Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How to Turn Every Action into a Meditation

 When we discover the peace and joy of meditation, we may often find ourselves in a quandary. We may want to keep enjoying the soothing meditation sessions, and feel reluctant to get back to the chores of life. 

For many of us, meditation is restricted to the time we spend exclusively on the meditation mat, doing our specific mediation practice. This makes us rush along other routine activities as if they were just impediments, unpleasant chores to get out of the way, so that we can spend time doing what we like. People who enjoy doing 'some' things but do not enjoy the numerous unavoidable chores in between, they also try to preform those duties just to get them out of the way-it could be cleaning your work space, washing your car, exercising, organizing your home, and so on. Even socializing can seem like an unavoidable chore sometimes -- that we have to do for the sake of keeping relationships at a functional level.

This attitude is very detrimental to the quality of life that we live and our experiences on a day-to-day basis. It won't help meditation either. Let's see how to sort this out to our advantage.

Meditation is not just the sitting practice

There are many reasons for trying to rush and dispense with our routine chores. Primarily it is the concern with self. When I return from office, I feel that I am tired and that I need to unwind. I want to watch my favorite TV program. When my little daughter comes and tries to chat with me, I want to get her out of the way as soon as possible. I turn a half ear to her, not really giving her my time.

When someone else does this to us, we can really feel hurt. It hurts relationships in the end. A sort of futility creeps into the person whom we ignore, albeit unwittingly.

Chores can also help us meditate better

It would be better if we recognized that tiny, everyday chores also contribute to our general performance and happiness. If you are a meditator, you can use these chores to improve your meditation. Even if you do not meditate, you can use every action-whether routine or special, to improve the quality of your life.

How to improve quality of life using every action

You use the same tool for performing every action: your mind. It is the indispensable tool for all actions. In turn, every action and every thought affect the performance of your mind. Thus, when we habitually rush through our daily chores, our minds would not be so well equipped to perform specialized actions. It can become a habit. We might want to rush even while conversing, which can affect our relationships. It could make it difficult for us to acknowledge our emotions, which is important to find peace. It could also affect meditation in the end-when the initial novelty passes over, meditation can also become a chore. 

Solution: Be present in every action

The tradition of Zen stresses upon being in the present moment. Other religions do not specially elaborate on this, but a study of the lives of spiritual teachers in other traditions shows this principle in action.

Being in the present helps us to do every action effectively. It helps us to avoid collecting emotional baggage. Being present and observing negative emotions, helps reduce their sway over us. Without struggling with the negativity, we can be free of it.

More and more people are discovering the importance of being present in the here and now. Eckhart Tolle elaborates on this in his groundbreaking work "The Power of Now".

Living in the present empowers you to handle life situations. Life happens in the moment. There are no textbook solutions to every life situation. Understanding how to live in this moment helps you tackle the unexpected challenges life throws at you, and to really enjoy the journey.

This means being present in your every experience, continually bringing back your attention to the current task. As most people have not tried to cultivate the mind, it may wander off frequently. Training for the most part consists of bringing back your attention when you realize it has wandered. If you are listening to a friend, you need to bring back yourself when your attention wanders off. It means applying brakes to yourself when you feel like butting in and finishing sentences. It means being aware of what is happening within us-the emotions, the thoughts, and the restlessness. When someone offends us, we become aware of the unpleasant emotion. Rather than focus on the person responsible or the incident, let us first notice our unpleasantness. Observing it calmly, you will see it resolves itself. Counting the breaths helps to retain calmness. 

Does this contradict existing religions?

 It does not. When I first learnt of living in the NOW, there was a lot of confusion about what it meant: should I leave everything in my current life? Should I give up my aims, goals, and aspirations? Did it mean I should live impulsively doing what I felt like? There are incidents in the lives of Zen masters where they seemingly flouted convention in a shocking way.

We need not imitate the external. What happens outside is a natural continuation of our internal life. We only need to continue performing our usual actions, but in a mindful way. Change will be inspired.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Your Future is Here...

Isn't it strange that one moment merges into the next..
That this moment turns into the next moment..
This moment is the next hour, the next day, month, and year..
It also metamorphoses into the next birth...
What you say, think, and do now determines your future...
More than Genetics and Probability
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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Can We See Ram and Other Gods?

Hinduism has more than 330 million gods and goddesses in its ancient mythological lore. Ram, Lakshman, Sita, Krishna, Siva, and Durga, are some of the well known gods. Rational thinkers question the existence of these beings who are supposed to be invisible to human eyes. There are incidents of believers being able to see the gods Krishna and Ram. Most people rubbish these stories of visions as hallucinations of weak minds.

However, what if such a vision occurred to a non-believer, somebody from another faith? What if he  recorded the incident in the gazette of the British government?

Such an experience did occur to Lt.Col.Pierce, who was the British Collector of Chingleput district in Tamil Nadu. He recorded it officially and it is available for scrutiny in the Madras Gazetter, 18th century.

This is the story: Lt.Col.Pierce was conscientious in his duties. One year, the district in his charge, Chingleput, reeled under the onslaught of heavy monsoon rains. There were fears that the bund that held the irrigation tank of the Madurantakam lake would give way.

The night of the flood, Lt.Col.Pierce stood a few metres away from the bund, worrying about the fate of the village if the worst happened. Thousands of lives would be lost and property destroyed. And there was no way he could get it repaired that night in the torrential rain.

Madurantakam lake in Google maps. The town is marked A.
Madurantakam in India's map.
He remembered the story of the locals about their diety Ram always answering their heartfelt prayers. Ram was the god they worshiped in the village's Sri Erikatha Ramar temple (the temple stands today, and is visible in Google maps). Ardently, he wished their stories were true. He promised that if Ram protected the bund and it withstood the rain that night, he would get the temple renovated.

Suddenly, he noticed two effulgent figures carrying bows and arrows, walking up and down the bund. The bund survived that night. The next day, in keeping with his promise, Pierce started the renovation of the temple.

Even today, a plaque stands in the Divine Mother's shrine with an engraving of the British collector's contribution.


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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Stop Searching, Start Affirming

My friend why do you keep searching on the internet
It doesn't have all the answers
It can confuse you with its clamorous demand for attention
What you search for
Is not on the internet, not outside at all
It is inside, inside you
For once, close your eyes
Feel your breath
Start affirming what you want to be
That you are
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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I Want to Laugh....But...

Its 5 a.m. I want to laugh. But people are sleeping all around. What do I do? Just watch what this man does. By the way he is Dr.Madan Kataria, founder of Laugher therapy.

Below, a laughter group in full swing:

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Friday, October 12, 2012

How I Overcame Perfectionism (Almost)

Millions of people all over the globe fail to realize their potential because of perfectionism. Their standards are impossibly high. For them it's either a 10 out of a 10, or nothing else.

When I started blogging a few years back, I had just a trickle of visitors. Gradually, it grew, over the years. Some of the readers were following my posts. It gave a unique high to see people from all over the world visiting here. Experienced bloggers will scoff at this, that there is nothing special in it.

But to me, the increase in traffic did a wrong turn: I started writing lesser and lesser. I was afraid if my posts would match up to my readers' expectations.

And Rewriting. That was monstrous. It was such a pain that it almost turned me off writing.

There were so many rules of good writing: active voice, shorter sentences, second person, larger vocabulary, the right words,... I started feeling bogged down by the rules.

It was also hard not to be apprehensive of others' responses when you are writing on not-so-popular topics like enlightenment and spirituality.

The number of drafts started to pile up. They were just not good enough.

I had been struck by the 'perfectionism' virus.

Overcoming perfectionism- a simple cure

Luckily for me, it did not last for long. It came with the realization that to write without enjoying the process was a waste of time. How does a blog's traffic build up in the first place? Because the blog articles become better:
Bad > average > good > better > still better > ...

But how does the writing improve ? Because the blogger keeps on writing articles, good or bad.

If I did not write anything, nothing would change. The writing would not improve. Beginning bloggers' only hope of improving their writing is to write more and more, make more mistakes, and learn from them.

Talk about the 10,000 hour rule for achieving proficiency.

I was still in the process of falling in love with writing, and needed o stick with it. Rewriting would come later.

If you find scruffily written posts, you will have to excuse me. I am just a beginner, learning to feel my way around.

I've decided to just write--no matter what, good or bad.

Question: "What if the traffic goes down?"

Answer: If I keep writing, and have fun at it, hopefully my readers also would enjoy it. They definitely wouldn't enjoy pieces written just to fit grammar rule books.

So here it goes again,...just playing with ideas on the key board.

The cure for perfectionism seems to be: Being satisfied with low expectations. To not worry about others' expectations. To try new things and have fun. Making mistakes and learning in the process. 

This way you can only do one thing - Get better and better.

Yes, I didn't overcome perfectionism, that'd be another perfectionistic goal!
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Thursday, October 11, 2012

4 Reasons Why Numbered Lists are Popular Articles

Article writers constantly try to improve their craft. They would want every one of their articles to be a hit,  if not a viral, on the internet.

Numbered list is a popular article format that keeps readers on your page.Essentially such an article has a headline like "20 ways to increase the mileage of your car" or "100 ways to be more assertive"...
If the information is solid and well presented, readers will always like this type of article.

Why are numbered lists so popular?

There are many reasons:
  1. They give the impression that you have enough knowledge on the subject to compile a list.
  2. You have conducted thorough research to compile a list.
  3. The promised number keeps the reader reading till the end because he/she has to get all the 'techniques'.
  4. A numbered list conveys an impression of order and organization, rather than a hapless concoction.
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Reasons for Google's Success-Could be Yours Too!

Google's phenomenal success is self-evident. 'To google' has become a verb in most languages. For millions of net users like you and me, Google is an intimate part of our lives. Even though the company has a profit making motive like all other companies, the way they do it sets a model for effective business.

The key to Google's success is that they realize the value of their customers: you and me. Adsense publishers might debate that point. Well, Google does treat its customers far better than most other companies.

Apart from revolutionizing global information access, Google constantly strives to improvise  users' experiences with all of its products.

Google facilitates your success. For instance, if you have good writing skills, you can start a successful blog on blogger for free. You can even make some pocket money on your blog using Google's Adsense. For zero investment of money!

Google also constantly improvises its products to enrich the users' experiences. As an example, Blogger offers a wide range of apps that enable you to sell even third party products (like that of Amazon) on your  blog.

Google's home page offers a flabbergasting range of free facilities for your information, business promotion, and entertainment. Here are a few samples:

Information products

Google search- The ubiquitous Google.
Google images/video: Image/video specific search.
Google maps-Locate places on any country and get routes between any number of destinations; plan your trip. Even public transport timings are available.
Google news- Get the latest news from around the world.
Google translate -65 languages and growing !

Business promotion

Google documents - Store your documents online. Convert between formats.
Google sites- Get a free site
Google calendar-Mark and schedule your appointments online. Share with associates.
Google mobile-  Make your phone your wallet, find great shops near you.


Google play- A vast variety of games and apps to choose from.
Panoromio- Enjoy beautiful photographs from all over the world by top photographers.

There are many more products, most of which are free. Check them out at

Google labs

Google used to have an online playground called Google labs. Here you could play around with novel ideas that Google was experimenting. Most of its popular products like Maps, News etc originated here. Unfortunately, Google stopped labs effective July 2011.

Google labs was a significant reason for its success, for it highlighted the company's creative side. Who knows how many more innovative products like Maps would have been born out of Labs!

Google says it is about focus and prioritization on the existing opportunities. However, they seem to have missed the point that opportunities are made by us. Maps, Docs, and Reader were born in the Labs.

Mimicking Google success lesson

So Google's lesson here for us is to focus on the customer-first and last. Identify your customers and keep thinking how to make life easier and more rewarding for them. It is the old lesson of adding more and more value to customers.

However, was shutting down Google labs a customer focused decision or one based on cost effectiveness ? I feel Google has departed from its 'fun' way of doing things here. Lets see how this fares in the long run.
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Wednesday, October 03, 2012

On Writing - From the King of American Fiction

I had long wanted to look at popular fiction works dissected as it were, under the microscope. I wanted to understand how successful fiction works, how characters develop and dialogues keep our attention drawn into the plot. It was a task quite difficult to perform alone. That is, until I chanced upon "On Writing" by Mr.Stephen King.

King's book has many detailed dissections of popular novels. It is a good resource if you aspire to be a fiction writer. A must-have.

This book has an unexpected bonus: It lucidly explains tricky issues of the English language and its effective usage.

Mr.Stephen King is a prolific writer of fiction, predominantly horror, and many of his books are best sellers. One did not expectd him to produce a work that would elucidate the principles of good writing, but he  shows himself to be a teacher extraordinaire. This is because he uses his powers of vividity of expression to convey ideas. Not many course authors use vivid images so that the reader/student gets the idea immediately and firmly.

Consider the Writer's toolbox that King conjures up. He first draws a clear, vivid picture of his uncle's toolbox that he used for carpentry works around the house:

...The toolbox was what we called a big ’un. It had three levels, the top two removable, all three containing little drawers as cunning as Chinese boxes.It was handmade, of course. Dark wooden slats were bound together by tiny nails and strips of brass. The lid was held down by big latches; to my child’s eye they looked like the latches on a giant’s lunchbox. Inside the top was a silk lining, rather odd in such a context and made more striking still by the pattern, which was pinkish-red cabbage roses fading into a smog of grease and dirt.

On the sides were great big grabhandles. You never saw a toolbox like this one for sale at Wal-Mart or Western Auto, believe me. When my uncle first got it, he found a brass etching of a famous Homer painting—I believe it was The Undertow—lying in the bottom.

One summer day I helped Uncle Oren replace a broken screen on the far side of the house. I might have been eight or nine at the time. I remember following him with the replacement screen balanced on my head, like a native bearer in a Tarzan movie. He had the toolbox by the grabhandles, horsing it along at thigh level...

Having painted the picture to stay firmly in the reader's mind, King goes on to convey his core message, which is of a totally different field:

I want to suggest that to write to your best abilities, it behooves you to construct your own toolbox and then build up enough muscle so you can carry it with you. Then, instead of looking at a hard job and getting discouraged, you will perhaps seize the correct tool and get immediately to work.
The toolbox had three levels. I think that yours should have at least four. You could have five or six, I suppose, but there comes a point where a toolbox becomes too large to be portable and thus loses its chief virtue. You’ll also want all those little drawers for your screws and nuts and bolts, but where you put those drawers and what you put in them . . .well, that’s your little red wagon, isn’t it? You’ll find you have most of the tools you need already, but I advise you to look at each one again as you load it into your box. Try to see each one new, remind yourself of its function, and if some are rusty (as they may be if you haven’t done this seriously in awhile), clean them off...

Common tools go on top. The commonest of all, the bread of writing, is vocabulary. In this case, you can happily pack what you have without the slightest bit of guilt and inferiority. As the whore said to the bashful sailor, “It ain’t how much you’ve got, honey, it’s how you use it.”  

Some writers have enormous vocabularies; ...

Pretty ingenious way to teach, so that readers can absorb information effortlessly, isn't it? From the way he's put it, it'd be hard to forget the nuances of using language in writing, fiction or non-fiction...

You can have copies of On writing at Amazon:
 and for kindle, at 
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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Instant Gratification vs. Emotional Involvement

Grow Inches! Wow your girl! Get more partners!
These are just some of the headlines screaming at me from my spam box. I am impelled now to select them all and click delete, because promises of transforming me into a performing animal sound disgusting.

Amusingly, our media, entertainment and advertising industries, and even literature, celebrate adultery,  debauchery, and sexual deviation (Lolita, Lady Chatterley's lover?). Even a popular language text (Norman Lewis) has given grammar examples like Let's philander! Just to show how deep this notion runs in society, of having to tout the image of a sexual conquistador.

While admitting the racy thrill that such encounters provide, and the fizzy joys of tasting varied dishes, a sadder truth awaits such pursuers. No we are not talking here about STDs or shame or career or financial losses.

Human beings are body, mind, intelligence, feelings, and,...

Whether you believe it or not, man is a complex structure comprising multiple faculties. The sexual part is just one of them, and it is a faculty at a lower level.

You realise this when these encounters fail to satisfy you at a deeper, refined emotional level. Man also has higher faculties in his being which also seek expression and experience-such as caring for others, sharing, broader vision, love, sacrifice, truth, faithfulness...These operate at the level of your heart and above. When we do something for others, we have stirring feelings in our hearts. Hence 'felt love in the heart'. While praying devoutly to a superior power, we feel energies in our throat. Hence 'choked with tears of devotion'.

As man goes on trying to satisfy the easily available sexual thrills, he feels emptiness and pain within, which implies that his higher faculties are starving. The nagging pain expresses itself in many ways-boredom and disillusionment with life are some of them.

People may lust prospective attractive sexual partners, but the sexual encounters ensuing from them involve great amounts of emotional strain in having to live double lives. Covering up the truth takes a toll.

A committed relationship is an opportunity to learn and expand. We will get to know our own virtues and vices. We will learn to adapt, adjust, and share. You will also learn to appreciate the qualities of the human being who shares your life-in spite of their faults. (Faults are an essential part of being human.)  Thus relationships automatically pave the way to exercise your higher faculties.

However, in a sexual fling, it is only the physical body that is involved, with just the bare minimum of etiquette-that too as part of 'hunting strategies'. We would like to think the courtesy and consideration they show is genuine-but we know the reality too well. This amounts to using and making a travesty of the higher values to satisfy lower cravings. It is doubly damaging. Disorientation, disquiet, illness---the endless problems seem to come out of a pandora's box. Not long after, the heart starts aching for love and understanding.

Committed relationships may not be a panacea for all our problems. They are rather a learning opportunity, something like a school where we learn various qualities. A mirror that shows us how we actually are.

Meditation is the panacea by which we can heal ourselves.
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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Awareness, Relaxation, and Focus

Black Neck

What is relaxation ? Is it just always hanging out like a limp cat ? Does it make you feel fresh and energized?
Or wanting to take more rest?

People try to relax and enjoy by partying and indulging. Afterwards, they have to cope with hangovers, headaches, and feeling wasted.

Probably the reason why we do not enjoy our relaxation is that the mind is not resting. Only the body is resting. It is a bit strange that one needs to be aware of the mind's movements to really enjoy stillness and relaxation. It is called Awareness, and it does not require a physical effort.


One cannot do away with awareness, in any moment of one's life. Awareness of our thoughts, actions, and words is necessary for sane and successful living. Awareness helps us see our mistakes and correct them. It saves us from being corrected by others. I am not saying it is bad to be corrected by others, but isn't it painful when we could have avoided the situation? For instance, to receive traffic tickets for careless driving habits is unnecessary.


Focusing is collecting the habitually dissipated thoughts and bearing them all down on a specific object. The object of the focus can be anything. However, if one is focusing on sensations, one should take care not to be drawn off by the sensations aroused by focusing. Focus is essential for achieving success, whether spiritual or material.

The fun thing is that it is possible for anybody to fulfill his desires, using a focused mind. We can satisfy most, if not ALL of our desires if we have the concentration to focus all of our energies on them.


Generally relaxation is thought of as some kind of spacing out, letting go, whatever...being chilled out...hey what's the need to be so regimental and spartan...take it easy. But what actually happens when we space out, is that our thoughts and actions go awry, we do not know where we are going, and life goes by in a blur. We may not make the right choices. This is not real relaxation.

In relaxation, our body and mind are relaxed, but this does not mean a slackened state of incapability. In static relaxation, our body will be still, and muscle tension will be greatly reduced, making actions difficult. This happens in deep states of sitting meditation or special relaxation exercises like Shavasan or Corpse pose. However, to be relaxed in daily life means to be absent of unwanted tensions in the body and mind, while at the same time being poised to perform actions.

Relaxation is as important as Focus, because focusing without relaxing is dangerous. One can become strung out, obsessive, imbalanced, and out of touch with reality. Athletes and businessmen who pushed themselves to the extremes, have had to pay the price, often fatally. A state of relaxed focus is ideal. This is a matter of constant practice and contemplation. Observing the processes in Nature can help us to gain an understanding of this state. The Sun, the Moon, the Earth and other heavenly bodies are always working. The whole of Nature is in movement. But it is a graceful flow without hurry. Also, Nature has her own moments of repose, when everything is still.

For effective relaxation, one has to also maintain awareness along with it. In awareness, tension automatically dissolves.

Using a combination of Awareness, Relaxation, and Focus, we can objectively view each moment of our life,   take stock of our emotions, reflect on them, and choose not to react but to respond appropriately to life situations. Maintaining awareness can seem like a chore in the beginning. One need not cling to situations, but take them as they come by. That is, if you lose awareness of a moment, do not try to go back and catch it, just make use of the moments that keep coming. 

Step by step, taking appropriate actions, we can  reach our material goals and also enjoy the process.
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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

They Gave and Got Rich: Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi, the tennis great of the last part of the 20th century, has been described as the last of the great Americans.

Agassi ruled tennis courts like no other, however he had a greater calling: social welfare activities. His charitable and philanthropic efforts are not however, as well known as his tennis court exploits.

Here is a brief summary of his philanthropic contributions:

  • Founded the Andre Agassi Charitable Association for Las Vegas's youth.
  • Agassi has been the most charitable and socially committed tennis player.
  • Founded the Boys & Girls Club that trains more than 2,000 children every year in tennis, basketball and athletics.
  • Founded the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy. It is a tuition-free charter school for at-risk children in the Las Vegas area.
  • Started Child Haven,  a  residence for abused and neglected children, the only one of its kind in Clark County. 
  • Donated $720,000 towards the construction of a Cottage for Medically Fragile Children. This center is for developmentally handicapped children and children quarantined for infectious diseases.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

How to Use Affirmations to Get Results

Affirmations are a sure-fire method of bringing about major changes in your life. The changes can be material-having more wealth, better living conditions, and fulfilling other desires. The change can also be personal-transformation of character, making or dropping habits, and other goals.

You can find voluminous material on how to use affirmations all over the net. Here we will focus on how to make them effective.

Your subconscious is an asset you are born with. It is somewhat like a personal servant who carries out your every beck and call. The only caution is that you need to keep an eye on it and give directions in the proper way. Isn't this similar to managing your domestic help or servant?

Affirmations are the directions that you give to your subconscious. If the subconscious must receive your directions and act upon them, you need to follow these points carefully:
  • Once you have finalized the affirmation, do not change it.
  • Write it everyday. If you are repeating it verbally, do it regularly.
  • While writing/repeating the affirmation, be calm, focused, and serious. Preferably, meditate for some time before affirming.
  • Trust the subconscious: do not keep checking for results. As mentioned above, calm, regular repetition is the key.
  • An indispensable affirmation to go with all programs of personal development: Day by day, in every respect, I am getting better and better. It lifts you up even during temporary setbacks.
  • The affirmation must be beneficial to you and not harmful to anybody else. Intentions to manipulate or harm will have repercussions. 
  • Lastly, no change is permanent. Affirmations need to be repeated everyday, even after achieving success in personal development.
Photo credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim
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Sunday, July 08, 2012

In Retrospect...Spend Time Wisely

Most bloggers would have nurtured dreams of making it big with Adsense. Google has provide a free platform, all you have to do is set up your blog, set up the ads and write away...and wait for the traffic to come clicking that the checks start flying in...

I too subscribed to this notion...that is until I had a look at the AdSense earnings of top sites and my own. Here are the figures:
The average income from Adsense is $1 per 1000 page views. This can go lower, till $.007. A site like having around 3,000,000 visitors also has the same average. Doing the math, the net adsense earnings for such a site comes to $3000 a month.

How much time would a blog take to come to the million page views a month range? Not overnight. And how would that be achieved? By good content. How can you generate content? By working on your craft. It will not happen if you spent your time experimenting with ads with speculations of striking it rich with them.

AdSense and other online advertising are at best side revenues. It cannot be a major source of income. Creative people would do better at developing their main skill (writing, building sites, painting, whatever...) rather than spend time tweaking ads.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Overcoming Pain by Helping Others

Nobody likes pain. Yet, all of us will have experienced painful experiences that we wanted to get rid of, as soon as possible. Various religions, Yoga and modern techniques like Hypnotism advocate several  techniques for the same. It is a necessary technique for each of us, as life is unpredictable and one can come up against any situation any time.

I was also mortally afraid of pain, especially physical. I marveled at people who faced it and emerged triumphant.

However, an experience opened up to me a much-unexpected path to transcend pain.

It was the month of May in Kerala, India. I was visiting a relative and I had to take an old lady to the temple. There was to be a special worship at midday.

We went by car until the temple gate. From there we needed to traverse a stony path that went round the temple to reach the sanctum sanctorum, the inside of the temple.

On placing my bare foot on the stone path, I realized the predicament that I was in. The midday sun blazing overhead had baked the stone slabs so hot that one could not place one's feet on them. The priests themselves used to carry water and throw it forward, and then run along that wet trail, before it dried up. We had taken no such precaution.

I started to run on the stone path, occasionally treading on grass patches, to reach the temple before my feet were completely burned. Then I heard a scream and a yell. It was the old lady. She already had some problems with her gait and now on the hot stone, she was just crying out in agony.

Without thinking, I ran back to her and tried to help her along. I tried to walk her fast, leading over grass patches wherever possible.

She cried all the way. Somehow, we reached the inside of the temple where the worship was going on. Once inside, both of us heaved sighs of relief. I was glad I could help her.

It was then that I noticed a startling fact: I had not experienced any more pain when I started to help her.
Somehow, my helping her had erased the sensation of the burning in my feet. Was it an expansion of consciousness? I do not know.

Looking back, I feel it was an important lesson that I learnt that day:

Helping others helps you overcome your own pains - physical or mental.
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Monday, June 04, 2012

Real Freedom

If I ask you, when you became free, you might answer it as the day on which your country won independence from a dominating foreign power.

Now if you were to ask the people of that foreign power, when they became free, they would probably say: We have always been free. 

But hold on a moment here. Are we really free? Aren't we all being made to dance to the whims of our minds ? May be we are not realizing it.

A thought for having ice cream, in the mind of a 75 kg man makes him get up from his living room and walk to the ice cream parlour two blocks down the street and buy the ice cream. We are all being driven by our desires, which are but thoughts.

It is OK if we are able to choose which thoughts to entertain and which not to. In this way we can direct our life towards our chosen goals.

But when thoughts come at an uncontrollable pace, and we are not able to exercise any restraint over them, then it is a potentially dangerous situation. Many people are not even aware of this, and keep acting on impulses, and this lands them in constant trouble.

So real freedom is being able to control the vagaries of the mind, to master it, instead of being driven by it. Here is an excellent resource for winning freedom from obsessive thoughts:

How to Stop Obsessive Thoughts?

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

How to Have Hope

Hope is the elixir that rejuvenates our personal development program. So often we fall flat in our self development efforts. Failure discourages and we are loath to get up and keep trying. Setting hard and fast goals and rules also makes personal development an unduly discomforting chore-not fun at all.

The environment in which we grew up, and our current situation also is hardly encouraging. This is the reality for most people. How many of your partners, parents, or friends keep on encouraging you after a fall? You are lucky if you have such a support system. For the vast majority of us, the reality is other wise-we become the butt of sarcastic jokes. People already consider us a nutcase for being personal development fans, and one cannot blame them if they take delight in our slips and falls. The reason is obvious: our efforts at transformation are forcing them to face themselves, posing the need for their own change before them.

In these circumstances, we will do well to have an internal support and encouragement system that comforts and gives us hope during our falls. Falls are bound to happen in our journey towards becoming better beings. This internal support system works like a gyroscope mechanism that stabilises itself when upset. Or it is like the magnetic needle that turns around and points back at North, however much it is disturbed.

I have found the following affirmation of immense help in this regard:
                                       Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better.

I had been trying to get up earlier in the morning and the results were none too encouraging. Affirmations and a daily review diary were the main tools. I used to get depressed and discouraged each time I woke up late.

When I started using the above affirmation by Emily Coue, I noticed changes, even though they were in very small amounts. I am finding myself gradually waking up earlier. Some days I may slip back, but I don't beat myself up; instead I keep repeating the above affirmation. It is best to repeat it just before going to bed at night. It removes the sinking feeling of a failure and replaces it with hope.

I guess the subconscious rewards us for the trust that we place in it. It makes personal transformation easier and enjoyable.
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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Need for Focus in Online Writing

Many aspiring writers aim for diverse fields, hoping to make a success in every field. While it is OK to have many goals, online success boils down to this:
  • You are always selling to a market.
  • A market is a group of people with a specific need. You are addressing that need.
  • Your success depends on how well you address this need.
  • One of the best ways to do this is to focus on just one market in a blog /site.
Now imagine you have promoted your site/ blog/ writing in one particular market. That is a promise to the reader and he/she follows the link and visits your online window. If you have stuck to your promise and addressed just that market, your visitor will be satisfied.

But imagine if you sidetracked a bit and decided to do something on a whim: For instance you are maintaining a  personal development blog and have promoted it as such. One day you find something funny (a picture or an article idea) and you like it so much that you decide to post it.

The visitor will be confused when he sees this post on your blog, as he was expecting personal development tips. He is not likely to return.

Thus focusing on your selected niche in a particular site/blog is important for drawing in targeted traffic and for maintaining it.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

How to Overcome Fear of Failure

Have you a large number of ideas in the attic of your mind, but which you have never tried to implement? Have you the seeds of a novel in your mind, but are too anxious to try it out? Have you wanted to perform on stage, but are too apprehensive of how it will be received? These are examples of the fear of failure paralyzing potential creativity.

It has often been said that the average person uses hardly 10% of the potential of his or her brain. What prevents them from exploring the unused 90%? It is the fear of failure, also the fear of ridicule, of falling short of expectations. Isn't it a pity that so much of human talent goes to waste, just because of an irrational fear? If you overcome fear of failure, you can scale unimaginable heights in your career and your personal life.

How to know if I have a fear of failure?

Despite the facts above, the astonishing fact is that few people are even aware that they may be suffering from this fear in their psyche. This is an even more tragic situation: we don't even realize we have a hidden adversary, sabotaging our every attempt at self-actualization, of attaining our chosen goals. I'll tell you how I suffered below, but here is a quick method to find out if you have a fear of failure. If you find yourself tending to avoid certain tasks or situations, then it is likely that you are experiencing anxiety about the results of the situation. Anxiety is a visible form of latent fear.The fear itself could be rooted in traumatic experiences associated with similar situations in our past (childhood).

At school, I was a student with a good level of comprehension and curiosity and earned top grades till entering University. The fact was that I was egged on in studies by my parents. However, when I entered a professional engineering course, my grades plummeted. Eventhough I stood third (in that college) in the entrance exam for the course, at the end of the four-year course I was in the ignominious list of the non-performers, with a long backlog of failed subjects. It was a huge fall from grace for one who had scored cent percent in Mathematics during Pre-University.

Whenever I sat down to study or write a paper, I would become uncomfortable and get up. I would sit for hours staring at a page on Civil Engineering Structural Analysis, going over the sentences again and again, trying to grasp their meaning. This stemmed from the mistaken notion that one should always understand 100% of what one was reading. This is a recipe for failure because it is a perfectionist belief. The level of comprehension varies, depending on individuals, their mental and emotional states, health, and other factors. Most students gain an understanding of their subjects by repeated attempts. The first reading may yield apparently zero understanding, but it will improve with each repetition. When you are familiar with the basic concepts of a subject, this process will automatically speed up.

After ten minutes or so of attempting to comprehend a subject, I used to feel very uncomfortable. I had to  get up and dash off to watch a movie or binge on food. There was only one theater that showed English movies in the town nearby. I forgot my worries and phobias in the hot, stuffy hall, in the din of whizzing bullets and Jackie Chan's Kung fu stunts. It took many years for me to realise that I was experiencing deep anxiety, and was just running away from it.

The cause of  this anxiety dated back to my childhood days when I was forced to study at the threat of the rod. Added to it were the trauma of abuses and threats for studying, the tragedy of not being able to join my friends while they played, and the beatings on the exam eve. Sometimes my knuckles would have swollen to the size of cricket balls from beatings. All this stemmed from my mother's desire to make me into an engineer or a doctor. These were the only 'worthwhile' professions, in her point of view.

Fear of failure leads to stagnation
Granted, a major part of this fear of failure is contributed by factors beyond our control-child hood situations, circumstances at school and college, and ridicule from peers. Society seems hard wired to say 'No' to every new idea or concept. Ask thought leaders in a company and they will tell you of the tremendous resistance to change they face from the workforce, each time they try to bring in some innovation. Well, here it is fear of failure combined with the fear of change.

Sometimes, abundantly skilled artists and inventors fail miserably because they wouldn't, couldn't try out new ideas for fear of failure. Even when they had the confidence to try out new concepts, society adopted the most critical approach. Consider the case of Charles Franklin Kettering when he presented the electric self-starter for automobiles in 1911. This device made driving safer and much more convenient. But a prominent member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers reacted in this way: This man has profaned every fundamental law of Electrical Engineering...

No wonder we are so apprehensive of trying out creative, unconventional concepts. This fear of failure, of change seems ingrained in human society.

Overcoming the fear

So how do we break free of its strangle hold and venture out into the unexplored frontiers of our true potential?

There are several approaches:
  • Short-circuit the 'fear' response-control the Amygdala-the portion of the brain that triggers the flight response. Take things a ridiculously small bit at a time. Dr.Robert Maurer describes this process in his book  One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way One small step can change your life.  He has effectively used this to bring transformation in people apprehensive of change.
  • Techniques for silencing the chattering critic inside the brain. This includes techniques like:
  • Positive self-talk by hammering positive statements about yourself into your mind, so that it finally overrides the negative self-talk.
  • Writing daily affirmations that state an ideal image of you, with all positive qualities. You can also write affirmations stating an ideal outcome of a situation.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Save Yourself from Online Frauds

"How to Publish Your Book and Get Rich Quick" Screamed this title (or a similar one) at me from a successful writer's webpage. I had checked out her page for some tips on writing, she has a writing experience of more than 20 years. It was there that I saw this ad and her own write up for this book.

The title was intriguing and tempting enough (but the phrase Get Rich Quick should have warned me). I clicked on the link to Amazon, almost decided to buy, being at a low point. However, once inside, I tried to have an inside sample view of the book. There was none. The price was $18.95. There were three reviews, two of which were scathing and blasted the book, accusing the author of poor language, and unrefined content. One review was highly praising of the book, but my suspicions had already been roused.

Getting into Google land, I did a search on the author and found there were hardly any reviews on his books on the net. The book was available on Google books, and there also no sample view was available.

Further research revealed that the author had published only five books so far! This was tragic, considering that he had an arsenal of tricks to make money quick. Aha, Tricks- there was it again-the book offered tricks to skyrocket you to publishing success. That sealed it. There was no need for any tricks.

But the larger question here is, is it OK for authors of repute to promote such products?
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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Dealing with Non-stop Talkers

Have you ever been caught up in a dialogue which in effect turned out to be a monologue? In your eagerness to practice the techniques of empathetic listening, you realize you have just walked into a non-stop one-way conversation bog. Did you feel like fleeing as the monologue flits across various topics of no consequence to you? Worse, the speaker asks you for an opinion, and before you get to express it, resumes the tirade.

This is especially trying when you are hard pressed for time, with a long list of things to do. Searching long for the answer, I found different people handled this in different ways. See the list below. some of the methods can appear rude and you have to consider your relationship with the person before applying them.
For instance, if it is somebody who is close to you like immediate family or your spouse, you need to be very careful and considerate. If it is your boss or colleague, again you have to exercise caution.

Non-stop talkers usually chatter off without considering the effect they are making on the listeners. You might be squirming to escape, but he/she fails to notice your discomfort.

An intelligent conversation is irrelevant here because the non-stop talker does not wait for your response, but is on a never ending monologue.

So here are the methods of escape:

  1. Get yourself relaxed. Counting your breaths is a simple way to do this. When you are relaxed, calmly look the chattering talker in the eye, in the spot between the eyes. Do not show any expression and do not force it into a staring contest. If you can maintain your steady gaze for some time, the person will slow down, and eventually stop. Be careful that he/she doesn't take it for aggression or romance. Break your gaze when you feel uncomfortable. Also, the person is likely to get unsettled after a few minutes of silent gazing. Then smile sincerely, excuse yourself and exit the scene (Before he starts on the next barrage, encouraged by your smile). You might need to practice gazing expressionless using a mirror.
  2. Mentally offer an affirmation of good will towards them: "I respect you. You need to be listened to, but first you need to listen to yourself"
  3. Listen for sometime, then excuse yourself saying you have some work to do.
  4. If the person is in deep mental agony or has a problem, of course you need to give your ears. Just take care it does not become a pattern. Everybody has to solve their own problems.
  5. Do not tell them about their talking problem unless you are confident of dealing with unexpected reactions.
  6. You cannot try the gazing technique on everybody. If the person concerned is your boss, you'd better keep your distance discretely.
The reason people talk non-stop is a chronic need for attention and validation.
Minty Mcnair gives some valuable tips on this issue here:Keys for Relating to Non-Stop Talkers.
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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Model Toddlers to Improve Your Learning Skills

If you have ever watched a child learning to walk, you have observed the principles of success in learning any new skill, for an entire lifetime. You probably do not need any more fancy training in learning skills. However, alas, we acquire a lot of unwanted training that hinders our successful learning.

The broad stages that a toddler learning to walk goes through are the following:
  • The child who had remained lying until now, observes elders standing, and instinctively, tries to imitate.
  • It first learns to stand up, by holding onto a wall or some other support.
  • After having learnt how to stand, it tries to imitate elders walking.
  • Takes a step, falls down.
  • Picks herself up, and attempts again.
  • The mid step, where she has to shift weight from one leg to the other-this is the tricky part. She does not know if she will fall down. She falls many times in the mid-step. Nevertheless, everybody tells her she can do it. Nobody ever discouraged a child learning to walk.
  • After falling down many times, she understands that if she transfers the weight to the other leg fast enough, she will not fall. When she has this confidence, she has learnt to walk. Now all that remains is practice, practice, improve the learnt skill.

Why learning becomes boring and hard later on

Later, while learning other skills like Math, Vocabulary, Drawing etc., the child goes through the same process-trying, failing, trying,...However this time, there are people with her who want her to learn as fast as possible, to save their time. They do not have the patience to let her learn through failing and having fun in trying. When the child fails a number of times, the elder may start saying comments like: Looks like you are having problems with this. This seems to be hard for you, why don’t you try harder?

Worse comments: You stupid! Can’t you do something as simple as this? What’s in your head? Is it made of clay? 
Finally: You'll never make it! Idiot!

Unfortunately, parents and teachers have also their ego to defend, so they need to prove that their verdict was correct-the child cannot learn well!

The blow has been struck. It stays with us throughout life, making a terror out of learning. This bad training gives us the queasy, unpleasant feeling and the anxiety when things go wrong while we attempt something new.

Then we start our own self-talk, which reinforces the old negative talk given by others: I seem to get nothing right! I am messing things up again! Oh what an idiot I am! 

This ensures failure.

How learning any new activity can be fun

Suppose the child in the above example had nobody telling him negative comments while learning and failing. He would make many attempts while learning Mathematics and other subjects fail many times in his attempts, but eventually he would get it right.

Because you have been given negative feedback countless times, and because you have started telling yourself the same negative things about you, the only way to reach success is to learn and say positive things about you:
I am a good learner! I can do it if I keep trying!
Learning is fun!
Failing is good, it helps me learn better.
I can fail as many times as I need, each time I learn something new!

The toddler who is learning to walk is the best possible inspiration for learners and students of all ages, the world over.

How many times, and how long do I have to repeat positive self-talk?

As long as you stop saying the negative things about yourself. I have chosen to continue indefinitely, for negative programming is not easy to remove permanently.

However, it is easy to find out when it has become effective: when you habitually start saying positive self-talk, your performance improves in every aspect of your life: not just learning or studying but in social life, relationships, finance, all spheres. For this, you need to learn and repeat self-talk which covers all areas: Self-esteem, Being organized, Taking responsibility, etc.

What to say when you talk to yourself  is a primary text in the science of self-talk. Dr.Shad Helmstetter is the author of this book which has sold millions of copies in more than 64 countries. It is available on Amazon. Once I bought this book, I got the gist of the self-improvement system and how to sustain it: it all depends on my thoughts.


You might want to check out this post also: Having fun in learning skills
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Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Relationship Survival Tip

After the initial starry-eyed period of relationships are over, couples come to face their own weaknesses- and their partners'. Arguments turn into accusations of how everything was alright until the 'other' came along. It is always the 'other' who messes things up. Rarely do people own up their own errors and weaknesses that ruin relationships.

We forget that while pointing a finger at the other, three of our remaining fingers are pointing back at us.

We are irritated with our partners/spouses for sloppiness, for leaving the dishes in the sink overnight, for parking the car the wrong way-once one starts making a list, it starts to grow and grow. All the good things the person said or did, fade into oblivion. Finally we conclude: this is not the right person for me. Have I thought whether I have tried to be the right person? It rarely occurs to me, if ever.

The following thought may help save sinking relationships: Whenever we are tempted to accuse (even in the mind) our partner of a fault or a behavior problem, we could take a moment and ask ourselves: Have I ever committed or am committing similar mistakes or any other serious mistake?

Most certainly, one would come up with quite a large list. If it is difficult, we only need to ask those with  whom we interact closely.

Absence of faults makes us candidates for sainthood or perfect beings. A great yogi said: Those who are too good for this world are adorning some other (Sri Yukteswar, quoted by Paramahamsa Yogananda in Autobiography of a Yogi).
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Using Affirmations to Overcome Life's Frustrations

Oftentimes, when we go through our lives, maintaining our goals, dreams, and ambitions, we may be writing affirmations and visualizing for their manifestation. But we run into roadblocks along the way, which can sap our inspiration and energy. For example, we may have an argument with the spouse over the way something should be done, or your subordinate at the office may make a costly mistake, or our car may throw up some problem. These can act like a wrench thrown into a smoothly running gear system, messing things up. If we get caught up in it and react emotionally, problems are compounded, throwing us off course.

For me, the Indian public Internet service MTNL has often been a test of patience. It goes kaput right in the middle of transactions, or while booking train tickets. Watching videos meant having to refresh pages each time the service stalled. Despite this, the bills would never reduce in amount. I eventually had to get a private service for urgent needs.

How you handle such frustrations in daily life can really influence your mood and sometimes, the outcomes as well. Yes, its mysterious, but being positive in frustrations seems to magically turn things around in the right direction you desire. Even now, just as I was writing this, MTNL repeated its game: the Internet line went dead. 

I felt the frustration and the anger start rising in me, with all the negative arguments- about being cheated etc.

Suddenly, I held myself in check: "Hey, why not try something new ?"
"Try what?", my mind countered.
"Why not try affirmations stating my expectations ?"
"OK. Go ahead and try. Lets see what happens."

Here my expectation was to have an uninterrupted broadband service, 24 hours of the day. So I said to myself:

I'm having an excellent, continuous broadband connection. Uninterrupted seemed a negative word.

I repeated it a few times. Actually I was only hoping to find another economical, wire-line service provider. Because, wireless broadband is pathetic here. But the next instant, the modem sprang to life, blinking away steadily, which meant I could depend on the connection. It is still running now.

I'm thinking of using this in other areas of my life-in arguments, negotiations, interviews, whatever. To get fair and  reasonable value for my time, money, and other investments. I deserve it, don't I ?

Have you tried using affirmations (or similar techniques) to get positive outcomes in your life? I'd love to hear of them.
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Friday, April 20, 2012

Amazing Levitation Video

The following video shows an African shaman performing levitation. A German crew captured the scene. The video appeared on Youtube and some other sites spiritube. Some people have questioned its authenticity.
I think it is genuine for these reasons. Assuming the shaman to be 5-6 feet tall, the fire circle is at least double his height  in diameter that is, 12 feet. Also, when the second cameraman appears in the video, another five feet distance is revealed, outside the fire circle. Even if a pulley was used to pull him up(as some critics may say), it would need to be used on a rope overhead stretching at least 18 feet in length (sum of the above two lengths). Judging from the fact that this place does not have even lighting, it is hard to believe they could have found and used a pulley.
Second, if they did do so, why did they lift him up just by about 3 feet ? Why not lift higher, say to 6 feet? That would have been more spectacular.
Third, his body slants to the sides, it does not hang as it would have, if suspended.
Fourth, there are natives singing. Listen to the background. They would have seen.
These are some of the reasons I believe it could be original.

What do you think? Can it be authentic?

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Unreal...? No Real...Game of Death

Can a human being conduct 230-250 volts of electricity through his body? Science says its impossible and anyone attempting to do so will be electrocuted. But here is a man who not only conducts electricity through his body, but lights bulbs, runs blenders, and cooks food in hotplates, using his body as a live wire. Watch and believe!
Courtesy: History channel. Warning : Any attempt to imitate this will cause death.

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Too Many, Too Good?

Psychologist Barry Schwartz offers startling insights into the maze that we have trapped ourselves into by having too many choices.

Dry humor in a metro
This video reminds me of something that happened in a modern metro. An old man from a remote village was visiting his grandson in the city. One day, while he was alone at his grandson's apartment, he got bored and decided to take a walk. He wandered around the blocks, marveling at the order and the cleanliness, at the zappy cars, the stately buildings,...Finally he got tired and wanted a cup of tea, as was his wont, back in his native village.

He went to a restaurant and sat down at a vacant table. The waitress in immaculate attire approached him with pencil and pad to take the order. The following conversation is purported to have taken place:

"Good evening Sir, what will you have?"

"Good evening. I'd like to have a cup of tea, please".

"Of course sir. We have a variety of teas: peppermint, earl grey, cardamom, ginger, lime, jasmine, and green tea. Which one would you like?"

The old man was confused. The chai wallah at his village sold just a few varieties: with sugar or without, with milk or without. Now how would he know what each of these varieties meant?

"Please, I just would like some old fashioned tea with milk and sugar."

"With pleasure, sir. Now as regards milk what type of milk would you prefer for your tea: we have Natural whole milk,Whole standardised milk,Whole homogenised milk, Semi skimmed milk, and skimmed milk. If you want I can tell you the fat % in each. I'm sure you will want a particular flavor of tea. We have a wide range. To start with: mango green, lychee green tea, strawberry green tea, coconut cream, green apple, passion fruit, mango, lemon, watermelon,..."

Now he was in a dire quandary: What does each of these mean? Could he ask for sample? Or could he ask the waitress about how they tasted? He thought enough was enough, not to push his luck too far.

"I think I will settle for just a glass of water, for now. I'm sure I can try your teas later."

"We have several choices with regard to the drinking water we provide to our esteemed customers, our primary aim being your complete satisfaction: Spring Water, purified water, sparkling bottled water, mineral water, artesian water, or well water. What would you prefer to have, Sir?"

At that moment, her cell phone rang, and she excused herself to take the call.

The old man made his escape precisely at that moment.
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