Participating in a Sweat Lodge Ceremony: The Dos and Don’ts

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The prospect of participating in a Sweat Lodge Ceremony can be both exciting and daunting, especially if it is your first time. If you are considering joining one of these ancient rituals, it is important to educate yourself on the cultural significance, traditions, and authentic practices that go along with it. In this guide, we will explore the dos and don’ts of participating in a Sweat Lodge Ceremony to ensure that you are able to fully appreciate the experience and avoid any unintentional disrespect or harm. From dressing appropriately to reflecting on your intentions, read on for a comprehensive breakdown of how to approach this sacred event with reverence and mindfulness.

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What is a Sweat Lodge Ceremony?

What Is A Sweat Lodge Ceremony?
A sweat lodge ceremony is a spiritual and cleansing ritual that has been practiced by various indigenous communities for centuries. During the ceremony, participants sit in a small, enclosed structure, also known as a sweat lodge, while hot stones are brought in and water is poured over them, producing steam and raising the temperature inside. This experience is meant to purify the body and mind, as well as promote healing and spiritual growth. It’s essential to understand the purpose and significance of the ceremony before participating in one, as it requires respecting the culture and traditions of the community. To prepare for a sweat lodge ceremony, one should dress appropriately, bring necessary items, and follow the instructions of the ceremonial leader. You can learn how to prepare yourself for the ceremony by reading a preparation guide here.

The Importance of Understanding the Ceremony’s Purpose

Understanding the purpose of the Sweat Lodge Ceremony is crucial to ensure that all participants respect the cultural and spiritual significance of the event. The Sweat Lodge Ceremony is a sacred ritual and is deeply rooted in Native American culture. The ceremony is conducted to purify the body and soul, connect with the spiritual world, and seek guidance and healing. It is essential for participants to understand and respect the ceremony’s purpose to ensure a meaningful and authentic experience.

To do this, participants should conduct thorough research about the Sweat Lodge Ceremony and its cultural significance. One should explore the history and origins of the ceremony, as well as the traditional practices carried out during the event. An excellent way to do this is by attending workshops or classes to learn from experienced practitioners or shamans.

It is also necessary to ensure that one’s participation in the ceremony is guided by sincere and respectful intentions. This means not just attending the ceremony for entertainment or curiosity but rather understanding that the Sweat Lodge Ceremony is a sacred practice that requires reverence and devotion.

It is essential to understand how the Sweat Lodge Ceremony differs from other similar practices, such as saunas. While both saunas and Sweat Lodge Ceremonies involve the use of heat to promote sweating and detoxification, Sweat Lodge Ceremonies carry deep spiritual meaning and significance that saunas lack. The Sweat Lodge Ceremony should not be viewed as a casual or recreational activity.

In summary, participants need to approach the Sweat Lodge Ceremony with the right mindset and intentions to ensure that the ceremony is conducted with respect and authenticity. By understanding the purpose of the ceremony and its cultural significance, participants can ensure that the experience is meaningful, life-changing, and transformative.

The Significance of the Sweat Lodge Rituals

Sweat Lodge rituals have significant importance in Native American culture and spirituality. The Sweat Lodge Ceremony represents a spiritual journey of rebirth, purification and renewal. It is a place where people can connect with themselves, the Creator, and all of creation. The Sweat Lodge is considered a sacred space where all participants gather to pray, sing, and communicate with the spirits.

The rituals performed inside the Sweat Lodge have symbolic meanings. The use of fire, water, earth, and air create a balance of the four elements of life. The darkness inside the Lodge represents the womb of Mother Earth, where everything is born and reborn. Similarly, the heat of the stones represents the heat of the womb, and the intense heat and steam in the Lodge are meant to purify and cleanse the body and mind.

In Sweat Lodge ceremonies, the participants honor their ancestors, the natural world, and the spiritual world by offering gratitude and prayers. They also seek guidance, healing, and clarity on their path of life. The ceremony involves spiritual songs, drumming, and chants, which provide a deep spiritual connection and a sense of unity among the participants.

The Sweat Lodge is believed to have many benefits, including physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits. It is said to help with various health issues, such as respiratory problems, muscle aches, and joint pains. The heat and steam of the Lodge also help to detoxify the body, removing toxins and impurities. The ceremony is believed to provide mental clarity, emotional healing, and spiritual awakening.

However, it is important to note that Sweat Lodge ceremonies are not a substitute for medical treatment, and one should always consult a healthcare professional for any medical concerns. Also, one should never participate in a Sweat Lodge ceremony without the guidance of an experienced and trained ceremonial leader.

The Sweat Lodge rituals have great significance in Native American spirituality and culture. It is a place of healing, purification, and renewal. The ceremony offers many benefits, but it should only be participated in with proper guidance and respect for the traditions and customs of the Native American culture.

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The Dos of Participating in a Sweat Lodge Ceremony

When participating in a Sweat Lodge Ceremony, it is important to follow certain Dos in order to respect and honor the culture and traditions. Firstly, it is essential to research and understand the significance of the ceremony, including its purpose and rituals. Dress appropriately for the event and bring necessary items, such as a towel and water bottle. Listen to the ceremonial leader and follow their directions to ensure safety and respect towards the ceremony. Show respect towards the participants by maintaining a positive and respectful attitude. Stay hydrated and take care of your body, especially in the hot and humid environment of the sweat lodge. Lastly, reflect on your intentions and be present in the moment to fully experience the ceremony. By following these Dos, participants can gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Sweat Lodge Ceremony. For more information and guidance on building your own sweat lodge, visit Build Your Own Sweat Lodge Guide.

Research and Respect the Culture and Tradition

When participating in a sweat lodge ceremony, it is essential to research and respect the culture and tradition behind it. This means taking the time to learn about the Native American culture and the significance of the ceremony. It’s important to remember that this is not a recreational activity but a deeply spiritual and cultural event.

To show respect, here are some things to keep in mind:

Do Don’t
  • Learn about the history and traditions of the tribe who practices the sweat lodge ceremony
  • Assume that all Native American tribes practice the same ceremony
  • Ask permission before taking photos or videos during the ceremony
  • Take any photos or videos without explicit permission
  • Show respect for the sacred objects used in the ceremony
  • Touch or handle the sacred objects without permission
  • Offer tobacco, a traditional gift in the Native American culture, as a sign of respect to the ceremony leader and participants
  • Offer any other gifts without permission or appropriate knowledge of the culture
  • By taking the time to respect and understand the culture and tradition behind the sweat lodge ceremony, participants can deepen their experience and show appreciation for this sacred practice. If you want to learn more about the sweat lodge ceremony’s benefits, check out this article on sweat lodge benefits.

    Dress Appropriately and Bring Necessary Items

    When it comes to participating in a sweat lodge ceremony, dressing appropriately and bringing the necessary items is crucial to ensure comfort and respect for the tradition. The traditional attire for a sweat lodge ceremony is simple and modest clothing, such as cotton t-shirts, pants, or dresses for women. Avoid tight-fitting clothing or clothing made of synthetic materials as they can make you uncomfortable in the heat. A loose-fitting cotton outfit is the best choice to respect the culture and honor the tradition.

    In addition to dressing appropriately, participants should also bring necessary items to the ceremony. One of the key items to bring is a towel or two to sit on during the ceremony. These towels should be made of cotton, just like your clothing, to ensure they absorb sweat well and avoid slippage on the ground.

    Some participants may also want to bring a water bottle to stay hydrated during the ceremony. If you choose to bring a water bottle, make sure it is made of metal or glass instead of plastic, as plastic bottles can release toxins when exposed to heat. Additionally, bringing a notebook or journal to record your thoughts and experiences during the ceremony can also be helpful for reflection after the event.

    It’s worth noting that sweat lodge ceremonies are traditionally held barefoot, so wearing comfortable shoes that are easy to take off is wise. Dressing appropriately and bringing necessary items is crucial to respecting the culture, staying comfortable, and allowing you to fully engage in the experience.

    Listen to the Ceremonial Leader and Follow Directions

    Listening to the Ceremonial Leader and following their directions is a crucial part of participating in a Sweat Lodge Ceremony. The Ceremonial Leader is often an experienced practitioner who oversees the ceremony, and they carry the responsibility of ensuring that everyone in the lodge is safe and comfortable throughout the ceremony.

    During the ceremony, the Ceremonial Leader communicates to the participants what to expect, how to behave, and how to participate. It is essential to respect and follow their instructions. Participants should pay close attention to the Ceremonial Leader’s words, as they are there to guide and protect them. All participants should follow the instructions given by the leader, and not do anything without their permission.

    One of the primary reasons for following the Ceremonial Leader’s directions is to ensure everyone’s safety. For instance, they might instruct participants to wear appropriate clothing or bring a specific item with them into the Lodge. They may also give guidance on how to breathe and regulate body temperature, or recommend taking breaks during the ceremony.

    Following the Ceremonial Leader’s instructions also helps in maintaining the sanctity of the Ceremony. The Sweat Lodge is a sacred space, with specific rules around behavior and etiquette. Studying and respecting the culture’s traditions and protocols are paramount. The Ceremonial Leader knows what is expected and will make sure that everyone in the lodge abides by them.

    It is crucial to follow the directions of the Ceremonial Leader during the Sweat Lodge Ceremony. A failure to do so can compromise one’s safety – and the safety of others – in the Lodge. Strictly adhering to the leader’s instructions, however, helps establish an environment of trust, respect, and safety for all participants.

    Pro Tip: If you’re interested in learning more about the history and significance of the Sweat Lodge Ceremony in shamanism, you can check out this page for more context.

    Show Respect to the Ceremony and Participants

    It is essential to always show respect to the ceremony and other participants during a sweat lodge ceremony. This means being mindful of your actions and being respectful of the space, the other participants, and the cultural traditions. One way to show respect is by refraining from using any electronic devices or engaging in any conversation during the ceremony. This is not only disrespectful but can also disrupt the sacred energy in the lodge.

    It is important to avoid any behavior that could be considered disrespectful, such as mocking or belittling the beliefs or customs of others. In a sweat lodge ceremony, every person is there to connect with themselves, others, and the Divine. To create a safe and respectful space, it is crucial to avoid judgment, criticism, or any form of aggression.

    Similarly, it is also necessary to act in a way that honors the sacredness of the ceremony. This includes not engaging in any activity that is not related to the ceremony, like taking pictures or eating. The reason is that a sweat lodge ceremony is a serious and intentional practice that requires participants’ complete presence and focus.

    By showing respect to the ceremony and participants, you will not only uphold the sacredness of the practice but also create an environment in which all participants can connect with themselves and the Divine. Remember, this is not an individual practice, but a communal one, in which every member contributes to a collective energy. Thus, by showing respect for the ceremony and other participants, you contribute to the overall experience positively.

    To learn more about sweat lodge ceremonies, you can read our in-depth article on the topic.

    Stay Hydrated and Take Care of Your Body

    Participating in a sweat lodge ceremony can be physically and mentally challenging. As the name suggests, a sweat lodge ceremony involves intense sweating, and it is essential to keep your body hydrated during the entire process. It is imperative to drink water before and after the ceremony, to maintain optimal hydration levels. Drinking water during the ceremony is not common in most traditional sweat lodges, so make sure to ask the leader beforehand. It is also essential to consume electrolytes before and after the ceremony to replenish the body’s lost minerals. Coconut water, banana, and pickle juice are some of the natural sources of replenished minerals that can be consumed.

    In addition to staying hydrated, it is essential to take care of your body before and after the ceremony. It is best to avoid alcohol and caffeine a day before the ceremony as it can lead to dehydration. It is also advisable to eat a light meal or fast before the sweat ceremony to make sure that your body doesn’t feel heavy during the entire process. After the ceremony, it is important to relax and rest and avoid indulging in any strenuous physical activity.

    Participating in a sweat lodge ceremony is an intense experience, both physically and mentally. Taking care of your body before, during, and after the ceremony and keeping it hydrated is crucial to make most of the experience. Remember that the purpose of the ceremony is to heal, and you must treat your body with utmost care and respect. Scientific research and controversies around the safety of sweat lodge ceremonies exist, so it is essential to approach the ceremony with well-informed and educated knowledge.

    Reflect on Your Intentions and Be Present in the Moment

    Part of the beauty of participating in a Sweat Lodge Ceremony is the opportunity to reflect on your intentions and be present in the moment. Before entering the sweat lodge, take some time to reflect on why you are participating in this ceremony. Is there a personal issue you are hoping to address? Are you looking for clarity? An emotional release? Whatever your intentions may be, make sure they are genuine and respectful.

    Once inside the sweat lodge, it’s important to be present in the moment and fully engage in the ceremony. As the heat and intensity of the ceremony builds, it can be easy to focus on discomfort or negative thoughts. However, it’s crucial to remain focused on your intentions and allow the sweat lodge to serve its purpose.

    A helpful technique for staying present is to focus on your breath. Deep, intentional breaths can help quiet the mind and allow you to fully immerse yourself in the ceremony. Another helpful technique is to repeat a mantra or affirmation to yourself. This can help you stay centered and focused on your intentions.

    It’s important to note that your intentions may change as the ceremony progresses. If you feel called to shift your focus or intentions during the ceremony, simply trust your instincts and follow your heart.

    It’s also essential to be respectful of the other participants’ intentions and experiences. Avoid judgment or commentaries during the ceremony, and instead hold space for everyone’s experience. Remember, the Sweat Lodge Ceremony is a sacred, spiritual experience shared amongst the participants.

    Consider attending additional ceremonies or speaking with a trusted Shaman to continue reflecting on your intentions and the lessons learned from the ceremony. Internal html link to Shaman Sweat Lodge Analysis page could be helpful for a deeper understanding of a spiritual meaning of the ceremony.

    The Don’ts of Participating in a Sweat Lodge Ceremony

    Participating in a Sweat Lodge Ceremony

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    is a unique cultural experience that requires a deep level of respect and mindfulness. However, there are some important Don’ts that participants should be aware of in order to avoid offending the culture or disrupting the ceremony. First and foremost, it’s crucial to avoid any form of cultural appropriation or disrespect towards the ceremony itself. That means refraining from mocking or belittling any of the rituals, such as the use of sacred objects or the recitation of traditional prayers. Additionally, it’s important to avoid consuming drugs or alcohol before or during the ceremony, as this can disturb the spiritual flow of the ritual and endanger the safety of participants. Other Don’ts include leaving the ceremony without permission, bringing negative energy or intentions into the lodge, and disrespecting any of the ritual practices. By being aware of and adhering to these Don’ts, participants can fully embrace the significance and meaning of the sweat lodge ceremony. Learn more about the difference between sweat lodges and saunas here.

    Don’t Engage in Cultural Appropriation or Disrespect the Ceremony

    It is important to remember that participating in a sweat lodge ceremony is a sacred and spiritual experience that holds deep cultural significance for Indigenous communities. Therefore, engaging in cultural appropriation or disrespecting the ceremony in any way is a major don’t when participating in a sweat lodge ceremony.

    Cultural appropriation refers to the act of taking elements from a culture that is not your own without permission or understanding of their cultural significance. This can manifest in various forms during a sweat lodge ceremony, such as wearing inappropriate attire or using sacred objects without proper understanding. It is important to research and understand the cultural significance of the ceremony and its practices, and to participate with respect and reverence for the culture and traditions being honored.

    It is crucial to avoid disrespecting the ceremony in any way. This includes disrupting the sacred space by talking or making noise during the ceremony, failing to follow the ceremonial leader’s instructions, or not showing reverence for the sacred objects and rituals present in the ceremony. Disrespecting the ceremony in any way is not only inappropriate, but it can also disrupt the spiritual experience for other participants and disrespect the Indigenous community and their culture.

    In short, cultural appropriation and disrespect have no place in a sweat lodge ceremony and should be taken extremely seriously. It is crucial to approach the ceremony with sensitivity, respect, and a willingness to learn and honor the traditions and culture being celebrated.

    Don’t Consume Drugs and Alcohol Before or During the Ceremony

    Participating in a sweat lodge ceremony requires a clear and present mind. Consuming drugs and alcohol before or during the ceremony can have serious consequences on your body and mind, and as such, it is a strict ‘don’t’ for anyone participating in the ceremony.

    Alcohol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system, and it increases the heart rate and breathing difficulties in the steamy hot environment of the sweat lodge. On the other hand, drug use, including marijuana, can affect your ability to focus, interrupt your thought process, affect your balance and coordination, and heighten your anxiety, which is the opposite of what sweat lodge ceremonies aims to achieve.

    It’s important to note that ceremonies are sacred events that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and participating in them involves respecting the ritual and culture. Consuming drugs and alcohol can be perceived as disrespectful and offensive to the ceremony, the ceremonial leader, and other participants. Additionally, the use of drugs and alcohol could lead to dangerous behavior that could endanger the wellbeing of the entire group.

    Here are some of the risks associated with consuming drugs and alcohol before and during a sweat lodge ceremony:

    Risks of Consuming Drugs and Alcohol  
    Increases the risk of dehydration  
    Decreased awareness and ability to focus  
    Loss of coordination and balance resulting in accidents and injuries  
    Increases the risk of heatstroke and heat exhaustion due to elevated heart rate and blood pressure  
    Heightened anxiety and paranoia leading to a negative experience  
    Offensive and disrespectful to the ceremony, ceremonial leader, and other participants  

    It is crucial to acknowledge and respect the purpose of sweat lodge ceremonies, and not to consume drugs or alcohol before or during the ceremony. The sweat lodge ceremony is a sacred ritual that demands attention and presence of mind, and the use of mind-altering substances can interfere with the ceremony’s objectives and have severe consequences.

    Don’t Leave the Ceremony without Permission

    Leaving a sweat lodge ceremony without permission is a big “no”. Doing so can disrupt the energy of the ceremony and create an unpleasant experience for everyone involved. It’s important to remember that sweat lodge ceremonies are steeped in tradition and this rule is deeply rooted in that tradition. In many cultures, leaving a ceremony without approval is seen as disrespecting the spirits, guide or the ceremonial leader.

    Before the ceremony begins, the leader will outline the guidelines, expectations, and safety precautions. It’s essential to follow these guidelines and respect the voice of the ceremonial leader at all times. Not asking for permission before leaving without fulfilling your role is seen as breaking the sacred agreements made to the Creator, to the ancestors and to fellow participants. It’s important to recognize that a sweat lodge ceremony is not something to be taken lightly. It is a spiritual undertaking that requires focus, respect, and discipline.

    If you feel the need to leave the ceremony, it’s essential to communicate this to the leader and request permission to do so. The leader will then give you the appropriate guidance if you need to be escorted out of the lodge or wait for the energetic cycle to come to an end and the door opens on its own. Remember that you are not only an individual attending the ceremony but a part of something larger that has started together and will end together with the permission of the spirits or Creator. As such, you must respect the community that has been created in the lodge.

    Sweat lodge ceremonies are more than just a spiritual practice; they are a way of life and a tradition that is to be respected and cherished. Not leaving the ceremony without permission shows respect for the traditions and the people participating in the ceremony. Breaking with this tradition is disrespectful to the spirits, the guide, and the participants involved in the ceremony. Remember to come to the sweat lodge ceremony with an open heart, a curious mind, and a willingness to learn and follow the guidance of the ceremonial leader at all times.

    Don’t Bring Negative Energy or Intentions into the Lodge

    Entering a sweat lodge ceremony with negative energy or intentions can disrupt the spiritual experience for everyone involved. It’s essential to approach the ceremony with an open mind and heart, leaving any anger, frustration, or negative emotions at the door.

    Bringing negative energy or intentions into the lodge can have severe consequences on yourself and others. It can cause distress, emotional and physical imbalance, and even put other participants at risk. The sweat lodge is a sacred space, and it’s important to show reverence and respect for its purpose.

    To avoid bringing negative energy or intentions into the lodge, take some time to prepare yourself mentally and spiritually before the ceremony. Take a few deep breaths, clear your mind, and reflect on positive thoughts and intentions. You can also perform a cleansing ritual beforehand, such as smudging with sage or palo santo.

    If you feel any negative emotions or energy arising during the ceremony, try to shift your focus back to your intentions and the purpose of the ceremony. Practice mindfulness and presence, staying connected to the group’s energy and the spiritual significance of the sweat lodge.

    Entering the sweat lodge with negative energy or intentions can disrupt the ceremony’s spiritual significance, causing harm to yourself and others. Take time to prepare yourself mentally and spiritually before the ceremony, and stay present and mindful throughout to avoid any negative energy disruption.

    Don’t Disrespect the Sacred Objects and Ritual Practices

    Don’t Disrespect the Sacred Objects and Ritual Practices
    – Ensure that you do not touch any of the sacred objects or artifacts used in the ceremony unless permitted to do so and always treat them with the utmost respect.
    – Never disrespect the sacred fire, which is a crucial element of the sweat lodge ceremony, by throwing inappropriate items into it or using it for purposes other than what it is intended for.
    – Avoid interrupting or disrupting any of the ritual practices during the ceremony, such as singing or chanting, unless given permission to do so by the ceremonial leader.
    – Refrain from speaking negatively about or criticizing any of the practices or beliefs associated with the sweat lodge ceremony.
    – If you have any questions or concerns about the sacred objects or rituals, politely ask the ceremonial leader for clarification and guidance.
    – Remember that these objects and practices hold great significance and importance for the community involved in the ceremony. It is essential to honor and respect them to ensure that the ceremony proceeds smoothly and without interruptions.
    – Don’t forget that you are a guest in the ceremony and it is crucial to act accordingly by following the instructions of the ceremonial leader and displaying reverence towards the sacred objects and rituals.


    As you can see, participating in a sweat lodge ceremony requires a great deal of respect and understanding for the culture and traditions involved. It is not simply a recreational activity, but a sacred and meaningful ritual that has been passed down for generations. By following the dos listed in this article, you can ensure that you show respect to the ceremony, the participants, and the culture. And by avoiding the don’ts, you can prevent any misunderstandings or disrespectful behavior. Remember to stay hydrated, be present in the moment, and reflect on your intentions. And most importantly, approach the ceremony with an open mind and heart. By doing so, you can gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the sweat lodge ceremony and the culture that surrounds it. So if you are planning on participating in a sweat lodge ceremony, keep these dos and don’ts in mind and approach the experience with respect and reverence.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What should I wear to a sweat lodge ceremony?

    You should dress modestly and appropriately for the weather. Most ceremonies require you to wear light and loose-fitting clothing. Avoid wearing flashy jewelry or anything that may interfere with the rituals.

    What should I bring to a sweat lodge ceremony?

    You may be required to bring your own towel, water, and a change of clothes. Check with the ceremonial leader beforehand to find out if there are any specific items you need to bring.

    How long does a sweat lodge ceremony usually last?

    The length of the ceremony varies depending on the traditions and practices of the specific culture. Some ceremonies may last for several hours, while others may only last for an hour or two.

    Is it safe to participate in a sweat lodge ceremony?

    It can be safe when it is conducted properly and with experienced ceremonial leaders. However, you should be aware of the risks associated with extreme heat exposure, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

    Can non-Indigenous people participate in a sweat lodge ceremony?

    It depends on the specific cultural practices and traditions of the ceremony. Some Indigenous communities may welcome non-Indigenous people to participate, while others may not. It is important to do your research and show respect for the cultural traditions.

    What should I do if I feel uncomfortable during the ceremony?

    You should communicate with the ceremonial leader and ask for their guidance. They can help you address any discomfort or issues that may arise during the ceremony.

    Can I take photos or record the ceremony?

    No, it is typically not allowed to take photos or record the ceremony. It is important to respect the sacred nature of the ceremony and the privacy of the participants.

    What type of physical preparation should I do before attending a sweat lodge ceremony?

    It is important to stay hydrated before the ceremony and avoid consuming alcohol or drugs. You may also want to do some light stretching exercises to prepare your body for the ritual.

    Do I need to fast before attending a sweat lodge ceremony?

    It depends on the specific cultural practices and traditions of the ceremony. Some ceremonies may require participants to fast or abstain from certain foods before the ceremony. Check with the ceremonial leader beforehand to find out if you need to fast.

    How can I learn more about sweat lodge ceremonies?

    You can research and read books or articles about the traditions and practices of sweat lodge ceremonies. You can also try to attend a ceremony led by an experienced ceremonial leader to gain a deeper understanding of the cultural significance of the ceremony.


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