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Archive for the ‘This and that’ Category

I came across an interesting blog citing negative effects of Sudarshan Kriya, a breathing technique, which forms the basic foundation of the Art of Living. I started attending Art of Living courses to de-stress and have more peaceful moments in my life. I find the fact that teachers are volunteers and not paid, very compelling. My teachers had full-time jobs and are regular volunteers at the center.

Is the Art of Living good or bad? Are the long term effects negative? It is too early to tell for me. I do not practice Kriya everyday, but plan to. I attend the one at the center weekly, and it washes away the stresses of the week. Kriya is a type of controlled hyperventilation; research in this blog indicates that any type of hyperventilation is bad – that maybe true. But is it really worse than what we take into our bodies every single day? I don’t smoke, but every time I walk in the city, people smoke and I take in so much second-hand smoke. People even smoke in the park!!! Not to mention air pollution. Is controlled hyperventilation that brings a moment of peace and rest really that bad then?

Doing Art of Silence introduced me to meditation, and I am addicted to it! Everyday I meditate twice – I may not do Kriya, but I make it a point to meditate. Another benefit is that I started having milk and cereal (lol). I hate plain milk in general. The breakfast in this course consisted of “Go Lean Crunch” cereal with milk, and I found a cereal that I can actually like with milk.

Meditation really takes me to a zen place. I learned to block thoughts from my mind, relax every part of my body completely, and attain a level of peace. I meditate every morning and evening after work but before dinner. I enjoy and look forward to it now. Having such brief moments of peace is amazing! It took me a while to learn to dissociate from my thoughts – they come and go. I have been experimenting with various types of meditation such as Reiki and Mindfulness. Reiki is quite good as well, and mindfulness is something I am still trying to learn. Meditation is simple though. All you require is to practice daily till you learn to not get affected by thoughts and relax completely. In Part 2 (Art of Silence), we were made to meditate long hours and practice a lot, so I got the technique. But regular daily practice at the times recommended by the teacher is what brought me to a peaceful state, and I am finding myself becoming more positive and happier about life in general.

Even though there maybe so much negativity surrounding Art of Living, you really have to take the good and leave the bad. This is not a quick-fix, and in every course I took, we were asked to leave our expectations at the door. In Part 2, we were asked to write our problems on a piece of paper and drop it in a common basket with the belief that they will go away. Obviously common sense entails that it is not possible, so I did not write anything. We had to follow a specific technique that I found ridiculously stupid and could not do it. It was a way of getting people outside their comfort zone, and a lot of people in my class found it liberating. I thought it was silly. Any new learning requires using some common sense rather than following it blindly.

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Today, I learned something new about cab drivers in NYC. I took a cab today, and when I took out my credit card to pay, he requested that I pay with cash. I obliged him and expressed surprise that he had to pay credit card fees – I thought that cab owners/company would pay the fees. He spent the next 20 mins in explaining his life.

He owns his cab, and is very strategic about where he drives and how he makes money. During peak hours it is easy for him to make money. During non-peak hours, he finds the right places to wait in to get customers. He is friendly with restaurant chefs and when restaurants close late, he waits up for them instead of driving around. He avoids airports because if he gets a customer who goes to Queens, he only makes $15 instead of the usual $45 to Manhattan. Very interesting!

On a weekly basis, the surcharge of $0.50 is $100. Assuming there are over 12,000 cabs in NYC, the government makes $2,000 per cab which is $24MM annually.

Why do cabbies ask us to pay cash and not credit? Why do they curse when you don’t have cash? Because all credit card payments go from their pocket, and they pay 5%, more than double the usual credit card fees. That is atrocious! Cabbies are now compelled by Mayor Bloomberg to have Verifone screens and credit card machines in their cabs which cost around $300. 5% is charged for Verifone, and this amount is directly taken out from the amount earned by cabbies. On average, this amounts to $200-$300 per month, for a total of $29MM+ annually which goes to Verifone, a portion of which probably goes for credit card fees. The cabbie could have just used that $2,400 per year as savings. Instead it goes to the Verifone company that anyway makes money from ads. BTW the cabbie makes $1,100 per year from the ad over the cab.

I expressed my exasperation to AM about the “atrocities” being committed by Mayor Bloomberg on cabbies, and my desire to stop using credit cards if it pinched them so much. He made a good point – think of how many additional customers the cabbie gets because people can pay with a credit card. Also, what % of cabbies own their cabs? Few? Many? Then all of them don’t really pay that 5%, do they? That got me thinking – do consumers end up spending more because now they can use credit cards in cabs? Is this protection to consumers because cabbies cannot say that they don’t have change?

I wonder… but the cabbie I spoke to was very smart, and I doubt that he would have overlooked the incremental revenue resulting from accepting credit card payments. Or maybe he was among the few cab owners who would prefer to do without the credit card system and just pocket the $2,400.

I wouldn’t put it past Mayor Bloomberg though to be indifferent to cabbie needs. He has stopped traffic on one full lane in West 50’s and Broadway – show me one cabbie who is happy with that move. I live around there, and it just increases traffic. The Mayor wants to go green and has converted that entire lane into a bike lane – I hardly see any bikes, and just see traffic squeezed onto other streets. The last thing the city needs is fewer lanes.

Expensive car service companies should have the ability to accept credit cards because they have the deep pockets, but they do cash and charge a lot more than cabs. I have temporarily put up on the UES (not the Gossip Girl-UES, much further north and east than that), and it is a nightmare finding a cab. Out of desperation sometimes you have to hail down black cars which are plenty here – they charge a lot more than yellow cabs and are very slow drivers because no meter is running.

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