Awakenings

Discovering raw authenticity & spirituality

We didn’t expect to get pregnant.  My husband and I have been married for 12 years, and it hadn’t happened yet, so we just assumed it wouldn’t happen.  Then suddenly, walla!  I’m with child.  32 weeks along as I’m writing this.

My first reaction when I found out was “oh shoot!”  I know, not like the movies at all.  The first 12 weeks were a blur as I was away on Sabbatical getting my health back after experiencing chronic burnout.  We heard the heartbeat and “saw” her for the first time at 6 weeks. Pretty weird.

At 6 weeks

At 6 weeks

No, I didn’t cry – I was more stunned than anything.  At 12 weeks, we got another heartbeat and “saw” her again – this time instead of looking like a wormish creature from some bad sci-fi movie, she actually looked like a tiny human being with an alien head.  Wow.  That was fast.

At 12 Weeks

At 12 Weeks

Throughout the weeks and months that followed, we “watched” her grow and fight her way into existence, looking more and more human.  It’s been cool and weird to finally feel her movements, see her kicks and turning in my belly from the outside.  It’s been crazy to watch in helplessness as my abdomen balloons out to make room for this growing human being.  And I’m doing nothing to make it happen – except eating, exercising and trying to sleep.

At 18 weeks - Quite the Fighter!

At 18 weeks – Quite the Fighter!

Surrender.  That has been the beautiful thing throughout this process.  I’m not “in there” examining and micro-managing the process of her creation in my womb. I’m not leaving comments about how her toes need a different shape, or pressing a “like” button as I examine the process of growth.  It’s just happening. In fact, we have no clue what she will look like.  This is probably one of the longest things we as human beings living in western civilizations have to wait for.  We’re so used to taking an early peek, putting something on credit card so we can have it now, or over-nighting a product so we don’t have to wait.  But not with a human being.  9 months of waiting, wondering, fearing and hoping.  I’m not controlling a thing, and it’s still happening.  It’s pretty mind-blowing.

So I’m at week 32.  Haven’t “seen” her since week 18, but I know she’s there.  It’s fun to watch my belly move after I eat, as she dances (hopefully) from the delicious sustenance I’m providing her.  It’s cool to play music and feel a jab or kick, or perhaps it’s a twirl.  I can only imagine what it would be like to be a human in the womb.  Can you imagine?  The first time hearing something – ever!  Is it scary?  Is fear even realized yet?  And to start to see light coming through the pink lining of your world as your eyes open for the first time ever!  What is that like to experience as a human fetus?  Is there any wonder or joy at that stage?  Is there curiosity?  Do fetuses have bad days?  I actually looked up if babies cry in the womb before they’re born.  There’s substantial evidence that they do.  But what are they crying about? Do they have dreams yet?  Are they aware of danger, or surprises, or love?

All these thoughts have led me to other ponderings.  As they get used to their world, their routine, and their existence, do they imagine another world?  Can they fathom this world that they’re about to enter?  When birth happens, what the heck are they thinking?  Does it feel like they’re dying?  Are they disappointed to leave their comfort zone – forever?  In the resurrection of being born, can they fathom that this world is even possible?  As they take their first breath, does it hurt?  Is it scary to breath in air, and not amniotic fluid?  How does it feel to suddenly be flailing around, with no womb to push against?  Does it feel like they’re falling because of the expanse of space to move around in?  What’s it like to actually eat for the first time through the mouth?  Does it hurt to have the digestive system work for the first time with food-to-mouth?  What’s it feel like to experience touch on your skin for the first time as a newborn human?  And the brightness!  Can you imagine how the eyes must feel seeing the outside world?

At 31 Weeks

At 31 Weeks

So many thoughts and questions and wonderings!  Which makes me think of the Divine and the correlation between pregnancy, birth, and life on this planet and beyond.  Is this planet like our womb?  Do we think we know everything about it?  Do we feel scared when we experience something supernatural, like the fetus hearing noise for the first time but not knowing where it’s coming from?  If we haven’t “heard” God’s voice, does it mean He doesn’t exist, or maybe our spiritual hearing hasn’t developed yet.  Are there moments when it seems like we’re stuck and can’t breathe and maybe we’re ready for a birth into a new reality?  But are we afraid to leave our comfort zones, be it work, religion, etc?  Are there times that we feel out of control, when in reality perhaps we’re being born into a new experience that will bring us greater life, greater depth, greater love?  Just because some are not conscious of the Divine, does that mean the Divine does not exist?  Is my baby completely conscience of me?  Or is she happily living her life, doing whatever she does in that confined space all day, and not even thinking about me?  And yet, I’m in awe of her and her growth and movements.  Is the Divine even more in awe of us than a mother is for her growing child?  Is God mesmerized by our movements, our growth, our “becoming”?

As I hold my belly and feel the kick of this tiny human inside me, does she feel my hand cradling her punches and kicks?  Does she know she’s not alone?  As we think about where we are in our life and existence today, stop for a minute.  Have you sensed the Divine in some way?  Have you heard a faint voice?  Have you experienced some form of sustaining strength, comfort, wisdom or love that has fed your soul?  Have you felt the labor pains of change encouraging you to take that next step, even if it’s scary, because it might just be a breath of life that will expand your lungs and your horizons?  And if you haven’t sensed anything at all lately, could it be that you’re at some point in life where you are developing sight, sound and spiritual muscles that will soon open up worlds of wonder for you?

I still have a lot more expanding (literally) to do before this tiny human emerges upon the earth.  And then, as I’ve been told, the lesson of life will continue.  Lessons of surrender will deepen.  But ultimately, I find comfort knowing that the Divine carries me within this womb we call life, cradles me within the Almighty arms of ultimate Love, and sustains me whether I acknowledge the existence of a Higher power or not.  May we continue to live in awe of this life, and may we find hope that there is a possibility of another world to be born into.

pregnant-black-and-white

We just wanted to get $200 worth of “free” stuff to use for 2 weeks in Hawaii.  The deal?  Snorkel gear, beach chairs, beach umbrella and boogie boards.  Free, if we were willing to subject ourselves to 90 minutes of a sales-pitch at a Timeshare Resort.  So we decided to take the bait.  And now here we were, sitting inside a plush office on Kauai’s south shore.  I wasn’t looking forward to this, but what we put ourselves through for a deal is sometimes amusing.  We meet up with Craig who informs us that he’s new on the job, and is hoping everything goes well for us today.  We follow Craig, our new friend, to a table surrounded with wicker chairs and Hawaiian music playing in the background.  There are a myriad of refreshments, and we even both get real Hawaiian leis!  Not bad, not bad.   And so the sales pitch begins.

“It allows the rest of us to live as if we’re rich…”  Those were the words that escaped from his lips.  He seemed like a nice enough guy.  He asked us where we like to travel, what we do for a living, etc.  Fellow human soul, dancing behind the mask of sales-pitches.  “We’re in the midst of a 60 million dollar upgrade and renovation…”  For what, I wanted to ask?  This place seemed nice enough.  But what desperate souls will do to find minute solace from their crazed-driven lives – lives hungry for peace, self-acceptance, and, well, vacation.

After about an hour of small talk and hearing about the importance of investing in vacations, we stretched our legs and took a tour of the place.  “This piece of  land had apparently been a fishing town from years past,” Craig explained.  Now it was a renovation project for the few to make billions from the desperate souls who sign their names, “investing” in a future solace from lifestyles they could change now.   A land parcel of shrubs in the middle of the property “honors” the bones of ancestors gone and buried – resting in graves surrounded by commercialism and facades of self-worth.  It was ironic – the “dead” surrounding the dead, when living still is a choice for the former.  Craig explained that while they were building the resort, they unearthed a burial ground.  According to Hawaiian tradition, if you find bones, you have to stop digging and building.  So instead was this parcel of shrubs in the middle of this resort, with signs commemorating their remains.  It felt sacrilegious for all this to be there, and for us to be a part of it, even if just on tour.

After walking around the grounds and seeing one of the best, most up-to-date rooms, sales pitches began to be more obvious, yet still geared to look like trying to make friends with us.  We felt the psychological ties to our new friend Craig growing, who, by the way, just happened to have the same last name as ours.  We danced the polite dance of “make me a deal”, both parties playing a role of friend – for we were just putting up with it for our allotted time and free snorkel gear, and I’m sure Craig was just hoping to get a monetary cut to help make ends meet.  Does he own a deed to this place?  How much of what he’s telling us is real, how much of it is from a memorized script?  A part of me wanted to ask, but fear of breaking the boundaries of client/seller and business roles kept my lips sealed.

It finally came time for the offer.  We both know what’s coming.  A part of me feels drawn to our new friend Craig and not wanting to let him down, and another part warns me it’s all just a game.  We taste the bait – it’s pretty good:  all with a picture-book of pretty locations all over the world.  A deal of even more select hotels you can get a huge price cut on.  Numbers fly like vultures around our empty, debt-ridden pocketbook.

Craig goes and summons his boss, a guy with a scar on his hand, and he jumps into the conversation.  Appearing flustered and making his way to us, his excuse not being here sooner is blamed on the fact that he just made a deal with another couple and it’s crazy how busy they are with selling right now…blah, blah, blah.  After more dizzying numbers from him, he makes this comment:  “You know, we’re not all millionaires. But this deal allows us to live as if we’re rich…”  Which seemed like interesting logic to me – almost obviously insecure.  Like we all want to be like the “popular kids” who seem to have it all – and if we can just look like we do, we’ll maybe find happiness.

That’s when I begin to wonder, who is this scar-hand guy?  What’s his story?  Does he even like his job?  His fingernails are crooked, and his thumbnail has some dirt under it.  And that scar on his hand, maybe some story from his youth … His humanity begins to be apparent and vulnerable.  He seems like a high school student taking a final exam, flustered, memorized speech flowing in and out of salesman cadence.  He seems to notice that I am looking past his business-act and appears caught off-guard that I’ve seen his soul beneath all his facades, and he goes in for the kill.  He offers us the “deal of a lifetime.”

cheesy-salesman

We explain that we can’t do it , too much money, etc.  So he tries to renegotiate.  More number crunching and more fast-paced talking and reasoning.  I ask if we can think about it – that’s when his true colors show, his anger and annoyance trying to stay hidden, but popping from the surface like someone trying to keep down a buoy.  He retorts we can’t think about it, it’s either now or never, and thanks us for our time.  He shakes our hands and tells us he will find someone to lead us out, and to do a survey on how the experience went.

So we’re left sitting with Craig, awkwardly at first.  Craig looks somewhat embarrassed, somewhat disappointed, somewhat relieved.  After some small-talk, Craig even turns on us, stating “you guys got what, about a $100 worth of stuff?  Yeah, it’s amazing what people will do for a few hundred dollars, but they won’t sign up for a vacation that could bring them a life of bliss.”  It’s as if he can’t help but put a jab in there, as if there’s someone pulling his puppet strings.  Or maybe he’s just planting a seed that will be used momentarily through our survey experience.

The game continues as we’re led downstairs to where the other “bad kids” are being held and “surveyed” – all of us who said no.  These chairs are not as soft and there is no Hawaiian music playing in the background.  I’m waiting for them to take the leis back.  The place looks more like the waiting room in a clinic.  After some friendly small talk, our new friend, a woman, asks us about Craig, how he was, if he was polite, etc.  Then the questions on the survey take a sneaky turn:  “do you own a timeshare?”  Upon hearing no, she gets all quizzical and asks us why…  I’m a bit surprised at the questions as they seem a bit personal. “I knew this was coming,”  I say out loud, and she laughs, but still continues.

With more nauseating number-crunching, she whisks up another great deal, involving monthly payments, one time to try-it-out…blah, blah, blah.  We’re now well-past our allotted time frame we agreed upon to get our free snorkel gear and beach chairs.  But we still somehow feel we have to be polite and stay, I guess to make sure we don’t have to pay for those darned fins.  We ask for time to discuss – she leaves us for a minute and my husband and I look at each other.  We both don’t want to do it.  We want to get out of debt, not to mention, get out of there!  We want to be free to pick our vacation spots yearly, etc.  Ok.  Let’s do this and be done with it!  My husband and I are glad we’re both on the same page.

She comes back, and we tell her “no”.  “Really??!!  Wow, that surprises me!!”  Her loud, obvious rudeness surprises me.  She then proceeds to loudly humiliate us, as she asks us why.  Not like we need to explain anything to her, but still we sheepishly tell her how we don’t want to get into debt, etc.  She kind of laughs and smirks at us, and then proceeds to tell us how we need to invest in a future of vacations.  She acts as if our desire to get out of debt is the most stupid thing in the world, and acts as if she knows what’s best for us. All this is with a raised voice.  I look at a man who is waiting for the same fate.  He and I share a look that’s hard to put into words:  embarrassment, kindness, and a sort of knowing kid-like look as if we’re both in the principal’s office at school.

I’m starting to get really pissed-off.  I inform her that we’d like to enjoy our vacation that we’re on now.  She keeps going, so I pull the same move that scar-hand pulled on us – “Thank you for your time,” I tell her as we shake hands.  She looks surprised that I put the lid on it, yet she lets us finally leave.  We stand and walk out, feeling giddy and free!  They didn’t get us!  We got away, with the Hawaiian leis, and got back to our real vacation experience, an experience that couldn’t be bought or sold.  Because vacation at its truest form is a frame of heart and mind, no matter where you are.

Then the thought hit me:  Does anyone ever feel this way when it comes to evangelism, religion or even church?  What are the similarities to timeshare presentations and church?  Are there people out there who become someone’s friend, just to “close the sale” and hopefully get a baptism?  Do church people ever belittle others for saying “no”, and maybe even use their eternal salvation as a means to strategize, negotiate, and manipulate?

I recently heard someone use the term “kingdom contacts” when relating to people they met that they may be able to get into a church.  Really?!   How is that loving spirituality?  Perhaps that’s when spirituality becomes man-made religion:  when it turns into a business deal, where people are seen as numbers, and the intangible is turned into a product that can be “invested” in or sold.  Maybe true religion is not something you can measure and make a graph out of.  True religion is not something you can package and sell in a nice, little 90-minute sales pitch.  In fact, perhaps true religion, also known as spirituality, is really a frame of heart and mind, led by Something so much greater than human hands can mechanic or manipulate.  In fact, living an authentic life connected to the Divine is something that cannot be manufactured or boxed into an agenda-driven sales pitch.

After more thinking, here are a few more possible similarities between Evangelism, a bad Church experience, and Timeshare presentations:

-Uses “survey’s” as a way to lead to a personal conversation, and hopefully a “sale”

-Both take about an hour and a half of your time -Sometimes you’re openly or psychologically humiliated if you don’t “buy in”

-You’re a part of a world-wide club – anywhere you travel, you can find other club-members.  This will keep you from exploring and spending money elsewhere

-You have fees to pay to be a part of the club – some clubs even discipline members who don’t keep up with fees

-Once it becomes a product, it depreciates over time.  Ritual form and ceremony is more important than the spiritual

-Many times people will act like they are your friend, but only time will tell if they are just doing that to get you in the door

-Both offer refreshments and free gifts (with strings attached)

-You feel like you can’t leave, or you’ll be humiliated publicly or forced to “pay” in other ways

-What you’re shown initially is not the true product

-Compares itself with other organizations (demonizing them) to convince you it’s the best option out there

-Often needs “higher-ups” to approve of the membership

-Has lingo that only those within the company/business understand

That’s the list I have so far  🙂  What might you add?

May we all be authentic people who experience the Sacred in the way it was meant to be experienced – outside of a political agenda and human control.  May we never take the spiritual and whittle it down to a formula.  May we remember the power and sacredness of relationship both with the Divine and our fellowman,  treating all humanity, and all creation, with the utmost respect, remembering that we are not God.  And may we continue to experience and reveal the love of the Sacred that is bigger than any creed or man-made form of religion.

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I swam with sea turtles the other day.  Hidden within the ethereal temple of underwater corral columns and aisles of reef & lava, we worshiped together, floating on rhythms of waves pulsated by the draw of the moon’s wooing.  Dancing together inside the praises of salt-water cathedrals, where lighting was perfect and no sound needed, we floated, me using my arms for buoyancy, they using their fins for the same.

Green Sea Turtle

 

We danced inside that womb of water.  Sameness.  Eyes. Torso. Limbs. Head raising for air.  Fish surrounded us, like children gracing the aisles of a service.  It was a truly spiritual experience, almost surreal.

As I was making my way back, the island fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, just one in number, accosted me in the foyer of sand and surf.  Swimming in front of me, staring me straight in the eyes, and scurrying its body forward, as if trying to pick a fight in the water.  It did this several times.  I almost felt it asking me:  “Who do you think you are??  What are you doing here??”  Good question.  As we sat there suspended in the midst of our underwater paradise, I then felt it communicate this:  “All you humans come and gawk at us, amazed at our beauty.  Yet you then turn around and eat us and our kind, separating your experience of now, with that of your appetite.  Who are you??”

Humuhumunukunukuapua'a r800

Honesty of the sea, and spirituality indeed.

I was nervous.  It had been a long time.  But it was Valentine’s Day weekend, so I thought, why not?  My husband had surprised me with dinner and swing dancing, lessons included.  After eating our meal, we made our way out to the small town where the dance was taking place.  Dark winding roads finally carried us to our destination, a small town that had a Center for the Arts building where the event was being held.  As we parked the car and made our way to the entrance, we were suddenly aware that we were the minority of our age group – which was ok.  It made it not as nerve-racking.

We entered what looked like a Senior Center Hall, with bright flourescent lighting, a stage, a small dance floor, and an open window where some treats were being served as if we were at a school fundraiser.  We sat with the others on mettle folding chairs, awaiting the dance lessons.  Other nervous eyes might ours, and it felt like the first day of high school.  My mind was filled with thoughts of “what in the world is this place?”  and “can we leave now?” and “well, it’s just an hour”.  The majority of the crowd looked like the characters from The Peanuts, except all grown up and close to retirement.  They were actually cute, and a part of me admired their tenacity for this romantic evening with the one they loved.

Then the dance lessons began.  We all awkwardly made our way to the dance floor, all knees and elbows, literally bumping into each other because of the tight space.  The next hour was filled with giggles, stomps, sweating, and an eventual charisma that looked close enough to swing dance that we all were convinced.  It was beautiful, really.  Throughout that hour our lives melded into one story on that dance floor.  Age disappeared, body type faded, fashion (or lack of it) became unimportant as we all stood face-to-face with the one we loved, united in a bubble of commonality – a space to hold onto the one we had been hanging onto for years.

dance

Then the band came out.  It was now time to try out our newly learned skills.  The lights were lowered, and the evening air was filled with jazz from this small town music group.  I sat down to catch my breath for the first time since arriving, and what I saw truly astounded me.  It was the dance.  Double step, rock step.  Repeat.  Hands and eyes locked.  The souls swayed their imperfect bodies, creating a story, a poem, a dance.  Age varied.  Body size all-over-the-place.  But all that was now gone.  Instead what could be seen were the knowing glances from yester-year.  The flirtatious grin. The nervous laughter. Life stresses forgotten, at least for this moment.  Brave souls who had decided to show up for this small town shin-dig.  All of us choosing to say “to hell” with society and aging, to expectations and stereotypes, and the mad rush that has become our existence.

It was the dance of Love.  I saw it there right in front of me.  That familiar love – that love that small children know, and that we all can recognize deep inside of us, but so many times the insecure among us tell us to swallow it and hide it in some deep cavern within our souls.  But I saw it that night.  Love.  This love that is not dressed up, because it doesn’t need to hide anything.  This love that can look broken so many times, because it knows that in the broken is where healing happens.  This love sometimes has a beer belly, or an awkward gait to the music.  This love bumps into us, but it never gives up the dance.  This love sometimes has quirky glasses, or a cordaroy jacket, an 80’s hawaiian shirt, or grey hair, wrinkles, or tattoos.  This love has a girlish giggle, and a boyish grin, sometimes hid behind old, leathered skin.  This love has a twinkle in the eye, as all the stories of love are remembered when the music starts, and the hands are clasped, and the eyes hold each other, just like they have for all these years.  This love is old and young all at once.  This love is all around us, and it thrives in the imperfections of life.  Because that’s where real life happens – that’s where love is found.  That’s where we don’t pretend.  That’s where we are ourselves.  That’s where we are seen.  That’s where the Sacred dwells.

After that first song I jumped in the mix with the love of my life, and we joined the dance.  Totally accepted, totally held in that space.  Because the dance held each of us.  And so the dance goes on.  Do you hear the music?  Step out onto the floor.  Grab a partner.  And dance.

I noticed these words etched in a table at our school library recently.  Sitting mindlessly in a staff meeting, routines attached to me like puppet strings, pulling me in every direction.  And me, with no mind of my own, blindly following the prescribed script for the day.  I sat there, eyes glazed over, heart still pumping, but passion waning.  I appeared to be living, doing all my duties, following up on all my responsibilities, going through the motions.  Alive with a pulse, but asleep to awe and wonder.  In fact, perhaps just a warm body, with inconsistent pulse jumping now and then – walking like the dead – a zombie to the miracle of this moment.  Drenched in the monotony that had become my existence.  Apathetic moments filled with sighs and putting one foot in front of the other.  Moments filled with “making it through the day.”

I don’t even know what made me look.  I’ve sat at the same table on-and-off for 10 years.  10 years of staff meetings, of conversations, of announcements.  But today, it was as if these words whispered to my yearning soul.  My eyes drifted to the table’s edge.  Something went 0ff – an alarm of sorts.  It was if time stopped.  The sounds of the staff meeting suddenly faded into the background.  It was as if I was transported into a space and time where reality became clear.  It was as if I were in a sanctuary of awakening.

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A snapshot of the words etched in that table

“I WAS HERE.”  Who wrote this phrase?  Who took the time to etch it into the side of the table?  Who was behind those words?  Like a standard thrust into the territory of their time and space, there it still stood.  Alone, bold, and courageous.  Proclaiming to whomever would notice or not notice, that “I” was Here!  A human cry from every heart to be seen, to be acknowledged, to be loved.  I WAS HERE.

Who was the face behind the “I”?  What was their story, their struggle, their journey?  Where were they now?  Had they found the acknowledgement they had hungered for?  Even as they etched that 3-word phrase, they had already bypassed that moment.  Why did they use past tense?  Why not proclaim in present tense words of “I AM HERE” ?

Then it hit me.  While conversations of calendar items and grades surrounded me, its truth slammed into my world.  With the whir of announcements and “life” happening around me – I WAS NOW HERE.  In the same place.  My fingers traced the outline of the words.  I saw them – I felt them.  I was now HERE.  This is now my time and space.  And even as I write this, “now” has just become “was”.  Time.  So fleeting!  Within milliseconds HERE becomes THERE, and NOW becomes THEN.  IS becomes WAS, and TODAY becomes YESTERDAY.  In fact, could it be that right now we are making history and creating the masterpieces that will guide and inspire the human race of tomorrow?  We are all leaving our etch into this world – “I WAS HERE.”

Time:  so present.  Why aren’t we? In the madness of bills to pay, mouths to feed, calendars to fill, obligations to meet, responsibilities to carry out, are we aware of NOW?  I AM HERE.  YOU ARE HERE.  Like a mark on a map at the mall, or an appointment written down on a calendar space, or a carved phrase etched into wood, we are HERE – right here.  Why do we live life as if we’re on some moving escalator, helpless to the turns, events, choices…always yearning for the weekend, or the next vacation, or the end of the day.  Waiting and counting down the NOW moments til the next TV show, the next meal, the next appointment, our next Facebook post, the next move.  Surrounded in the midst of creating the photo album of our life, we are so many times already in past tense mode, planning our next agenda item, our next encounter, our next moment worth savoring.  Not realizing that perhaps we are in the middle of making a memory that we’ll yearn for later on.  Ironically, in the moments we rush past, we make ourselves extinct.  For if we are constantly ever-living in the future or the past, and we are never in the now, then we are really not alive.  Because life exists right now.  The past can’t be changed.  The future hasn’t happened yet.  Life only happens Right NOW!

The-Time-Is-Now

I still wonder who carved that phrase in that table.  I hope they’re living a beautiful life where they are fully aware of the miracle of this moment.  As the staff meeting came to an end, with the rest of that day waiting with bated breath to be realized, I walked out with a warmer heart, a revived sense of being, and a returned pulse to the wonders surrounding me.  I wish I could meet this person who left their mark on that table, and thank them for the prophetic reminder.  That their words have been whispering to me, “don’t settle; open your eyes; you only have so much time in this moment!”  I’ve been reminded that happiness is actually present in THIS moment, as close and as subtle as faded words etched in a table.  The choice is ours whether or not to slow down and be present to that miracle.  Because, regardless of whether or not we’re aware of it, WE ARE HERE.