Archive for October, 2014

BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE

Posted: October 29, 2014 in Uncategorized
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IN today’s fast-pace and stressful world, how can one stay healthy, live longer and be disease-free with little or no cost involved?

What is to be written is so basic and common sense, yet, most people take these ingredients for a healthy life for granted. Or they simply can’t see the forest for the trees.

There are four objective and one subjective (spiritual) things in life which are basically free but which most people don’t have or do enough. Lack of any of the four ingredients can cause severe health and mental problems.

The first is the lack of fresh air and oxygen which can cause lethargy, tiredness, depression and many illnesses. Most people don’t breathe enough and our body needs adequate oxygen for a host of processes, the most important one is to generate the “energy of life”.

For thousands of years, techniques in breathing had been developed in some Asian cultures for good health. Correct breathing can also generate another mysterious and invisible life-force called “qi”. In martial arts, “qi” can be both deadly when executing a hit and protective when taking a blow from an opponent.

An example of how to breathe properly is the proven traditional Chinese practice of Qi Qong, which is basically a slow body movement coordinated with deep breathing and a relax mind. Qi Qong is not only for general health and longevity. Like the traditional practice of acupuncture, it has been known to cure or alleviate many serious illnesses. Another traditional practice developed from India is Yoga where breathing is coordinated with meditation (mind relaxation technique) to generate the best effects on the mind and body.

If you are untrained in breathing, the easiest way is to breathe slowly and deeply for a few minutes in the morning when you get up and at night before you sleep and if possible, the breathing should be aided by the slow movement of your hands in any way you like to coordinate with your breathing. And do it every few hours when you are awake especially when you are feeling tired in the office, outside or if you are driving (with your hands on the wheels), as long as the air around you is generally fresh and clean. Remind yourself to breathe deeply and slowly whenever you can. It is never too much or enough. Breathing also helps to reduce stress, fear and anxiety.

The second essential thing which most people don’t do enough is drinking clean water. Studies have shown that lack of drinking clean water has been attributed to more than a hundred diseases including many deadly ones. Severe lack of water can cause premature aging, dehydration, kidney- related illness and urinary problems and in many cases (if untreated) leading to death. The solution is simply to drink more clean water and to develop a routine or habit of drinking water every few hours.

The third is the lack of exercise. It is a fact that most people do not exercise enough. Our body is biologically designed to undergo constant movement in order to keep our cells, tissues, muscles and bones healthy and active for as long as possible. Countless studies have shown the importance of exercise to keep fit and healthy and a sedentary lifestyle is not good for our body and soul.

Many commercial fitness centres are thriving on the growing recognition that the various types of exercises, appropriate for different ages and recovering patients, are essential to improving and maintaining health and longevity. Doing simple exercises indoor at your home, office and outdoor (especially jogging or walking) is free. If you cannot find the time to go to a gym or jog, just walk around (without disrupting others) instead of sitting at one place for hours. Use the stairs as much as possible. Explore other innovative ways of mitigating a sedentary lifestyle.

The fourth ingredient in life, which many people lack, is enough rest and sleep, which again is free. Many working adults and many students do not rest or sleep enough and this can lead to a host of stress-related problems. Again our body, including the brain, is biologically designed to have enough rest so that it can recover from a hard day’s work and be ready to face another day.

Many people have successfully substituted sleeping enough with short periods of naps and for some, even meditation. Studies have shown that naps of 30 minutes or so are known to be beneficial to the health and productivity of those who lacked sleep. Many famous world leaders are known to resort to “power naps” (deeper kind of naps) to supplement their lack of sleep.

The next free thing in life, which most people may not do enough, is more subjective, depending on one’s belief. It is spiritual and religious in nature.

Doing prayers (for believers to communicate with God) is free. Prayers (those meant for faith healing) are known to have healed or saved people with various kinds of illnesses including some incurable diseases, although it may be difficult to prove scientifically.

Some people believe that the positive results of prayers may be related to the mysterious and still undiscovered power of the mind or collective minds (in group prayers) to help someone to heal or recover. The explanation may not matter, the point is that if prayers can help to heal a person or cause miracles to happen, why not pray more, for other good things as well. Prayers certainly reduce stress and create positive thinking. Stress can be a real killer in a modern society causing many illnesses and mental problems. Furthermore, studies have shown that people who are positive-minded are more likely to be successful and lucky in achieving the results they want. Even people who do not believe in God have acknowledged the positive effects of prayers.

To sum up, the four essential, beneficial and free ingredients of life which most people lack or do not have enough are breathing, drinking water, exercise and sleep/rest. The other spiritual and generally beneficial ingredient of life (for those who believe in God) which is also free and which many believers may not do enough, is prayers.

The writer, the chief executive officer of a think tank and strategic consultancy firm, believes in the simple things in life to stay healthy and fit. Comments:kktan@thesundaily.com

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FAMOUS American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington (1927-2008) may be laughing from his grave now with a sense of vindication by more people about his theory, the “Clash of Civilizations”. He had many critics (including this writer) who had questioned his theory, which attributed the main source of serious global conflicts to culture and religion. The main criticism of his theory was that he gave too little emphasis to geo-political factors including vested and economic interests as sources for such conflicts.

Perhaps, Huntington should now deserve more credit for his theory with recent global conflicts, especially those seemingly between Islam and other religions.
Can the new Islamic State (IS) phenomenon be explained by Huntington’s theory? It seems to lend credence to his theory that religious differences between Muslims and Christians are simply too irreconcilable and deep seated in history, that IS is but just an extreme aberration of these differences. Still, such an analysis may not go deep enough to explain what we see are only the religious manifestations of a major conflict. However, it would appear that the anti-Western IS leadership is, wittingly or unwittingly, supporting Huntington’s theory.

That an increasingly large number of young Muslims from the Middle East, many other countries (including our region) and even from the West are falling for this brutal and barbaric ideology is a warning sign that these youths cannot identify and reconcile themselves with their respective moderate, secular or conservative mainstream Islamic societies. Their hatred for Christians and other religious and minority groups including the Shiite Muslims, are so extreme that it is beyond any comprehension by the civilised world.

The concept and creation of a caliphate in vast areas of Iraq and Syria under IS control is a smart, visionary and strategic move which has a strong appeal to many disenfranchised, alienated and disillusioned Muslim youths who cannot connect with their mainstream secular or Islamic society. These countries should do some soul searching to find out what really went wrong and should try to address the social causes of why these youths are turning to the IS as their new found hero.

IS’ “shock and awe” cruelty for the world to see with their video-recorded executions of innocent non-combatants such as journalists and even tourists, may be a deliberate policy to create the psychology of fear to the Western world and to attract more recruits.

But these brazen and high profile acts may also be their biggest strategic mistake of waking up the complacent West, Middle East and other regions to quickly unite and forge a common alliance against IS before it’s too late. These acts of atrocities have also created global public outrage against IS and cause it to lose any sympathy and support from many fence sitters. They have also shaken up many otherwise apathetic people against the IS cause.

IS seems to have bitten off more than it can chew and perhaps, tactically it acted too early to show off its power. It may have overestimated its strengths and underestimated the resolve, capability, intelligence and vast resources of its powerful enemies led by the US.

The anti-IS coalition of mostly Western and Middle Eastern countries has just started an air bombing campaign targeted at IS positions in Iraq and Syria and the coalition is growing bigger with more countries joining in to take part or support the logistics of the air strikes.

However, it has been widely recognised by both that the war against IS cannot be won via air strikes alone, no matter how massive, accurate and devastating they may be.

Many of the IS militants have gone underground while others have mingled in with civilians. If there are high civilian casualties, global public opinion may turn against the air strikes. This is something that the anti-IS coalition cannot afford, especially in the early stage.

Therefore, the only way the war against IS can be won militarily and to minimise civilian casualties, is to have strong and effective ground forces to fight and take back areas under IS control, street by street and town by town.

There is no short cut. After the air strikes, the mopping up, cleaning up, protecting civilians and taking over control of the land areas have to be done by ground forces. The coalition has so far not committed any ground combatants in Iraq except for the protection of certain sensitive areas and installations.

In Iraq, the government armed forces are demoralised and have a weak command structure due to years of sectarian policies by the previous government. The new government has too much on its plate and it needs foreign help to train and advise the ground forces and to develop a more effective command structure. It also needs additional military resources. But the most important ingredient needed in Iraq is to have a strong, efficient, fair and inclusive government leadership in place to unite their people and armed forces to defeat the IS.

As for Syria, the situation is far more complicated with an unpopular and repressive government that the West does not recognise as legitimate and with certain countries such as Iran still backing it. The Syrian government forces are in disarray and the anti-IS coalition is caught in between fighting the IS and still opposing or not seen to be supporting the Syrian Government. Syria may be considered a “failed state” with a non-functioning government machinery in most parts of the country and this has become the ideal breeding ground for IS to set up its bases and grow in strength there.

The IS phenomenon is not just confined to Iraq and Syria or the Middle East. It is a global problem which requires a co-ordinated and effective global response. IS must be seen as a dangerous social cancer that would spread its tentacles all over the world if it is not nipped in the bud in all the countries which it has influence.

No wonder the government leaders of the anti-IS coalition have been warning that the campaign and war against IS might be a long drawn affair, taking years. They have also called for a comprehensive plan which would include the ideological warfare and one which would win over the hearts and minds of young Muslims for a moderate, inclusive and just system.

The whole world better be braced for more violent confrontations with the IS. Many leaders and analysts are also expecting a new surge in acts of terrorism in the countries involved in the anti-IS coalition.

A new global clash has started, not between different cultural civilisations but between an imperfect civilised world and a heinous self-professed regime which has hijacked a religion of peace and justice.

The writer, the CEO of a think-tank, believes that peace and justice would eventually prevail and for the many innocent people who have been brutally murdered, they did not die in vain. Comments: kktan@thesundaily.com