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A message from this feed's publisher:This is the official blog of the Divination Foundation and Paul O'Brien. Paul founded Tarot.com and invented divination software. He sees himself as a dedicated student/inventor fascinated with the mysteries that matter. Paul is a Gemini Sun sign.
We are living in a time of accelerating change and uncertainty, which can feel chaotic and threatening. Animals, including us humans, have an instinctive tendency to automatically react to sudden changes as threats. Throughout most of humanity’s existence, life-threatening dangers were prominent and a hair-trigger reactivity served to protect us in a world that included saber-toothed predators. Humans haven’t changed much biologically in the last hundred thousand years. Our nervous systems are wired to fight, flee, or freeze at a moment’s notice.
When triggered by fear or anxiety, we react as though we are face-to-face with real danger even if there is none. This may be our automatic way of operating, but it is not the only way. We can learn to intervene with a beam of conscious awareness and interrupt our automatic reactions. We can train our tricky brains to go beyond fight-or-flight. There is another way, however.
The situations we face nowadays rarely, if ever, involve life-or-death, split-second decisions. In the absence of real life-threatening danger, we are free to become more creative and develop potentials that go beyond merely ensuring survival. Rather than feeling threatened, we can come to regard change as a friendly force. “Change is my friend,” is a visionary belief that is promoted in the Belief Engineering chapter of my book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing.
People who see change as a positive force are more optimistic and can enjoy the up-and-down flux of life. In order to embrace change, we need to develop a more fluid relationship to time. People who fear change essentially want time to stand still. Their subconscious wish is for the illusory safety of a fixed and stable universe. The mechanical division of time into hours, minutes, and seconds – brought about by the recent invention of clocks – clogs the spontaneous flow of life energy. In order to fully relax, visionaries find ways to free their minds from the domination of linear time. They understand the value of “time outs” to intentionally loosen that domination by society’s over-controlling mechanical approach. This is good, but in actuality, there is nothing to escape, because if we take our eyes off the clock, our experience of time has a natural plasticity to it.
When we enjoy life, time seems to go too fast. When we are in resistance to circumstances, it seems to crawl. As so many great teachers have shown, the secret of joyful living is to maintain awareness of what is happening in the one time that is real – the present moment – and forget about future and past. To improve our strategic thinking and decision-making, we need to let go of trying to control things long enough to give our intuition a chance to be actively receptive.
Visionary decision-makers stay aware of how life is always in flux. The ultimate solution to “time management” is to develop a lifestyle where we can better transcend the measuring and parceling of time, and strengthen our intuitive sense of timing. Good timing, a fundamental component of every strategic decision, is the secret of surfing unpredictable waves of change. When we come to regard change as a friendly force, the success brought about by our improving sense of timing will provide encouragement to cultivate intuitive intelligence all the more … and life becomes an adventure rather than a hunkering down.
The I Ching, or Chinese Book of Changes, is the oldest of books and a system channeled 3000 years ago by sages to help emperors make better strategic and timing decisions. For thousands of years, this Taoist classic influenced campaigns, relationships, literature and art. I discovered it at age 19 and it has played a profound role in my life, providing guidance for decisions that logic can’t handle (and we know there are many of these in life).
My first encounter was as personally earthshaking as it was hilarious. A carefree philosophy undergrad at UC, Berkeley, one day I was flirting with a cute girl who showed me the ancient book. Furthermore, she offered to demonstrate how the system works. Although I was skeptical of what appeared to be a fortune-telling game, I was intrigued by her charms, so I agreed (but secretly making fun of the whole thing).
She asked me to jot down a personal dilemma or subject of interest and toss three coins six times. As I did, she drew a “hexagram” based on the way the coins landed. My first I Ching reading ignored my flippant question and caught me off guard with its response. I got Hexagram No.4, entitled “Youthful Folly,” about “the foolish student who lacks respect for the teacher.” I was expecting something I could have a laugh about, but not at my own expense! Indeed, the dignified I Ching reflected my shallowness and offered me a bit of wisdom about growing up. I was making fun of it and it came back and made fun of me!
Now my curiosity was aroused. I asked my beautiful new friend if I could try it again. My next query was just as trivial, but my attitude was different. This time I was testing the I Ching to see what would happen. Yup. Once again it ignored my trivial query and replied with text “questioning the sincerity of the seeker.” Somehow I was not too surprised the I Ching was reflecting my energy again. I tested it and it tested me back!
That’s when I surmised that the I Ching provides an energetic mirror from its set of 64 hexagram “archetypes,” and reflects motivation and attitude as much as anything else. It can deliver helpful insights and advice only if the seeker is sincere. I learned that the value of an I Ching reading is not about the future or even specific instructions. Rather, it stimulates the intuition. By forcing you to read between the lines, you think outside the box and have to trust your own intuition.
That fateful college day was certainly pivotal to my future as an I Ching author and multimedia I Ching developer. I lost the girl but I fell in with the I Ching! This transformational education did not happen in philosophy class, but it was a learning experience that changed my life more than all of my classes.
Since that day some 40 years ago, I’ve used the I Ching as an intuitive decision-making aid to help me venture beyond black-and-white thinking and develop superior timing. I credit the I Ching for helping me make better decisions throughout my life, including success as an entrepreneur, and more gracefully muddling my way in and out of relationships. As the I Ching says, “Love and no blame.”
Your beliefs — about yourself and the world you live in — are the lens through which you experience life. Every thought, every feeling, every decision and every action you take, arises out of your beliefs. Many are so deeply ingrained that we take them for granted as representing reality and rarely question their validity. We act on beliefs as though they are a fixed part of us; while our subconscious selects information that reinforces what we already believe.
Eastern masters have long advised, “Cease to cherish opinions.” From the Zen perspective, all beliefs are little more than current opinions — based on the best perceptions we can make, given our upbringing and conditioning, and what we would like to believe. Around age 3 or 4 we begin to make conclusions about our environment and form core beliefs to make sense of the world. Such deeply entrenched opinions can continue to operate subconsciously for a lifetime.
Looking at beliefs as opinions illuminates their impermanent nature. As I discuss in my book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing, every belief is a choice — one we are making now or made years ago. Recognizing the nature of beliefs helps us be more open and flexible; and able to allow our beliefs to naturally evolve based on new learning experiences. If we want to make better decisions for ourselves, we must be willing to reconsider what we think is true and grow beyond the limitations imposed on us by our current beliefs. The important question now is: How aware are you of your beliefs, especially your fears? Often the vigor with which we defend against our fears unwittingly locks us into the belief behind them. More than any other mental structure, your beliefs and the attitudes they derive from define what is possible for you. Beliefs can be a major limiting factor in getting what you want.
An important part of self-knowledge, it is necessary to take full ownership of what you believe – something most people actually never do. For one thing, it requires the courageous humility of self-examination. To make things more difficult, many of us were taught that certain beliefs are sacred and that even to question them is a sin. Well, the wise and the brave are willing to question and test everything they believe in order to make better, more conscious decisions. Can your current beliefs pass two critical tests? Are they 1) based in reality as best you understand it now (have you studied?) and 2) do they help the realization of your higher desires, your aspirations? If you answered no in either case, it’s time for some more experimenting and learning! Nothing is more important than having success-functional beliefs!
A skillful way to look at beliefs is to take them as current operating assumptions, rather than ‘facts’ or articles of faith you must cling to. They should work for you, not you for them! Ultimately, we are responsible for our beliefs and the decisions we make from them. Believing itself is a choice, so decide wisely. Be sure to upgrade your beliefs as needed. Try and learn new things.
As I point out in my book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing, one of the benefits of living the “synchronistic lifestyle” is wisdom–a rare quality that no longer gets the respect it deserves. Wisdom is the learned ability to calm down and make great decisions–based on experience, common sense logic and intuitive intelligence.
Lack of this profound quality handicaps our personal and cultural evolution. Nowhere is this more evident than in polls that show almost half of American voters are so emotional they might be willing to risk further damaging government by electing a con-artist demagogue.
Wisdom requires resisting the pull of strong emotions like fear and anger, the attraction to magical thinking or addictions to instant gratification. As Wikipedia puts it, “Wisdom is a disposition to find the truth coupled with an optimum judgment as to what actions should be taken.” The pursuit of wise judgment is why my life and work are focused on visionary decision-making.
Wisdom is both a function and result of skillful decision-making. You only have to listen to Trump for two minutes to see how critical a bit of wisdom is to good decision-making in these crazy times. Rather than make ridiculous xenophobic decisions about building walls and banning peoples, wise leaders humbly enlist creative intuition and good advice to make decisions that will benefit everyone in the long run.
When you practice fine-tuning your intuitive sense, you more easily notice meaningful synchronicities and insights that arise. Everything that happens shines with a greater sense of meaning, which provides a basis for even more wisdom. As wisdom is cultivated, it helps you balance taking care of yourself while attending to the common good. Things are out of balance, on the other hand, when our point of view is narrow or self-obsessed–constrictions of consciousness that can happen due to lack of self-esteem or an inflated sense of self-importance.
As Aristotle put it, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” It is important to be able to call upon a strong ego that is ready to defend boundaries, but the ego should never allowed to run the show. The ego is properly a lieutenant who should take direction from a higher consciousness, the spiritual self. The ego can be maniacal and does not provide good leadership.
Establishing an appropriate relationship between your ego and higher consciousness is the fruit of self-knowledge. Experience is a great teacher, and the single experience that most helps develop wisdom is strategic decision-making–provided we are brave enough to creatively and proactively step up, go through and move past our fears and make the important decisions).
The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present, the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
Could anyone could sum up the hazards of neglecting wisdom better?
The symbol of the Tao — a circle enclosing two equal interlocking paisleys — is referred to as the “tai chi” symbol, or sometimes as the “yin-yang.” The outside circle represents the universal Tao, the “way” or “path” associated with a life lived in harmony with the cycles of change. It is also the closest thing in Chinese metaphysics to western concepts like ‘God,’ because the Tao also implies infinite potentiality. The dark paisley within the circle is the yin energy, which contains a white dot in the middle representing a yang aspect, to remind us that nothing is all yin or all yang. The same but opposite is true about the white paisley with its black dot. The circle is shaped like a wheel to convey cyclical movements, such as seasons and orbits, but also karmic returns.
Yin is conceived of as the feminine principle, (soft, tranquil, dark, receptive, flowing and containing) while yang is the masculine principle (hard, aggressive, light, focused and solid). Everything, including every individual personality, contains elements of both. The world, or the ‘Tao,’ is a mixing of black and white into myriad shades of gray.
The Chinese call the world’s oldest book “I Ching”, which translates as “Book of Changes.” This greatest of the surviving Taoist classical works was designed to serve as a divination system — for reading and interpreting life changes wrought by the constant interplay of the yin and yang universal energies. (Incidentally, I composed my first modern version of the I Ching text in 1989.)
The Taoist/Confucian tradition posits that juxtaposing a set of the possible permutations of yin and yang with elements of Chinese creation mythology produced the foundation of the I Ching. Pairing up the various combinations of yin (the literal ancient meaning of which is the shady north side of the hill) and yang (meaning the sunny south side of the hill) gives you four primary symbols. With the addition of another yin or yang line, the eight trigrams emerge.
The earliest composition of I Ching interpretations is attributed to King Wen. Toward the end of the Shang Dynasty, when the unjust emperor Zhou Wang imprisoned Wen, he reportedly used his confinement to meditate on the trigrams, pairing them up to produce sixty-four possible hexagrams. Each pair of trigrams took on a meaning specific to their combination. In what we might assume was an enlightened state of mind, King Wen assigned each of the sixty-four hexagrams a name, adding a few sentences to explain its meaning. It is said that his son, King Wu, added additional interpretative text, bringing the I Ching closer to its current form.
In every chapter of the I Ching, we have six lines consisting of a unique mix of yin lines and yang lines, making up 64 patterns. Each of these 64 hexagrams is an archetype of the human condition or human situations, based on the placement of yin and yang lines within it. The I Ching has for thousands of years been considered a sacred tool, a system that was originally only used by the nobility and sages to coordinate human activity with the natural rhythms of the Tao, the cycles of change. When I first incorporated Visionary Software in 1989 to publish Synchronicity, the first ever I Ching software, we developed a company logo that incorporated the Tao symbol, knowing that our business had to be about balance and integrity if it were to be of real service. The pioneering subatomic physicist Neils Bohr also used it when he was knighted in 1947. His family had no coat of arms, so he created one. He chose the yin-yang symbol and inscribed it Contraria sunt complementa (opposites are complementary).
The yin-yang symbol of the Tao is always good to have around, for it provides a clear visual reminder of how change, which is the only constant, operates in the world. As human beings have a special role to play in this world, the I Ching was encoded to help us interpret the patterns of change in society as well as our individual human lives, giving us a greater ability to anticipate and, indeed, play a co-creative role in positive or ‘lucky’ changes that sometimes just seem to happen. It is said that the symbol of the Tao and the use of the I Ching support within us the “Three Jewels of the Tao” — love, humility and moderation. Here’s to the emotional intelligence of Taoism, one of the most uplifting and practical philosophies of all time!
Spring in full bloom is a perfect time to spread your creative wings — including through playfulness, joy and humor — with some playful monkey business. If you’re feeling more creative or playful than last year, it might have to do with this being the Chinese Year of the Monkey. This nimble, playful and oh-so-clever primate wants adventure or to seek out more creative solutions (in contrast to the energy of last year’s Goat, which was more about careful footing and diligence).
How can we channel creative energy this year that supports our learning and productivity? Well, truly fruitful creativity requires focusing your attention and doing things in the right order. Ironically, these boundaries free up creative power so it can flow through us. Hardly anything is more joyful than creative productivity!
Focus On Goals
Creative power is unlimited, but requires focus to produce effective or pleasing results. If you want to creatively design or produce something, make your goal enough of a top priority to work toward it every day. That’s how I finished my book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing. I wrote an hour or two upon waking every morning for over four years — every day of the week, no matter where I was. In spite of the disciplinary aspect of making myself do this, I found I kept discovering fresh insights!
Do Things in the Right Order
Creative Power is the first archetype of the great Chinese oracle — the I Ching, or Book of Changes. It represents the highest expression of pure Yang ‘doing’ energy. As the Visionary I Ching App advises, if your goals are in alignment with the greater good — if you assert yourself in a positive way — actions taken with good timing produce success. How do we channel creativity most effectively? We start by doing things in the right order, while creating some space for creative inspiration. A mindfulness practice like the “Letting Go” meditation taught in Great Decisions, Perfect Timing, is an easy way to release mental roadblocks, “priming” your mind for better intuitive reception. It’s critical to learn how to clear your mind of distractions and emotional clutter when you need a creative solution the most!
Work Can Be Fun!
If you are focused on a creative pursuit, make sure to take in the pleasure and joy of the experience. A recent article in Current Biology by Patrick Bateson noted that “acting playfully” and “coming up with new ideas” and being humorous are linked. Interestingly, playful creativity was defined as an internal human attribute — as opposed to being motivated by external rewards, which were shown to actually inhibit creativity! Organizations should take note that it is beneficial to profits and customer satisfaction for staff members to be playful and creative at work. Bateson points out that companies like 3M give employees a portion of each day to engage in “speculative ideas” to help spur their creative juices.
Let feelings of deep pleasure sink in … let yourself enjoy the process — whether you’re writing, playing music or making art. If you feel distracted or frustrated, do a quick “Letting Go” meditation, or just put creative work aside and escape into something you enjoy. By combining focus, timing and playfulness, you will be able to joyfully channel creative power. So, plant some wild seeds and manifest some monkey business!
Sometimes perfect timing happens the minute you make a great decision and sometimes it takes years. My recent trip to China in October illustrates the point. Amazing synchronicities proved out the truism that “everything happens for a reason!”
Attending this year’s International Holistic Centers Gathering, held outside of Beijing, I was asked to talk on my new book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing. Now, Beijing is fascinating, but what hits you upon arrival is a thick and suffocating smog that makes it difficult to see further than a city block. Add traffic gridlock in a city of 20 million people and, in spite of great historic sites, the place is barely livable.
The conference was held at a resort community known as “Jackson Hole, China” (search articles online). A billionaire developer, Mr. Liu Xiangpiang, developed the gated community a decade ago, adding in a personal growth center and spa. He and his wife, Annie, were most gracious hosts.
The 1500-home village is modeled on Jackson Hole, Wyoming and is a veritable monument to the American dream of conspicuous consumption. The homes are log castles of 4,000 to 5,000 square feet that cost $1 to $8 million, and they are selling as fast as they are built. The town center reminded me of a Wild West theme park. To make it even more westernized, they built a church with a cross in the center of the town, which is popular for weddings.
Tai chi is a passion of Mr. Liu’s and he led an excellent Tai chi class at our conference every morning. A CNN article quoted Mr. Liu as saying, “Those who can afford to buy houses here, have enough money … they want spiritual fulfillment.”
One can hope that injecting a spiritual element into materialism will lead to greater awareness in China of its own amazing heritage of Taoism, Tai Chi and the I Ching. My experiences with Chinese people lends weight to such hopes, as I found myself in the ironic position of bringing concepts back to a modern China that knows very little about its own noble spiritual traditions.
After giving a talk about my ‘psychological’ I Ching, I took questions. Mr. Liu himself asked me if my Visionary I Ching was influenced by personal growth experiences. I responded recounting many of the trainings I have undertaken. He asked if I had a Chinese translation of my I Ching. When I said “Not yet,” he said he would like to publish it if I did. (I thought, “Maybe that is the reason I am here!”) The next day I met with nine PhD. candidates doing dissertations on the I Ching. When I explained Jung’s synchronicity and archetypes as a way to understand the I Ching, they too thought I was a genius!
Years of refinement of my modern I Ching (beginning in 1989 up until the current Visionary I Ching app now available) have enabled the program to enter China at the right time. Sometimes perfect timing takes a while. In the case of returning a 21st century version of the I Ching back to its roots, it only took 25 years!
Both businesses I founded had “visionary” in their name (Visionary Software and Visionary Networks). Now we have the Visionary I Ching app. From the start of my entrepreneurial career, I called myself “Chief Visionary Officer,” because I saw myself primarily as an inventor. Obviously, the word “visionary” has long packed meaning and power for me. Nowadays, it has become a fashionable word, if only for marketing.
Writing my book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing, made me wonder if the visionary capacity – including an ability to practice my Visionary Decision-Making (VDM) processes – is really available to everyone. It starts with holding to a vision that can “inspire you to take the risks that grow you when the timing is right.” VDM is simply beyond many people because most people are too busy and distracted to think outside the box of their beliefs.
In truth, a highly visionary capacity is available to everyone … eventually. I wrote the book to serve both those who are already becoming intuitively adept and those who want to. Each of us certainly has a capacity for vision, even if few of us dissolve the box of our thinking.
How can a person develop their visionary capacity? Well, for one thing, you can improve your skill at envisioning novel results by practicing active imagination. In other words, “think different” … and think bigger. That’s how I created the first interactive divination software (which culminated in Tarot.com, I-Ching.com, and now the Visionary I Ching app).
My book shows how to channel and focus Creative Power—the archetype that is first hexagram of the I Ching. This is divine power resource that is always there for you. Through active imagination, dreams and daydreams, Creative Power generates insights and visions. As the nursery school rhyme chants, “life is but a dream.” Yes, but it is a dream that you are creating with and for yourself. Surround yourself with objects or people that inspire you, like favorite music, time with a loved one, or meditating quietly with nature. Doing what inspires you will cultivate intuitive intelligence and creative powers.
You might ask: How do I be sure that my vision is real rather than wishful thinking or fantasies of my ego? In order to be sure that a vision is in alignment with who you are at depth, you can use the “heart-check” method. A trustworthy vision will connect mind, heart and soul. For some, success takes the form of a harmonious and loving family life. For others, it could translate into a strong sense of mission or purpose related to one’s vocation, or some competitive victory on behalf of a partnership, family, tribe or entire world.
As we move toward a more evolved society that spawns dreams of greater creative freedom, the ability to formulate and realize the visionary capacity becomes more essential for individuals and society. Developing your visionary potential and increasing creative freedom is part of your legacy to future generations. As we cultivate intuitive intelligence and evolve toward our human potential, we make it easier for all those who follow us. This is the path of healing the planet as well as ourselves.
In my previous blog post about interviews, I referred to my being the host of KBOO Community Radio‘s Pathways program. In this blog, I’m going to share about my own appearances in support of my latest book, as well as my talks about the I Ching.
Nowadays I find myself on the other side of the microphone as the person who is trying to help people make better decisions via my latest book, the Amazon.com best-selling Great Decisions, Perfect Timing. It’s gratifying to see that there is an appetite for the book and its message, which includes some interest in online classes that we are in the process of developing.
When I invested everything I had in developing I Ching software back in 1989, my peers thought I was crazy. The only excuse I could offer at the time was, “Wherever God drags me, I will follow.” Now I’m finding myself invited (not quite dragged) into the limelight through media interviews and public readings. Even though I don’t have a huge desire to promote myself, the response that Great Decisions, Perfect Timing is receiving tells me that I should step up to the microphone.
Readers have responded warmly to the personal stories in my book. Many have been inspired by how I walked away from a high-paying, VP-level job in the tech industry to pursue my desire for greater creative freedom designing esoteric software that had special meaning for me. However, I signal a note of caution. Some think that the lesson is to simply “follow their muse out of love” and shuck their jobs right away. But after I left my full-time position, I kept up a “day job” as a high-tech marketing consultant for years in order to fund my creative pursuits. Greater creative freedom takes commitment, discipline, and sacrifice. The happy ending to my business story certainly did not happen overnight!
The warm and enthusiastic response to this particular story (and many others in the book) signals a natural drive for greater creative freedom. When I advise people not to quit their day job (just yet), I remind them of how grateful we should be for any creative freedom at all. As recently as 250 years ago, we had no freedom to choose our profession, where we live, even who we marry. You are probably living a high level of creative freedom right now. The desire for even greater creative freedom is positive, however, because this desire drives personal and cultural evolution. It gets better!
If you listen to any of the radio show I’ve been interviewed for, I hope that you find them worthwhile and enjoyable. My recent interview on the Dr. Pat Show (with Pat Baccili) is a great introduction to these podcasts if you haven’t had a chance to hear them yet. You can listen to this and all of my recent interviews on the Resources page of the Divination Foundation website.
Media transforms lives and reflects our fascinations. We read books that inspire us, view films that move us, and listen to programs that broaden our knowledge. Sometimes getting involved with media can be a powerful, transformative experience in and of itself. That certainly describes how I became the host of the Pathways interview program on Portland’s KBOO Community Radio.
During Stage Two of my life (I explain the life stages in my latest book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing), I worked in software marketing for an Oregon start-up. I loved listening to the Pathways interview program on KBOO. At the time, the show was hosted by Tom Park, who conducted insightful interviews with leaders involved with personal and cultural transformation. Obviously, the content of the show resonated with me. In a stroke of synchronicity, I happened to meet Tom at a men’s group in 1980. I told him how much I enjoyed the show, and I mentioned that if he ever wanted help with interviewing to please let me know, because I thought I would be good at it.
Over one year later, Tom contacted me and asked if I was still interested in helping him do interviews on Pathways. I began as co-host and became the primary host of Pathways when Tom retired from the show last year. This all goes to show how after you put yourself out there for what you want, divine providence can come around when the timing is right—another case of the “law of attraction” at work!
The Pathways show is an extension of my life’s mission and the mission of my non-profit Divination Foundation, which is to research, develop and promote technologies for personal and cultural transformation. I’ve learned so much picking the brains of cultural change agents and spiritual leaders, and that’s helped me understand myself and has also provided a wide perspective on the world we live in, to support a sense of hope and meaning. In the process, I’ve interviewed hundreds of people over the years, including such luminaries as Deepak Chopra, Don Miguel Ruiz and John Gray.
My Pathways interviews are available to stream or download on Divination.com, and you can subscribe to the podcast for free on iTunes. The conversations cover personal and spiritual development, entrepreneurship, financial responsibility, creative power, shamanism, sexuality, philanthropy, environmental issues, spiritual awakenings and many other topics that are delightfully unclassifiable. The programs are short (28 minutes long), free of advertising and free of charge.
I’m no stranger to giving talks or being interviewed myself (or giving speeches to large audiences). In my next blog post, I’ll discuss my adventures on the other side of the microphone!