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Archive for the ‘Dharma’ Category

I just recently got back from a trip to Pittsburgh, PA.  It is closer to Charlottesville than I was thinking, so I will try to head up there once a year if it is easy.

On Saturday there was an empowerment by H.E. Tritsab Rinpoche (Chenrezig).  That day was a lot of driving, so I kind of collapsed after that session.  I filled in as make-shift attendant.  My friend who I went up there with is from India – he does months of meditation retreats at a time (he is a bit of a dedicated yogi).  So I was the low man on the totem pole and I was happy to fill in as cook.

Saturday was at a beautiful church about 20 minutes away from the Dharma center.  At least 40 people attended – quite a nice crowd, an interesting blend of new-comers and experienced practitioners, and older and younger attendees.

Sunday was a bit more of a special practice.  His Eminence, Tritsab Rinpoche, is actually a highly regarded Lama.  Way back (like 600 years or so), an earlier incarnation of his was one of the lineage Lamas of the Drikung Kagyu.  And at that time, Rinpoche had a literal face-to-face with the Dharma protectress Achi Chokyi Drolma.  Tritsab Rinpoche was given a small scroll that had Dakini script on it (meaning he received a terma or a treasure text).  The current Rinpoche said that that lineage holder could not actually decipher the scroll – but that when he meditated, the words to the practice came to him.  Therefore it was more of a mind terma (I think).  Also, it is a little complicated in that this is a pure Drikung Kagyu practice – most termas are from the Nyingma tradition, having been hidden by Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal.

Anyway, on Sunday we got the Terma Achi empowerment.  This was held in the Dharma center (see below) and about 25 people showed up for this.  Great group, a little tight, and warm (because Rinpoche speaks quietly, we had to turn off the air conditioner!).  I did not have a seat 😦   until Khenpo said, you sit up here with me.  So I was literally front and center for this empowerment.  I appreciated how Khenpo had Rinpoche do all the technical details for the empowerment – he actually poured water from the sacred vase onto our heads, just a few drops.  There was a delicious pot luck lunch which most of the attendees stayed for.

Then in the afternoon, we did the Terma Achi practice.  I had heard of this before, but had never done the practice.  It is most fascinating because we can take Achi Chokyi Drolma as Lama (Guru), Yidam (deity) and Dharma protector (Dharmapala) and these are all included in the practice.  This is a short practice, so we finished early.

Then members of the center took the four of us to Mount Washington.  By the way, Pittsburgh is a very interesting city geographically – with the rivers and valleys and hills and tunnels, it would be a nightmare for a city planner (just saying!).  Also, I heard a quote I liked: “Pittsburgh is the city where you can’t get there from here.”

And it turns out that evening, that quote could not have been more accurate!  There was a gay pride parade downtown, and the Penguins were about to win the Stanley Cup (hockey tournament) and there was a big concert downtown as well.  On top of that, many of the roads were under construction.  So after driving around in circles for about half an hour, we finally found a way across the bridge to get to Mount Washington.  [side note: being stuck in a car with a serious retreatant and 2 authentic Tibetan lamas, even when lost and driving around frivolously, is still remarkably enjoyable!]

Mount Washington is a large hill (and I guess neighborhood name as well) that overlooks Downtown Pittsburgh.  It was quite beautiful – seeing the 3 rivers coming together, looking down on the concert and the parade and the sky scrapers.  It was well worth the journey!  Plus we had dinner up there as well, so we got to see the city as the sun was setting.

Monday, we went to the Pittsburgh Zoo.  This was actually a great experience.  As we were walking in, Khenpo Choephel, being a tougher Khenpo (which means Abbot) told us to chant mantras for the animals’ liberation and freedom from suffering.  He suggested we do Chenrezig or Vajrasattva mantras.  Therefore, at least for the first 30 – 60 minutes, I was mindful about how the animals’ might be suffering (although for the most part, the animals looked to be well taken care of).

There is an aquarium in the zoo as well, so we stayed for close to four hours total (including a long relaxing lunch).

I’m not quite sure, but I think we had some curious karma going on as a group (the four of us – Kirby, Ryan, Khenpo C and His Eminence) because on Monday we got stuck on a tight road that road construction forced us to detour onto.  I was literally pinned in (as a car) as I waited for several large trucks and garbage truck to creep by, praying they would not scrape the side of my fenders!  So Sunday we had driving obstacles, along with Monday.  It took us about 30 minutes extra to get to the zoo.  Which was fine!  I had great company around me in the car  🙂

Khenpo Choephel reminds me of a solid, modest, serious practitioner and teacher.  I suspect he has great levels of realization (and as a Dharma practitioner, I do my best to see him as Vajradhara or primordial Buddha).

The center is quite interesting though.  It is in a poorer neighborhood, but the neighbors are awesome, friendly, diverse and a few are curious about the Buddhadharma.  The house itself is very narrow – so there are only 3 rooms per level.  Ryan and I stayed on the 3rd floor, which was a little unfinished, which was completely fine!  I was just happy to have a bed and a roof over my head!  The nice thing about the location though is that the members were able to buy the house right out, meaning no debt to worry about.  They did have to put in about 1000 hours of labor over 3 months though as it was a serious fixer-upper.  But it gets the job done.  It has a beautiful shrine room with dozens of thangkas (Tibetan scroll paintings of deities and lineage lamas and Dharma guardians, etc).

I am very satisfied with my trip to Pittsburgh and I would go back in a heartbeat.  I received several impromptu Tibetan language instruction sessions as my Tibetan is okay (I probably speak at a 1st grade level, whereas I comprehend at a 6th grade level).  They were very happy to assist me and point out words that I was getting mistaken.  Plus, Khenpo even gave me a transmission of a specific practice at 11:11 pm on the night before we were about to leave – I had asked him for it a day earlier, but we hadn’t had time.

Oh – and the funny thing was, Khenpo is big into watching the local sports.  Apparently Pittsburgh is a huge sports city (which makes sense), and they have even gotten a Tibetan lama hooked on hockey and basketball!

Thank you for reading!

~km

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Dharma injection

If you want to be inspired to do more Dharma practice, host a Tibetan lama or even just a humble retreatant for a few days.

I was fortunate to do just this as I hosted a retreatant for a few days last week.  He has spent time learning the Tibetan language and he has spent thousands of hours now in isolated retreat in India for close to seven years or more.

Prior to his arriving, I was doing about 30 minutes (tops) of structured practice a day (on my own), along with a meditation group or two here and there each week.  However, in the days leading up to his arrival, I think my body could feel the improved energetic dynamic coming, and I started to do a little more practice.

It is difficult to describe.  And I’m sure if you asked him, he’d say that he has absolutely no special qualities.  But I felt inspired to create more when he was downstairs doing his practice.  I cooked almost every meal at home and it was easy.  Not just because I was cooking for a friend, but it was more than that.  The creativity flowed.

He was sharing my space for less than 72 hours, but it made a difference.  At least for a week afterward I felt a momentum I typically only feel after a retreat with Tibetan lamas.  I did more refuge practice and felt compelled to resist any urge to watch Netflix.  I did more yoga and more Zapchen somatics.  More self care.

I am having a change of heart I think.  For a while there I thought I was not meant to do any kind of structured, extended retreat in this lifetime.  But I am now rethinking that.  Not that I have any desire to do the traditional 3 year – 3 fortnight retreat that the Lamas typically all complete.  But even just a 90-day retreat in Ladakh would be incredible.  I wonder if I could even complete it (of course, if I set it up just right, I might not have a choice but to go through with it!).

Who knows what the future holds.  One thing is for certain though: if I get married in this lifetime, my partner is going to need to be open to the possibility of my doing a one to three month long retreat at a retreat center or monastery.

Thanks for reading!

May you be blessed and a blessing,

~km

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I recently hosted a friend who is primarily a retreatant in India – as in he sits in a small room doing specific Buddhist practices day-in and day-out for about seven months a year.  He has been doing this for a number of years, which is inspiring in and of itself, but doing so requires a special type of dedication, good fortune and organization (most of us could not afford to take this kind of time off from our families, etc).

However, one thing he mentioned stuck with me, actually a lot of what he said stuck with me.  He has become skillful and patient in his time in retreat (surprise surprise!).

He mentioned that, in order for an animal to eat our food or to bite us (think ants in your kitchen, mice in your pantry, mosquitoes or ticks, etc), there must be a karmic connection to that animal and we must owe that animal a debt.  Maybe we ate that animal in a past life, maybe they loaned us money and we didn’t repay it!  Who knows?  But what we know is that we have to repay that debt before the animals will leave us alone.

So how do we repay that debt?  That is a great question.  I primarily have experience of this through Buddhism.  I was raised Christian, but you don’t hear about the methods for how to repay karmic debts in Christianity.  Just saying.  So in Buddhism there are many methods to repay karmic debts.  I know there are methods in other religious traditions – but we must be careful such that we do not create more negative karma in conducting a religious ceremony (do not sacrifice an animal or use animal parts if possible).

For one, we can do a smoke offering puja (ceremony) where we offer burnt substances to unseen beings – wisdom beings, local spirits and others.  Apparently there are some beings whose karma is such that they can only enjoy food when it is in smoke form.  Another method for repaying a karmic debt is to do a Sur Chod or feeding the ghosts offering.  I have heard that when someone dies, they go into the Bardo state for up to 49 days – this can be animals dying or humans or other beings.  The Bardo is an intermediate state where the being is ethereal in form – most humans cannot see Bardo beings.  And it is a state where they hang out and explore while they wait for their next rebirth.

The Sur Chod is the method for feeding these Bardo beings – because they too can only imbibe what is offered to them (and I am guessing this is through smoke).  I am not an expert by any means, however, I have conducted a number of these ceremonies – both Sur Chod and smoke offerings.  If you have questions, you should find a qualified spiritual teacher, like a Tibetan lama or monk or nun and ask them.  🙂

I suspect that another way to purify this karmic debt to animals is by freeing animals that are set to be killed.  Buying back a crate of live shrimp or lobsters for example and putting them back in the ocean – with the motivation of freeing them from harm, of preserving their life, might help to produce some positive karma.  This might start to add up though, as far as the check book is concerned.

Just be mindful though – if we poison the termites or ants or wasps in our house or deck, we are actually making our negative karma worse.  The pest problem can only get worse in the future if we do this.  Sorry to say it, but if you are involved in extermination, I can’t imagine how much negative karma is getting accumulated every week – unless it is a green pest control system?  Maybe we can use Have-A-Heart traps that trap a live mouse and transport it miles away from our house – this is better than poison or mouse traps.

This is a very precarious topic though.  So many people hate the pests in and around their homes (with good reason!).  But what if we gave a smoke offering a try first?  What if we participated in a Sur offering ritual?  What if this improved the situation with the ants in my house?  Wow – that’d be pretty cool right?

Thanks for reading as usual!

~km

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This might be a little sacrilegious…  but I want to share these thoughts nonetheless.  I want to preface what I am going to say with the fact that I am, deep in my heart, a Buddhist practitioner.  I have a strong connection with Tibetan lamas from the Drikung Kagyu, Nyingma and Gelugpa lineages.  Also, I am not expert, so it might be good to take my opinions with a grain of salt.

With that said, I have been practicing Tibetan Buddhism for 12 years now, in addition I have also studied trauma resolution and Craniosacral Therapy (a form of therapeutic touch and bodywork) for about the same amount of time.  More recently I have spent time exploring and studying Pre- and Perinatal Therapy (Birth Process work) which looks at the world from a baby-centric perspective.  Therefore I have a number of tools at my disposal for working with the body / mind.

I am presently doing a limited retreat.  I am withdrawing from stressful situations, from stressful people and from stressful patterns within my own being.  I am seeking to cultivate loving-kindness, joy and openheartedness.  And overall I think I am doing pretty well with this intention.

Of course I need to make ends meet, so I am working a couple of part-time jobs and I am seeing bodywork and astrology clients when they set up appointments.  But for the most part, my days are full of juicy Svaroopa yoga (gentle supported yoga which focuses on loosening tension in the spine and opening the pelvis), heart opening Zapchen exercises, beautiful walks by the river, spending time with good company and doing a little bit of meditation and Dharma practice.

One pattern I am looking at within myself is my tendency to be hard on myself if I miss a day of Dharma practice.  Nearly everyday I sit on my cushion.  But I have a commitment to finish my preliminary practices – to say the refuge mantra along with doing prostrations.  So when I miss doing that, I feel a little guilty.

However, I need to be aware that this pattern may be something I inherited.  Who in my energetic field (when I was very little) was hard on themselves?  Who might have had a guilty conscience when I was young?  Did I pick that up from Mom or Dad or another care-taker?

The stress of living in this fast-paced, rat-race-inducing, technologically advanced culture leads to my feeling a lot of compression.  Physical compression of my heart and spine, emotional compression of my heart’s generosity and capacity to experience joy and lightheartedness, and energetic compression as I notice any stress in people around me.  Yes, I am a bit sensitive.

I am also vitally aware of how much I need good unconditionally supportive company around me.  I don’t want to spend time with people who are incredibly judgmental or critical.  People who are stuck up in their heads, logically analyzing and discriminating about everything around them.  No, I want people who have discovered a balance between the compassion of the heart, the potency of the pelvis and the clarity of the head.

I have been studying Pre- and Perinatal Therapy (PPN) over the past few years.  And last summer I had the good fortune to go up to Nelson, Canada for 2+ weeks for an intensive workshop.  And I have since discovered that the incredible levels of safety and trust which is cultivated has made for a container of support and good company which I have NEVER experienced anywhere else.  And I mean anywhere else.  When I go to my Dharma center, the majority of the people there are not exactly embodied.  They mean very well and they have excellent motivation and intentions.

But the Sangha (group of students and practitioners) which I have experienced around this PPN work is something extraordinary.  To come together as a group of equals who are all seeking to open our hearts compassionately to the terrible knowledge which existed for many of our childhoods, to build in solid resources and new kinder ways of being with ourselves.  To work through psychological double-binds together and to touch each other in platonic, professional and unconditionally loving ways, is something extremely difficult to find.

The reason I mentioned this might seem kind of blasphemous earlier is that I am looking to see how I can build in more of this second Sangha in my life.  If Buddhist practitioners do not work with their bodies and merely spend time focusing on the bigger picture (which is extremely important of course – looking to purify karma, planning for future lifetimes, and deepening their levels of renunciation), then I’m not sure I want to spend that much time with them at present.

How can I find a balance between Dharma practice (focusing on refining the subtle consciousness and moving toward Buddha-consciousness) and embodying kindness-inducing practices which move us toward greater compassion toward ourselves and others?  The amount of kindness I want to practice toward myself is radical, basically not talked about in any circles of mainstream society.  And I want to spend time with people who practice radical kindness toward themselves.

This is what I am sitting with at present.  I might go up to the Dharma center next week, and I might choose to stay here in town and sit in my semi-retreat of kindness toward self.  Because I am really looking at doing things differently.  Being differently.

I don’t want any judgmental stuff coming through others, even if it is being projected through a Buddhadharma lens.  I don’t want to spend lots of time with people who are repeatedly hard on themselves with no end to this pattern in sight.  (Sometimes people beat themselves up and maybe they even use their meditation practice as a way to continue this trend..)

Wish me well in walking this fine line.  I will continue this discussion soon.

Thank you for visiting!

Gratefully,

~km

 

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So whether I want to or not… I have been asked to lead group meditations for a couple groups in the past week.  I am reluctant for a number of reasons.  And I am expressing my objections / resistance and moving forward with a one of the groups.

A friend and teacher put my name forward as a potential meditation teacher (we are simply talking Buddhism 101 or Meditation 101) for a group of UVa students.  A 2nd year level course involves the students doing a survey of Buddhism from Theravada (Hinayana) traditions all the way through Dzogchen / Mahamudra (Vajrayana) traditions all in one semester!  That is quite a lot of ground to cover!

I learned that these students take a class-room section of this course where they receive a lecture, then they go to a weekly discussion group where they talk in small groups.  And then they have a meditation lab where they meditation 50 minutes / week.  What an interesting immersion in the study of meditation / Buddhism.

However, I also learned that the students have been pushing pretty hard.  As in less-than-kind immersion in meditation.  (I believe that starting off slowly – like 2 to 3 minutes at a time at first and slowly working our way up from there – is important and kind.  Because a part of us does not actually learn if we are objecting to the activity.)  I plan to offer something radical – how about we make meditation fun and joy-inspiring?  How about we cultivate warmth and enthusiasm for the thought of sitting on our cushions?  Well that is my intention when I go to lead one of these labs.  I hope my style is not rebuked – but is not loving-kindness a critical ingredient on the Buddhist path?  Radical kindness.  What a concept!

Also, my mentor, Janet Evergreen and I are going to be giving introductory teachings (for Dharma practitioners) on the Common Preliminaries – the 4 Thoughts and basic teachings on Refuge.  Contact me if you are interested by the way!  It is happening in Charlottesville, April 29th and 30th.  9 – 12 and 2 – 5 pm both days (Saturday and Sunday).  You can email mkirbymoore [at] gmail . com for more info or to register.

I am definitely reluctant to call myself a meditation teacher.  I am an embodiment coach (meditation is one way to get there).  I do have permission from my Lamas to teach basic meditations and intro Buddhist concepts.  So that is all to the good!

Thanks for reading and wish me luck!

~km

 

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Every winter, my friend and mentor and bodywork teacher and coach, Janet Evergreen hosts a retreat for 10 days at her Sanctuary space.  Last year, I was going through a tough stretch and I did not make it to much, if any of that retreat, which I would later regret.

I say that because this retreat is like a sling shot for the new year.  It is a shot in the arm of Dharma juicy-ness.  Even if I could only do a couple hours a day of meditation, the combined space created a mandala of potency, of virtuous momentum and resourced support to lean into.

Due to work – December and the holidays are our busiest time of the year – I missed two days of the retreat.  Then with family in town, I missed another two days.  But I’m so glad I went to some part of every other day – six or seven days total.

I would be lying if I said I did not experience any resistance.  For instance, I woke up a couple of days at 5 am with the possibility of going to the 6 am session, only to choose to fall back asleep (! ^ !)  What can I say, I am human and sometimes a bit lazy.  I also needed my sleep as I have been quite stretched and stressed out with work.

The session I went to most often was from 10 am until noon, and then I would stay for a delicious, dynamic, organic lunch which was eaten in noble silence.  Occasionally there might be a little playfulness at lunch (silently) but for the most part we could all just enjoy our food at our own pace, in peace and quiet and good company.

From 10 until 11 am, we did a breath meditation (following, analyzing, shifting, exploring, stretching, resting of the breath) called the Anapanasati Entryways.  These were fairly powerful, but I never got through all 16 stages in one 50 minute segment.  Nonetheless, it was very potent just to track the mind and breathe, to track the body while breathing, to get distracted for a moment with thoughts and come back to the breath.  I would usually get through at least 4 or 5 of the stages of breath awareness – opening up to, deepening, refining, refreshing, calming, stabilizing the breath.  This was the hour where I usually experienced some resistance, so there was less enjoyment than I would have liked.  If this sounds interesting to you, go to http://www.liberationpark.org

But then from 11 am until noon, we did a practice called the 8 Jhanas.  This is more of an analytical meditation, where we are aware of our breath, then that fades into the background and we become more aware of a pleasant physical sensation (which can be as simple as a forced smile).  That pleasant sensation can become more intense and we can notice joy and happiness arising.  Etc etc and eventually it leads to contentment, equanimity, awareness of a boundless space around us, etc.  The end result being to rest in a vast open spacious aware of a tiny spot close to our face with our state of being having no characteristics.  This is extremely simplified.  See http://www.leighb.com for more!

One thing I especially like about the Jhanas is there is a recommended daily recollection to do before and after the practice:

  1. Aging happens, no one avoids it
  2. Illness and sickness happen, no one avoids it forever.
  3. Death happens, no one gets away from death.
  4. Everything that I love is and will change.
  5. I am responsible for my actions (karma).  My thoughts words and deeds create happiness or suffering.  I am born of my actions (karma).  I will inherit my actions (karma).  Whether good or evil deeds, I will always inherit my actions.

There are 5 things to do at the beginning of a session:

  1. Gratitude
  2. Why am I doing this (motivation)?
  3. Working up some determination – for instance, practicing for the benefit of all beings (self included)
  4. Wishing ourselves and others, well-being and happiness
  5. “Breathing in I calm my body, breathing out I smile.”

Then at the end of the session:

  1. Recapitulation – what did I do to get here?  How did I get here?
  2. Impermanence – whether highs or lows, our emotions, feelings, sensations are changing and are gone or will be gone shortly
  3. Insights – did I get any?  What were they?
  4. Dedicate the merit earned for the liberation of all beings
  5. Resolve to be mindful as I go about my activities

This is a good stopping point for now.  All in all, so glad I attended this year’s winter retreat.  Next year, here is what I would change to prepare better for it:

Start preparing for retreat weeks in advance – have all errands and nursing school requirements done by December 15th if possible.  Do all Christmas shopping (if any) before Dec 15th.  Do more resting down, self care and Dharma practice two or three weeks before retreat starts.  That way I can be more receptive to retreat mind mode.  This year, it was a bit jarring to be really busy up until retreat started and then to hit the brakes hard.  Fortunately I would still gain benefit from that less-than-kind version of preparing… but I could prepare better!

Thank you for reading!

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The intensive, or pre- and perinatal (PPN) psychology retreat, was held on very potent and positively-charged land.  Myrna Martin and Ken, her husband, have been farming fruits, berries and veggies on that land for more than 30 years and they have been hosting process workshops for the last 16 years.

Myrna is a big proponent of home births.  And rightfully so.  When we have a relatively (and all births involve some strain and difficulty) smooth birth, and we can lay on our mothers with skin-to-skin contact for at least 15 minutes, and then when we (the baby) feel the impulse to crawl to the breast and nurse, we create the foundations for secure attachment.  And if there is good support for both Mom and Dad, with a good birth keeper (midwife) present, many positive things can come from birthing at home.  Of course having a skillful and properly trained midwife is necessary to know if and when transport to a hospital is needed.

Long story short, their land is just infused with safety and potency and the divine feminine.  The principles of safety and confidentiality and comfort and being able to say no to anything and being able to call a pause whenever you feel you need one create a container which is very difficult to find outside of her trainings.  And of course, the majority of her students have been women.  This makes sense – women are more likely to be able to go to those vulnerable places, they are more comfortable doing emotional process work in general, and they are far more concerned about learning how to become a birth keeper.  (Just for the record, Myrna does not teach midwifery, as far as I know.)

Taking all of this into account, I was very pleased that 2 other males participated in the training with me.  And Ken was a teacher, so that made the male population 25%.  That is much higher than I am used to in bodywork classes.

It is no wonder I was drawn to do Green Tara practice while I was (in the evenings) doing the training.  Not that I know what I am doing in the least.  But with that said, I taught the mantra to several of the women there and I also taught them the Om Ah Hung practice that we learned from Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen at the Tibetan Meditation Center in Frederick, Maryland.  In fact, when I was doing Green Tara practice with one young woman in particular, I felt something very unusual – my body was very present and grounded while my awareness of reality expanded beyond what was normal.  That was pretty cool.

I may have over-done it a bit.  I offered astrology to two different participants in exchange for bodywork and a Taro reading.  Plus I went hiking on Saturday and did kayaking on Sunday.  With such full psychologically-churning days and full evenings, I probably could have spent more time resting down and purposely pausing to integrate.  But overall I am glad for how things worked out.

I don’t have many goddess experiences to relate, but as I was winding down in Spokane Washington, having a leisurely lunch with one of the TA’s from the intensive (she was to leave the next morning), I had one little goddess encounter.

I’m not entirely sure why it occurred and I’m not entirely certain I was really grounded and embodied, but I definitely sensed a large feminine presence (a goddess) hovering over me in the restaurant and having her hands on the sides of my head.  It was almost as if her hands were in a craniosacral type of hold.  Whatever the case, I rested back and enjoyed the sensation for at least 60 seconds.  My new friend, the TA may have been talking, but I was much more focused on sensing in to what was happening around and within me.  And then the sense of the goddess’ presence was gone.

[Which goddess?  I don’t know.  She was altruistic and loving and gentle.  She did not have much of a form that I could identify.]

And then I began my long journey eastward to Virginia.  Home now, I can honestly say that the PPN work is indeed life changing!

Thanks for reading.

~K

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