.

David Tian: Yes, and just in case you don’t know who we are, quick intro. I’m David Tian, and for the past 13 years, I’ve been helping hundreds of thousands of people in over 87 countries attain success, happiness, and fulfillment in life and love; very broad, covering everything from relationships, and dating, and life coaching, and psychotherapeutic issues. And Stefan, how about a quick intro on who you are?

Stefan Ravalli: Well, I’m a meditation and mindfulness teacher, as I’ve been doing for many, many years, and I’m also now a mindful service teacher. That’s my big mission through my Serve Conscious project, hoping to teach people how to experience fulfillment, happiness, and skills that are infinitely valuable via any service role.

And that’s the focus now. I’m also just a general conscious conversation starter. I’m doing work with a lot of content creation around spreading the word on mindfulness and its power.

David Tian: Awesome. Okay. So, let’s just dive into our topic for today. And it’s all about the value of discomfort and leaning in. And actually, how about you introduce it, Stefan?

Stefan Ravalli: Yeah, totally. Basically, this hinges off a lot of things I hear people say when I teach them meditation or mindfulness practices. And they get a taste of feeling a little more peaceful, a little more calm, and happy, and at ease.

And they think, “well, I don’t want to mess this up. I want to just keep my environment controlled, homogeneous, and without disturbance so I can continue to ride this wave of ease and calm.” And the first thing they think is, “Oh, they got to get away.” They got to get away and run to the woods and live some simple agrarian lifestyle, maybe, and not have any of these dirty ugly challenges of urban life, and all of this hustle and bustle, and dirt and smog, and yelling.

That’s not for us. Let’s just live a good life. And I think that’s just trying to escape challenges, when challenges are in fact the monastery that you are seeking, not the monastery itself, though it has value. It’s not really the right reasons that people are looking for it; they’re just looking for a way up. And so, I want to talk about the power of being here in the life you’re in now, that is the best medium for transformation.

David Tian: Yeah, great message. So, we have different audiences from our other work, and from my audience, when I see a lot on this theme, is that they want to stay away from uncomfortable feelings especially, and that prevents them from actually growing. So, if you’re going to shy away from feeling at all, and that’s the first step, just being able to feel, and then being okay with feelings that you might have been staying away from, like anger or sadness, or any kind of feelings that you have shame related to, are going to prevent you from growing any further.

So, one of the things that I like to say a lot is: become comfortable with the uncomfortable, become familiar with the unfamiliar, and lean into those challenging feelings. And a lot of it is the fact that we frame it the wrong way. So, a lot of men around the world have been repressing their feelings because they were told that to be a man.

And by the way, one of my podcasts is called Man Up, and I’m trying to redefine what that means. Can you step up to the challenge of feeling more deeply? Can you step up to the challenge of leaning into vulnerable feelings? Are you man enough to do that? Are you man enough to be vulnerable?

And a lot of men around the world thought that or were taught that masculinity is about not crying, being stoic, in the modern sense of the term, being tough and not showing your feelings, of not being a wussy or a pussy, or whatever that is, and not being vulnerable, basically, not being weak. And it’s actually the thing that’s preventing them from growing further. So, that’s nice.

I mean, that tough-guy attitude will take you through your 20s and maybe even in your 30s, but then it will start to burn you out. And you’ll see that your relationships and these deeper aspects of life will just go right by you, unless you have the courage to lean into those emotions that you’ve been repressing, that we as men generally repress for so long, of sadness, and tenderness, and loneliness, and feeling those feelings.

That’s step one, but that is going to feel uncomfortable. And if you can’t get past that step, you’re not going to get any further. It’s an easy thing to remember. Become comfortable with the uncomfortable, familiar with the unfamiliar, and actually make that part of how you approach life.

An example I give to a lot of guys is working out. So, in order to build muscle, in order to make progress in the workout, you’re going to have to get to that point in which there’s discomfort. Not suffering, because that probably means you’re about to get injured and you have to stop working out for a long time, but discomfort. Because if you’re not uncomfortable, then you’re not actually growing.

You’re just moving some weights around, pumping some blood into your muscle. But to actually grow the muscle, you’ve got to have these micro tears, and then recover, and then rest to recover. That’s how muscles grow, and that’s how proper workouts are done. But a lot of people, they stop short of that in their emotional lives, in their psychological growth.

And it’s amazing because a lot of people who do that pride themselves on being tough guys, masculine men. But that’s exactly the thing that they’re not having the courage to do, to lean in to the uncomfortable feelings. But that’s the way through. And the value of discomfort is everything. Like, you can’t get to the other side of the bridge without going through that bridge, without going across that bridge, that dark tunnel.

Stefan Ravalli: Yeah, and I feel like this belief that we need to live a life beyond suffering, I mean, that is definitely an aspiration to have. But people misunderstand what suffering means lets call it like Eastern wisdom terms. Suffering isn’t discomfort. That’s not what suffering is. Suffering is non-acceptance and resistance to whatever is happening.

So, you’re having an experience and you’re saying, “No. I’m not having this right now.” And there is reactivity to the experience. And everything that gets kicked up there is what causes suffering. That sort of tension in between what’s happening and what you feel should be happening, what your own little narrow perspective of the world feels should be happening, when a much bigger, wiser picture of life is actually in operation here and isn’t going to conform to that.

So, you know, and suffering with acceptance, and you’re good. That doesn’t mean discomfort. It just simply means you can now accept the discomfort. And a lot of people that I’ve come across in my journeys start a spiritual practice. And they feel like that is now their ejector seat out of having to experience discomfort, which they misunderstood. It’s actually their way out of suffering, not their way out of discomfort.

And I know that I’ve met people like this because I was one of those people. I definitely thought, “Okay, great. I don’t have to feel those unpleasant feelings anymore.” And I felt like that very dude-like hope that I don’t have to be bogged down by all these annoying feelings anymore. I can just like hover a loft above all of these ‘petty mortal concerns’, and not have to really face the storms in me. And that leads to more suffering. Because what ends up happening is when that stuff does come up, you don’t accept it.

You say, “No. I shouldn’t be having these. I need to be an awakened being who is very demure, and very above all of that.” And this image we have of this pious figure. That’s not what you know like whatever you want to call it, a fully-awakened, self-mastered man or woman is or looks like. Because if you are truly established in yourself, and if you are truly living mindfully, which means paying attention and accepting whatever happens without cringing up and karate stancing against whatever’s happening, it means that you’re no longer resisting any aspect of yourself that reveals itself.

And this goes into the principles of yoga as well, which comes from a somewhat different culture than Buddhism, and it talks about integration of yourself. That’s what yoga means. Well, what is integration of yourself? It means you’re no longer resisting stuff that’s happening. It doesn’t mean that every single thing happening in you is stuff you like and prefer because it’s easy and comfortable.

It means stuff that’s happening is uncomfortable and you’re able to invite it to the table, see what it has to say, and learn how to relate to it rather than just thinking it doesn’t belong because it doesn’t match some ideal you have. And all these things we construct in the mind around the ideal state, that is going to cause suffering, because all it’s going to do is create tension and resistance against what’s actually happening.

And I’m saying the word tension here in a way that’s negative when we’ve called this project tension in a positive way. And it’ll be important to learn the difference between positive and — valuable tension and tension that’s just going to disrupt you. It’s a really powerful place to be in in a place of tension, but it’s also important to see when that tension’s just holding you back. So, that’s what happens when you think — when you seek the comfortable.

All you really get is this — maybe immediately you might feel a little relief, like, “I don’t have to go there right now. I can just cuddle into my warm blanket of how I want things to be.” But that will build up tension because there’s inner resistance and unresolved stuff that’s eventually going to raise its voice.

David Tian: Yeah, the tension and the actual name of our brand here, tenshin, is a nice play on words. I’m going to bring that one out again. Tension is really great if you use that as an identifying — like a symptom, that you’re able to say to yourself, “Oh, I feel this tension.” That means something.

And maybe what then I can do is to trace that tension back to find out its source, what is causing this, and that would lead to tenshin which is transformation in the Japanese. And it starts with identifying the tension.

And so many people actually try to repress the discomfort. So, when you feel the discomfort and you’re at the edge of your comfort zone in whatever ways, even if you’re just sitting and doing a body scan in your meditation and something comes up, and you really don’t want to feel that anymore…

And if you just try to ignore it, or shut it down, or just try to pretend like it’s not there, you’re actually suppressing which will lead over time to repression. And hopefully, you understand what repression is and how bad it is, because repression means the thing doesn’t ever go away. It never goes away. It’s just sitting there and developing pressure over time.

And eventually, it will come out in ways that are uncontrolled, especially if it’s been repressed for a very long period of time. And often, people will discover that. They act out of control or in an argument with their partner. They just lose it and it’s one of those things where you’ll notice — as you get into a relationship years in, maybe starting like 3 years, maybe just a year and a half, maybe just six months, you start to have arguments that blow up really quickly, that escalate beyond what you would have expected that make you even feel uncomfortable in the way that you’re being in that conversation, or interaction, or that fight or argument.

And then a few days later, you cannot remember what you argued about. You just remembered that you had an argument and that it sucked. And that you punched a hole in the wall, or you stormed out of the house, or whatever it was. You remember the outcome, but you don’t remember the cause.

And often, those are — almost always, those are results of repressed forces from your unconscious coming out and they’re being triggered by something that that partner said or did. And that repression is something that you can’t control. Once it comes out, it’s literally that thing that you’re out of control on. So, if you just try to ignore the discomfort, it’s just going to make things worse.

And hopefully, you’ve lived long enough to know what I’m talking about here, what we’re giving as examples. And you know then that you shouldn’t go that route. They shouldn’t just try to stuff it down, or like what Bill Burr says in that new stand-up Paper Tigers, that she’s going to stuff it down into a jar of anger and repression and put it on that shelf, that sits on every man’s chest, or something along those lines.

That’s what a lot of dudes do, and they wonder why they are not in control of their emotions. They want to be so in control. Control, control, control is actually what causes the repression. So, you do the opposite. Instead of trying to stuff it down, and push it away, and pretend it’s not there, you actually turn to it and try to appreciate why it’s there. It’s there for a reason.

Your unconscious is reacting in this way because there’s something that’s there that you’re not attending to. And it’s part of how your different parts of you are saying, “Hey, you got to look at this. This is this part. This thing is not healthy right here.” And if you just try to ignore that, it’s just going to make things worse and it will become worse over time. So the first step is turning inward or turning towards it.

And one of the amazing things that I’ve learned through my years of meditation practice is that I can just sit there and discover these tensions in the body, and actually just focus on them. Instead of trying to get them to go away as you do as a beginner, or in method acting when you try to undo the tension in your body, you can actually, as you get more experience and you get used to feeling them and discovering them, you can actually attend to them.

Like, ask yourself, “Why is that there? Is there a message there or is it just a purely physical sensation?” And maybe you twisted some muscle or something like that. Or maybe there’s tension there because there’s something wrong or something not right in your psychology that you’re not attending to, and maybe you can go to that.

So, the first steps to appreciate that it’s there, because that’s a sign, it’s a symptom that there’s something that you’re overlooking. And once you begin to appreciate those parts of you that you’re disowning, trying to get rid of or repress, they relax. And if you apply some positive attention to it, and just kind of sit with it…

And this is a part of you. This is there in you. Try not to make it go away, but actually appreciate that it’s there and appreciate that there’s a positive intention to it. There’s a positive intent for you there, and that there is something for you to discover. And as you lean in, and turn towards it, and spend time with it, attend to it, it will often over time reveal to you important lessons for you to go forward with.

Stefan Ravalli: Yeah, and I feel simply the observing of it, simply putting your attention on it, noticing it to begin with, and not rejecting it right there is transformative, right there can absolutely change the game for you. You don’t have to do anything about it. You don’t have to do anything with it.

And again, the more you think, “I have to do something about this” is the more you are just trying to control in some way. Because that is looking — you may just be tempted to look at it ,”Oh, this is a symptom that I need to suppress.” It’s like the modern medicine approach of repressing symptoms. Look at it, yeah, say, “What does this have to show me?” Simply doing that.

Even if it doesn’t show you anything that you can possibly begin to understand right now. Already, you’re starting to put yourself back together. And actually, I found this happen so often when I notice something in me that makes me uncomfortable. And I look at it and say, “This is happening right now, and this is part of me. I’m curious. What’s this all about?”

Suddenly, it stops hamstringing me and stops holding me back. And it’s — without even as much work as I thought it would take, it becomes easier to coexist with or just not a problem at all. And just the observation process, it’s amazing.

David Tian: Well, I’m glad you said curious because that’s exactly what I was trying to get at with appreciation, too. It requires curiosity. I mean, it all starts with curiosity. So, you can actually cultivate curiosity, to observe it happening and then, “Hmm, I wonder what’s going on there?” And to attend to it from that vantage point of curiosity to learn more about it.

And as soon as you just change your vantage point on it, it no longer becomes uncomfortable. So, here’s an analogy that I used to use to teach how to get over social anxiety. So, you’ll notice that we pay money to go to amusement parks. Actually, Stefan, we met last time at Disney World, one of probably the best amusement parks in the world in history. It was amazing there.

Anyway, people pay a lot of money to go and ride these rides that they hope are a little scary. Because if it’s boring like a kiddie ride, and you’re an adult, you wouldn’t probably pay very much money for that. You want it to frighten you.

And the thing is though, that in our human brains, we have trouble distinguishing between — or our bodies have trouble distinguishing between fear and excitement. It’s the interpretation of the thing that makes the difference between fear and excitement. Inside the body, it’s almost all the same chemicals being pumped in. It’s just the interpretation of it. It’s just the perspective we bring or the story we tell ourselves about what it means.

Stefan Ravalli: It’s like you stress versus distress, right? It’s the same thing. It’s euphoric stress or stressful stress. Yeah.

David Tian: Yeah, right. This is still stress, right? And just the way that you approach it. So, I first learned this distinction from a friend who spent many years as a door-to-door salesman. And he was a guy who was just fearless socially. And I asked him about it, like, “Don’t you ever feel nervous when you go talk to strangers?”

And he said no because of the door-to-door salesman thing, he first was really nervous. And then he learned this thing about the roller coaster. He was deathly frightened of roller coasters until his friend told him, “When you are on the roller-coaster and as it’s going down, grab the handle and lean forward. Lean forward and imagine that you are pushing the roller coaster, you’re the one who’s doing this, you welcome this thing that’s happening.”

And it’s just that little mindset shift. He’s physically in the same place, everything’s physically still happening the same, it’s just a switch in his mindset that, “I want this to happen. This is good. I’m going to lean into it.” That’s like literally leaning into the discomfort and welcoming it. It’s the same thing that’s happening.

So hopefully, you enjoy roller coasters so you can see how ridiculous it might be for someone who’s afraid of it, but hopefully you can understand why you’d be afraid of it because otherwise you wouldn’t enjoy it as much. And the trick, the difference between fear and excitement is simply the interpretation of the thing.

So when you’re at the gym, people who like to go to the gym and stick with it, enjoy the workout, not just the results, people who are only after the thing to get the results, whether it’s meditation, working out, school, if they don’t enjoy the process of the learning or the development of their skill and they just want the end result, the trophy, the medal, or whatever it is, they’re not going to last because that’s not very good motivation.

It’s not enjoyable and they’re not going to put in the hours to master it. But those who stick with it, it turns out that the reward is in the journey itself. The reward is in the process. They enjoy the process. It’s nice to get the result, of course, but they’ve already — along the way, they’re already enjoying themselves where they find ways to enjoy the process.

So, it’s the same with the roller coaster. If you’re just hoping to get to the end of the roller coaster and that’s your main goal, that everybody should just build rollercoasters that go — and you’re done. Obviously, the roller coaster, the whole thing, you’re scaring yourself, but you also now — you’re able to enjoy it if you can lean into it, and then you start to enjoy the process. And now, you can actually enjoy the roller coaster of life.

It’s the same with any kind of discomfort. You need — hopefully you understand how intellectually and logically you need to push yourself beyond your comfort zone if you want to grow. Otherwise, you’d already have that result.

So, you’re going to have to go beyond your comfort zone, which means you will be uncomfortable, and the way to do that consistently every day, push yourself a little bit further or every week, however your timeline is, is to see it as something good, something positive.

Once you see it as a good thing that’s happening, then you’ll be able to enjoy the thing that used to be uncomfortable for you. And now, that thing won’t be uncomfortable anymore. It’ll be exciting. It’ll be enjoyable. It’ll be, “Yes. This is so good. This is so right.” There’s so many more examples, as I said yes in that way, I can think of. The first time you do something might be a little uncomfortable.

And as you do it more and more, you enjoy it. Sushi, like eating sushi, like eating raw fish. First time I had it wasn’t so great, now it’s one of my favorite foods. That’s the example I was totally thinking of, so the value of discomfort.

Stefan Ravalli: Yeah, definitely, and process orientation versus goal orientation. That can be its own episode and it should be. Let’s put a pin in that. But this whole idea of not being over-committed, over-invested in a certain kind of goal, because that’s just idealizing our lives.

It just has to get to this point and then everything will be good, and all this discomfort leading up to it is like just an inconvenience, really. When you switch your mindset to one that is not only process orientation where you’re like, everything that happens is also equally where the nectar is, equally where the payoff is as this imagined endpoint, this creates a mentality that is ready.

You want readiness-mentality, and it takes practice. Self-acceptance, outer acceptance, it all takes practice. And the more that you simply just observe discomfort in a sort of curious way that isn’t rejecting it, the more you are sort of creating this readiness conditioning in yourself where you’re always in this state.

And then when you get faced with a challenge, you feel a sense of ownership of that challenge. It’s a sense of ownership not only of the challenge but how you’re showing up with it. Because it’s your choice how to face it.

It’s not just something that’s unconsciously determined. When we don’t live mindfully, when we don’t live in this kind of ready, open, curious way, and we’re living unconsciously, and we are not able to own what’s happening…

Because all we can see are our unconscious, automatic rejections of it. And we just become this passive victim of whatever’s happening. And we over identify ourselves with our preferences that randomly pop up and say, “Oh, yeah, I just don’t like this kind of thing. So yeah, nothing can be done. I’m just going to paint it and reject it. It’s just how I am, sorry.”

And where this inflexible, rigid person that has these attachments to these ideals. But then when we become open and ready, then we’re able to just say, “Yes.”

You’re saying yes internally, and this is important to know, to distinguish the difference between yes as an agreement, like, “Oh, absolutely. Well, whatever you want. Here. Take all my money.” I mean, you live in South Asia.

You can’t just walk around saying yes to everything. You’d be broke. You can’t walk around a night market saying yes to everything. Externally, you could say no, you could be tough. You could have boundaries like out the wazoo, but internally, you’re saying, “Yes, this is what’s happening and I’m absolutely ready for it, whatever it is, and I’m owning the results. I’m owning how I show up to it.

And I know that I have total control and ownership of it because I’m paying attention to it. I’m not just letting it happen unconsciously.” It’s putting yourself back in the driver’s seat, basically.

David Tian: Yeah, great point, seeing yourself as in the driver’s seat that these things are happening and you don’t have to react to them or they don’t have to control you. You can just observe them, and then attend to them, and be curious towards them. And man, we’ve actually covered a lot of ground here.

I thought we were just going to go with the discomfort, but we went into the journey, the process mentality, and resistance, and appreciating, and curious, the curiosity repression — so lots and lots of good stuff here.

Now, this is part of a new brand that we’ve been launching and this one is called tenshin, and you can find out more about it at tenshinmindfulness.com. Stefan has prepared a really great course on meditation. You want to do a quick description of what that is?

Stefan Ravalli: Yeah, definitely. Just to get us started, it’s a five-part series on meditation. Each part’s like 15 minutes, maybe 20 max, taking you step-by-step, not only learning a technique that’s one-and-done learning.

It’s a technique you will learn once and then you’ll have it for life. You could practice it anywhere. It’s completely portable. You don’t need someone’s soft, cooing voice in your ear every time you want to take a dive. It’s just you in the driver’s seat as we’re talking about. Your mind wants to do this, so I’m just showing you how much your mind just wants to do this in a way that’s really easy and effortless.

And it’s actually a process that’s about being, funny enough, maximally comfortable, and it being maximally easy and fluid. And we’re doing this and making it easy because this automatically readies you and makes you battle-ready for a difficult, challenging, uncomfortable life.

You’ll just automatically find yourself showing up better. And it’s something that we thought was an essential starting point for having a meditation practice that we know works extremely well for everybody of all mindsets, especially the ones that don’t think they can meditate.

David Tian: Yeah, it’s great. That’s the meditation technique that I first learned from Stefan, the first one I ever learned several years ago, and is still my default meditation style and approach. And yeah, it’s completely changed my life and gave me so many skills emotionally and mentally. I can’t recommend it more.

So, we’ve actually made it free, so it’s entirely free. Go check it out, tenshinmindfulness.com. The link should be in the text description of this podcast, and we’re going to keep this as short as we can. We’re pretty long-winded men here, so we’re going to wrap it up here and hopefully giving you these bite-sized nuggets of wisdom. Any last words, Stefan?

Stefan Ravalli: Honestly, I think we have covered so much today. We’ve gone from not only looking at embracing discomfort, but the mentalities, and the shifts, and these really deep, powerful states that we need to cultivate in order to shift something that we think is very much simple, and on the surface, and immovable. In fact, edit that out. That didn’t make any sense.

David Tian: Okay. Thanks so much for watching and listening. I’m David Tian and thanks so much, Stefan, for joining us here.

Stefan Ravalli: Thank you. That was a great discussion. And definitely, I could see it birthing little babies of smaller discussions that we should definitely return to.

David Tian: Good imagery. On that note, thanks so much for listening and we’ll talk to you soon.

Stefan Ravalli: Thanks, guys.

David Tian: Hey, it’s David again. Before you go, a couple last things. First, all the show notes and links to resources can be found at DavidTianPHD.com/dtphdpodcast. Or you can just go to DavidTianPHD.com and find it through the top navigation menu.

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