Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Does February Bring Any GIfts?

January 31st, 2010 · depth psychology, Hope, Identity, Individuation, inner life, soul, The Self, therapy

February Gifts 2 for Vibrant Jung Thing  “April is the cruelest month” wrote the poet T.S. Eliot.  When I first read that line as a teenager, my thought was, “Obviously, this poet wasn’t a Canadian!”

Anyone who has consistently lived through winters in places like Oakville, Mississauga or Burlington will probably tell you that “the cruelest month” is either January or February.  I suspect that many would vote for February.

For many people, February can seem very bleak.  The year-end holidays are far behind us.  There is no major holiday to lighten our hearts, although we do now have “Family Day”.  Snow or brutal cold –this year we have little of the former and plenty of the latter–can turn trips out into an ordeal.  The days are lengthening, it’s true, but, at least in our part of the world, long strings of overcast days lead many people to feel starved for sunlight.

Does February bring us any gifts?  How could it?…

One of the most difficult aspects of this time of the year can be that we tend to feel shut in, and shut up with ourselves.  This can mean that we are left with what I often term the fundamental question of ourselves.  That is, with how to be who we are and feel good about it.  How to actively accept and cherish our lives, rather than just seeing ourselves as “one in a million”.

Many of the things into which we pour our energy at other times of the year are just not available now.  Our response to that can be to curse the luck and hang on grimly until spring.  Or, we could use the time to really encounter ourselves.

Here are some things that might be helpful to think about at this time.  They’ve proved valuable to me, so I leave them with you for your consideration:

 

Have you ever told yourself the story of your own life?  To sit down and actually write your own life story can be a truly revelatory thing to do.

Have you ever thought about what the happiest time in your life was?  Have you ever thought about what was the saddest?

Who are the three most significant people that you have encountered in your life, other than parents or siblings.  Why are they important to you?  What does that tell you about yourself?

In what do you put your faith?  This might be a formal religious belief, or a personal spirituality or philosophy, or it might be something quite different.  What you fundamentally value can tell you a tremendous amount about who you fundamentally are.

It may be that, as you live with these questions, they take on a fundamental importance that leads you to want to explore new dimensions of yourself, with someone “on your side” to witness your journey.  Certainly that was my experience, and that is what initially led me into psychotherapy and Jungian analysis.

 

I’d welcome comments below from readers on how any of these thoughts relates to your lives at this time of year.

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDITS: © Yobro10 | Dreamstime.com 

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

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Seeking for Depth

January 18th, 2010 · archetypes, Carl Jung, collective unconscious, depth psychology, Identity, inner life, Meaning, Psychology, Psychotherapy, therapy, wholeness

 

Seeking for Depth for Vibrant Jung Thing In recent years, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on what are called “brief psychotherapies” by the therapeutic profession.

The emphasis has been on providing very short courses of psychotherapy to individuals, with an eye to providing concrete definable “results” with respect to narrowly defined issues.  In large part, the movement to this type of therapy has been driven by pressure from insurance providers, who have sought to keep costs down by focusing on achieving measurable progress on specific, very focused issues.  By keeping therapy short, the inscos hoped to return people who are off work back to the workplace in the shortest feasible time that is compatible with the safety of the client.

It may well be that the brief therapies and “solution-focused” therapies are quite successful in acheiving their defined goals.  However, that is not the point that I want to pick up in this particular post.  Rather, I want to ask a bigger and more fundamental question, which is implicit in the following quotation from Jungian analyst Mario Jacoby:

 …any psychotherapy founded on depth psychology should focus above all on the question of who we really are above and beyond the distortions provoked by the way we were brought up or by the society we live in.  Becoming conscious ultimately involves an unbiased experience of the ‘true self’. The self in the Jungian sense is rooted in the unfathomable domain that has rightly been termed the unconscious. 

Mario Jacobi, Individuation and Narcissism,

(London; Routledge, 1990), p. 96

 The type of psychotherapy Jacobi is describing is rooted in fundamental questions of depth.  The question that forms its basis is, quite simply, “Who are you?”  It does not accept any glib or shallow answer.  It also recognizes that who we fundamentally are is something that we will never be able to just size up intellectually.  It’s much deeper than that — a matter that we can only experience, and never exhaust.

While brief therapies may provide concrete value, there is a whole other level upon which we need to encounter ourselves, and there be healed.  For many people, it is that deeper level where the need is urgent.

I’d welcome comments from any readers on experiences of their own depth, in therapy or outside of it. Are there moments when you feel that you have really experienced yourself?

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDITS: © Gorbovskoy| Dreamstime.com

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 

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Exploring Liber Novis: Jung’s Red Book

January 15th, 2010 · archetypal experience, Books, Carl Jung, collective unconscious, depth psychology, inner life, Jungian psychology, The Self

Red Book for Vibrant Jung ThingIt has been some months now since the publication of Carl Jung’s famed Red Book, the book of images and text that he wrote during his formative crisis and encounter with the unconscious during the years 1913-1919.  I’ve had a copy of the Red Book for some time now, and have been exploring its richness in some depth.  This voyage of exploration will go on for a very long time, I expect.  To really plumb the depths of the Red Book is a feat not lightly or easily achieved.

In my opinion, the Red Book shows the true genius of C.G Jung.  There cannot have been many human beings who have had the courage to enter in so deeply into their inner lives as he, and to really confront the unconscious in all its dimensions.  Through years of inner crisis he sought to understand the depths of the Self.

Jung emerges from this inner journey with a clear message: there are forces in the unconscious that are seeking to bring us to wholeness; there is a wisdom in our depths that the ego can only just barely start to comprehend.  If we can have the courage to let go, and to open ourselves to our depths, there is a unique life in each of us, that is striving to become, and always has been.  This is not an easy journey, and it is not one about which glib and facile things should be said.  But for some, it is only by embarking on this inner journey that reality, life and meaning can be found.

 

Only what is really oneself has the power to heal.

-C.G. Jung

Red Book at Ruben Museum of Art

Chief Curator of the Rubin Museum of Art Martin Brauen, left, and Felix Walder, right, the great-grandson of Carl Jung, inspect Carl Jung’s famous “Red Book” after it’s arrival at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009. “The Red Book,” was displayed to the public at the Ruben for the first time on October 7, coinciding with the first-ever publication of the book by W.W. Norton & Company. (AP Photo/Rubin Museum of Art, Stuart Ramson)

Jung’s Red Book has now been published by W.W. Norton & Company. It is a major source for Jungian psychology, and a book that contains many of the treasures of the soul of C.G. Jung.  Here is the URL for the Red Book’s page on Amazon.ca:

//bit.ly/5Lr5hu

I’d be interested in comments from any readers about your encounter with the Red Book, or with any of Jung’s other works. How have Jung’s writings impacted you?

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

PHOTO CREDITS: © AP Photo / Rubin Museum of Art, Stuart Ransom

© 2010 Brian Collinson

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Jungian Psychotherapy & Setting Boundaries at Work

August 18th, 2009 · Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian, Jungian psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

setting boundaries at work This week I spoke with a very large number of people who are confronting serious issues around setting boundaries at work.  I don’t mean facing boundaries issues like sexual harassment, or things like that — although that’s common enough, unfortunately.  I mean situations where people are being asked, or more often told, to put up with working arrangements that take working life right inside their private lives.

Often these situations have to do with expectations around availability that completely obliterate the distinction between personal and private life. For instance, it seems that more and more people are expected to carry Blackberrys or pagers and to keep them on 24 / 7.

If you look on the web amongst thinkers who are identified as “advanced thinkers” or “those ahead of the curve”, you may find justifications being put forward for this kind of thing.  You can find people saying that the division between personal and work life is obsolete.  That in the new era, people don’t need to make that kind of a distinction anymore.

Maybe that explains the man I saw today on a hiking trail.  He was talking animatedly on his cell phone, and completely ignoring his wife and children.  The wife and kids didn’t look too happy about it, but he didn’t even seem to notice.

The plain fact of the matter is that work is a fluid, like a gas.  It will expand to fill the space you give it.  If you don’t want it to take everything — including your soul — you have to establish boundaries.  If you don’t have boundaries around your working life, you either are — or are in great danger of — becoming a workaholic.

You cannot possibly find your own individual path if you don’t spend some time with yourself, alone, exploring yourself.  That’s the only way to really, truly see yourself.  If a person keeps letting work have more and more of themselves, they run the risk that soon there won’t be anything left inside of them but work.

Here are some very concrete actions that you might think about to establish your boundaries in the workplace:

1.  Cut the Electronic Tentacles

Think carefully about how you might keep some of yourself and your privacy free from electronic intrusion.  You might want to cut out answering your cell phone or Blackberry during meals. Maybe you need to free up specific blocks of “me” on the weekends when you’re “electronically unavailable”.  Consider keeping computers laptops and Blackberrys out of your bedroom, the family room and the dining room.

2.  Priorize…For Real! 

This can be a very important skill: developing the ability to decide what’s most important — and just accepting that there is less time than tasks that demand to be done.

3.  Get Real About Your To-Do List — And Make Sure that Your Needs Are On It

The endless to-do list isn’t an efficiency tool — it’s a tyrant.  Decide on a small, reasonable number of things to put on the list.  Make sure that your own needs for growth and for fun don’t get left off the list.

 4.  Take a Very Hard Look at Your Own Motivations 

It’s easy to blame an employer for letting work take over my life.  Oftentimes, employers do overload their employees, particularly in hard economic times.  However, there may be motivations that I have, and parts of my personality that help ensure that I’m continually behind the 8 ball.  Do I have an identity other than my role at work?  Do I use work to avoid facing things and relationships in my life?  Do I face overwhelming anxiety when I don’t work?  Do I regard my over-busyness as a badge of status? It may be very important to address these kinds of issue with a therapist, and as soon as possible.

 I’d be interested in your comments about the challenges you face in keeping boundaries intact in your life — and the solutions that you may have worked out.  

 My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca 

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

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© 2009 Brian Collinson    

 

 

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Depth Psychotherapy: Can I Get a Witness?

August 9th, 2009 · depth psychotherapy, Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian analysis, listening, Psychotherapy

Witness for Vibrant Jung Blog

Some of you will recognize this phrase from R and B music; some of you may recognize it as a phrase used in the black church; but, it has an awful lot to do with depth psychotherapy!

A lot of people come into therapy because they need someone else to simply see and acknowledge the reality of their lives.  This is a very basic human need.  We all need someone, at some point, to see us, really see us, the way that we actually are, rather than the way that we might seem in all our social roles, and amidst all the pressures that we find in our lives to be what it is that others want us to be.

To have someone to whom we can actually tell our story.  Just as importantly, maybe more importantly, to tell our story with someone to witness it…  To finally have the chance to do that can be one of the most important and precious things in human life.  I certainly know that is the gift that my therapists gave to me.  I know that it is a precious thing for many who come into therapy.

I invite you to tell your story, to someone who really knows how to listen and who is not burdened with a lot of preconceptions about who you are.  You way well surprise yourself with who it is that you really are!

 

I’d be interested in your comments about the times in your life when you have felt really seen, heard … witnessed.  

 

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca 

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

Get “Vibrant Jung Thing” posts delivered to your email using the “FeedBurner” box in the left column!

PHOTO CREDITS:  © Nyul | Dreamstime.com 

© 2009 Brian Collinson    

 

 

 

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Looking Good… Feeling Empty

July 27th, 2009 · depth psychology, Identity, Individuation, inner life, Jungian psychology, Meaning, persona, popular culture, Psychotherapy

 

Looking Good for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog Out here in suburbia, great pressure is often placed on people to “look good”.  People feel all kinds of pressure to keep their image in the finest order.

We get the message that it’s important to keep your grass well-cut and your garden well-manicured.  It’s important to drive a car that makes you look (and feel) like you’re successful and upwardly mobile.  It’s important that your kids wear the right clothes, and belong to the right after-school activities.  When you go to your yoga class, you should be sure to have the right mat and outfit…

And people do look good!  My, do they ever!  A walk down Lakeshore Road in downtown Oakville, my town, will surely convince you of that.  To the extent that having good stuff and doing all the “right” things can give you a good life, boy howdy, we suburbanites have got it down!

If that was all it took, we suburbanites would surely have the best lives imaginable…

So, if that’s true, why do so many people seem to feel that they’re “just going through the motions”?  How is it that I hear from so many people that, at times, life can just “feel hollow”?

To a certain extent, we all have to bow to the necessity of looking good, if we want to make our way in the world.  There are social conventions that we have to live within, if we want to have a job, get an education and do all the many things that we have to do to make our way.  To choose an extreme example, showing up naked to a job interview would be career-limiting, to say the least!

However, just fitting the idea of others about “how we should be” isn’t enough for a fulfilling life — even if those “others” are lifestyle advertisers who spend untold billions to influence us to remake our lives around their products.

Sooner or later in life, we are going to be strongly confronted with the question of what is really ourselves.  If we really take that question seriously, it can be the beginning of the greatest adventure in life.

When I feel empty in my life, it is not a curse.  It can actually be a gateway.  That which is empty wants to be filled.  At least if I’m aware of my own feeling of emptiness, I can start to seek out what makes me feel full, what makes me feel real.

For a significant number of people, that’s where the journey of therapy begins…

I’d be interested in your comments about your journey, and about what is meaningful or important in your life.  

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson


Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca 

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

Get “Vibrant Jung Thing” posts delivered to your email using the “FeedBurner” box in the left column!

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© 2009 Brian Collinson    

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My Inner Life: When the Unconscious Becomes Conscious

June 9th, 2009 · inner life, my inner life

 

Unconscious for Vibrant Jung Thing Here is a very evocative quote from Jung on the effect of integrating unconscious material into our conscious selves.  He stresses that what happens to us is fundamentally beyond description, and yet fundamentally real.

 

“What happens within oneself when one integrates previously unconscious contents with the consciousness is something which can scarcely be described by words.  It can only be experienced.  It is a subjective affair quite beyond discussion; we have a particular feeling about ourselves, about the way we are, and that is a fact that it is neither possible nor meaningful to doubt.  Similarly, we convey a particular feeling to others, and that too is a fact that cannot be doubted….  Whether a change has taken place as the result of integration, and what the nature of that change is, remains a matter of subjective conviction.  To be sure it is not a fact which can be scientifically verified….  Yet it nevertheless remains a fact which is in practice uncommonly important and fraught with consequences.”

 

“Travels” in Jung, C.G., Jaffe, Aniela, ed. and Winston, Richard & Clara., transs.,

Memories, Dreams and Reflections (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), p. 287

 

I think that what Jung is saying is that what happens in inner work, such as therapy, when we confront what is in the unconscious, is fundamentally beyond description — but nonetheless very real and important in its effect upon us.  Beyond achieving specific conscious goals, there is something that happens to us in therapy as we take in the reality of the previously undiscovered self.  There is a growth and a healing in this that can root us in our lives, and make us feel substantial and real as people and as individuals.

 

Where does the reality of the unconscious seek to manifest itself in your life?  Sometimes it is in the least likely spot, the place where we seem least sure and weakest.  The journey of therapy is the uncovering of this reality.


 
Thank you to those of you who comment on my posts and on the process of therapy, whether via comments on this blog, through emails, or even in face-to-face conversation.  As always I welcome your comments, and I would like to feel that this blog is a co-operative endeavour and a dialogue with you.  

 

 

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson


Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca 

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

Get “Vibrant Jung Thing” posts delivered to your email using the “FeedBurner” box in the left column!

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© 2009 Brian Collinson    

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Can We Think From the Heart?

May 22nd, 2009 · inner life, Jungian psychology, The Self, wholeness

Here’s something that Jung writes in Memories, Dreams andWhere Do You Think for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog  Reflections that might seem to hit you right where you live.  That’s the effect it has on me, certainly.

It comes out of the time that Jung spent amongst the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico in the 1920s, where he became a friend of Ochway Biano, the chief of the Taos pueblos.  In recording the following conversation with Ochway Biano, and reflecting upon it, Jung may have been far in advance of his time:


“See” Ochway Biano said, “how cruel the whites look.  Their lips are thin, their noses sharp, their faces furrowed and distorted by folds.  Their eyes have a staring expression; they are always seeking something.  What are they seeking?  The whites always want something; they are always uneasy and restless.  We do not know what they want.  We do not understand them.  We think that they are mad.”

I asked him why he thought the whites were all mad. 

“They say that they think with their heads,” he replied.

“Why of course.  What do you think with?” I asked him in surprise.

“We think here,” he said, indicating his heart. [Italics mine]

I fell into a long meditation.  For the first time in my life, so it seemed to me, someone had drawn me a picture of the real white man.  It was as though until now I had seen nothing but sentimental, prettified color prints. This Indian had struck our vulnerable spot, unveiled a truth to which we are blind.


What would it be like to think with the heart, rather than the head?  What thoughts would your heart have, if you let it, right now, in this moment?
 

“The whites always want something.  They are always uneasy and restless.”  So often, we feel that what we’re we’re looking for is something external, something that we need, but we aren’t at all sure what it is.  Could it be that what you or I are desiring is actually something internal, something within us, that we haven’t explored yet?  Something of the heart?
 

Can I establish a dialogue with my inmost self, my heart?  What does it say to me?  What does it feel?
 

As always I welcome the comments of those who read, and any suggestions or possible topics that you might have.  Thank you for taking the time to read  my postings!

 

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca 

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

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PHOTO CREDITS:  © James F
eliciano
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© 2009 Brian Collinson    
       

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Fantasies

May 3rd, 2009 · archetypal experience, depth psychology, inner life, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Meaning, soul, The Self, unlived life

Fantasies for Vibrant Jung Blog So often the word “fantasy” is treated as a negative term.  After all, aren’t we supposed to be realistic, and practical, and down-to-earth?  How can our fantasies possibly help us to live our real lives?

 Well, Jung has some interesting things to say on this topic, including the following, which is about the role of fantasy at mid-life and later:


“Then, with the beginning of your life’s second part, inexorably a change imposes itself, subtly at first but with ever-increasing weight.  Whatever you have acquired hitherto is no longer the same as you regarded it when it still lay before you — it has lost something of its charm, its splendor and its attractiveness.  What was once an adventurous effort has become routine.  Even flowers wilt, and it is hard to discover something perennial that will endure.  Looking back slowly becomes a habit, no matter how much you detest and try to suppress it…

“The backwards look will not fail to show you sides and aspects of yourself long forgotten and other ways of life you have missed or avoided before.  The more your actual life becomes routine and habit, the less it will be satisfactory. [Italics mine]

“Soon unconscious fantasies begin to play with other possibilities and these can become quite troublesome unless they are made conscious in time.  They may be mere regressions into childhood, which prove to be most unhelpful when one is confronted with the difficult task of creating a new goal for an aging life.  If one has nothing to look forward to except the habitual things, life cannot renew itself any more.  It gets stale, it congeals and petrifies, like Lot’s wife who could not detach her eyes from the things hitherto valued. Yet these insipid fantasies may also contain germs of real new possibilities or of new goals worthy of attainment.  There are always things ahead, and despite all the overwhelming power of the historical pattern they are never quite the same.  [Italics mine]”


So, for Jung, our “insipid fantasies” are not at all devoid of value — if we really work with them to make them conscious.  They may in fact contain the vital clues for us to the way to move forward in our lives.  Sometimes these fantasies can seem childish, or useless — so much so that we dismiss them.  Perhaps we have been told, or have told ourselves, that our longing or our fantasy has no value, that we are silly even to entertain it.  We may have gotten this message so strongly that we even find it difficult to find our fantasies or to experience them — so rigourously does the internal schoolmaster/critic discipline us to “keep out nose to the grindstone.”


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The Introvert, Subjective Life, and the Reality of the Psyche

April 3rd, 2009 · Carl Jung, depth psychology, inner life, Introversion, Jungian analysis, Jungian psychology, Psychology, Psychotherapy, soul

Inward Shell for Vibrant Jung Thing Blog Here's a quote from Jung that I've been looking for for a long time.  It is a classic comment of Jung's about the reality of the inner life and the psyche.

"And so, you see, the man [sic] who goes by the influence of the external world — say society or sense perceptions — thinks he is more valid because this is valid, this is real, and the man who goes by the subjective factor is not valid because the subjective factor is nothing.  No, that man is just as well based, because he bases himself on the world from within.

"…the world in general, particularly America, is extraverted as hell, the introvert has no place, because he doesn't know that he beholds the world from within [italics mine].  And that gives him dignity, that gives him certainty, because nowadays particularly, the world hangs by a thin thread, and that thread is the psyche of man….  Nowadays, we are not threatened by elemental catastrophes….  We are the great danger.  The psyche is the great danger.  What if something goes wrong with the psyche?  And so it is demonstrated in our day what the power of the psyche is, how important it is to know something about it. 

"Nobody would give credit to the idea that the psychic processes of the ordinary man have any importance whatever.  One thinks, "Oh, he is just what he has in his head.  He is all from his surroundings."  He is taught such and such a thing, believes such and such a thing, and particularly if he is well-housed and well-fed, then he has no ideas at all.  And that's the great mistake, because he is just what he is born as, and he is not born as a tabula rasa but as a reality." 

"The Houston Films" in McGuire, William, and Hull, R.F.C., eds.,

C.G. Jung Speaking (Princeton: University Press, 1977)

 

"[A person] is not born as a tabula rasa, but as a reality."  That is quite a statement that Jung is making there.  The challenge is to see the reality of ourselves, as in some sense a unified whole.  To see ourselves as something more than the lump sum aggregate of all the conditioning that we have experienced in our lives, and to see our inner experience as something real, something substantial.  And then, to go on the adventure of discovering that reality, of having the courage to know ourselves as what we most fundamentally are.

My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journeys to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Websitefor Brian's Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca ; Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

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PHOTO CREDITS:  © Peter Chigmaroff| Dreamstime.com 

© 2009 Brian Collinson 

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