The Gifts Asthma Gave Me

It seems it was a lifetime ago, that I heard my judo instructor’s voice saying to me that I need to relax, flow and cultivate the mindset of Mushin or “no mind”. I was only 6 years old at the time, and it seemed perplexing to me that you would have “no mind” when you were fighting! After all, wasn’t the intent to pummel the opponent into submission? That it took thought to outwit your opponent! Wasn’t this the art of judo? Ah… I had much to learn, but luckily, plenty of time to do it.

  Confucius said, “A common man marvels at uncommon things; a wise man marvels at the commonplace”. I have wondered, since those early days of martial arts and meditation training, how mere thought or intention can bring about the manifestation of fierce fighting while remaining calm, or cultivate euphoria from quiescent meditation practice. How something as undeniable as awareness is beyond our conceptional grasp of explanation. Knowing yourself, your own mind, and being able to “flow” takes time to master. 

Point of self empowerment

  Being an asthmatic while training in Judo and meditation as a young child was enormously challenging before the common use of rescue medication. My asthma attacks would last up to several days at a time. One of the “gifts” that came to pass from these frequent asthma attacks is that I came to understand myself more fully. 

  Knowing my strengths and abilities (I could quiet my mind and my thoughts through meditation), as well as weaknesses, as I had congenital asthma since I was a baby. I also became aware of how asthma (you can fill in the blank here with your affliction) made me fearful of the next attack, and if I had not become aware or mindful of my fear, that it would have inhibited me from playing with my friends and trying new experiences as a child. 

  Thank God that I found martial arts and meditation as a proactive means to face my fears and provide me the tools I needed to face my fears head-on.

  Fear is something that asthma patients live with all the time. Asthma can be very frightening to children as well as to adult asthmatics, and let us not forget about the parents who have to watch their child go through a severe asthma attack. All of these elicit extreme chemical changes in the body called “fight or flight” or stress.

  Western medicine has noted the value of the relaxation response (including QiGong/meditation) as an effective method to combat stress thanks to innovative work by Herbert Benson M.D., a cardiologist at Harvard University, and Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D. a researcher at Stanford University. Dr. Sapolsky was one of the first western scientists to prove that sustained stress, real or imagined, can damage the region of the brain responsible for learning and memory! 

  By making use of the relaxation response and its capacity to strengthen our own immune system, we are learning that we can take control back from the autonomic nervous system and “manually” reprogram ourselves into a better state of health. 

  The point I am trying to make is that meditation, QiGong, Yoga, mindfulness (the list goes on) should be a part of our mainstream treatment/education to provide our children the option of being proactive in their disease process (not necessarily just asthma). What better lasting gift to give, but to afford a person the opportunity to control their own fear as they gracefully age?


Ted Cibik, ND, DMQ(China), is a Zhong Yi or Chinese Physician that practices all four branches of Chinese Medicine. Ted loves to assist people on their healing journey, teaching martial arts, Ch’an meditation and animal rescue he began as a child.