Category Archives: Inspiration

Finding Peace and Harmony Through Running – An Interview

I recently gave an interview to Emily Turner (see her blog Thoughts Showcase), who is studying Media at Weston College. Here are my responses to her questions.

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What’s your name, age, and where are you from? 

Rasmivan Mark Collinson, 47 years young, originally from Penzance, Cornwall, now residing in Bristol. My birth name is Mark, however, my spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy gave me a spiritual  / soul’s name of Rasmivan. A spiritual name reflects the qualities of that person’s soul. Rasmivan means “bearer of rays”, and another name for the sun and the moon; it also refers to a deity of the universe.

Can you give me a basic outline of what it is that you do?

I have studied meditation with Sri Chinmoy, my Guru since 2004 until his passing in 2007, and I’m still an active member of the worldwide Sri Chinmoy Centre. Guru is a Sanskrit word that means ‘he who illumines’. I have always enjoyed running, but it was only in 2006 that I ran my first marathon. I then steadily progressed into ultra running and ran my first 24 Hour Race in 2009. In April 2013 I ran my first 6 Day Race – the Self-Transcendence 6 Day Race in New York. I run for the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team. I’m simply an amateur runner on a spiritual path.

When did you start running and how did you get involved? 

I started road running when I was about 15. I use to have some old non-descript trainers and one early morning (6am) I went out and ran around the streets around Penzance.  I enjoyed the stillness and peace of those early morning runs before school/college.  In those early days it was a way I could relax and have that sense of flow where nothing really mattered. Having a stammer / stutter as a teenager brought with it unrelenting fears in any speaking situation and low self-esteem on top of the usual teenage angst. Running was my release valve. The poem below better explains it.

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In the 1980s, road running was only just taking off here in the UK so where I lived there was not a running club but there was an Athletics Club in Camborne, which had an outdoor 400m track, but I couldn’t afford to get there and at the time my parents didn’t own a car. I was never coached and just picked up things from reading running books and Runner’s World magazine. As you can imagine my enthusiasm for running so much, progressing to running twice a day had a few repercussions and really I wasn’t training as well as I ought to with such misguided knowledge and application. That led to numerous overuse injuries, predominantly shin splints that restricted my running. I never had the confidence and had so much self-doubt that I was really any good that I never took the opportunity to be coached. I had a few friends who were far better runners than me who invited me along to run with them, as they were coached to regional and national standard, but I dismissed it as I didn’t think I was good enough. Looking back I should have taken that opportunity as perhaps I had potential and that could have been developed. But, I lacked any inking of self-belief. In a way this was as a result of having a stammer / stutter since the age of 8. And that’s a whole story in itself. And then in my late teens, I was so frustrated that I couldn’t run, I got to a stage that it was even painful to walk, and I drifted into my other group of friends who went out drinking and clubbing, as you do, to feel part of that social circle. The discipline and enjoyment of running became sporadic for a number of years until my energies were renewed when I became a student of Sri Chinmoy in 2004.

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What or who inspired you to start running?

When I was young I was a great admirer of Steve Ovett, Seb Coe and Steve Cram who were very talented middle distance runners, and then watching the first London Marathon on TV inspired me. It was like, I want to do that, and I can do that. But that inspiration ebbed and flowed and at times it was just a flicker.

My renewed inspiration to pick up running from those earlier years came from an inner urge to change my lifestyle of alcohol and smoking that had become increasingly dominant in my 20s and 30s. I was not a happy person and I had a feeling that I needed to change.  Then in my mid 30s, in 2004 I started meditating and became a disciple / student of a spiritual master, Sri Chinmoy. His promotion of running in general, ultra running and self-transcendence hit a chord with me. He said:

If we run, we see our capacities becoming fully manifested. Previously our capacities were dormant; they did not function inside us. But when we run, we bring to the fore our hidden capacities and are able to do something and become something …

A runner brings forward his capacity and becomes something. Then we see some champion runners, and he gets the inspiration to try to become an excellent runner. Perhaps he will one day excel and go beyond them. So there are always higher goals even after we have become something. Once we reach our first goal, we have to run towards a higher goal.

 Run and become.

Become and run.

Run to succeed in the outer world.

Become to proceed in the inner world”. [1]

Self-transcendence is the concept of making personal progress in different fields – physical, mental spiritual. Self-transcendence means we seek to exceed our previous achievements and extend our capacities.

“Self-transcendence gives us joy in boundless measure. When we transcend ourselves, we do not compete with others. We do not compete with the rest of the world, but at every moment we compete with ourselves.” – Sri Chinmoy

How have you had to adapt your lifestyle in terms of what you eat etc? 

Being on a spiritual path has its own set of rules and Sri Chinmoy advocated his disciples to eat a vegetarian diet, and to abstain from alcohol, smoking and drugs – the exact opposite of what I used to do! It took a period of 6 months to adapt and adopt this new lifestyle. At one point I was attempting to follow two paths – the spiritual one and remnants of my old life, but after New Year’s Eve of 2004, after drinking and smoking too much, it dawned on me you cannot split yourself and attempt to have your cake and eat it so to speak. I was only deluding myself and not being true to the person I ultimately wanted to become. It was all about transformation and making progress. So now after nearly 12 years, I don’t miss the drinking culture – I’m glad I don’t have to experience the lethargy and hangover after an over exuberant night; I was a bit of a party animal, and could never go out just for a few pints.

Being on a spiritual path has its challenges participating in everyday life. But, Sri Chinmoy wished his students to fully engage with the everyday and outer world whilst being on a spiritual path. His view was that meditating alone up in a Himalayan cave will not be beneficial to the world and assist in transforming the world’s consciousness. You try to follow the teachings of your spiritual Master. Running long distances and competing in ultra running and multi-day events enables me to live more in the moment and go beyond my perceived capacities. It also gives me immense joy and I’m a happier person for it. It’s just a different way of approaching life where you are guided by your spiritual Master to enable you to listen more closely to the dictates of your soul.

What’s been the best experience so far? 

In terms of my running experiences it has to be being part of an international team when I did 6 months of the European leg of the World Harmony Run in 2006 and the whole USA route in 2010. Also very special was organising the south west route of the GB run 2011.

In terms of my best race experiences it has to be the 72 hour race in Phoenix in 2013/14 when I was second male with 233 miles and my first 24 hour race in 2009 when I ran 112 miles.

Across the Years 2013-14 72 Hour Race

My 24 Hour Self-Transcendence Track Race Experiences 2009 & 2010 – Success, Failure and Progress

What’s the most important or significant thing you’ve learnt from your journey? 

ArtPics - Photography © Jake Olson

It is all about the journey and not ultimately about the destination. There is so much that I have gained and continue to gain from being on a spiritual path and participating in these ultra running races. I think ultimately, what Sri Chinmoy taught me, is to never, never, never give up, and always believe in your spiritual Master. There are so many stories and experiences I could tell you – one special instance is that of a Compassion Miracle of my Guru’s protection (A Spiritual Master’s Protection). I was running, hit by a car on a zebra crossing and I walked away with simply a tiny scratch on my arm. Endurance events are challenging and they push you out of your comfort zone, but ultimately from these experiences you grow and become stronger.

I read recently a quote on Facebook, “Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place”. This totally makes sense to me.

What is the most rewarding part of this experience?

I think it has to be eventually having a sense of contentment and happiness. Through the inner and outer challenges of ultra running life can make sense and become clearer. Scott Jurek, a famous American ultra runner made the comment that, “Running is not easy and it’s challenging. It’s that kind of good discomfort that cleanses us”.  When you’ve had the perfect run, you’ve cleared your soul.

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What has been your biggest achievement? 

That’s a hard question to answer, and I think in terms of my race performances it has to be finishing as second male with 233 miles in the 72 hour Across the Years Race in Phoenix, USA in 2013/14.

Are there any negatives? 

I can’t think of any.

What and when is your next exciting adventure?  

This year the European leg of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run begins on 24th February in Porto and finishes on 8thOctober in Rome, and I will be part of an international team completing the whole European route.

In a world that is ever more connected and yet at the same time people feeling disconnected, this year gives me the opportunity to reconnect with my spirituality, with so many people and myself.  It will also enable me to return to the joys of running for peace and harmony that feeds my soul.

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The simple act of running to promote peace and harmony is a way of making a difference by touching the lives of so many people and taking their hopes for a more peaceful and harmonious world to the next town/village, the next city, the next country and the whole world. Many drops of water make an ocean.

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I fly out to Porto, Portugal on 23rd February and over the last 18 months of thinking and planning about the Peace Run it is finally reaching the time for me to leave my ‘normal’ life and embark on a great adventure. A few months ago I suppose I was getting cold feet, and had the usual doubts and fears on whether I was making the right decision to be on the Peace Run for such an extended time.  But, when I compared my experiences on previous Peace Runs and thinking about it sat in front of a computer at work writing another report, then it is a no brainer. Life is about seizing wondrous opportunities and living a life with no regrets. I’m definitely going to remember events and experiences that happen on the Peace Run that will remain with me forever. I couldn’t tell you what I did in the office last week, so that tells you something.

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Calvin and Hobbes Running

What advice would you give someone else wanting to run professionally?

Well, I’m not in the position to give advice as I don’t run professionally. That’s something that I’m not qualified to comment on.  However, there are general aspects that I’ve learned that can be given to anyone who wishes to be successful and gain contentment in anything what they do.

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  1. Believe in yourself. Have self-belief that anything is possible and never, never give up. Let no one tell you that you can’t do it, or it is not possible. It is important to be your own person.
  2. Dare to be different. I always remember Daley Thompson saying, “The only way to make a difference is to be different and do what the others are not doing ………  I train twice on Christmas Day because I know the others aren’t training at all, so it gives me two extra days”.
  3. Surround yourself with those that can nurture you. Be that friends and family who can believe in you and for any young sportsperson to become professional it is to find that coach that can keep you moving in the right direction and achieving those goals. Being part of a running club will help to structure your training, maintain a discipline and help to monitor your progress. Training with others inspires you to become better.
  4. Have a Goal. The anticipation of attempting something that you have prepared weeks, months or years for adds richness to life. Life can thrive in the presence of big goals and it can nourish the heart and soul.
  5. Adversity. Overcoming challenges makes you stronger. Not everything goes to plan, but it tends to change your life in many ways, most for the better.
  6. Simplicity. Keep your training simple and don’t over complicate it when it is not needed. Stay committed to your training plan. Be patient and don’t expect to be the best right away.
  7. Rest and recovery. Never underestimate the importance of rest to let you physically recover and mentally recharge. Nutrition is so important and helps your body to recover after races and intense training sessions. Keeping a sense of perspective and balance is so important, and listening to your body and intuition is key.

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[1] Sri Chinmoy (2008) The Inner Running and the Outer Running – Yogic Secrets for Better Running, p.13, New York: Aum Publications.

Aside

“My soul does not eclipse Anybody’s sun-beauty. On the contrary, It helps others to shine their brightest.” ~ Sri Chinmoy. My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, And I intend to end up there. ~ Rumi

Video

Living Beyond Limits

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This powerful talk by Amy Purdy is truly inspirational, and I am in full admiration of the way she followed her dreams and aspirations despite the boundaries that were imposed upon her.  Those unfortunate events  gave her the inspiration and determination to overcome those obstacles and achieve her dreams.

“If your life were a book and you were the author, how would you want your story to go? That’s the question that changed my life forever …

Eleven years ago, when I lost my legs, I had no idea what to expect. But if you ask me today, if I would ever want to change my situation, I would have to say no. Because my legs haven’t disabled me, if anything they’ve enabled me. They’ve forced me to rely on my imagination and to believe in the possibilities, and that’s why I believe that our imaginations can be used as tools for breaking through borders, because in our minds, we can do anything and we can be anything.

It’s believing in those dreams and facing our fears head-on that allows us to live our lives beyond our limits. And although today is about innovation without borders, I have to say that in my life, innovation has only been possible because of my borders. I’ve learned that borders are where the actual ends, but also where the imagination and the story begins.

So the thought that I would like to challenge you with today is that maybe instead of looking at our challenges and our limitations as something negative or bad, we can begin to look at them as blessings,magnificent gifts that can be used to ignite our imaginations and help us go further than we ever knew we could go. It’s not about breaking down borders. It’s about pushing off of them and seeing what amazing places they might bring us.”

http://www.ted.com/speakers/amy_purdy

http://amypurdy.com/

Video

Enthusiasm and Energy

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It is amazing what feats deemed impossible humans can achieve. I so love this video – it’s high octane stuff!

 

Video

Keep Your Head Up

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“Music is the fourth great material want of our nature-first food, then raiment, then shelter, then music.”

BOUVÉE

What Bouvée says is undeniably true. Our body’s food is the product of the earth: fruits and vegetables and so forth. But our soul’s food is music. Undoubtedly it is so. Even our physical nature at times intensely craves and desperately needs music.

Keep Your Head Up is one of my favourite songs. As a rule I don’t listen to music when I run. However, during a particularly challenging night when I was running in the 6 Day Self-Transcendence Race last year I needed music to get me through and take my mind off the pain and discomfort. I was feeling rather sorry for myself; I was cold, tired, could barely walk and I was not in a good space. I knew this song elicited a strong emotional response in me and the lyrics are very poignant, especially the part where he says “All I was searching for was me”. I just love the video which is so uplifting and joyful. I so want to have a go on that soap slide, it looks so much fun!

Playing the song on repeat got me running again as my mind drifted off to a much better place and I became so happy and full of gratitude, remembering the purpose of why I was running the race.  I became oblivious to the cold biting wind, the darkness and the pain that I was in. That could have been quite easily a lyric of the song.

I spent my time watching
The spaces that had grown between us
And I cut my mind on second best
The scars that come with the greeness
I gave my eyes to the bottom
Still the seabed wouldn’t let me in
And I tried my best to embrace the darkness
In which I swim.
 
Now walking back down this mountain
With the strength of a turning tide
The wind so soft at my skin
The sun so hot upon my side
Looking out at this happiness
I searched for between the sheets
Feeling blind, to realise
All I was searching for was me.
 
Keep your head up, keep your heart strong
Keep your mind set, keep your hair long
Keep your head up, keep your heart strong
Keep your mind set in your ways
Keep your heart strong.
 
I saw a friend of mine the other day
And he told me that my eyes were gleaming
I said I’d been away
And he knew the depths I was meaning
It felt so good to see his face
The comfort invested in my soul
To feel the warmth of his smile
When he said ‘I’m happy to have you home’
 
Keep your head up …
 
Because I’ll always remember you the same
Eyes like wildflowers with your demons of change
May you find happiness there
May all your hopes turn out right
May you find warmth in the middle of the night. 
Quote

We have to keep going

Join us ArtPics - Photography © Rick Lundh

Join us ArtPics – Photography © Rick Lundh

I’ve learned anything from life, it’s that sometimes, the darkest times can bring us to the brightest places. I’ve learned that the most toxic people can teach us the most important lessons; that our most painful struggles can grant us the most necessary growth; and that the most heartbreaking losses of friendship and love can make room for the most wonderful people.

I’ve learned that what seems like a curse in the moment can actually be a blessing, and that what seems like the end of the road is actually just the discovery that we are meant to travel down a different path.

I’ve learned that no matter how difficult things seem, there is always hope. And I’ve learned that no matter how powerless we feel or how horrible things seem, we can’t give up.

We have to keep going. Even when it’s scary, even when all of our strength seems gone, we have to keep picking ourselves back up and moving forward, because whatever we’re battling in the moment, it will pass, and we will make it through.

We’ve made it this far. We can make it through whatever comes next.

~ Daniell Koepke

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Determination and willpower

One of the dictionary definitions of determination is a quality that makes you continue to do or achieve something that is difficult. It’s a starting point, but looking to the writings of my special teacher, Sri Chinmoy places determination and that of willpower in a more divine and spiritual context.

The following extracts are taken from the online resources of the Sri Chinmoy Library

If you travel all the time
On the wings of hope,
And not
On the wings of determination
You are not going to succeed 
In the battlefield of life 
~ Sri Chinmoy
 

Question: Where is determination to be found? In which part of our being do we have to work on determination? Is it in the mind or the heart?

Sri Chinmoy: Determination can be found inside the mind. With determination, you can try to do many things. You can have the determination that says: “I will do something good. I will do something great. All bad things I will give up.” But at any moment the determination that comes from the mind can be challenged by doubt, specially self-doubt. Then our determination is destroyed.

If you want to become a good person, a great person, or if you want to do something great, there is another way. That is the way of oneness. If you can identify yourself with something very strong, very powerful and very vast, then inside your oneness you will find all the positive qualities. When you use determination or will-power, you are entering into someone or something. Like a dagger, you are piercing into something. But the way of oneness is to just throw yourself into the vastness. I always say that when a drop enters into the ocean, it becomes infinite, boundless — that drop you will no longer see.

Problems can be solved permanently only by identifying yourself with something very strong, very powerful, very vast. Look at the sky. How much vastness it has! Look at the ocean. How much power it has! Just throw yourself into the vastness or into the power. This is the wisest way and this way is also permanent.

Sri Chinmoy, Sri Chinmoy answers, part 30, Agni Press, 2001

219 A Determination-Stride

 They call it
A determination-stride.
I call it
A great ignorance-challenging friend.
 Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 3, Agni Press, 1979
 
Determination and impossibility
Are never to be found
Together.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 14, Agni Press, 1999

Determination
Has to be indomitable
If you want to succeed
In any walk of life.

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In the ordinary human life, when we are determined to do something, we maintain our determination for five minutes and then all our determination is gone. If we try to achieve determination on our own, it will not last. But once we know what the soul’s will-power is, we see that it lasts for many years, even for a lifetime.

The difference between determination and divine will power is this: determination is in the mind; divine will power is in the soul. Because the mind is very, very limited, mental determination is not enduring; it is all fluctuation. Mental determination is constantly being destroyed since the mind accepts different ideas at every moment. But the will of the soul is everlasting, ever-progressing and ever-fulfilling because it is one with the Will of the Supreme.

Sri Chinmoy, Life-tree-leaves, Agni Press, 1974

Determination needs two friends to arrive at the Goal: sincerity of the heart and purity of the mind. When we have a purity-mind and a sincerity-heart, then determination can play its role most effectively and most powerfully inside our inner life and also inside our outer life. Determination is the first convincing step that expedites our Godward journey.

Sri Chinmoy, Rainbow-Flowers, Part 2, Agni Press, 1999

9725 Your Heroic Effort

The determination in your heroic effort
Will permeate your mind and heart
Even after your success or failure
Is long forgotten.

Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 98, Agni Press, 1983

Question: Where is determination to be found? In which part of our being do we have to work on determination? Is it in the mind or the heart?

Sri Chinmoy: Determination can be found inside the mind. With determination, you can try to do many things. You can have the determination that says: “I will do something good. I will do something great. All bad things I will give up.” But at any moment the determination that comes from the mind can be challenged by doubt, specially self-doubt. Then our determination is destroyed.

If you want to become a good person, a great person, or if you want to do something great, there is another way. That is the way of oneness. If you can identify yourself with something very strong, very powerful and very vast, then inside your oneness you will find all the positive qualities. When you use determination or will-power, you are entering into someone or something. Like a dagger, you are piercing into something. But the way of oneness is to just throw yourself into the vastness. I always say that when a drop enters into the ocean, it becomes infinite, boundless — that drop you will no longer see.

Problems can be solved permanently only by identifying yourself with something very strong, very powerful, very vast. Look at the sky. How much vastness it has! Look at the ocean. How much power it has! Just throw yourself into the vastness or into the power. This is the wisest way and this way is also permanent.

Sri Chinmoy, Sri Chinmoy answers, part 30, Agni Press, 2001

1090

 Every day cultivate adamantine will
In the depths of your heart
So that with no difficulty you can bestride
All your problems in the mental world.

Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 11, Agni Press, 1983

Determination And Willpower

Willpower is man’s conscious inner urge to enter into the very heart of Infinity, Eternity and Immortality.

— Sri Chinmoy

If we want to develop determination, then we must think not of the lower, emotional vital but of the dynamic, energetic vital. We must think of ourselves not as the aggressive vital, which most gladly enjoys depression and frustration, but as the vital that is full of determination. If the vital wants to achieve something by hook or by crook, then it is the undivine vital. But the undivine vital only destroys our possibilities and potentialities. By adopting foul means, by misusing our determination, we cannot get anything. But if the vital wants to work devotedly and with tremendous sincerity, that is to say, if it needs the truth and if it will not take rest until it achieves the truth, then that is the divine vital. The divine vital longs for everything positive. It needs Light. Without Light, it will not be fulfilled. It needs divine Power: the Power that builds, not the power that destroy us. It needs divine Love: the Love that expands, not the human love that ends in frustration.

Let us say that a child has started to study in primary school. He says, “I am determined to get my Master’s degree; before that, I will not give up studying.” If his determination is very sincere, then the child will one day reach his goal. Similarly, in the spiritual life if the vital makes the promise that it will bring down from above Peace, Light and Bliss in boundless measure, then eventually it is bound to bring down Peace, Light and Bliss.

But the determination of the vital is not enough; we also need the will of the soul. Determination ultimately comes from the soul. When we use this power on the physical, vital or mental plane — that is to say, on the outer plane — we call it determination. But when we use it on the inner or psychic plane, we call it willpower, the light of the soul. ’Willpower’ is the spiritual term that we use for determination. When the light of the soul enters into the vital, we can have one-pointed determination. This one-pointed determination is divine determination, real willpower.

In ordinary human life, when we are determined to do something, we maintain our determination for five minutes and then all our determination is gone. If we try to achieve determination on our own, it will not last. But once we know what the soul’s willpower is, we see that it lasts for many years, even for a lifetime.

Divine determination automatically comes if we meditate on the heart, on the heart’s light. Each seeker can develop the capacity to bring light to the fore. If we meditate somewhere else rather than on the heart, our determination may fluctuate. Suppose we are determined to get up the next morning at five o’clock. Tomorrow we may get up at five o’clock with greatest difficulty. But the day after tomorrow, we simply forget to get out of bed. We have not made a determined promise and so we get up at eight o’clock or ten o’clock. Why? Because we have not charged our battery. If we get divine light from our soul during our meditation and if we sincerely pray to the soul to wake us up at five o’clock, then the soul will be pleased. Even if we go to bed at two o’clock in the morning, we will be able to get up at five o’clock. The soul will get us up. It is the soul that can take the responsibility to do what is necessary on our behalf. The Seekers of Truth and Light will always try to have free access to the soul’s will. If we make a conscious effort to identify with our soul’s will and with the determination of our inner being, only then can our efforts have power.

Sri Chinmoy, Aspiration-Plants, Agni Press, 1974

1650 Always Take One More Step

 Always take one more step
Than you intended to.
You can, without fail, do it.
Lo, you have done it.
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Strength and the power to achieve

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“Never underestimate your own strength. You were born for a purpose and are blessed with the power to achieve it.” -Leon Brown

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Sunshine

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.” Walt Whitman

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