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  • Catherine Nasskau

Focusing on the breath, 100 years ago

Updated: Feb 22


Yesterday I was looking through old photos I had not seen before with my cousins. I knew my grandmother had been a speech-therapist (a leading figure at Central School of Acting) but I had never seen pictures of her in action. She also published writings about speech-therapy, and in particular how stress and fear can increase speech problems, such as stammering. It was rather humbling to realise that almost a hundred years ago Granny was encouraging young people to focus on their breath so as to reduce stress. Apart from the hats, this scene could almost be a one of my mindfulness sessions with children. Her name was Muriel Wigglesworth and she is at the front near the camera. I think we even have the same shoes!


I have also recently discovered my grandfather who I knew was a vicar, was also once a keen amateur actor and taught people voice projection. This is also so similar to what I do as a drama teacher. I wonder why it feels grounding to have a sense of what my grandparents did and to know more about their lives. It gives me a sense of connection and that I am part of something larger than my current family.


Being aware of my ancestors also puts things in perspective and reminds me how short our lives are. We can so easily make everything very significant. In 100 years' time, I wonder if any of my grandchildren will be finding out things about us and our daily lives. It can feel sad and strange to consider our mortality. But it also makes me feel lighter to think that these difficult times with Coronavirus and such uncertainties about our futures, will pass. We are fleeting visitors on this precious planet. If I can rest in the present, the uncertainties for my family do not weigh so heavily in my heart. Yet it does feel lovely to consider what my grandparents did and the knowledge that what was important to them is also important to me.


Being able to speak with ease and living in a country with freedom of expression is definitely something to appreciate.


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