Breathing Space (May 2016)

Life of Breath team members and collaborators gathered in Bristol on 12 and 13 May for one of our regular ‘Breathing Space’ research group meetings. The focus was on sharing research findings so far and providing constructive feedback from a range of different disciplinary perspectives.

Arthur Rose shared his book proposal. His work explores our changing cultural and literary relationship with asbestos. The working title ‘Asbestos: A Matter of Time’ is drawn from a 1959 public information film of the same name which is a stark reminder of how much has changed in the last 50 years.

Diagnosis of conditions like asthma in children relies on parental description of the symptoms. Alice Malpass sought feedback on her proposed research to find ways of improving this, perhaps using videos or carefully analysing the ways people describe breathlessness.

Rebecca Oxley introduced initial findings from her observations and interviews at BLF Active classes in County Durham. They reveal insights into the motivations and priorities for class participants living with breathlessness. She also shared some thoughts on the importance of rhythm to humans, from the tempo of the breath to the cycles of life, and how this rhythm is disrupted in respiratory illness.

What is the history of breathing? Oriana Walker wondered. She discussed how ideas of health and the role of the breath have changed over time, from the medieval view that sweating was breathing through the skin to the modern biomedical view. In particular she highlighted how resuscitation has become more invasive – forcing air into the lungs of someone who isn’t breathing is a relatively recent development.

Finally, Havi Carel outlined her current thinking on illness as a transformative experience. Serious and chronic illness is life-changing and for some people will prompt them to reconsider their priorities, goals and life choices. Read more about Havi’s  thoughts in this blog post.

Drawing from the title of the meeting the sessions were interspersed with ‘breathing spaces’ – opportunities to pause, reflect and reinvigorate – from meditation exercises led by Alice Malpass to singing with Jess Farr-Cox.

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