Part 1: Freedom from Othering: Undoing the Myths that Imprison Us (Part 1) – with Tara Brach

Namaste and welcome. I start with a short teaching story. A linguistics professor was lecturing in his
class one day. And he was basically saying that in English
two negatives make a positive. And he continued in some languages like Russian
two negatives still remain a negative. But he said, “There is no language where
two positives make a negative.” And then there was a voice from the back of
the room that said, “Yeah, right.” So I begin with some version of the negativity-bias
which we talk about a lot. This is the survival brain that is basically
scanning for what is wrong. And the negativity-bias means we are looking
for where there might be a threat whether it is in ourselves or in… in others. And what it basically leads to is what I have
come to call “bad othering” where we perceive others and there is mistrust and there is
a sense of danger and we just add on “bad,” “this is a bad person.” And it happens on a societal level. And it happens, you know, in our relationships
and it happens… we “bad other” ourselves, we turn into an object to ourselves and “bad
other” ourselves. So for this class and the next – this will
be a two-part series – I want to explore freedom from “othering,” really from any
“othering” because any “othering” creates separation; how we undo the myths
that imprison us. And as you can imagine… In some deep way this is really about including
and sensing a reverence for life. And it is in honor of really the one holiday
that feels like a holy day, – one of the few to me of the year – that we just had a few
days ago. And the message – Martin Luther King’s
message – really of realizing this dream of beloved community, of us all realizing that
we belong in each others’ hearts. I remember on my first meditation retreat
my take away was a sense that the boundary to what I could accept, the boundary to what
I could accept mostly about myself, was really the boundary to my freedom. Like to the degree that I was pushing away
any part of myself I was not free. And over the years I have widened or shifted
that understanding slightly to be that the boundary really to who I can include in my
heart is the boundary to my freedom. So if there is anyone I am not including,
like anyone where there is a sense of pushing away, in some way my heart is not free And
I… I find that an amazing reflection. One teacher taught that really the path is
to not push anyone including ourselves out of our hearts. Because it… it creates a wall around our
heart when we don’t include. So we will look at this. And we will look at two domains of “othering.” And one of the domains really we see through
human history which is hierarchy where humans on every continent all over… well, I can’t
say every continent, I don’t know about Antarctica so I… let me… let me revise…
all around the globe through history have created hierarchies wherever… penguins have
a hierarchy and it is not just humans, many species actually have hierarchies but humans
definitely do. And that means above and below it means that
there is statuses and stratas of… of authority and importance and it means superior inferior. And so that is one domain that we are going
to look at how quickly and often unconsciously we assume inferior or superior in many domains
of our life. And the second – which is related – is good-bad,
how quickly we make ourselves or others bad. So when we are excluding anybody we are in
a trance. This is the kind of basic principal we are
operating out of. And I have often given that metaphor of that
circle of awareness – do you remember? the line that goes through it that whatever is
below the line is outside of our awareness, whatever is above the line is in our awareness,
so when we are excluding, when we are judging, when we are blaming, when we are in a limbic
reaction we are below the line. And there is suffering in that because when
we are below the line we are really living in a fragment of our self. And if you actually are in the thick of it
and you can have the wakefulness to pause, if you are in the thick of really feeling
derisive towards somebody, really contemptuous or whatever, and you pause and you check your
body and your mood and your mind-state it is a very contracted, small self; it doesn’t
have the space and the wakefulness and the heart that really is our potential and who
we want to be. So when we are under the line we are in a
trance. And that includes when we are living in a
superior or inferior in a hierarchy, it is true when we are living as pushing someone
a… away as a “bad other,” it is true when we are condemning ourselves. So we are going to explore a bit hierarchy
because often it is really unconscious, it is… because hierarchy is just our… how
our society operates and we are embedded in it we are often not aware of what… what
that conditioning is like. Brief story: The pope had just finished a
tour of the East Coast and was taking a limo to the airport. He had never driven a limo before so he asked
his chauffeur if he could drive it for a while. Well, the chauffeur didn’t have much of
a choice. So he climbs in the back of the limo and the
pope takes the wheel. Pope proceeds onto highway ninety-five, starts
accelerating to see what the limo could do. He gets to about ninety miles per hour and
suddenly sees the blue lights of the state patrol in the mirror. Pulls over and the trooper comes to the window. The trooper seeing who it was says quite nervously,
“Just a moment, Sir, please, I need to call in.” The trooper calls in and asks for the chief. He is very shaken. He tells the chief he has got a really important
person pulled over and how is he supposed to handle it. You are going to sense this is dated. Anyway… “It is not Ted Kennedy again, is it?”
replies the chief. “No, sir,” replies the trooper, “the
guy is more important than that.” “Is it the governor?” replied the chief. “No, even more important,” replies the
trooper. “Is it the president?” replied the chief. “No, even more important,” replies the
trooper. “Well, who in the heck is it?!” screams
the chief. “I don’t know, Sir,” replies the trooper,
“but he has got the pope as his chauffeur.” It is always my favorite hierarchy joke I
could find. So just to name that there can be functional,
wholesome hierarchies in some families, some organizations – in other words strata that
are respectful – and they are serving the whole. But given the force of our limbic system – how
much greed and grasping there is in the culture and how much aggression and so on – that
is not what has happened mostly. Human societies through history have created
these limbic driven hierarchies, okay, with the stratas where you have got privilege and
power on the top and you have got in the lower discrimination and oppression, the inferior. And the exceptions are really exceptions when
you look at any complex societies. What happens is when we don’t examine them
we are actually living inside them and below the line. So what I would like to do is focus on three
big ones that… that we can see very much in our society and that is sex/gender, race
and class. And I begin by saying that in the United States
our government is based on the Declaration of Independence – 1776 – “All men are
created equal.” So you can right away kind of hear in that
something. What that document did was it created and
it affirmed each of these oppressive hierarchies and they are still in place. So just to consider “All men are created
equal,” it wasn’t “women,” it was “men,” it was about equality for whites
but not for blacks or American Indians, they were considered humans of a lesser type; and
it was class hierarchy because it really had to do with rich, important… they had not
problems in forming this document with… with the existing inequities that kept the
poor, poor, there was nothing to do with unemployment benefits or integrated education or health
insurance, It helped… it held in place the hierarchy of wealth. Now the way that hierarchies get generated
and sustained is by myths. Internally, for you to believe in a bad self
you have to have myths internally about who you should be, who… who, you know, like
what is right and good and what is bad. Well, same thing for our hierarchies, there
is myths that hold them in place. And if you look at each one, if you take each
one of those and you say, “Okay, so what is the myth that held in place that it was
‘men’ not ‘women’?” – Well, the myth was “women were not appropriate
for the work of, you know, voting. They didn’t have the brains to vote. Of course!” and that “women were weaker
and not capable, they were an object more to own or possess in some way, to dominate,
and that they shouldn’t get angry or aggressive; in other words it was those kinds of myths. What were the myth at that time about racial
hierarchy? And, by the way each of these myths as you
know is currently being challenged some in a quite dramatic way. What was the myth on racial hierarchy? – Well, there was all the pseudo-science
about biological difference and there were the beliefs that slavery was God-ordained,
present in all great societies… I remember reading something about Aristotle
saying that slaves had a “slavish nature” – for what that is worth – slavery was
necessary for stable, prosperous societies. So it is with the myths that we are holding
them in place. Now most Westerners don’t believe in racial
hierarchy yet it persists de facto as we know. So how come? The myths are still there. Faulkner writes that the past is not dead,
it is not even past, okay? So it… they live on in of course more subtle
forms with unseen bias of… of, you know, white superiority, white privilege, the words
that go around so much, it is not seeing that allows it to keep going on and on, it is the
message sent through all of our institutions, through education, justice system, through
the options for employment. James Baldwin writes this – as many of you
know James Baldwin, renowned author, African-American – he writes this in an essay, he says, “They
can’t turn back” – and that is the name of the essay – “It took many years of
vomiting up all the filth I had been taught about myself and half believed before I was
able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.” So this is after slavery was over but the
myths and what they do to the psyche continue. Then there is classism. And these are all intersecting importantly. And there we have the myth that the deserving,
those that are wealthy or deserving because they do this hard work, and those that are
not are lazy or not so deserving and then of course it is overlooking how hard it is
to break out once… once somebody has money they can perpetuate it with money and keep
building. With the myths come the pride of wealth and
the shame of not wealth. And of course there is a lot of gradation. Another story for you: Milton Friedman – friend
of my friend Jack Kornfield many of you have heard of – well, at one time this… this
Milton Friedman was a Washington speech writer, he worked in the Carter White House, he was
different than the Milton Friedman who was the Nobel Laureate economist. Two different Milton Friedman, okay? So here is the story: Milton – Jack’s
friend – received a call one day; and this was during a time when the economy was in
a downturn and there were deep concerns in financial circles that the recession was just
around the corner. Gets a phone call. So “Is this Milton Friedman?” “Yes, it is.” Caller goes on to explain that he is a…
he was the controller for an organization that managed several billion Dollars of church
finances and wanted to know if Friedman might have any suggestions as to where the money
might be safely and wisely invested. So after listening to the story Friedman replied,
“Have you considered giving the money to the poor?” There was a moment of stunned silence on the
other end of the phone. And then a voice asked, “Are you the Milton
Friedman?” And Friedman immediately replied, “Are you
the real church?” It is a good one, don’t you think? So coming above the line means that we start
shining a light in our own lives of where we are living in these hierarchies. How are they shaping our consciousness? For each of us. I mean, if you look inside any one of those
hierarchies: Class, what is the identity? Where is there a sense of either inferior
or superior, shame or pride? How do you look at other people and where
they are standing through any of those lenses? Because most people I know have experienced
both feeling superior and feeling somewhere up… up higher in one of those domains and
also lower. They have experienced both pride and shame. And if you are in the non-dominant stratas
it can come with a lot of hurt, anger and shame. If you are in the more… If you are in the dominant often there is
less consciousness because it is a privilege, there is assumption, there is kind of a self-centeredness,
a numbing of the heart, you are not as aware. For myself because I have spent some time
over these last years investigating I can see through my life places where I was low
on the hierarchy. I remember in junior high school I was brought
up Unitarian but my family is Semitic in all ways back, both sides, so I went to a school
where I was one of the only Semitic or Jewish considered by them… it was a junior high
school. And I didn’t quite know what was happening
but I felt the “othering” there. And I remember feeling this self-consciousness,
like somehow or other I didn’t fit and had to work hard to try to belong. There is a lot more to say about each of these,
but I am just giving you examples because I am going to invite you to check in your
life also. Yeah, so then I lived for twelve years in
an Ashram and I wore this garb in the world – this white turban and so on – and I
got call… called a “diaper-head” and I got all sorts of derisive comments in different
places and almost everywhere I went I knew I was in some way… people… you know, sometimes they were very
suave about it but, you know, I was being taken in as weird, there was definitely an
outsider-feeling. I was publically abused – emotionally abused
– by the leader in a international spiritual community and I have written about that. And then, like most women I know, I have had
times of being harassed in ways that have been uninvited and felt terrible. So just to say I… I know what it feels like, I know the anger,
the shame, the hurt that it is like. But I have much more spent my time in the
more dominant strata. And that is where my wake-ups have been. That is where I have had the hard work of
shining the light and finding how much I was below the line. I am thinking I was coming above the line
only to find out there was more and more and more. And examples of that are being white, being
financially stable and then being a leader and a teacher in a meditation community and
in a kind of domain that I am involved with. So on the latter it has only been in recent
years that I… you know, because I work on, you know, with… on a board with a lot of
other people in different organizational ways that I have started realizing how much…
how insensitive I have been to how other people feel around decision-making with me, the insecurity
and discomfort to work with me and that I had kind of just kind of… just steam all
over things and not attune. Just to be aware of that, to be aware in the
biggest way – and this is the biggest area… wake-up of course has been white privilege. I have shared in… in past talks that I had
the good fortune of spending three and a half years with a multi-racial group dedicated
to just looking at our relationships and who we were and our identities and they taught
me so much. We would talk about our sons – raising our
sons – and my friend would tell me how she had to instill the fear of police in her son
just to be… so he would be careful enough not to be in the wrong place or say the wrong
thing and how she was afraid for his life every time he would go out when he was a teen. What she was living with that I never had
to live with. Another would describe what it was like growing
up and driving with her father and having them pulled… you know, police pulling them
off the road and her father’s shame and having to witness her father’s shame and
the pain of that. Another their dearest friend’s daughter
was sixteen was pregnant, she was going to have a baby and knowing of her life where
it is going to go by having a child that early what her options would be. So I share all these because it was a heart-breaking
wake-up to realize how much I had assumed to realize also how I would see white faces
in power and just assume it is natural, not even question it, which is an assumption of
inferior-superior. And then along with that came guilt like feeling
really embarrassing guilty about being white and being privileged and then having to work
with allays and share that to realize it is not “my guilt” it is “the guilt,”
and it is not “my bias” it is “the bias” and I have a responsibility in order to wake
up, in order to be true to who I am, to really pay attention. So this has been a really big process. And the truth is we are all conditioned. Every one of us is conditioned. You can’t be in this culture and not be
conditioned by those myths. And we have this capacity to come above the
line if we pay attention. So I would like to invite you to reflect. We are going to do a brief reflection. And we will do that together if you will. Just to take a pause and come into a comfortable
way of sitting but close your eyes. There is increasing research that both describes
the extent to which racial bias exists and there is also research that shows how when
we begin to bring the light of mindful awareness to it we start being able to watch our own
minds we actually can reduce it, we actually can shift so that our hearts become more authentically
inclusive. So I would like to ask you to consider a few
different things. And the first is: Where have you been in the
role or identity of the non-dominant strato; in other words, what is sometimes called the
inferior or the more marginalized? I gave you some examples from my life. Where has that been so for you? Could be if you are… if you identify as
female feeling that kind of oppression, it could be class-wise feeling shame or less
than because of your income, education, social status, it could be racial feeling that you
have been feeling shame or outsider, marginalized, oppressed because of race. Bring one example to mind for yourself. And as you do see if you can go inside that
example and sense What is the experience of who you are when you are in that role or that
identity of the person that in some way is considered “less than” by others. There are many others that I haven’t mentioned,
many other categories. It could be for your sexual orientation or
gender orientation. It could be to do with the size of your body
or could be to do with different abilities or a physical disability. So there are many realms. Where have you felt “less than”? What have you believed about yourself when
you are inside that identity as you just shine a light on this? How has it affected your relationship with
others – with others who are supposedly in the superior strata or those in the same? What is the feeling tone, the felt sense,
that comes with identifying in this way? Is it shame? Is it fear? Anger? Hurt? You might take a few full breaths and then
I will ask you to explore something different which is when you have been in the role or
identity in a dominant strata. It might be race, whiteness, male, wealth,
power at work, where you are in the hierarchy at work. And sometimes take a more close look. You might have in mind yourself in that role
and perhaps somebody else that you know that is not so you can kind of sense the position. If it is a powerful position at work somebody
who is way lower in the hierarchy. If it is white then you might bring to mind
an African-American friend. If it is wealth, someone that you know struggles. What is your experience of yourself, of who
you are, when you sense that identity? What are you believing about yourself? Is there a sense of importance or superiority
or being better? Or maybe is there guilt? What are you believing about others who are
in… not in this strata, who are – as we have been talking about this using the label
of inferior-strata, lower strata. Again this is part of the myth. But how are you feeling? What are you believing about them? And you might as I mentioned imagine one person
who is “them,” who is in a different strata. Do you sense a differential? Do they feel “less”? And you might sense: What would it be like
to be them? What do you imagine they might experience
in this hierarchy, being in this hierarchy? What is their vulnerability, their feeling
of “less than”? What is it like? And sense if you can experience including
that person in your heart. You might imagine in the days and weeks to
come bringing care and interest, bringing te light of awareness, to this, to sensing
what is it like for you including in your heart those that might be
identified or feeling “less than.” Rumi says that our task is not so seek for
love but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against
it. Taking a few full breaths. And as you are ready opening your eyes. There is a language… languaging of cultural
humility that if we really want to wake up and sense the barriers we have created and
wake up from them the first principal of cultural humility, of creating this openness to those
of different identity, is a dedication for looking. And the places that it is hardest to see is
when you are in a strata in a social hierarchy you are in the dominant strata because we
are embedded in it we don’t see the benefits, we don’t see the privileges and we don’t
realize other people are feeling insecurity, shame, hurt, oppression; we just don’t notice. And there is research that shows those in
higher stratas don’t have the empathy for lower stratas, it is numbed. So we begin to notice the stratification and
sense where it inflates or where it numbs or where it blinds us or if we are identified
with the more marginalized or non-dominant or whatever words you want to put on it how
it deflates and where the shame is. And we can find it in every organization,
every business, every setting that we are in. In one church setting: Walking into the empty
sanctuary of a synagogue a rabbi, suddenly possessed by way of a mystical rapture and
he throws himself on the ground before the ark and he proclaims, “Lord, I am nothing! I am nothing!” Seeing the rabbi in such a state so he, too,
threw himself down in front of the ark and he proclaims, “Lord, I am nothing! I am nothing! I am nothing!” you know. Then way back at the synagogue the janitor
is seeing the same ha… this stuff happening he throws himself to the ground and he, too,
shouts, “Lord, I am nothing!” whereupon the rabbi turns to the cantor and whispers,
“Look who thinks he is nothing?” You know. We have hierarchies everywhere. Our practice is – whether we are talking
about in our meditation shining a light wherever there is a knot, wherever there is a numbness,
wherever there is something that separates us from presence, the commitment is to pay
attention. And there is this idea that the meditation
practice is on a cushion or in a cave or inward but for a mature spiritual path we need to
pay attention on all the levels. Because if we are going around in a societal
hierarchy and not aware that we are part of a class that is basically participating in
oppressing another group we are under the line, we are not living from a whole and awake
sense of being. There is a story that I try to share once
or twice a year because it… it was one of the biggest wake-up stories of my whole life. And I thought I would share it as part of
this talk because this talk is a new talk, I haven’t given this talk before, and yet
it feel… it is very alive for me because it feels like the cutting edge of waking up. We can’t wake up unless we pay attention
to this domain. And this was as I mentioned I was brought
up Unitarian, this was shared by a Unitarian minister and I heard it on Christmas Eve when
I was with my family at church. And this minister… The reading describes a family that is on…
going on the holidays on a… a road trip and have been going from San Francisco down
somewhere in California and they have to stop at King City for… in this little mat…
metropolis for lunch. And they go into a diner. And there is four of them. And they are road-weary and saddle-sore. And it is pretty empty. There is only a few people in there. And she says she sits her son Eric – one
years old – in a high chair and looks around and wonders what she is doing there. So they are the only family. And everyone is either eating or talking quietly. Her revery is interrupted. She says, “I heard Eric squeal with glee,
‘Hi there!’ – two words he thought were one – ‘Hi there!’. He pounded his fat baby hands – wack! Wack! – on the middle his… high chair
tray and his face is alive with excitement., eyes wide, gums bared, a toothless grin. He wiggled and chirped and giggled and then
I saw the source of his merriment and my eyes couldn’t take it in all at once: a tattered
rag of a coat, obviously bought by someone else eons ago, dirty, greasy, baggy pants,
the zipper at half-mast over a spindly body, a shirt that had ring around the collar and
a face, gums as bare as Eric’s, hair uncombed, unwashed, whiskers too short to be called
a beard, a nose so varicose it looked like the map of New York. I was too far away to smell him but I knew
he smelled and his hands were waving in the air flapping on loose wrists. ‘Hi there baby! Hi there big boy! I see you!’ My husband and I exchanged a look that was
a cross between what do we do and poor devil. Eric continued to laugh and answer, ‘Hi
there! Hi there!’ Every call was echoed. I noticed our waitress’s eyebrows shoot
to their foreheads and several people sitting nearest ‘ahem’d out loud. This old geeser was creating a nuisance with
my beautiful baby. I stuffed a cracker toward Eric and he pulverized
it on the tray. I whispered, ‘Why me?’ under my breath. Our meal came and the nuisance continued. Now the old bum was shouting from across the
room, ‘Do you know Patty Cake? Peeka-Boo? Hey, look, he knows Peeka-Boo!’ Nobody thought it was cute. The guy was drunk and a disturbance. I was embarrassed. My husband Denis was humiliated. Even our six-year-old said, ‘Why is that
old man talking so loud?’ Wait in silence. Accept Eric who was running through his repertoire
to the admiring applause of a Skid Row Bum. Finally I had enough. I turned the high chair. Eric screamed and clammered to face his old
buddy. Now I was really mad. Denis went to pay the check imploring me,
‘to get Eric and meet me in the parking lot!’ I tumbled Eric out of the high chair and turned
towards the exit. The old man sat poised and waiting his chair
directly between me and the door. ‘Lord, just get me out of here before he
speaks to me or Eric.’ I headed toward the door. It soon became apparent that both the Lord
and Eric had other plans. As I drew closer to the man I turned my back
walking to sidestep him and any air he might be breathing. As I did so Eric all the while with his eyes
riveted to his best friend leaned far over my shoulders reaching both arms in a baby
pick-me-up position. In a split second of balancing my baby and
turning to counter his weight I came eye to eye with the old man. Eric was lunging for him arms spread wide. The bum’s eyes both asked and implored,
‘Would you let me hold your baby?’ There was no need for me to answer since Eric
propelled himself from my arms to the man’s. Suddenly a very old man and a very young baby
were involved in a love-relationship. Eric laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged
shoulder. The man’s eyes closed and I saw tears hover
beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime and pain and
hard labor gently, so gently, cradled my baby’s bottom and stroked his back. I stood owe-struck. The old man rocked and cradled Eric in his
arms for a moment and then his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm, commanding voice, ‘You
take care of this baby.’ Somehow I managed, ‘I will” from a throat
that contained a stone. He pried Eric from his chest unwillingly,
longingly as tough he was in pain. I held my arms open to receive my baby. And again the gentleman addressed me. ‘God bless you, mam. You have given me my Christmas gift.’ I said nothing more than a muttered, “Thanks’. With Eric back in my arms I ran for the car. Dennis wondered why I was crying and holding
Eric so tightly and why I was saying, ‘My God, my God, forgive me.’.” It creates so much suffering for others and
for ourselves when we don’t see how we are making others “less than.” It creates separation, it keeps the whole
movement of violating and violence happening. So our practice is to see this and deepen
our attention One woman listens to the podcast, is living in Uganda, went for a weekend trip
to the memorial… genocide memorial center in Rhwanda and she saw a plaque and she sent
me an email and this is what it said. It said, “If you knew me, and you really
knew yourself, you would not have killed me.” If we really knew each other we would see
beyond the hierarchy of superior-inferior. If we really knew ourselves we would be living
above the line and we wouldn’t buy into the myths that basically keep us so small. So it is really an evolutionary unfolding. And the hopefulness is that there is this
rapid acceleration of paying attention right now, of undoing the myths and whether we call
it, you know, black pride gay pride, all those movements are the many other ways that throughout
the culture people are just deepening their attention and undoing the beliefs in the hierarchies
that keep us separate. I read… I was reading an article written by Alicia
– she is the co-founder of Black Lives Matters – and she was describing there was a lot
of conflict over whether Black Lives Matters was going to participate in the women’s
march last year. And she decided to go ahead and… and do
it. And she wrote this, she said, “Our Zionism
will not build a movement. Collaboration will. Building a movement requires reaching out
beyond the people who agree with you.” So we widen the circles by deepening our attention
to those that we agree with, those we don’t agree with, those that feel superior, those
that feel inferior. And next week we will continue by… by looking
very much in our personal relationships where we have habitually pushed away, where we have
created “bad other,” where we are creating separation because of the beliefs we are holding
on to and how we do that to ourselves. Again the… the theme being that the boundary
to who we include is the boundary to our freedom. If we don’t include ourselves and each other
we are not free. So I would like to close and just take a few
moments to pause gain. Let yourself arrive. Fell yourself right here in this body sitting
here breathing. We will just reflect on the words of Nelson
Mandela from “The Long Road to Freedom.” He says, “I never lost hope that this great
transformation would occur. Not only because of the great heroes but because
of the courage of ordinary men and women of my country I always knew that deep down in
every human heart there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because
of the color of his skin or background or religion. People must learn to hate. And if they can learn to hate they can be
taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human
hear than its opposite. Even in the grimmest times in prison when
my comrades and I were pushed to our limits I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of
the guards perhaps just for a second but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Goodness is the flame that can be hidden but
never extinguished.” So may we trust in this goodness that lives
within us and all beings. May we pay attention to the barriers that
separate us and open our hearts to include all beings everywhere. Namaste and blessings.

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