The Illusions of Others Do Not Define Me

There are many narratives about First Communion dresses (See Raining Stones). They are often about the parents’ struggle. On some level, these dresses are like prom dresses or even wedding dresses. They trigger parents’ need to establish a sense of prestige in their community and a fantasy about who their daughters are. The high stakes of these garments often overshadow any connection to their daughters or even to the ritual events.

How a Dress Can Hold so Much Meaning

A photo was taken of two seven-year-old girls who made their First Communion at the same time. One girl is me; the other is my cousin. Her mother was my mother’s sister, who was an excellent seamstress. She worked for a famous New York fashion house as a sample maker. The model Twiggy wore some of my aunt’s samples in fashion shows.

My mother took me to a local department store and bought my First Communion dress. I wanted a veil with a full crown. My mother refused because she said only queens get to wear crowns. I was heartbroken. I had envisioned what I wanted.

My aunt purchased beautiful, expensive fabric and created her daughter’s dress. Afterward, she took my cousin to a photography studio to take pictures of her daughter and the dress.

That afternoon my aunt showed up unannounced at our home with my cousin wearing her communion dress so she could take a picture of us together. My mother was not happy because I was playing in the yard with my friends, and she didn’t want me to change into my dress and get it dirty.

I didn’t want to take the picture because I thought my cousin’s dress was so much prettier than mine, and she had the full crown and veil that I had wanted. Also, my aunt often used me to show my cousin why she was “the best.”  The dress experience was full of shame for me.

A New Perspective

Forty years later, my aunt gave me the photo. I was amazed because my body immediately recognized the shame I felt at having an inferior dress. When I looked closely at the picture, however, I saw how the dresses were almost entirely identical.

The experience of being treated as inferior to my cousin was my designated role in our extended family. It was part of my mother and aunt’s issues with each other.

Letting Go of What Is Not Ours

The picture added new information to the experience. There was no inferior dress nor inferior girl, just a need to support an elaborate illusion that somehow addressed a suffering my mother and aunt experienced.  From a felt sense, I played with the photo in Photoshop and removed everything that was not me. Somehow, I found a wise smile hiding in the moment.  It helps me remember that the illusions others create do not define me.

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A Togetherness

Photo Credit: barebody&soul

A togetherness

Turning inwards,
cultivating a quiet flame,
a seed,
an unfolding
in the dark.

Allowing this light to take form –
a drawing-in to itself
& a spreading-out…

Making space for the surrender,
a togetherness takes shape:

Finding your own metaphor
for this belonging,
beyond you & me.

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Stopping for Color

Painting by: Maria Hakasalo

How about stopping for a while and sensing what this picture gives to you?

Drawing and painting were a big thing in my life until it came to a stop three years ago. I could not cope when there was so much to do at the same time, such as studying creative writing and becoming a certified focusing teacher. The yearning woke up a few months ago. I picked up my acrylic painting tools – and noticed how it didn’t inspire me.

A couple of days ago, I found alcohol inks. What I like most about these slightly cloudy works is that I used a somewhat thicker paper that is different from the synthetic paper commonly used with alcohol inks. The thicker paper is an excellent support for color printing. It fits into my current mood.

Maybe you would like to try what I did: Look at a picture and, at the same time, feel the support that the chair and floor are giving to you. Let your gaze move around the image while feeling which colors or spots are attracting or resonating in you for some reason. When you see and feel it, stop and say with gentleness and beautiful curiosity that you want to sense and hear what it wants to give to you. You may wish to close your eyes if it feels right and ask yourself this question: What do I want to give myself at this point in my life, right now? Give it time, don’t hurry. You may begin to feel something in your body. Let it feel. If something pops up for you, greet it kindly and check if it seems to match the picture in any way. If so, you may feel that something is happening to you. A word, image, or movement might open up to you? Maybe it’s something you need today? Perhaps you can welcome it into your life?

When looking at the picture of my painting, I noticed how the white in the painting resonated in me. For me, the white place where there is no color, only pure paper, helped me accept the state of not knowing. I am there right now, and so many of us are. My loved ones are on another side of the sea, not knowing if they can come back from their holiday. The flights may not operate when so many of the flights cannot leave.

Just pure paper with no color yet, and I don’t know what its fate would be. It felt comforting to be with, and I started to feel more peaceful and tender.

Mitä jos pysähtyisit ja katsoisit, mitä tämä kuva avaa sinulle?

Piirtäminen ja maalaaminen on ollut iso asia elämässäni, kunnes kolme vuotta sitten siihen tuli stoppi. En vain jaksanut, kun samaan aikaan oli paljon muutakin, kuten kirjoittamisen ja fokusoinnin ohjauksen opiskelua. Kaipaus heräsi muutama kuukausi sitten. Keräilin akryylimaalausvälineitäni esille. Mutta ei se napannut.

Viikonloppuna löysin alkoholimusteet. Eniten pidän näistä hieman sameista, huokoiselle paperille tehdyistä kokeiluista. Sopii tämänhetkiseen tunnelmaani.

Kun valitsin valokuvaan tämän rajauksen, en tiennyt, miksi työn valkoinen, väritön osa oli siinä niin tärkeä.

Haluaisitko sinä kokeilla samaa, minkä minä tein: Katso kuvaa ihan rauhassa ja tunne samalla tuki, minkä tuoli ja lattia antavat sinulle. Anna katseesi liikkua kuvassa ja tunnustele, mikä väreistä tai kohdista vetää sinua puoleensa. Kun huomaat sen, pysähdy ja lempeästi ja kauniilla uteliaisuudella ikäänkuin kuuntele, mitä se haluaa sinulle kertoa tai avata. Voit halutessasi sulkea silmät, jos se tuntuu paremmalta ja antaa tämän kysymyksen asettua sinuun: mitähän tämä kohta haluaa antaa minulle juuri nyt? Anna sille aikaa, älä kiirehdi. Saatat alkaa tuntea jotain kehossasi. Anna sen tuntua. Jos jotain avautuu sinulle, tervehdi sitä ystävällisesti ja tarkista, tuntuuko se yhteensopivalta valitsemasi kuvan kohdan/värin kanssa. Ehkä jokin sana, kuva tai liike avautuu sinulle? Saatat tuntea, että jotain sinussa tapahtuu. Ehkä se on jotain, mitä tarvitset juuri tänään?

Valkoinen kohta auttoi minua hyväksymään ei-tietämisen tilan, jossa tällä hetkellä olen, ja niin moni meistä on. Läheiseni kaukana lomamatkalla, enkä tiedä, pääsevätkö he lentämään takaisin, kun niin moni lento on peruttu. Pelkkä puhdas paperi, jossa ei ole vielä väriä enkä voi tietää, millä tavoin se täyttyy, auttaa minua olemaan tässä hetkessä. Jokin minussa rauhoittuu ja pehmenee.

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Connect to Kevin’s Intunements

Photo by: Diana Scalera

One of the reason’s for the blog was to create a space for the Wholebody Focusing Community to continue to develop and grow.  Kevin McEvenue has provided our us with  more than 30 audio guided suggestions or intunements to help all of us each day of our lives.  It is important to remind readers of these amazing resources in this difficult time we are experiencing.

The intunements are organized into three “albums.”

  1. First Intunements is for anyone who wants to start or become more proficient at Wholebody Focusing;
  2. Coming Home is for anyone who has some basic understanding of Wholebody Focusing and wants to deepen their practice; and
  3. Exploring the Unexplored is for anyone who wants to extend their practice in ways that they may not have yet experienced.

You can find them by clicking on “Find your Favorite Intunement!

Enjoy and be held by Kevin’s voice and wisdom.  Let us know which ones are most helpful and why.

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Una lettera dal nord Italia–Letter from Northern Italy

See English Translation at the end of Italian version.

Oggi qualcosa in me è profondamente scosso e triste. Sto facendo colazione e piango …piango per tutte quelle persone che non ce l’hanno fatta, che sono morte sole, anziane e non, isolate in ospedale perché nessuno poteva avvicinarsi alle zone dei contagiati.

Mi ha molto colpito la vicenda di una nonnina di più di 90 anni , che già era in ospedale, a cui il Covid-19 ha dato il colpo di grazia. Voleva tanto salutare la famiglia per un ultima volta, prima di andarsene , ma non le è stato concesso…una voce in me dice : “No!!!Non è possibile….sarà vero?”

E poi piango per la paura, che come un’ombra scura, si è insinuata nella vita di tanti e anche per l’incoscienza di chi invece non ha esitato a fuggire portando un possibile contagio dal Nord al Sud , dove le strutture ospedaliere sono ancora più bisognose che al Nord.

E infine piango per l mia piccola Confort Zone che, nello spazio di pochi giorni, è stata spazzata via. Qualcuno ieri, alla televisione, ha detto che noi qui in Europa siamo una generazione con la vita tutta “in discesa”. In parte è certamente vero se ci paragoniamo alle generazioni precedenti che hanno dovuto affrontare la guerra e l’Olocausto. E’ vero anche che si tratta di una generalizzazione perché ognuno deve affrontare i propri dolori e le difficoltà della vita anche in un periodo di pace…

Devo andare indietro fino agli anni’70 e all’Austerity per ricordare un paesaggio così “desertico”. Io faccio colazione davanti ad una grande finestra e, in lontananza, c’è una strada che unisce la mia città a Torino…questa mattina posso contare le auto che passano ad una ad una e sento diffondersi un silenzio irreale.

L’immagine dell’Austerity di 50 anni fa mi arriva come associazione ma sento anche quanto quel periodo, ed io con esso, fossimo diversi da adesso. Allora avevo 20 anni ed eravamo sì senz’auto , ma liberi di andare in bicicletta o a piedi e per noi ragazzi era un occasione per trovarci in grandi gruppi e fare gite. Questo ricordo mi aiuta di più a comprendere i giovani di ora che faticano ad accettare ciò che viene richiesto…stare chiusi in casa. .

Questo antico ricordo e come mi sentivo libera e allegra, felice di pedalare è qui, presente nella totalità del mio essere e stride con il presente.

So che una piccola, o grande, parte di me sta piangendo perché le sue abitudini, che sono anche sicurezze, sono state spazzate via e sento anche un qualcos’altro in me che vorrebbe giudicare, che mentalmente elenca tutte le Grandi Anime che hanno fatto fronte a situazioni molto dure e ne hanno fatto un’occasione di trasformazione per sé e spesso per gli altri, Faccio spazio anche a questa voce di sottofondo che elenca Assagioli, il mio primo”Maestro”, Mandela, Ghandi, Madre Teresa….ma molto di me in questo momento si sente una “piccola anima” di fronte ad una sfida grande e allora do spazio anche alle lacrime per quella parte di me che si sente persa e spaventata , che vorrebbe tanto fare una passeggiata con la sua migliore amica ma sa che è meglio lasciar perdere…

Non è facile, ci vuole veramente un grande spazio per contenere tutto e mettere tutto alla “giusta distanza” ma, lentamente sento che il mio dolore si sta calmando e mi affiorano i messaggi dei colleghi Focalizzatori , degli amici, dei gruppi di ascolto ed empatia che stiamo formando in Italia , unendoci localmente ma anche da zona a zona, fra il Nord e il Sud e vedo le risorse e anche la fiducia e mi sento meglio.

Il mio gatto ha sentito tutto questo tumulto interiore ed è venuto ad acciambellarsi accanto a me. Mi guarda e lo sento presente, discreto , qui con me , come avviene nel Focusing … ora posso affrontare questa nuova giornata.

A Letter from Northern Italy

Today something in me is deeply shaken and sad.

It’s breakfast time, and I am crying. I cry for all those people who didn’t survive, who died alone, old or not, isolated in the hospital because no one could enter the ward where contagious people are.

I have been very touched by the story of a 90-year-old grandmother who was already in the hospital, and to whom Covid-19 gave the final blow. She longed to say goodbye to her family before leaving, but it was not permitted. A voice inside me says.” No, it’s not possible. Are you sure it is true?”

Then I cry for Fear, which, like a dark shadow, has crept into the life of many people. I grieve the irresponsibility of those who ran south in the middle of the night from the northern infectious zones. They exhibited no hesitation that they might bring the contagion to areas where hospitals are very far from the excellent quality of Milan’s and where there are many old people–their grandmothers or grandfathers perhaps.

And finally, I cry for my small Comfort Zone swept away in a few days. Yesterday somebody said on TV that we are a generation whose life has been all “downhill.” Compared to the previous generation who had to face wars and The Holocaust, this is undoubtedly true. It is also true that everyone has to meet their difficulties and pains in life, even in times of peace.

I go back to the seventies and to the Austerity period to see such a “desert” landscape. I have my breakfast in front of a large window where, in the distance, I can see a road going from my town to Turin. This morning I can count the cars one by one, and I feel a creeping, unreal, and heavy silence all around.

The times and I were very different fifty years ago when Austerity came to visit us! I was twenty years old and, even if we could not go around by car anymore, we were free to walk or ride a bicycle, and we were happy to meet in large groups and organize trips to the countryside. This memory helps me to better understand young people who are now finding it hard to accept and respect the New Rule. Stay at home and don’t meet other people outside your own family.

I hold space for this old memory of how free and happy I was to ride my bike among my friends. I am here now, present to the whole of myself, and it crashes into the current reality.

I am aware that a little, or a large, part of me, is crying for its routines, and certainties swept away so suddenly. I also sense something else in me that is trying to judge this. Something that, mentally, is counting on all the Great Souls who lived through tough situations and transformed them into a path of light and growth for themselves and, often, for many other people. I make space for this voice in the background enumerating Assagioli, my first “Master,” Mandela, Mother Teresa, Gandhi. There is something in me; however, a lot of me, feeling a pure “Little Soul” facing a big challenge and so I give plenty of space to that part of me frightened and lost, a part longing for a walk in the countryside with her best friend but aware that it is better not to do it now.

It is not so easy. I need a lot of space to hold everything this morning and keep it at the “right distance” but, slowly. I feel my pain is melting away, and messages from my friends and fellow Focusers come to my mind. I know that Listening and Empathy Groups are gathering all around Italy. They link North to South awakening Resources and Trust.

Now I feel better.

My cat felt all this interior turmoil and came to curl up near me. He looks at me, and I feel he is present near me in an unobtrusive way, as we do in Focusing. Now I can go and live a new day.

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Heart Holding Space

Resting in the authority of your natural presence
allow yourself to come home,
emerge from this being you.

And yet still there’s that current
shunts you away from this –
a loping grey wolf
in the wilderness of your belonging.

Taking the time, allow a fresh momentum
to assault that crooked door
on rusted hinges,
crack its frozen joints,
charm its forgotten longings.
And let the discovery be enough.

Finding a heart holding space
for these abandoned places
of forest and caves,
the spell of your here & now blooms.
Let it be your home.

In the depth is the direction:
rising like spring waters,
welling up and filling out itself
in unexpected ways,

a new beginning.


This poem was a result of a session between barebody&soul and Addie van der Kooy.

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The Common Good, WBF and COVID-19

We are living through an experience like none other in our lifetime. We face a massive pandemic that will have some impact on every human on this planet. How are we holding that in our bodies? 

Different Experiences

When I speak to friends about how it is impacting them, there is a wide range of responses. My Italian friends are living through the worst moments of the pandemic for their country. They are frustrated by the restrictions and also aware that they are safer than people in other countries. They have national health care, a government that is acting decisively, and are expected to Stay Home until April 13. 

Italy is following the same measures that the Chinese had taken. These measures reduced the power of the virus in a matter of 5 weeks. My Italian friends mention a sense of national pride that their country is putting human life first, all human life, despite those who might want to leave out some people. I suspect the Chinese are proud of the efficiency of their government to act quickly, even in light of the high death toll. China is also supplying the medical equipment that Italy desperately needs to boost its treatment capacity. That includes 10,000 pulmonary ventilators, 2 million face masks, and 20,000 protective suits. 

Matteo Renzi, a former prime minister, said that the Stay Home decree was necessary to save all of Europe. Both China and Italy have acted in the common good–for their countries and the world population.  

When Common Good is not a Consideration

I live in NYC. The first measure that the city announced was that it found a place for 51,000 cadavers somewhere on a small island around NYC. Before the City hospitals will test someone, the patient must meet the need to be hospitalized.  Without knowing if we are infected, each person is left to make their own decisions about how to respond to the virus with a few guiding suggestions of wash your hands, do not touch your face and stay away of crowds if you can.  Every person who has not been tested is a potential carrier of the virus.  As of March 10, only a quarter of one percent of the USA population has been tested.

Fox News, a main media outlet, actively supports the idea the COVID-19 is “hoax” whose intention is yet another attempt to impeach the president. President Trump did not want to transfer the Princess Cruise vacationers to land because he “didn’t want his numbers to go up.” There is also a federal censorship decree that demands that government agencies have their “message” approved by Vice President Pence before making it public. Each state is left to come up with plans without resources. California, for example, has a population of 40 million and has only received 400 tests for COVID-19. That is one test per 40,000 people. In the newspapers, there are more articles about the impact on the stock market than the human impact of the virus.

My friends and I debate what to do. My husband is in his 70’s and has COPD plus a compromised immune system. We are both in social isolation not only to protect ourselves but also to protect others because we do not know if some of the the physical problems we face have anything to do with COVID-19. Other friends are washing their hands and not touching their faces. Some are somewhat limiting their contact with others. One friend plans to go on vacation to another country. None of us know or have a mechanism to find out whether or not we have the virus. Our conversation is about our own risk. Sometimes someone mentions their concern about being a carrier of the virus.  

When a Society Ignores the Common Good

It has become evident that the lack of common good in the US government’s reaction to COVID-19 leaves us to decide how we can protect ourselves and others. That will not save us from this pandemic.   When governments do not act in the common good, citizens often lack awareness of their responsibility to think beyond their personal situation. The decision to act in a way that supports the common good becomes a personal one and not necessarily endorsed even by one’s peers. When I explained to a friend that we had decided to isolate socially, he asked, “Did you get your doctor’s permission?”  

Holding Space for All That

Yesterday morning as I was practicing my Buddhists chants, a thought came to me. I needed to find a deeper connection with the chants. I decided to pause after each one to connect to the energy that it brought to me. When I paused, I found my hands moving, tears coming, and energy enlivening my body. I allowed space for this energy until it had wholly moved through me. A safe place emerged in which I felt was present and supported by the energy of the chants. I paused to give my body a chance to enjoy the connection to the power of the chant. I had an opportunity for a deeper relationship with my present self. I found the “self without content” that Addie van der Kooy talks about in his videos.  

That chance to be with what is living in me now in a safe way helps me have more space for me after the chanting. It also gives me a chance for a good cry, which doesn’t come easily for me. It gives me space to feel alive. I also have space for “I am alive right now,” and what that means to me.

“Give space for your inner authority to come, let it be your home.”

As I interact with my friends over how we deal with COVID-19, the threat to our health, the health of our loved ones, and the future of our existence post-pandemic, I remember how l loved reading about Galileo and how he survived the multiple bouts of plague in Italy during his lifetime. It was a time of study, connecting with friends, other scientists, and loved ones via letters across Europe and parts of Asia as he remained his curious and amazing self by continuing his studies of how the universe unfolds.   

This weekend our yearly St. Patrick’s Day gathering at our home will be via online conferencing so we won’t miss out on being with each other.  

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Why Heartfelt Conversation?/ Perché Conversazione del Cuore?

When Rosa and I found Wholebody Focusing for the first time, both of us were seasoned Focusers. We had our own way to enter the Focusing process, which worked well. Still, we both realized immediately how Wholebody Focusing grounding was bringing us into a deeper and broader state of presence, in a very natural and straightforward way.
Whenever we engage in a partnered focusing session, we always start with a deep grounding through Heartfelt Conversation. We use this practice to facilitate a session with a client or student. We also enter into a Heartfelt Conversation with each other this way.

We could not start a Heartfelt Conversation without a slow, detailed grounding. First, each of us talks aloud to guide ourselves into a grounded presence. We describe everything we notice and feel to each other; then, we switch and, afterward, we still spend at least five minutes, or even more, exploring our “We Space.” It is a prolonged, natural process that opens both of us to a broader consciousness in which we both resonate with the space around us and experience more abundant wisdom coming from inside and outside ourselves. We feel we are in a vast field of energies and information, more fertile than both our fields alone.
This process helps us to very naturally step into grounded presence, and we experience something that is very wise–more profound, and love guides us as we interact with each other.

This is Heartfelt Conversation at its best for us!

Not all Conversations are so deep. Some of them are a very creative process, and others are full of lightness and sharing. We have also experienced healing process during this process.

As we work to support our clients, students, and focusing partners, we enter Heartfelt Conversation many times with outstanding outcomes. For example, we used HFC when we started working together to explore our differences, their most unclear and hidden parts, and also our different experiences in life. We touched our fears about this new collaboration, and we explored what could interfere, stopping or blocking the flow of energy between us and any chance at having an authentic, open connection.

We explored our discordant aspects in a careful, respectful, and authentic way through HFC. This in-depth process allowed us to open up to an appreciation of our mutual qualities. What did we like about each other? What was moving us to work together, and what was attracting one towards the other?

HFC showed itself as the most touching, positive, and transforming part of our process: any doubt or difficulty disappeared. Spontaneously, almost without becoming aware of what was happening between us, we shared a mutual appreciation for our qualities and positive aspects.  We brought out a whole series of qualities that had remained silent until we began having Heartfelt Conversations. The result of these interactions was that confidence was strengthened not only in our collaborative projects but also in our self-esteem.

Perché iniziare con un buon Radicamento

Quando abbiamo incontrato l’Wholebody Focusing cinque anni fa eravamo entrambe focalizzatrici ormai da tempo. Avevamo sviluppato ognuna il proprio modo di entrare nel processo di Focusing ma, fin da subito, ci siamo rese conto dell’efficacia del radicamento. Come previsto dal primo dei cinque spazi corporei dell’Wholebody, iniziando con un buon Radicamento, il processo andava molto più in profondità e il nostro Stato di Presenza risultava ampliato. Così è diventato il nostro modo di iniziare una sessione o una Conversazione col Cuore.

Iniziare una Conversazione col Cuore con un buon Radicamento per noi è fondamentale: ognuno a turno guida se stesso, descrivendo ad alta voce al compagno, in maniera semplice ed autentica, tutto ciò che percepisce. Così facendo si apre in modo naturale ad uno stato di coscienza più ampio, entra in un ritmo più lento e il pensiero va a servizio della percezione. Le informazioni giungono ai due partner dal Tutto in cui ci si radica, un luogo interiore ed esteriore allo stesso tempo.

I corpi fisici, emozionali ed energetici entrano in risonanza e si aprono all’esplorazione consapevole dello “Spazio del Noi”, quel campo di energie ed informazioni più vasto e ricco di contenuti dei reciproci campi. Si entra naturalmente in uno Stato di presenza Radicata che, nella Conversazione col Cuore, è ancora più vasto e profondo perché è formato dal campo fisico, energetico e spirituale di entrambi e, molto spesso, viene esperito come un qualcosa di molto più intelligente, saggio, amorevole di ciò che potrebbe emergere da una sessione individuale.

Sono molti i casi in cui la Conversazione col Cuore può essere utilizzata con evidenti benefici. Ad esempio all’inizio della nostra collaborazione è stato molto utile per noi esplorare quali erano gli aspetti più diversi, difficili, oscuri dei nostri caratteri e delle nostre esperienze. Quali erano le nostre paure rispetto ad una possibile collaborazione. Cosa avrebbe potuto mettersi in mezzo tra di noi ed impedire l’autenticità, l’apertura, l’accoglienza o semplicemente lo scorrere di una buona energia?

Dopo aver esplorato con discrezione, rispetto e autenticità questi aspetti più spigolosi, ci siamo naturalmente aperte, in maniera sincera, a quelle che erano le nostre reciproche qualità. Cosa apprezzavamo veramente l’una dell’altra, cosa ci aveva attratto e cosa ci aveva spinto a quella collaborazione? Quest’ultima parte si è rivelata la parte più commovente e costruttiva del processo, la parte che ha sciolto ogni nodo e dubbio. Senza neanche rendercene conto, in una spinta naturale di spontaneità, ci siamo confidate la nostra reciproca ammirazione e apprezzamento per alcuni degli aspetti che avevamo colto nell’altra e abbiamo fatto emergere tutta una serie di qualità rimaste in silenzio fino a quel momento. Questo ha sicuramente rafforzato la nostra fiducia non solo nel nostro progetto di collaborazione ma anche nella nostra autostima.

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