Purpose-Centered Life: A Plan for Authentic Living

Bring to light your cherished principles, values, hopes and dreams into a personal plan for authentic living. This is the counter concept to "the purpose-driven life." There is an art to making meaning that isn't taught in any school, church, boardroom or home.

Get weekly lessons that help you turn your passion into action and your principles into a life plan you can sustain. Learn how to fill your days with meaning, stop procrastinating, and bring new richness to everything you do.

Join Eric Maisel, family therapist, creativity coach and bestselling author, as he spells out the art of making meaning. Life is as worthwhile as you make it. Banish meaninglessness by working some existential magic! If the atheist, rationalist, secular-humanist, skeptical, free-thinking, or existential tradition appeals to you, you will especially appreciate Maisel’s insights.

Learn how to invest meaning, where to put it, how to withdraw it, and what returns you should expect from this practice. Picture one of your typically busy days, where a lot gets done with no sense of accomplishment. Now picture that day transformed, artfully redesigned so that you experience islands of meaning in a sea of hurry.

Get your values and your life aligned!

Open up to new meaning opportunities!

Understand the language of meaning and the dynamics of meaning and learn how to avoid going down the tubes when bad luck strikes.

Consciously decide what you want to value and keep on top of your meaning priorities.

Meaning is a lens through which to view life: focus your lens on an intentional life.

Current Podcast Episodes – Always Free!

Episode 40: Incantation 10: I Am Equal To This Challenge

Today’s episode is episode 13 of the Ten-Second Centering Series

We regularly get uncentered in anticipation of doing something that strikes us as hard to do. The thought of that unpleasant task raises our anxiety level, which immediately uncenters us. For many of us, an awful lot of the tasks we face feel hard to do, whether it’s straightening out the garage, talking to our children about their school performance, staying married to our spouse, or getting up to go to work. The more that the things we do feel like a strain and heavy lifting, the more uncentered we remain. Incantation 10 helps remind us that we are indeed equal to these many challenges.

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Episode 39: Incantation 9: I Am Open To Joy

Today’s episode is episode 12 of the Ten-Second Centering Series

Joy is the word we use for a certain deep, delicious feeling that sometimes arises in us just because the sun is shining and it feels good to be alive. But because of our frenetic pace, our worried mind, our existential difficulties, and our culture’s injunctions against ecstatic experience, joy is in remarkably short supply. How many times a day do you experience joy? Probably very few—and maybe even none. How often do the people around you look joyously transported? Seldom, I’ll bet—and maybe even never.

Use Incantation 9 to bring more joy into your life!

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Episode 38: Incantation 8: I Make My Meaning

Today’s episode is episode 11 of the Ten-Second Centering Series

Centering and meaning are connected. If your days don’t feel meaningful, an uncentering restlessness and boredom set in, along with existential anxiety and, eventually, a bout of depression. Incantation 8 can prove a great help to you in this regard, because it reminds you of meaning’s central secret, that it is a thing to be made and not found. The metaphor of “seeking meaning” is outdated and no longer viable. There is no meaning to find. There is only the meaning we make.

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Archived Episodes

Episode 37: Incantation 7: I Am Free of the Past

Today’s episode is episode 10 of the Ten-Second Centering Series

We are pretty convinced that people are significantly harmed by experiences like being shamed, beaten, ignored, discounted, mocked, and abandoned. Nor can encountering a lot of disappointments, rejections, defeats, burst dreams, and unsuccessful outcomes help a person feel sanguine about his chances or confident in his abilities. And mustn’t the negative self-concepts that people form of themselves, for instance that they are unworthy, unlucky, incompetent, untalented, or undisciplined, regularly derail them? In this episode we learn how to use Incantation 7 to help with these problems.

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Episode 36: Incantation 6: I Embrace This Moment

Today’s episode is episode 9 of the Ten-Second Centering Series

Each of us can read a book, watch a television show, run errands, have a chat with a friend, and in countless other ways pass the time of day. But if we turn off the television set and just sit there, endeavoring to be present to what we really want to do next in life, we know how difficult that feels. Nor do we find it that easy to encounter another person in a present way and genuinely interact or find it easy to encounter our work in a present way and delve deeply into its mysteries. Uncenteredness causes us to pass the time of day busily and superficially.

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Episode 35: Incantation 5: I Feel Supported

Today’s episode is episode 8 of the Ten-Second Centering Series

You come to your parents and say, “I want to take a risky path and become a painter. You know I love art and don’t want to do anything else. I know how hard a time I’m going to have and I know that I may fall flat on my face. What do you think?”  The answer that you want to hear is the very definition of “I feel supported.”  For one person it might be, “We’ll help you through art school and you’ll always have a room in our house.”  For another person it might be, “Let’s discuss the pros and cons, not to talk you out of it or to talk you into it, just to get our thoughts on the table.” No one, however, would feel supported by the response “You have no talent and you’re a complete idiot!” or “You’re such a dreamer. Grow up already!”

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Episode 34: Incantation 4: I Trust My Resources

Today’s episode is episode 7 of the Ten-Second Centering Series

When you use Incantation 4 you announce to yourself that you have sufficient resources to achieve your goals, live a centered life, and successfully accomplish the work that you named in Incantation 3. What would typically happen if you named your work and then said to yourself, “Okay, let’s get on with it!”?  As likely as not you’d immediately doubt that you were really equal to tackling the work you just named. You might even feel tempted to resume your speedy, fugitive flight away from centeredness and your cherished dreams. Incantation 4, a deeply affirmative and optimistic incantation, is designed to help you believe you are equipped to succeed.

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Episode 33: Incantation 3: I Am Doing My Work

Today’s episode is episode 6 of the Ten-Second Centering Series

Incantation 3 is the most interesting and intricate of the incantations. Each time you use it, you insert a new phrase that names some work that you hope to accomplish. There is great centering power in mindfully naming your work, as, by naming it, you at once fortify your intentions and create a simple plan. Breathing-and-thinking “(I am cleaning) (the closet),” “(I am writing) (my novel),” or (“I am paying” “the bills”) has a calming effect even as it calls you to action.

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Episode 32: Incantation 2: I Expect Nothing

Today’s episode is episode 5 of the Ten-Second Centering Series

While it is wonderful and necessary to have goals, dreams, hopes, and ambitions, it is a mental and emotional mistake to have expectations. Desire as much as you like. Plan as carefully as you like. Try as hard as you like. But expect nothing. If you expect nothing, you have a shot at centering. Use Incantation 2 to help you remember this vital detachment key.

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Episode 31: Incantation 1: I Am Completely Stopping

Today’s episode is episode 4 of the Ten-Second Centering Series

All of us are rushing around, prodded and pulled by our multiple duties and responsibilities. We’re doing too many things and worrying too much. Many of us are also in a mad rush because we’re running away from noticing the extent to which we’re not living the life we’d hoped to lead. Rather than realizing our dreams, doing our deepest work, and making sufficient meaning, we keep ourselves in perpetual mental and physical motion. In this episode we discover how Incantation 1 can serve to reverse this condition.

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Episode 30: The Twelve Incantations

Today’s episode is episode 3 of the Ten-Second Centering Series

We’re ready now to look at the twelve incantations. Each one is an independent centering charm that you can use according to the situation you find yourself in, the problem you face, or your particular experience of uncenteredness. I’ll introduce the incantations in this episode and explain them in detail in subsequent episodes. I suspect that you’ll intuitively understand the meaning and purpose of each one as soon as you encounter it. Whether or not you do, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about them as we proceed.

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Episode 29: Breathing and Thinking

Today’s episode is episode 2 of the Ten-Second Centering Series

The “ten-second” part of ten-second centering refers to a single breath of ten seconds’ duration that you use as a container to hold a specific thought. The first thing I’d like you to do is familiarize yourself with what ten seconds feels like. Take some time right now and observe the second hand of your watch or your wall clock. Experience ten seconds. Really feel each second. Be patient and observant and repeat the process a few times until you get a good, visceral sense of ten seconds.

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Episode 28: Introducing Ten-Second Centering

Today’s episode is episode 1 of the Ten-Second Centering Series

I am going to teach you a technique for centering that verges on the miraculous. You can dramatically improve your ability to center, become more calm and more powerful, and radically improve your life by taking ten-second pauses of the sort that I’m about to describe. You’ll be amazed to learn that such a life-altering strategy can come in a package as small as ten seconds. But it can! Hundreds of my clients have discovered this and so have hundreds of subjects who’ve volunteered to try out this technique. They’ve used this technique to center, calm, and ground themselves while caught in traffic, sitting in the dentist’s office, preparing to record a new album, or readying themselves to talk to their teenager. They know firsthand that this technique works.

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Episode 27: Silencing Self-Criticism

In this series, adapted from my book Toxic Criticism, we examine the ways that criticism and self-criticism interfere with our ability to find our life purpose and live as strongly, passionately, and effectively as we would like to live. Today’s episode is called “Silencing Self-Criticism.”

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Episode 26: Using Dear Critic Letters

In this series, adapted from my book Toxic Criticism, we examine the ways that criticism and self-criticism interfere with our ability to find our life purpose and live as strongly, passionately, and effectively as we would like to live. Today’s episode is called “Using Dear Critic Letters.” 

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Episode 25: The Behavioral Key

In this series, adapted from my book Toxic Criticism, we examine the ways that criticism and self-criticism interfere with our ability to find our life purpose and live as strongly, passionately, and effectively as we would like to live. Today’s episode is called “The Behavioral Key.” 

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Episode 24: The Personality Key

In this series, adapted from my book Toxic Criticism, we examine the ways that criticism and self-criticism interfere with our ability to find our life purpose and live as strongly, passionately, and effectively as we would like to live. Today’s episode is called “The Personality Key.”

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Episode 23: The Cognitive Key

In this series, adapted from my book Toxic Criticism, we examine the ways that criticism and self-criticism interfere with our ability to find our life purpose and live as strongly, passionately, and effectively as we would like to live. Today’s episode is called “The Cognitive Key.”

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Episode 22: The Attitudinal Key

In this series, adapted from my book Toxic Criticism, we examine the ways that criticism and self-criticism interfere with our ability to find our life purpose and live as strongly, passionately, and effectively as we would like to live. Today’s episode is called “The Attitudinal Key.”

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Episode 21: The Appraisal Key

In this series, adapted from my book Toxic Criticism, we examine the ways that criticism and self-criticism interfere with our ability to find our life purpose and live as strongly, passionately, and effectively as we would like to live. Today’s episode is called “The Appraisal Key.”

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Episode 20: The Existential Key

In this series, adapted from my book Toxic Criticism, we examine the ways that criticism and self-criticism interfere with our ability to find our life purpose and live as strongly, passionately, and effectively as we would like to live. Today’s episode is called “The Existential Key.”

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Episode 19: Introducing Toxic Criticism

In this series, adapted from my book Toxic Criticism, we examine the ways that criticism and self-criticism interfere with our ability to find our life purpose and live as strongly, passionately, and effectively as we would like to live. Today’s episode is called “Introducing Toxic Criticism.”

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Episode 18: Healing Depression

Today’s is the ninth and last episode in the nine-part series “How Purpose Heals Depression,” a series based on my book The Van Gogh Blues, which has just appeared in paperback. In this series we look at the relationships among creativity, meaning, and depression and answer some fundamental questions about why creative people like you and me have an extra measure of depression to deal with, the measure that arrives because of our existential concerns and because of the way that we experience meaning as challenging and problematic. In today’s show, we look at the idea that, if your depression is a result of meaning crises and a lack of purpose, it can be healed when you opt to matter and make new meaning.

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Episode 17: Feeling Successful

Today’s is the eighth episode in the nine-part series “How Purpose Heals Depression,” a series based on my book The Van Gogh Blues, which has just appeared in paperback. In this series we look at the relationships among creativity, meaning, and depression and answer some fundamental questions about why creative people like you and me have an extra measure of depression to deal with, the measure that arrives because of our existential concerns and because of the way that we experience meaning as challenging and problematic. In today’s show, we examine the idea that purpose wanes if we do not experience success—or at least the feeling of success.

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Episode 16: Purpose and Action

Today’s is the seventh episode in the nine-part series “How Purpose Heals Depression,” a series based on my book The Van Gogh Blues, which has just appeared in paperback. In this series we look at the relationships among creativity, meaning, and depression and answer some fundamental questions about why creative people like you and me have an extra measure of depression to deal with, the measure that arrives because of our existential concerns and because of the way that we experience meaning as challenging and problematic. In today’s show, we look at the idea that purpose, for it to be real, must be expressed in concrete actions—actions that then help heal depression.

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Episode 15: Opting to Matter

Today’s is the sixth episode in the nine-part series “How Purpose Heals Depression,” a series based on my book The Van Gogh Blues, which has just appeared in paperback. In this series we look at the relationships among creativity, meaning, and depression and answer some fundamental questions about why creative people like you and me have an extra measure of depression to deal with, the measure that arrives because of our existential concerns and because of the way that we experience meaning as challenging and problematic. In today’s show, we examine the idea that mattering is an available option—and one that helps eliminate depression.

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Episode 14: The Pain of Not Mattering

Today’s is the fifth episode in the nine-part series “How Purpose Heals Depression,” a series based on my book The Van Gogh Blues, which has just appeared in paperback. In this series we look at the relationships among creativity, meaning, and depression and answer some fundamental questions about why creative people like you and me have an extra measure of depression to deal with, the measure that arrives because of our existential concerns and because of the way that we experience meaning as challenging and problematic. In today’s show, we look at why the feeling that our efforts do not matter causes us to lose our sense of purpose.

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Episode 13: Forcing Life to Mean

Today’s is the fourth episode in the nine-part series “How Purpose Heals Depression,” a series based on my book The Van Gogh Blues, which has just appeared in paperback. In this series we look at the relationships among creativity, meaning, and depression and answer some fundamental questions about why creative people like you and me have an extra measure of depression to deal with, the measure that arrives because of our existential concerns and because of the way that we experience meaning as challenging and problematic. In today’s show, we examine the idea that depression lifts when we “force life to mean.”

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Episode 12: One Meaning Casualty

Today’s is the third episode in the nine-part series “How Purpose Heals Depression,” a series based on my book The Van Gogh Blues, which has just appeared in paperback. In this series we look at the relationships among creativity, meaning, and depression and answer some fundamental questions about why creative people like you and me have an extra measure of depression to deal with, the measure that arrives because of our existential concerns and because of the way that we experience meaning as challenging and problematic. In today’s show, we look at what happens when life loses its meaning and a meaning crisis is precipitated.

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Episode 11: Prevailing Theory

Today's is the second episode in the nine-part series "How Purpose Heals Depression," a series based on my book The Van Gogh Blues, which has just appeared in paperback. In this series we look at the relationships among creativity, meaning, and depression and answer some fundamental questions about why creative people like you and me have an extra measure of depression to deal with, the measure that arrives because of our existential concerns and because of the way that we experience meaning as challenging and problematic. In today's show we look at how depression is labeled a biological, social, or psychological thing; but rarely an existential one.

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Episode 10: Purpose and Depression

Today's is the first episode in the nine-part series "How Purpose Heals Depression," a series based on my book The Van Gogh Blues, which has just appeared in paperback. In this series we look at the relationships among creativity, meaning, and depression and answer some fundamental questions about why creative people like you and me have an extra measure of depression to deal with, the measure that arrives because of our existential concerns and because of the way that we experience meaning as challenging and problematic. In today's show we look at the fundamental relationship between making meaning and eliminating depression.

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Episode 9: Existential Magic

Today's show is the ninth in a series called "The Art of Making Meaning," a series that introduces the idea that meaning is not something to seek or something to find but rather something to make. Today's show is called "Existential Magic" and focuses on the idea that people prefer to believe in almost anything rather than live courageously with an insoluble mystery. The bigger news: even if that mystery got solved, we would still have to take charge of deciding in the realm of meaning.

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Episode 8: Advice for Believers

Today&’s show is the eighth in a series called "The Art of Making Meaning," a series that introduces the idea that meaning is not something to seek or something to find but rather something to make. Today&’s show is called "Advice for Believers" and focuses on the idea that believers have ample reasons for deciding to make their own meaning and that meaning-making is the truest demonstration of a believer&’s desire to take his or her religion seriously.

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Episode 7: Meeting Internal Objections II
Today's show is the seventh in a series called "The Art of Making Meaning," a series that introduces the idea that meaning is not something to seek or something to find but rather something to make. Today's show is called "Meeting Internal Objections to Meaning-Making" and focuses on why people find it so hard to actually don the mantle of meaning-maker. Last week we looked at five of these powerful objections and this week we look at five more. Good listening! more.

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Episode 6: Meeting Internal Objections I
Today's show is the sixth in a series called "The Art of Making Meaning," a series that introduces the idea that meaning is not something to seek or something to find but rather something to make. Today's show is called "Meeting Internal Objections to Meaning-Making" and focuses on why people find it so hard to actually don the mantle of meaning-maker. Today we look at five of these powerful objections and next week we look at five more. Good listening! more.

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Episode 5: The Subjectivity of Meaning
In the fifth episode of the "art of making meaning" series, we look at why meaning is always subjective and never objective, and what that implies for personal meaning-making. The hunt for objective meaning is a source of depression, whereas an acceptance of the subjectivity of meaning leads to more powerful and authentic living. What are the implications of saying that all meaning is subjective? Tune in and find out. Good listening! more.

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Episode 4: Creating Personal Meaning
When our younger daughter came home from college one year she gave me a coffee mug as a present. The motto on the coffee mug read: "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." "Isn't that your philosophy in a nutshell?" she laughed. She was exactly right. "Anonymous" had captured the essence of thousands of years of existential thought: that life is as much a responsibility as a gift and that each of us is honor-bound to create ourselves in our own best image. I make my meaning—or else I don't. All that exists until I actively and mindfully make personal meaning is the possibility of meaning and, while I wait to get started, the experience of emptiness. There is the possibility that I will experience the next hour as meaningful, a possibility that turns into a reality only if I make a certain kind of decision and a certain kind of investment. If I don't make that decision and that investment, I experience myself as going through the motions and wasting my precious time. We've all had that experience—for many of us, far too much of the time. Enjoy this week's show on the subject of creating personal meaning. Good listening! more.

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Episode 3: Life Purpose Statement
Today's show is the third in a series called "The Art of Meaning Making," a series that introduces the idea that meaning is not something to seek or something to find but rather something to make. Meaning is a series of decisions, one after another for as long as we live, about what we intend to value and how we intend to stand up in the world. Making meaning is the art and practice of mindfully and honorably taking into account your motives, your needs, and your values—everything from your need to look good to your need to do good—and, with your nerves quieted and your best self reporting for duty, making heartfelt decisions about how you intend to live your life. Today's show is called "Crafting Your Life Purpose Statement," a vital step in this process. Good listening! more.

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Episode 2: Terrain
Having received zero training in meaning-making, having never heard the phrase, billions of people worldwide move from commute to drudgery to commute to dinner and a few drinks, relentlessly shut down and fairly empty-headed, not because they don't have a brain, a heart, and other life-saving equipment but because they are completely unschooled in the ways of meaning. They are alive; but they are not engaged in the project of their own life. That is the general rule. And no one has taught them otherwise. Why aren't society's citizens offered any existential training? Because society has as its goal a minimizing of existential thought. A company making widgets hardly wants you to wonder about the meaningfulness of its widget. It wants you to be attracted by the widget's design and to buy two of them. A Broadway producer wants you to tap your feet; a police officer wants you to obey; a politician wants you to bear arms and lay down your life; a clergyman wants you to vote for his religion by attending his services. None of them are likely to invite you to step back and ponder the meaning of their product, policy, or ideology. You are supposed to buy, to agree, and to not think too hard about anything. That is what society wants and needs from you. I invite you to listen to the second episode of the "art of making meaning" series, where we learn why making meaning is not a cultural imperative. more.

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Episode 1: Getting Started
Tens of millions of Americans like you—thoughtful, sensitive, book-reading Americans who bought and read Sam Harris's The End of Faith, Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell, Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, and who keep books like Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning a perennial bestseller—are looking for a coherent plan to follow as they try to make sense of modern life. Books like The End of Faith have helped articulate the problem but many people are still looking for answers. Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life speaks to one America and provides one sort of answer. I hope that this show will speak to the other America, to those millions of people who want to create a meaningful life based on thoughtful evaluation and self-directed meaning-making. When you learn how to lead such a life, the following sorts of thing happen. A creativity coaching client of mine, Jack, an actor, had excellent verbal skills but a poor physical presence on stage. With my help, he decided that he had to take responsibility for that aspect of his career and invest his daily exercise routine with new meaning, transforming it from a chore into something much more valuable. Now, when he worked out, he paid less attention to how many reps he was doing and more attention to feeling strong and confident in his own skin. Jack used "I take responsibility" as his meaning-making mantra and used it to motivate himself to change his stage presence. This is what I mean by "making meaning." You decide that something is important to you and then you take personal responsibility for doing what's required of you to achieve that goal and to turn that dream into a reality. Listen to the first episode of the "art of making meaning" series, where we explore the good things that happen when you begin to make meaning. more.

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