Waking up issues, parts, and subpersonalities

I enjoy using the befriend & awaken process these days, as I have written about in other articles. (It’s a process that draws on elements from a range of approaches, others have come up with similar processes, this one is one I have developed for myself since it seems to work the best for me, and I don’t think anyone else calls it “befriend & awaken”.)

One of the last steps in that process is to awaken issues or parts and subpersonalities.

What does it mean to awaken issues? Or awaken parts and subpersonalities?


When I do this part of the process, I go through a few steps.

I connect with the issue or subpersonality through the previous steps, feel the sensation aspect of it, connect with the painful story behind it, and so on.

I notice my own nature and that I am capacity for the world as it appears to me, and that the world as it appears to me happens within and as what I am. (I find myself as what a thought may call consciousness, and that the world to me happens within and as consciousness.)

I notice that the nature of the issue or part is the same as mine. It happens within and as what I am, so it – by necessity – has the same nature as me.

I rest in that noticing.

I invite the issue or part to recognize its own nature and rest in that noticing.

I invite whatever shifts to shift, to reorganize within this conscious noticing of what’s already here.


How does this work? What is it that happens?

As mentioned, this is all already happening within and as what I am. Any issue, part, and subpersonality – and any content of experience – already happens within and as what I am. It already has the same nature as I do.

When they were formed, they were typically formed within separation consciousness. They were formed when the whole of me, or most of what I am, operated from separation consciousness. And they still function and operate within separation consciousness. That’s why they are issues. That’s why they seek some form of resolution.

By consciously noticing their nature, and resting in and as that noticing, I – as a whole – recognize their nature. This shifts how I relate to them. I recognize them as myself. I recognize them as having the same nature as I do. This is part of the befriending. This helps me shift out of reactivity and reacting to them from habitual patterns, which also come from separation consciousness.

I then invite these parts of me to notice their own nature and rest in that noticing. This shifts how this part of consciousness relates to itself. It wakes up to its own nature. It wakes up to itself having taken the form of the issue or the part and subpersonality. And that sets something in motion. The part tends to reorganize and align with a more conscious noticing of itself as oneness. (AKA healing.)

On the one hand, it all happens here and now, and any ideas of past, future and present happen here and now. And on the other hand, this is a process. The more time I spend resting in this noticing, and resting in inviting these parts of me to notice their nature, the more there is a realignment.

Exactly what happens is always a bit of a surprise. It lives its own life. I – as the whole – just notice it shift, unravel, and realign.

And, as so often, the way this is presented makes it sound like a clean and orderly process. It’s often not. It’s often messy. These parts of us are tied up in knots, and the unknotting process isn’t always so tidy or clean.

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Befriending and awakening contractions: How it works

I am enjoying the befriend & awaken process these days.

It’s simple. Direct. Intimate. And supports healing, awakening, and embodiment.

I have written about this before, directly and indirectly, and thought I would revisit the topic here.

How does the befriend and awaken process work?


A contraction typically has several aspects. The mind aspect can be labeled a stressful and unexamined belief, an emotional issue, trauma, an unloved part of us, and so on. The physical component is a bodily contraction or tension. And this is reflected in blocks in our energy system as well.


The process can be as simple or complex as I wish – depending on what seems needed.

I notice the signs of a contraction. The signs of a contraction may be stress, tension, unease, discomfort, struggle, defensiveness, reactivity, and so on.

I bring attention to the physical sensations. This helps ground the attention, and it serves as an anchor so it’s easier to notice the fearful images and words without getting caught up in them. If I notice my attention wandering, or getting caught in stressful images and words, I can bring attention back to the physical sensations of the contraction. (These may and usually will shift over time.)

I thank the contraction for protecting me. Thank you for protecting me. When I have a contraction, I may not be aware that it’s here to protect me. It was formed to protect this human self and an apparent separate self. Also, I may not be very thankful for the contraction. I may see it as a problem.

Thanking it makes me more receptive to seeing if or that it’s here to protect me. Over time, as I befriend and get to know the contraction, I may find genuine gratitude for the contraction. This easier my relationship with it. I find more peace with it. I shift out of my previous struggle with it.

Also, noticing it as a contraction, noticing the physical components of it, and thanking it, helps me see it as an object. It’s a part of my experience here and now. It’s not all of what I am. It’s an object, not a subject. This helps recognize it if or when it comes up later, and it helps release identification with it.

I keep thanking it until I notice a significant shift in how I relate to the contraction, and I can return to the thanking at any point within a session or at a later time. The more I do it, with sincerity, the more shifts tend to happen.

I allow it to get as big as it wants and stay for as long as it wants. Again, I am often in a struggle with the contraction, and this struggle can be more or less conscious. I may try to contain it. I may try to make it go away. And this struggle is part of what keeps the contraction here, and the struggle dynamic is itself uncomfortable. By intentionally allowing it to get as big as it wants and stay for as long as it wants, I go against this old pattern in me. It helps me recognize the old pattern, and that something else is possible. It also helps the contraction itself to unwind and relax.

I notice the space it’s happening within. I cannot find an end to this space. I notice the space and the contraction at the same time. (I may also notice that the contraction has space within it, and perhaps that it is space.) Noticing it as something happening within (and as) infinite space helps “giving it” more space. It helps in recognizing it as an object and disidentifying with it.

I welcome it. At any point in the process, I may intentionally welcome the contraction. Parts of me typically see the contraction as a problem, and it’s not always welcome. When I intentionally welcome it, it goes against this tendency, shows me there is another way, helps me recognize that parts of me do not welcome it, and helps the contraction itself to relax.

I say I love you to the contraction. The more I see it’s here to protect me and comes from love, the easier it is to find genuine love for it. Love is the antidote to the previous struggle with the contraction.

I explore what it wants and needs, and the lack it is coming from. What do you want and need? What sense of lack do you come from? How is it to give it what it needs and wants? How is it to give it what it perceives it lacks? Here, I may explore a few universal needs and lacks.

Typically, I may try to fulfill the needs and wants through the world – people, situations, roles, labels, and so on. That works to some extent, but it doesn’t really work. It never fills the real and deeper needs, wants, and sense of lack.

The only one who can resolve this deeply, and give the contraction what it really needs and wants, is me. I am the only one in the position to do it. I am the only one who can get intimate enough with it since it’s part of me. I am the only one who can touch it.

If external pieces fall into place, I sometimes allow myself to give to the contraction what it needs and wants. I may give it love, safety, support, and so on. This gives temporary relief, but as soon as my external situation changes my relationship to these contractions may change. I may cut off my own love, support, and so on.

So why not do it directly? Why not, as Byron Katie says, cut out the middleman? Why not give to the contraction what it needs without waiting for external situations to change?

I may notice stressful beliefs and examine them. Contractions are created from stressful and unexamined beliefs, so one remedy is to notice these stories and examine them. I may do this informally as part of this process, or I write them down and examine them more thoroughly later. (For instance, using The Work of Byron Katie.)


I approach the contraction with respect. This helps me allow it as it is, welcome it, find curiosity about it, and so on.

I find curiosity about the contraction. Curiosity is part of the whole befriending and awakening process. As long as I react to or act on the contraction, there isn’t much curiosity about it. Intentionally finding curiosity about it shifts my relationship to it. It helps me recognize it as an object, and it helps me explore and get to know it.

I take my time. I stay with and rest with each of these steps. I notice shifts. I notice what else may be needed. I return to some to see what happens. I may return to the whole process at another time.

This is an antidote to the typical quickness of reacting to or acting on the contraction, and the tendency to wish to not stay with it since it may seem uncomfortable and unfamiliar.

Through this process, I may find genuine love for the contraction. I see it’s here to protect me. It comes from love. And this makes it easier for me to find genuine love for it.

I allow this process to transform me. I allow the noticing and resting in the noticing to transform whatever is naturally transformed.


After this, I may explore the nature of the contraction.

First, I notice my own nature. I find myself as capacity for the world as it appears to me. I find myself as capacity for any content of experience, whether a thought may label it body, thoughts, emotions, the wider world, and so on. I notice I am what the content of my experience happens within and as. (If I need the help of some structured pointers, I can use Headless Experiments or the Big Mind process, or whatever else works.)

I notice how the contraction relates to what I am. I am capacity for it. It happens within and as what I am. I rest with this noticing.

I notice the contraction is, in a sense, capacity for itself. I invite the contraction to notice its own nature and rest in that noticing and allow whatever needs to shift to shift.

Typically, I may see the contraction as an object and a thing. This noticing process helps me recognize its nature, and it invites it to notice its own nature. It’s easier the more familiar I am with noticing my own nature, and it’s much more simple and direct than it may seem from these words.

This noticing helps shift how I relate to the contraction. I notice its nature. It’s part of the field noticing itself. (There is no I or Other inherent in any of it.)


There are several benefits to calling it a contraction rather than some of the other possible labels. (Issue, belief, trauma, etc.)

It’s simple.

It points to something immediate in our experience.

It’s free of the many associations the other labels may have for us.

It doesn’t require or rest on any particular worldview or ideology.

The process itself supports psychological healing, awakening, and living from this awakening, without needing to use any of those words.


This process supports and invites in healing, awakening, and living from the awakening. And it does so without us having to use any of those words or even having that intention or aim.

All that’s required is a wish to notice and befriend contractions, notice its nature, and rest in that noticing and allowing it to transform me.

Emotional issues come from a stressful belief, identification with painful and unexamined stories, unloved parts of us, and so on.

If there is no noticing of what I am, it comes from holding stories as true, which in turn creates a sense of I and Other and fundamental separation.

If I don’t live from noticing what I am, it’s because I get caught up in unresolved emotional issues, beliefs, trauma, and so on.

And this process supports healing of all of that.


The essence of this process is a shift in how I relate to the contraction.

When I operate from separation consciousness, I identify with the contraction (act on it) or react to it or both, and this creates struggle.

The befriending & waking up process helps shift out of this old pattern and into one that’s more aligned with oneness. It mimicks how I would relate to the contraction from noticing oneness, and it makes it easier to notice the oneness of it all.


For me, this is a very intimate process, and it goes to essence a wide range of spiritual practices.

When I look at the essence of other spiritual or healing practices, I find it’s typically something included in this befriending & waking up process.

It’s often about finding love for our experience. Examine stressful beliefs. Welcome what’s here. Notice what we are and the nature of our experiences. And so on.

And that’s what this process does in a simple, direct, and intimate way.

It doesn’t mean the other practices are not helpful. It just means that I have a simple and direct way of exploring it, and I can supplement it with any number of other practices.

Note: As I have mentioned in other posts, I have relatively strong brain fog these days (CFS) so these articles are often not as clear or well organized as I would have liked. A part of me wants to rewrite this to make it more clear and to the point, and another part of me knows that’s likely not to happen. So I decided to publish this version instead, with all its warts and imperfections. As someone said, the perfect is the enemy of the good. Or, in this case, the good-enough.

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How it works: Basic meditation

I have an informal series of articles called “how it works”. These are my own experiences with different practices.

So what about basic meditation? How does basic meditation work?


The essence of basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here in our experience.

We notice. Allow. Notice the space it all happens within. And so on.

When attention gets caught up in the content of thoughts, we may – through grace – notice and go back to noticing and allowing. We again notice the thoughts as thoughts.


After a while, we may notice that what’s here in our experience is already allowed. It’s already here. It’s allowed by life, the mind, and the space it happens within.

We may also notice that it is, in a sense, already noticed since it’s already happening within consciousness.

If we assume we notice and allow, we are one step behind. So we can instead notice it’s all already allowed and noticed. We notice what’s already here.


Noticing and allowing can give us innumerable insights into the dynamics of the mind.

For instance, we may find that the essence of this practice is, in a sense, to notice thoughts instead of getting caught in the content of thought. That’s what allows the magic to happen.

We may notice that when we get distracted, we get distracted by the content of a thought. Our attention gets fascinated by and goes into the stories the thoughts tell us. Our attention gets drawn to it because the stories seem real and important one way or another. And that happens when they have a charge for us.

During this practice, we may notice that our attention is distracted and we bring our attention back to noticing and allowing. This is grace. We didn’t make this happened. It just happened.

We may find that noticing and allowing is ultimately what’s most comfortable, even if our impulse is to get caught up in what’s surfacing. We can notice and allow even those impulses.

We may notice that as we get more used to noticing and allowing, it gradually becomes a new habit. It becomes easier. Our mind deepens a new groove. We can train our mind. Life trains itself.


We can train a more stable attention by placing our attention on anything, notice when our attention gets distracted, and then bringing attention back to the object. In Buddhism, this object is often the sensations of the breath in the nose.

Most (all?) spiritual practices involve some discipline and will inherently train a more stable attention, and basic meditation is no exception.

When it comes to basic meditation, this doesn’t come from placing attention on something specific. But it comes from the discipline inherent in noticing what’s here in our experience rather than having our attention to get caught up in the content of thoughts.


Through noticing and allowing, we may notice that all our content of experience comes and goes and lives its own life. Thoughts come and go. Emotions come and go. Sounds come and go. Sensations come and go. And so on. Nothing stays. It all lives its own life.

We may then find that what we most fundamentally are is what all of this happens within and as. We are capacity for it all.

We may have taken ourselves to most fundamentally be this human self, and we find that we more fundamentally are what it all – our whole field of experience – happens within and as.

Here, we also find that our field of experience – which includes this human self and the wider world – is a seamless whole. It’s one. Any boundaries come from an overlay of mental images and words and are, quite literally, imagined.


When we notice and allow, we’ll notice unprocessed psychological material coming to the surface. Old memories come up. Old emotions. Old painful thought patterns.

These always surface, and while in daily life we can often distract ourselves, that’s less easy during a noticing and allowing practice. We may try to distract ourselves, but we are – at the very least – more aware of what’s going on.

If we can sit with this, and we do this over time, we may discover a few things.

We may notice that we shift between several different ways of relating to what’s surfacing. We’ll get caught up in it. Try to distract ourselves from it. Try to push it away. Get curious about it. Befriend it. And we’ll likely keep shifting between these and more ways of relating to it.

We may gradually viscerally get that struggling with what’s surfacing isn’t really working. What we struggle with will keep coming back. And getting caught in the struggle only adds to the discomfort.

We may find that noticing and allowing even this unprocessed material is what’s ultimately most comfortable, even if our instinct is to struggle with it. And that we can notice and allow even our impulse to struggle with it.

We can find a yes to the no in us that comes up in relation to this.

This helps us befriend and find healing for how we relate to uncomfortable experiences. And it helps this unprocessed material to find healing – through it surfacing and us noticing, feeling, befriending, allowing it, and allowing its transformation. (Additional practices and work can help and deepen this process.)


As we get more used to noticing and allowing, it becomes a new habit.

And that means we may find ourselves more often doing it in our daily life, outside of any more formal practice. It becomes a new way of being.

Sometimes, we need to get engaged in the content of thought in our work, when we talk with people, and so on. We may sometimes still get caught up in the stories of stressful thoughts. And more often, we may find we relate to stressful thoughts as thoughts instead of getting caught up in their stories.


Why is it called basic meditation?

I assume it’s for several reasons.

It’s an essential and simple practice.

It’s useful at any phase in our process, from the beginning to the end (death).

It’s a central practice in several spiritual traditions. (In Zen, which I am most familiar with, it’s called Shikantaza.)

Some say that the purpose of basic meditation is for us to find and become familiar with our true nature, and that’s not wrong.

And whether or not we notice what we are, it does a lot more. We gain insights into the dynamics of the mind. It trains a more stable attention. It allows unprocessed material to surface, be befriended, and find healing. Noticing and allowing can become a new habit we bring with us into daily life, and this helps us more often notice thoughts as thoughts without getting caught up in the content of their stories.


As with anything else, this reflects my own experiences, biases, and limitations. It’s also inevitably informed by what I have heard others say about this and other spiritual practices, although I have only included what I have found in my own experience.

Zen teachers like to just give the basic instructions, and this allows us to discover for ourselves without being too colored by expectations. There is a lot of wisdom in that approach. The other side of this is that us westerners like transparency, which is why I am writing this.

How does The Work of Byron Katie work?

How does The Work of Byron Katie work?

Here is some of what I am noticing:

Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet (JYN): Identifying our stressful beliefs is helpful in itself, as is admitting to ourselves that we are judgmental about others and what these judgments are about. It’s the first step in a process that allows us to shift from identifying with the thought to seeing it as an object and examining it.

Question 1: Is it true? This question opens our mind to the possibility that our stressful thought about something or someone isn’t true. It puts the question in there. It allows us to notice the part of our mind that already knows we cannot really know if the thought is true.

Question 2: Can you know for certain it’s true? Again, helps open our mind to the possibility that we cannot know for certain if the stressful thought is true. It reminds us that we cannot know for certain, even if we tell ourselves the thought is true and it feels true at the moment.

Question 3: What happens, how do you react, when you have that thought? This helps us explore and notice the real consequences of holding the stressful thought as true. Often, we are only partially aware of these consequences, and we may blame them on the situation the thoughts are about rather than the belief itself. Here, we get to explore it more thoroughly and systematically.

We get to see some of the many unpleasant consequences of the belief, and that they are consequences of holding the thought as true. This makes it easier for the mind to answer the following questions more sincerely, and it opens the possibility for further seeing the thought as a thought, and for not actively fueling the belief since it’s more clear to us that it doesn’t really help.

Question 4: Who would you be without the thought, in the same situation? Again, it opens the mind to another possibility. How would it be if the belief didn’t exist in me, in the same situation that previously triggered the belief? Would I be more at peace? Does it open for more clarity? Kindness? Would I still be able to take care of myself? How would I respond in that same situation?

Turnarounds: The previous questions may open our minds sufficiently so we can sit more honestly and sincerely with the turnarounds. In what way is each reversal of the initial stressful thought equally or more true? Can I find specific and concrete examples, even if they seem small? Can I find in myself what I see in the other? This helps us see that each of these thoughts – the initial stressful one and its reversals – has some validity, none of them has any final or absolute truth, and one or more of the reversals may even resonate more with us than the original one.

When we use The Work, it helps to be facilitated by an experienced facilitator. This person can help us stay grounded, close to the experience and what’s true for us, and they can help us look at it from angles we would otherwise miss.

Having an open-minded, kind, and insightful witness is healing in itself. This person shows us it’s possible to be open-minded, kind, curious, and gentle with our thoughts and experiences, including the stressful ones and the ones we may initially feel shame about.

As always, there is a lot more to say about this. This is just what comes to me now.

Working with dreams

I thought I would do a series of articles on how different approaches to healing and awakening work. So here is one on dreams.

In my experience, dreams are the mind digesting either what happened the day before (often more fragmented dreams) or an emotional issue (often more of an unfolding story and sometimes archetypal). I wonder if not this digesting happens most or all of the time, and it just happens to take the form of dreams while we sleep.

Everything in the dream is me. It’s all created by my mind and reflects parts of me and the dynamics between these parts.

The digesting inherent in dreams is likely helpful in itself, and I suspect I don’t even need to remember the dream for it to have some effect in terms of processing, healing, and gaining some insights from it.

And yet, I sometimes also explore the dream more actively, especially if it’s a strong or more archetypal dream.

Here are some of the approaches I find helpful:

Active imagination comes out of Jungian dream work, and here we go back into the dream (imagine ourselves back in it) and interact with the different elements of the dream. For instance, I can take an action and see what the response is, or I can engage in a dialogue with the different dream characters and get a sense of who they are and what they want (both on the surface and what would deeply satisfy them). There is no limit and it can yield a lot of helpful insights. Often, these insights are just at the edge of what we are conscious of, and active imagination can help make them more conscious. (I typically avoid formulaic dream interpretations since dreams seem more juicy, fluid, and sometimes individual than that.)

Active imagination is a form for parts (subpersonality) work, and if we are familiar with a form of parts work, we can use that one.(For me, Voice Dialog and the Big Mind process.)

And then there are the approaches I often write about here.

I can explore the dream through inquiry. For instance, I can do inquiry on any stressful beliefs I had in the dream or about it after waking up (The Work). I can also explore any identities the dream brought up in me, any fears, or any compulsions in the dream or after I woke up (Living Inquiries).

I can use heart-centered practices for anyone (or any thing) in the dream that seemed hurt or uncomfortable in any way. (Ho’o, tonglen, metta.)

I can use energy healing on any emotional issue brought up by the dream, or anything else the dream pointed to as needing resolution or healing. For instance, last year I had a dream about a lake being polluted, so I could intend healing for what that lake represents in me. (Vortex Healing.)

I can do some therapeutic trembling to release any tension from the dream. (TRE)

And I can use any other approach I know and find helpful.

The key is that I can explore dreams as I would anything in daily life, and I can also explore daily life as I would a dream(!). It’s the same mind creating our experience of both.

For instance, active imagination is traditionally used specifically for dreams, although it can be helpful to use it in other areas of life as well. We can use it for situations from past, present, or the imagined future, and it can help us see what these situations mean to us, how we relate to them and find other ways of understanding the situations and relating to them.

How it works: heart-centered practices

How do heart-centered practices work?

It depends on the particular practice, but here are some general things I have noticed.

They help me reorient. To shift from seeing something as a problem (an enemy, wrong, bad) or neutral, to befriending it, finding kindness towards it, and seeing it as a support. And this goes for anything from a situation, to another person, to myself and parts of myself, to life in general, and God.

My energy systems comes more alive and brightens.

It’s experienced as an opening of the heart. And with that comes an opening of the mind. There is more receptivity, sincerity, curiosity, and interest. (And less rigid, defensive, and fixed views.)

It helps me notice what in me is not quite on board. It helps me notice parts of me where there is still wounding, trauma, identifications, and unfelt feelings, unloved lovables, and unexamined beliefs. I can meet these, allow, rest with. Relate to them with respect, patience, and light curiosity. If it feels right, I can do the heart-centered practice for these scared and unloved parts of me. Or I can explore them through inquiry. Or invite in healing through whatever healing practices are available to me.

These shifts are naturally reflected in my life. I notice when and how this happens. And if it doesn’t, that’s OK and also an invitation to see what’s going on. Something in me may be triggered that temporarily clouds over a more clear and kind way of being.

What are some examples of heart-centered practices? The ones I am most familiar with are ho’oponopno (Hawaii), tonglen (Tibet), heart or Jesus prayer (Christianity), and perhaps also the Christ meditation. (See other articles for descriptions of these.) And there are many more from many different traditions. Heart-centered practices can be profoundly transformative, and that’s something people from all cultures and times have paid attention to.

And what’s the main reason heart-centered practices are so transformative, healing, and central to most spiritual traditions? It’s because they help us align with reality. If all is the divine, then holding onto enemy images brings us out of alignment with that reality. It creates discomfort, stress, and suffering at an individual level, and also social and even ecological problems. Reorienting helps us align with reality, which brings a sense of peace, clarity, kindness, aliveness, and a natural engagement.

Note: I have deliberately used a more conventional language some places here. For instance, everything described here is part of the divine play. It’s the divine temporarily and locally taking itself to be a separate being, and a being that sees parts of the world as an enemy (a problem, bad, wrong etc.). There is nothing inherently wrong in it, but it does create distress and suffering. And that’s the call back to a more conscious alignment with all as the divine.

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How does The Work work?

How does The Work of Byron Katie work?

As with anything else in life, it’s ultimately a mystery. But we can also say a few things about it.

Here is some things I have noticed:

It’s a confession, and we are seen by another without (or with less) judgment. And that, in itself, is somewhat healing.

And then there are some elements nearly explicit in the process itself.

We get to identify our stressful beliefs about a situation, someone else, life, or ourselves. We get to pinpoint the close (proximal) cause of our stress and suffering.

We get to see that our thoughts about it may not be as true as we initially thought. Our mind opens a bit to other possibilities, and to hold it a bit lighter.

We get to see what happens when we hold onto the thought as true. We get to see the stress and suffering it creates for ourselves, and what it does to our life and our relationship to others.

We get to imagine how it would be if we didn’t hold onto it as true. We get to imagine feeling it.

We get to consider and see the validity in the reversals of the thought, and that the initial thought, as well as its reversals, all have some limited validity to them. This also helps soften our grip on the initial thought.

We get to pick one reversal and see how it is to bring it into our life and how it is to live from it in daily life.

So we get to identify and question our initial stressful thought. Our mind is invited to soften its grip on it, and consider the validity in the reversals. And, as mentioned above, we – in the best case, if we work with an experienced facilitator – feel seen, met, understood, and not judged by another human being, and that in itself is healing, and shows us that we can do the same towards ourselves.

Another way The Work works is that it can give us clarity to act on something in our life that requires our action, and to do so with more clarity, kindness, and hopefully wisdom.