Paradoxes & Edges in Coaching

I have been coaching people and developing facilitators & leaders for the last 20+ years. In formal and informal ways. There are real questions that are alive in my heart. And how challenging can paradoxes be for many of us- until we see that they can be delicious. I love to explore the edges because they take me into the unknown which has a freshness.

Let me pose some questions for you, dear reader, to reflect on. This post is coming into being as I have been invited by the Association of Mumbai Coaches (AMC) to conduct a session – on the internet (Zoom) and then in-person. I felt it would be good to spark some thinking and even feeling & being.

Have any of these questions crossed your mind? And what would be your response to them?

1. What is the boundary between being a friend and being a coach- we end up learning from each other in a friendship, is there space for coaching here?

2. Does Coaching have anything to do with healing? What is the distinction with Mentoring? Do you see the connections with teaching, loving, with sport?

3. What is the role of the heart, the body and breath in coaching? How about spirit? What are the essential skills, states of being of a Coach?

4. Is Clarity always an ally in coaching? What are its limits and shadows?

I mention some examples from my recent coaching conversations with names modified to honor confidentiality.

Some of the paradoxes I have encountered in coaching that you may like to reflect on are:

The fundamental Paradox:

Learning or Coaching

Needless to say, any coach would agree that we need to learn as we coach. It is not easy to have a beginner’s mind since the title of a coach comes with its baggage and at times an ego also. How comfortable are we, as coaches to be honest and vulnerable? Truly learning together is rare. I remember once I was caught in my tracks when a participant in a program I was facilitating pointed to how I was not listening. I had taught him deep listening. It was a humbling moment. How would you respond? We often teach what we most need to learn, is it not?

Yesterday I was coaching a wonderful lady, Anita who was grappling with a newly recruited senior manager reporting to her delivering much below what she was expected to. 3 to 4 on a scale of 10 is what she said. Anita’s senior and her team said that this new recruit must be asked to leave. Anita, however wanted to give her a chance. As we navigated the territory, what became apparent was that there was a need for Anita to awaken the coach in herself – that was her learning edge – to make her new team member shine. The shift from simply managing to coaching. And my challenge was to enable her to be a coach. To learn to shift in my own life and work to bring in he being of a Coach vs. just a problem solver, quick-fixer etc. Life and relationships are such a mirror to discover ourselves, to learn as we coach. Anita saw the hidden blessing in this adversity and decided to take on the challenge of shifting her new team member from 3 to 8. Even if the shift happened to 6, there would be a precious journey for both and in turn for me as I coach Anita.

I am reminded of an earlier blog post,  The Zen Story of 4 horses- When learning & teaching gets difficult …

Other Paradoxes & Edges:

Witnessing or Engaging

I often ask this question: Do you feel its more important to engage deeply or witness.  I guess we know the “right” answer is ‘both’. And yet, have you noticed if you are able to be engaged in a detached way or do you get caught in the story of the client. I have noticed times when there is a state of flow and the question of witnessing or engaging falls away as it all seems to be unfolding almost on its own. Have you noticed this? And equally noticed the fragmented state when the flow is absent.

Clarity & Vulnerability

On two occasions I coached people who coach others – professionally- they both who held the view that Clarity is vital. And when I asked the question, “Is clarity opposed to confusion? Is confusion inappropriate?” The answer was ‘Yes’ in both cases. As we looked deeper, we discovered that profound clarity welcomes confusion, a sign of being on the edge of the unknown. And great revelations happen only with our willingness to not know. And stay with that difficult uncertain moment which we normally fill up by talking. A good question to reflect on is: How much at ease are you with confusion when it arises not only in the client, but inside you – and can we be vulnerable about our feelings?

Another senior leader I was coaching a few days back, Sunita had this challenge of a team member, Deepali’s capability on the face of it. But as we explored deeper we saw Deepali grapple with low self-worth. And there was clearly a need to make her feel safe. In the course of the conversation, Sunita felt that she could be vulnerable and share some of her challenges in the past.

As we stayed with it, and looked inside the situation and ourselves, it was apparent that there was a vulnerability in the present situation itself. While Deepali needed to learn to perform more effectively, Sunita needed to enable performance. Both were challenged. It was seen that if Sunita gathered clarity and courage to honestly share her own struggle in inspiring Deepali, the two could together look at it. And Deepali may even be able to share ways in which she could be enabled, thus enabling Sunita!

I had once written about Standing on the edge of another’s awkwardness without invading or avoiding. Standing there, truly helpless in a way, we mirror the other’s helplessness and often something beautiful is seen freshly if we can sit there in what may seem like a fire.

Leading or following

The fundamental wisdom of Coaching is to allow the client to take the lead, to not advice but evoke, to not rescue but enable. And I ask, have you tasted a place where the separation between the coach and the client vanishes and sometimes you speak from that oneness- as neither and both. What may appear to be advice may actually be a revelation that is expressing itself through you. Its about timing, presence and letting go of all ‘shoulds’.

Structure or free-flow

Structure always helps to keep the session in track and yet, it can sometimes constrict the flow. Do you tend to follow structure or prefer free flow and honoring what is emerging. How do you decide? I find that holding and embracing this paradox helps me to offer the best to the client and also come away nourished.

With the recent Coach for Life certification that was gifted to me, I am learning to honor and see the beauty of structure so that both flow and structure can be in harmony.

What are the other paradoxes that you have encountered?

Two last questions worth reflecting on are

  1. What has been that one wonderful Coaching-Learning aha! moment that has stayed with you?
  2. What is the one challenge (possibly recurring) that you encounter (it could also be a positive leap that you would like to make, not necessarily a difficulty)?

Fellow-coaches, I would love to hear your reflections that arise and any insights that you have had. Do leave your thoughts, feelings & any questions in the comments on this post (button at top of the post next to the title) – it will help us create the session together. I look forward to our Zoom session today and then the one in-person on 15th April 2017.




The Tao Programs- Our Ordinary & Sacred Journeys

More than 20 years back  (in Aug 1996) I took the plunge from the Corporate world into the world of Human Potential, Learning, Leadership, Consciousness, and more – out of a single insight- we live such a small fraction of the life that we are given. I was reading Autobiography of  a Yogi – Paramhansa Yogananda – the book which was more recently gifted to everyone who came To Steve Jobs funeral. Went through a series of experiences including having the Bach Flower remedy Wild oat which clarifies one’s purpose. I must also thank Naresh Purushottam and the Bullet Proof manager program I attended! And Swami Sukhbodhananda and the Life Program which inspired me to get into this field.

I spoke to my boss then in the ITC Packaging Division, Chittu Dar and he told me about his cousin Arun Wakhlu in Pune who had this organization – Pragati Learning , now Pragati Leadership. I shifted from Chennai to Pune in a few weeks. The first evening Arun asked me to anchor a session since he had to leave for an HRD Network meeting – I enjoyed so much and the participants were touched. I knew I had come home. And very soon the deeper sanctum sanctorum of this home that I discovered was working with facilitators, coaches, healers, fellow-travelers in this field- to learn together with them, to create together with them.

I anchored the program “Empowered Trainer” which we rechristened in Pragati to “Inspiring Facilitator”.  When I moved on from partnering with Pragati in early 2000, to give birth to Eternale Learning with my then wife, Prativa,  I got this name, Tao of facilitation, thanks to Sekhar Chandrasekhar, my dear friend. Inspired by the brilliant book, Tao of Leadership- John Heider from Esalen. A book I must have gifted to at least a 100 people! 😉

The Tao of facilitation touched many lives deeply for more than a decade – starting with my own and in the last few years started morphing into other themes which were announced on Facebook. Here are some of them:

Tao of the heart-song
(Jun 2016)
– with daniel eagles, arjun & rohit
Tao- this loving reality
.. the truth of courage & friendship
(Feb 2016)

– with arjun som, rohit, daniel
Tao of Reality 
… the verge of learning, leadership & loving
(Dec 2015)

– with rohit sasvehalli & arjun som
Tao of Loving 
… the tenderness of real relationships
(Nov 2015)

– with rhea d’souza, arjun
Tao of the Deep Masculine
… the simplicity of being real
(July 2015) 

– with manish srivastava
Tao of facilitation
.. the art of learning & coaching together
(Nov 2014) 

– started with sorabh but he left after first day!
– and this was the toughest one- i was so broken in this! – wish he had been there.. but all participants held me..
Tao of Co-creating
…the joy of learning & coaching community
Tao of Coming Home
.. Learning, Loving & Living Together
(Nov 2013)
Tao of the deep masculine
(Aug 2013) – with abhishek thakore
Tao of Co-coaching
… the joy of learning together 
(Dec 2012) 

– with rohit & shiva!!!


Have had the blessing of co-creating Tao programs many many gifted souls apart from the above- Raj Mali, GD, Anuradha Ramesh (Usha), Sangeeta Bhagwat, Nithya Shanti, Saraswathi Vasudevan, Dola Dasgupta, Pramod Tripahi and others.

The lives of many people- starting with myself have been deeply touched.  Many have requested that we return to the vintage Tao of facilitation. The one that is around the corner – plan to announce it and conduct in June 2017

Tao of Coaching Leadership … the joy of learning & leading together

More as it all unfolds. This had to be shared.







5 Super-Simple Tips to go from Internet Zombie to Internet Zen Dude

Aalif always writes very well.
I love his view of reality. It also comes with a comic twist.
And this is a subject close to my heart.
What addicts us can also release us into Zen.

I have spoken on fb about how wsap can be a new-world sadhana.
Do have a look and also you may want to
check out
6 apps to stop smart phone addiction:


Working on the internet is like being in a crowded bazaar, protected by glass from the noise, but feeling the energy of the busyness and chaos; catching the screaming confusion of others who have been in this bazaar for too long, some who have forgotten the way out.

It’s a fast world, the internet — time here runs faster than seconds, it zips by in clicks. For even a second is sometimes too long to wait for a page to load, or a video to buffer. The internet is the domain of restless fingers and ceaseless thinking and darting eyes. And in losing myself in it, I become another arm of the million-armed monster who is restless, hyper-active mentally and a ghost-like zombie in the real world.

A strong reason for this is the electro-magnetic radiation aka dirty electricity which your body picks up. According to Dr Lance Macleod-Lutchin

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Tools for Empaths

Sangeeta Bhagwat is a very dear friend. At this point in my life, I am seeing how I pick up people’s energies. And felt this blog post of her is useful for me. And perhaps for some of you.


The requests for guidance with managing waves of emotions and sometimes inexplicable overwhelm have been rising in recent times.  Energetically sensitive people feel affected by the collective ener…

Source: Tools for Empaths

The Inner, the Outer & the Innermost – Rajesh Dalal

It will be 2 years in Feb. since my dear dear friend Rajesh Dalal, one of the finest mentors on the pathless path to truth passed on. Fortunately I had recorded some of the conversations with him. Thankfully, my dear friend Rohit Sasvehalli was also inspired and made some podcasts from the recordings. And finally, Vishal Pipariya, another precious one transcribed this one recently. I am sure many of you will enjoy the beauty and subtlety of this pointing to truth.


RAJESH DALAL: You are saying basically that, because now you are functioning from sheer necessity outwardly and highest energy put inwardly, and in either case the operation does not depend on the limitations of the outer function. The operation, is an operation that does not depend on the limitations of the outer function.

SPEAKER 2: Can you elaborate this little bit?

RAJESH DALAL: The ending of the self is an entirety, the factor which is preventing the ending of the self is not outside of you, so nothing that you do outside is going to prevent that.

SPEAKER 2: Prevent the ending of the self?

RAJESH DALAL: In fact the ending of the self does not even require time.

SPEAKER 2: Yea it is here and now.

RAJESH DALAL: It is here. It is giving total energy to something. You may need certain amount of time to build up that energy. Because we have lived in such a mechanical way and in such a habitual way.

SPEAKER 2: It’s clearing the past.

SPEAKER 3: As in clearing certain barriers. But even that real is not necessary.

SPEAKER 2: I understand, yea.

RAJESH DALAL: Really speaking. It is just summoning your total seriousness in the now and facing that factor which is blocking everything. You touch it, then it is finished. So, in that sense whatever you are doing, whatever job you are doing, however well you are looking after, not well looking after, if you have a few hours in a day of quality time. You are not tired. Good enough. So your central intent can be actually pursued irrespective of this. Now, what is it that you are not able to pursue? What you love to do. In the outer! What you love to do in the inner you can always do.

SPEAKER 2: Being and doing are not aligned. If I were to do something…

RAJESH DALAL: So what you want to do outwardly. Sometimes, certain kind of situations take place where you can’t do what you want to do outwardly. I would personally say that wherever such a situation arises, it only means that you had not given your total energy to your love. If you give your total energy to your love, from that very energy you will know how to sustain your life.

SPEAKER 2: And that’s what I really feel you know that I am right now tethered to the post because of my own doubt.

RAJESH DALAL: But if your wife and your children were also like you.

SPEAKER 2: No, I have articulated this with them.

RAJESH DALAL: No, if they are moving with you in the same flow of uncertainty, then nothing matters.

SPEAKER 2: Then nothing matters yea, I understand that.

RAJESH DALAL: Then you can live on a footpath.

SPEAKER 2: I know that, in fact that’s one of the other point which I would pick up time permitting, as to what has happened is over the last two years I have moved at a very brisk pace but unfortunately my wife has not been able to keep pace with me. She has started reading Krishnamurti, etc. but obviously you know her intent. She…

RAJESH DALAL: Her intensity, everything is different.

SPEAKER 2: Intensity is different and also in terms of priority Krishnamurti books are not priority. Maybe because I have given her, she is influenced and therefore she is reading.

RAJESH DALAL: Heyyy. You have to find a way not through the book, through your being, through your watching what is happening to her, out of your love for her, so that she actually discovers the energy and the freedom that you have discovered. From there when you touch something, it will start operating. Then if she wants to read Krishnamurti she will read, if she doesn’t want to read, she will not read. Why should she read Krishnamurti?

SPEAKER 2: Yea, I understand that.

RAJESH DALAL: She must live, and in that living if Krishnamurti is to be a part of her life and in most probability it will be because if you are the activator of that energy and she knows that your energy was activated through this source, she’ll naturally go to that source. You don’t have to do, you don’t even have to suggest to her.

SPEAKER 2: As things stand, it’s a slow process you know because we are not congruent in many ways.

RAJESH DALAL: No no no, you don’t have to make it a slow process.

SPEAKER 2: No, I am not saying…

RAJESH DALAL: If you are, in fact let me tell you one thing. In my view, your wife and your relationship with your wife and your relationship with your children is your highest teacher of Krishnamurti today. Highest!

(Long Pause.)

RAJESH DALAL: Because, there the whole thing you can’t escape. The nature of the self operating there and the remnant reactions which are arising here, you can’t escape.

SPEAKER 3: Rajesh, I have a question. You know like, you made a very powerful point that what you are doing in the inner and what you are doing in the outer, are in some sense not related you are saying? That’s what I heard. You can always find time…

RAJESH DALAL: I know but let me put it this way. There is an outer, there is an inner and there is an innermost. It is about the innermost.


RAJESH DALAL: The innermost is not related to the inner and the outer. The inner and the outer are extremely linked.

SPEAKER 3 & SPEAKER 2: So what is the difference between the inner and innermost?

RAJESH DALAL: The innermost. I don’t know if in your reading of Krishnamurti you have been touched by that. Pause. See we always approach life through problems and solving problems. Even when you love to do something, in that love there is no problem. When you love something, there is no problem. But, how to do that love in this world becomes a problem.

SPEAKER 3: Deep Laugh

RAJESH DALAL: I have a wife who I love. But now how to do that in the middle of this world, in the middle of my conditionings. Other things are there. My conditionings exist. Her conditionings exist. And the world is terribly restrictive. How to make this love flower? So, the innermost has two dimensions to it. One is the dimension of learning about the inner and the outer in relationship, on a moment to moment basis, which is part of the work. And the other dimension is, asking the impossible question. And being rooted in that impossible question and not rooted in the inner or the outer or in that relationship. Inner exists, the outer exists. Love exists. Your love for the person, your love for what you want to do. Not to be rooted in any of this. Yet they are all there and you are doing that.

SPEAKER 3: And, the impossible questions. There are many impossible questions. But the main impossible question that you are talking about is?

RAJESH DALAL: All of them are one. There is only one impossible question. And that is…Can be asked in many ways. What is truth? What is love? What is beauty? What is absolute? Is there an absolute?

SPEAKER 3: And this is impossible because it’s?

RAJESH DALAL: The mind cannot grasp it. And yet the mind must demand it. And it can’t be demanded with the eye of greed or with the eye of the self.

SPEAKER 2: You are saying it’s beyond the eye so only when the eye ceases that, I can inquire about this?

RAJESH DALAL: Yea, but you can’t wait till the eye ceases to inquire into that. It’s a very, standing on edge question.

SPEAKER 2: When I say the eye ceases, there are two ceasing right? One is my total energy and attention in the moment will result in the eclipsing of the eye at least in that moment right? And then there is only that consciousness which is operating right?

RAJESH DALAL: But that is operating in the world. This impossible question and its operations are somewhat like, see this awareness. I am aware of this or I am not aware of this. It’s a kind of awareness of awareness, and a whole question of what is the source of all awareness? It’s questions of that order. There are no practical value whatsoever.

SPEAKER 3: What has no practical value?

RAJESH DALAL: These questions. The impossible question has no practical value. It means it is unconnected to any practical value. The world will not even understand you, whereas the intelligence of watching the self, the world will see and it’ll bow to it.

The Inner, the Outer & the Innermost- Podcast

Shams of Tabriz’s 40 Rules of life & love

This book touched me deeply. Thanks to Sayani who brought this to me. Thanks Arjun. Love you.

Treasure within

Rule 1

How we see God is a direct reflection of how we see ourselves. If God brings to mind mostly fear and blame, it means there is too much fear and blame welled inside us. If we see God as full of love and compassion, so are we.

Rule 2

The path to the Truth is a labour of the heart, not of the head. Make your heart your primary guide! Not your mind. Meet, challenge and ultimately prevail over your nafs with your heart. Knowing your ego will lead you to the knowledge of God.

Rule 3

You can study God through everything and everyone in the universe, because God is not confined in a mosque, synagogue or church. But if you are still in need of knowing where exactly His abode is, there is only one place to look for him: in the heart of a true…

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Beauty hidden inside Conflict : Co-creation

I forget who said this but its nice..
‘There is the dearest freshness deep inside things’

And I love that Hindi song.
Dil ko dekho chehra na dekho chehron ne laakhon ko loota
Dil saccha aur chehra jhootha.

(Look at the heart, not the face.. the face has ‘fooled’ a lot of people.
The heart is true, the face false- or like Sw. Vivekananda would say, a lesser truth)

I woke up this morning having been witness to a ‘conflict’ (I know it’s a strong word and maybe it is more politically correct to say.. ‘difference of opinion’, ‘diversity of thought’ etc.. but why not just stay with the strength of the word)

The ‘Tao of facilitation’ has been perhaps the most precious journey for me in this life which speaks to the beauty beneath conflic. A journey, which,  amongst other things, has revealed this freshness, this beauty, this heart. And in a way that we discover it together, live it, be it. It is not about some ‘gyan’ (knowledge) being delivered – though that may be a part of it.. it is about seeing together, travelling together. Creating, allowing magic together. And the ever deepening view of the beauty .. within ‘conflict’, within us, in all of life. There is a greatness. A freshness. That waits. And smiles. And whispers. And tickles the soul.

We all experience conflicts in our relationships-with others and within ourselves- well most of us at least 😉 The outer conflicts undoubtedly mirror some inner stuff that is wanting to be surfaced and resolved. The word resolved has the word ‘loved’ hidden in it – yes, there are parts of us that need to be loved and accepted. And when we don’t see them inside us they meet us outside in the form of opinions and views of seemingly ‘other’ people.

I think it was Carl Jung who said something like, ‘What we refuse to accept inside us, we encounter as our fate’
And a dear friend, Joo Hock who is a devotee of Bucky Fuller and his work put it beautifully when we were starting the ‘Tao of facilitaton’ program in Singapore a year back I think. His opening comment was.. ‘I am happy to meet my other-ness-es’ I loved that. The other is really an otherness.

So, what is the beauty hidden inside Conflict?

Conflict is born when the one becomes two. And so is beauty.

The interplay of colours, the multitude of flavours, fragrances,
tastes, feelings, musical notes
when in harmony create beauty
And when in ‘harm only’ 😉
It appears as conflict… not because there is no beauty.

Only because it is hidden

Until we can see the other side and hence the whole and locate ourselves in a place beyond right/wrong, good/bad, pain/pleasure in the beautiful space of love and gratitude. Which is our essential nature. Why not nurture that or actually simply connect with that.. be that.

Some would say, ‘Easier said than done’
And I would say, Yes.. until it is easier done than said.
Until saying and doing become one.

In my experience, the beauty hidden inside conflict is:

An opportunity

• To discover the truth beneath and beyond what appear as polarities.
• To learn to deal with emotions and feelings that surface- so we can face them before we surf them
• To remind ourselves, that ‘conflict’ can exist only in thought and the mind. Examine the thought, question it, turn it around, play with it and we can be free of it. Located in the sweetness of the truth that the thought was hiding
• To recognise the positive intention behind all negative behaviour (e.g. Structure has a beauty and so does flow and both can also have an ugliness! Its not in the word, in the idea, the concept- but always beneath)
• To listen, to listen, to listen. To the other, to ourselves, to the moment.
• To speak from the heart and recognise that the beauty of communication is in being both completely honest and very kind at the same time.
• To be willing to wonder and see the beauty of ‘not knowing’ (which allows us to dis-cover the here and now truth vs. tired clichés about truth) I love what my friend NithyaShanti wrote in his facebook status once :

My teacher Ajahn Chah said that contrary to what people believe, the more one ripens in wisdom, the more uncertain things become. He would often say, “Mai nae” – not sure, not a sure thing! Any sentence spoken without regard to uncertainity (e.g. “see you tomorrow!”) he considered not a wise statement.”

• To be silent and allow the wisdom of life to speak to us. It speaks often- through synchronous happenings- books, films, people, omens, bill boards- but mostly it speaks softly. Until we refuse to listen.
• To see that each of us is indeed completely responsible. Should we choose to be. And which means that we could own the intriguing task of inspiring the other to be completely responsible.
• To notice that while at the deepest level we know this, we often choose to blame and be victim. That’s comfortable. That’s human 😉 And its ok – we will see it and let go of it at the speed of life.
• To discover that there is a higher truth that holds these polarities in a beautiful balance. And this we need to arrive at together. We need to co-create. And until we are willing to do that, it is natural to “co-react”.
• Conflict reminds us that we need to discover a texture of reality that we are not seeing by perhaps over-simplifying. A line that is etched in my heart is- ‘Understanding evolves from the simplistic to the complex to the profoundly simple’. Simplistic is superficial. The profoundly simple that we arrive at after travelling through complexity honours the depth and texture of reality. We often avoid it by saying- ‘I want to keep things simple’

For example, in a gathering of facilitators, leaders as we are trying to co-create an ecology- a new way of working together very different from a traditional hierarchical organisation. We encountered a natural human resistance to go into the complexity of it. And yet, how might we arrive at the profound simplicity without that. We are learning to see that structure and flow are not opposed to each other, don’t conflict with each other – but like the masculine and feminine energies can cohere together in a beautiful unity.

There are more insights I have had. But something inside me tells me ‘enough’ for the time being. Like one of my dear friends said at the end of a poem he was writing ‘bas’ (enough in Hindi ;-)). The idea is not to overwhelm. Just to enable us to see something together.

All this and more is the learning I have had in my journey with fellow travellers, participants in ‘Tao of facilitation’. And the learning is the teaching. We always end up teaching what we most need to learn. And we teach best also that. It has been such a blessing in evolving together, enabling me and us to experience beauty, transcend duality and rest in the spacious essence beyond right/wrong.

“It is characteristic of all deep human problems that they are not to be approached without some humor and some bewilderment. After this, acting on faith becomes possible, and not before.”
— Freeman John Dyson

Above all, the gift of conflict is to take a deeper dive into consciousness. Of which happiness, joy, lightness is a beautiful expression.
I read somewhere that – Happiness has many expressions and in Hebrew there is a word for each. The happiness expressed in laughter is called Simcha.
When a person suddenly gains a straight perception of reality, the result is laughter. A flash of reality obliterates time honored falsehoods, and the soul laughs. Bare to the truth, the ‘straight of heart’ are ever open to deeper and deeper perceptions of reality. Thus their heart is sown with Simcha, the joy expressed in laughter.

All conflict reminds us to that maybe we have tightened up. And it is time to lighten up.

(Had written this on 14 June 2010 in my other blog ‘Tao of facilitation’ which I hardly update so reposting it here!)

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