Friday, March 20, 2009

Exercise : Mixing the Profane and the Sublime

Exercise, that magic word in this very narcissistic modern world, where any form of formulae promising a 'long and healthy life' will launch a thousand best sellers, rightfully is the' sine qua non' to living a healthy life at best. On statistical ground, [ even Muslims are allowed to use this phraseology when discussing life and death ], exercise does prolong life. No doubt about it. Proven scientifically and demographically . Here we talk about numbers not individuals per se, in case 'purists' do take offend at my suggestion and conclusion.

Exercise is the perfect 'elixir of youth', full-stop. One of the common denominators of the long living octagenarians from Okinawa, the Hunzas [ not Hungas as earlier stated ] of Northern Pakistan, the Vilcambe people of Ecuador and the Abkhasians in Central Caucases, Georgia, is continuous physical activity throughout their childhood and adult life.[ see Some Random Thots on Longevity, July 13th, 2008 , Health Section ]

Exercise reduces obesity and the potential for 'metabolic syndrome' accompanying it: diabetes, ischaemic heart disease, hypertension, hyperinsulinaemia, strokes . In short, a life with a 'short' fuse, in the worst case scenario to put it succinctly and in not so much words [ how I wish my 2 sons read his dad's blog for they are both obscenely obese! ] , and at best, to couch in better diplomatic language, a life without vitality ! To see Dr M riding his horses at age 80,bullying a much younger but 'slow loris' Pak Lah , at 74 ,over his lack of 'cerebration' is to comprehend the true meaning of vitality! Most people at 84 could not tell the difference between 'yesterday' and 'today'. [ read : The Four Jokers, Monday 5th January, 2009, Health Section ].

Increasingly, more meaningful for us modern inhabitants of this planet's cities and suburbs caught up in a highly competitive material world, recent scientific data also had shown another benefit for exercise: increasing brain power in the young and the old due to more potential for brain neurons regeneration and repair. Exercise, according to a recent Scientific American article releases potent 'brain-growth inducing factor'.

What exercise and how much?
Combined aerobic [ brisk walking, jogging, swimming, mountain climbing etc etc , anything that moves that damned muscles, sinews, ligaments and bones ] and some moderate weight bearing exercise. From 9 to 90. From 30 minutes, 3 times a week minimum to several hours per day, 7 times a week. The more the better.

Exercise though, as always , is hard work and keeping to a regime day in and day out can be difficult for most people. Not many can be as disciplined as my friend, for example, a CEO of an IPP company, who exercises daily,think nothing of cycling from Putrajaya to PD and back on a weekend, or complete an 'ironman competition' in say 14 hours at the young age of 52!

How to keep the boredom away and be able to keep going days and months, doing it on a regular and sustainable basis and at the same time enjoy it. This is what I want to discuss today.Most would exercise while listening to their favourite 'orchestra' on the I-Pods, others do their 'sums' and problem solving, while some do 'mental yoga'.

My favourite 'hobby' and formullae is mixing the 'profane' [ possibility of delaying death, delaying that 'inevitable interview', a longer and god-forbid, less[ not more] kufr existence, insyaallah, on this planet Earth, more enjoyment, big muscles and more good look, and lastly but definitely not the least, a better more vibrant sex life ] and the 'sublime' [ The celebration and remembrance of Allah, constant reminder of death and the eternal life after death ] .

Years back when I took up scuba diving in order to 'conquer' the fear of depth and the deep unknown, I got more fearful of the inherrent and perceived dangers that 'lurk' down there . To help overcome that primal fear I used to' tasbih' and' tahmid' 80 feet down on the sea bed with every breath I took but alas! Even this did not the push the 'fear factor' away. I subsequently gave up Scuba.But looking back it is actually a great mental and spiritual exercise! At 80 feet down, your personal space is only that one inch of air infront of your face and the highly compressed mask you wear .To a frightened 'soul' like me who took up the sport to conquer my own fear of death and depth, each 'subhanallah' alhamdulillah' and 'allahuakbar' at that depth with sharks etc etc had a greater meaning than life itself. That made me comprehend the 'sufic' expression that 'life is nothing more than a finite number of measured breaths' and the fragility of life is just that,one breath at a time. Nonetheless ,the sea was too much for me and I finally freaked out and gave up that experiment and sport.I found to my dismay I had to pray 'hajat' longer and longer the nights on diving trips while my diving buddies slept like logs left ,right and centre .On a desolated beach somewhere ,that itself was mind bending and torture. So much for trying to conquer fear.

Chose equestrian instead at a ripe 'young' age of 45. Doing endurance means riding competitive rides between 80 to 160 kilometres in one day. For my 1st International competitive ride for Dubai World Endurance Championship, involved a selection ride over 120 kilometres in 1998, done at UPM ground involving going round the farm over 25 times from 5pm Saturday to 12 noon the next day,a total of 17 hours riding time,with some short rest periods in between .Mind over matter .Allah has 99 names and attributes: one name for each kilometre and the rest covered by repeating short surahs. World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain in 2003. 160 kilometres of hills and dales in heavy rain, soggy ground and lightnings. Same formullae , no surah this time but just 'Asma ul husna' but too much 'ya Mutakkabbir, ya Mutakkabbir'. Horse died of exhaustion 10 kilo from the end without showing signs of exhaustion on the 'on board' heart rate monitor! Could more 'ya Rahman' or 'ya Rahim' make a difference? Allahualam .

Why equestrian endurance you may ask.I have looked at the jumping and the dressage group and even the polo group.I could not blend in...different philosophy. Endurance....yes, it is much nearer to sunnah rasul. If I have the time I would pick up archery as well.Perhaps next year!

Exercise, amongst other things, activates the 'endorphin' cascade at the neuronal level in the brain giving the person a sense of euphoria and decreased pain sensation . That is only the'profane' part. The 'sublime' connection I 'dunno' what it does exactly but why not !? A friend with some 'sufic' leaning the other day asked me a simple question as to why we give' salam' all the time at the conclusion of our formal prayer . I could not give a decent answer. It is for that 2 'chaps' on our left and right , he said.

Very plausible answer from these 'sufi' people, you tend to get over any life's issues . Plausible indeed ! The 2 chaps , they connect our every thoughts, actions and intentions to 'people of the higher plane'.
in your solat you are supposed to be in a different plane.
you are on your personal' mikraj'.
when you come back to 'this dunya', you say 'salam' to your two companions on the left and right who temporarily have to leave your presense, in the presence of a much  higher to speak,

"The people of the higher plane" through a complex system of vetting and revetting, connect to Him ,the One and Only. The humoral-neuronal cascade from lower down interacting with 'people of the higher plane' ,why not ? Non sufi, mere mortals like you and me call this 'barakah' . No venture, no gain. Try it for size.

Yes,my friends, do try mixing the 'profane'with the 'sublime' occasionally during your mundane exercise, you will be able to do more and enjoy more. In fact you will be more addicted to exercise.
mere mortals like you and me , we are not blessed to be in continuos remembrance of HIM.

we eat, we sleep most time, we exercise, we go about with our 'cari makan' business, etc and etc.
but if we master the art of mixing the profane and the sublime , we can emulate the people of ihsan.
even if we cannot be in continuos zikr, we could be counted to be one almost in continous zkr!



Anonymous said...

Dear Nik,

Truely, beyond doubt, exercise is rejuvenating; elixir of youth, the magic potion for the fountain of youth.
As you mention about horse riding, in many of your discourses, I could sense the aura of endorphin surges as like in runner's high.
With your intention to mix exercise with zikir/meditation/alike, you will double your gain. Because, during 'berzikir' (more than 20 minutes), you may experince 'subhaniyaah' (a Sufi's trancendental levitation) due to endorphin secretion, combined with exercise-induced endorphin, over stimulation of your semi-circular canal (esp the vertical one)during horse riding (maybe similar to the Sufi's whirl), you will be in a state of hyper-endorphinism. I coin the word myself.
The triple gain from your kind of exercise, you would produce somatotrophin and HGH which are itself rejuvenating. Escpecially if you take supplement of 5gram of arginine 45 minutes prior to your 'divine' exercise. You produce even more HGH, somatotrophin, Testosteron and the Magic Nitric Oxide!
The best time to do your exercise is at 2-3 am.
Many of my patients think I'm a mad doc.


Anonymous said...

Dear Nik,

Terlupa nak komen.

For the Abkhasians in Central Caucases, their longeivity lies on their life's style. Besides physically active, they eat the same day whatever they slaughter or pick (fruits and veges).
Everyday, they have been bombarded with "long life greetings" from Abkhasians. That's their hellos and salam. Positive greetings are rejuvenating. To what extent, such repeated messages could send signals to slow down the shortening of telomere, you better ask Deepak Chopra(the American Indian Endocrinologist).
And for the Okinawans, it's believed due to physically active, drinking coral water and eating less rice, more fish compared to other Japanese. For the Hungas and Vilcambe, I have no idea. TQ for mentioning.

Anonymous said...

Dear Nik,

I have been looking for the Hungas, never ring the bell. If you mean the Hunzas, yes they are from Northern Pakistan.

Interesting people since they are neighbour to my ancestor's Swat Valley.

They live high in the mountain, close to China. Probably, like Abkhasians, physically active. It seems they like to eat apricot seeds. A lot of plant's RNA and DNA.
Moreover, though they are Muslims, decendents of Alexander the Great, they may have some influence from the popular practice of Himalayan Monks. Primitive HRT is a common ancient custom in Himalayan valleys. Drinking fresh morning urine from young disciples especially pre-puberty/puberty is 5,000 years old practice. A cup is presented to the young disciple to urinate. No wonder most Tibetian monks are said to live longer. Afterall nothing strange, modern women all over the world have been taking mare's urine tablets for decades already.
I don't say Hunzas have adopted urinotherapy, but it's quite common for the people of the region, including sub-continent India to drink self or others' urine.

I'll definately explore the Vilcambe.


Pearls & Gem said...

Thanks Rachmat .It is a typographical error .It is the Hunzas of Northern Pakistan,probably near K2.
Actually I was not looking for some 'hormonal high' doing those things. My initial experiment was more to overcome fear of drowning.

Then when I do endurance, at my age, without getting my mind on a higher plane ,I would not last up to 10, 15 hours on the saddle. remember i compete with people sometime half my age, and most time get to beat them as well.

I tried reading Deepak Chopra but find him wanting .Too shallow. I get the feeling half way thru his many books ,the thread tend to be 'commercialised' Hinduism ,to suit his Western audience .

The Western audience and readership love 'commercialised' form of Buddhism and Hinduism that was why Mahareshi Yogi was so popular in the 60's, expounding uninhabited love and free sex .Richard Gere and friends subscribe to some form of 'commercialised' Buddhism as it allows then to continue their hedonistic lifestyle which they are used to but at same time can boast to having subscribe to some Eastern mystical practice.

"Tolak campur tolak campur ",they are lost sheeps, Christianity of the trinitarian variety did not satisfy them anymore,even their most ardent theologists in the Vatican, finding hard to defend and explain to millions ,if not billions,of unhappy, unsatisfied followers the basis of One in Three and Three in One. Very convoluted reasoning .

At the end of the day,nothing beat the simplicity and elegance of Surah Al Ikhlas [ the Unity ],the basis of that One and Only :

"Say [ O Muhammad ],
He is Allah, the One,
Allah, the Self Sufficient Master whom all need,
He begets not, nor is He begotten,
And there is none like unto Him".

Afganistan,Iraq,Chechya,Kashmir,Palestine and potentially Iran are all about the inability of people to recognise the validity of the message as expounded in The above Surah .They have different formullas.

And if we the Ummah in our haste to comply and satisfy our 'adversaries' also do come out with our various own concocted formullas like Islam Hadhari etc etc, we compound our very own problem further .

Just draw the 'line in the sand and so be it' as in Surah Al Kafirun :

"Say: O disbelievers!
I worship not that which you worship.
Not will you worship that which I worship.
And I shall not worship that which you are worshipping.
Nor will you worship that which I worship.
To you your religion and to me my religion."

No ambiguity. No liberal Islam. No transcendance of religions.

Pearls & Gem said...

Rachmat, what 'animal' is that arginine ? Do you mean that 'amino acid'.Orally ? Where do you get that info or is this just anecdotal ?

Regarding the 2-3 am kind, this is very well for me now that we are having real competition starting at 5 pm and go thru' the night and wee hours of the morning, to overcome the humidity and heat of the day !The only problem is that oftentimes if you are the front runners in the race you get to be alone with your equine friend along the trails which fringes wooded areas and the forest. An eerie experience. All the more one need 'friends from the higher plane'.

Tis is anecdotal but everytime I come to think about it I get gooseflesh .Some 4 years back ,I was racing with a group of young police chaps in Bidong, Terengganu for 3rd position,riding my horse name Miss Gedebe [after Azalina,the vocal Ameno Puteri head and Minister of Sport then who was instrumental in'kicking' out my friend the UM VC and also despite extreme ignorance on matters pertaining to Islam, dare challenged the ulamaks ,also after SIS,another manifestation of Liberal Islam ].

Potong all the chaps and was riding alone along the forest fringe then some 50 feet behind I saw a 'headlight' coming fast at me [ riding at night ,we all have to use a headlight].Assuming this must be one of the boys catching up, I go for a full gallop.'He' gave chase. Felt like that chap in the film 'Sleepy Hallow' staring Johny Deep.can hear the snorting of his horse and Miss Gedebe somehow found new energy and was quite uncontrollable .9 pm and racing for 4 km in the forest towards the finish line .When I galloped past the finish line that 'friend' of mine dissapeared into thin air !

Now whenever I am alone at night riding along 'forested areas' I never forget to recite 'The Three Kuls' and the 'Lord of the Throne'. You may brand me as superstitious but the forests at night are alive with activities beyond our limited 'comprehension'. I just play safe.

. said...

Dear Dr Nik,
Arginine? Some kind of Nitric oxide or amino acids but I wanted to ask you about this much earlier during my visits to your clinic. Like always, my memory retrieval system is not that good so I forgot every time. Maybe next visit, Insya'allah.
Zulkefli Harun

Pearls & Gem said...

"Nitric oxide' , Zul, is the substrate involved in the pathway as we always discussed in the clinic ie the 'Puchong address' as opposed to Taman Tun [ the heart] or 'Damansara Heights' [ the brain ].Lack of it result in ED .

'Arginine' I am not sure .We will wait for 'Mad Doc' Rachmat to give an in-put .Passion is what makes the world go round .Doc Rachmat is a weekend husband ,practices in Langkawi and currently on his 7th sci fi books ,all in Bahasa. A rare breed. On weekends I suspect there is overflow of the 'Nitric oxide' cascade in Kuala lumpur, Doc ?

How is your East Indies trip to see your in-laws ,Zul? said...

Dear Dr Nik,
To put it in simply, it failed miserably to qualify under the "vacation" category but it was a nice "breather" that I needed. I hope to see you real soon for my yearly physical and may be I can catch up with you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Nick,

You said (I quote)
"Doc Rachmat is a weekend husband ,practices in Langkawi and currently on his 7th sci fi books ,all in Bahasa"

BTW, I have written an English novel. Unfortunately DBP refused to publish it. Because it is not their policy to publish English novels.
So I publish in the internet.
The novel is called "The Newbook of Genesis" written in 2006.
You may read the novel under kumuniti novelis.

You can comment, if appropriate I'll edit to your suggestion.