Breathe Magazine - Issue 6

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Some people breeze through life, rarely thrown off course no matter what hits them. Others flounder at every turn, weighed down by life’s challenges. Most are somewhere between the two, minds preoccupied with the minutiae of the everyday as they strive to meet the often conflicting demands of home, work, family and friends – leaving little room for personal reflection.

What if we all took a deep breath and dived into fresh pools of experiences – ones that might open up fresh ways of seeing the world?

Outdoor – or wild – swimming has been making a splash over the past few years as more people seek to re-engage with the natural world and bring more adventure into their lives. And this egalitarian pastime, with its frog’s-eye view, certainly meets the brief. The exhilaration of taking a dip in a sun-kissed lake or running into crashing waves on a shoreline is reason enough to take the plunge, but this unencumbered pursuit also brings a raft of physical and mental health benefits. Indoor or outdoor, swimming’s focus on the breath – the inhalation and exhalation – has a meditative quality and can help to ease the day’s woes and quieten chattering thoughts. You don’t need to be a distance swimmer, but an open mind will work wonders.

Writing fiction can also provide a space to escape and explore, but just as wading into a river can take a leap of faith, it can be equally as daunting to pen the first line of a paragraph, let alone craft a whole novel. Flash fiction, short compositions of up to 1,000 words, is a neat entryway to the process – and Breathe’s flash fiction notebook is a great place to start.

The art of writing, or creating generally, also involves a certain degree of self-criticism. For some that turns into self-imposed standards of perfection and unattainable targets that sap the creative spirit, undermine the sense of self and exact a high toll on physical wellbeing. Two women who have faced and overcome the burden of high expectations are Sanae Ishida, who found a lifeline through sewing, and artist and self-confessed recovering perfectionist Cristina Colli.

Part of the solution is to still that harsh inner-critic and just go for it. Dive in, start sewing, set sail. Whatever fresh pool of experience you choose, remember imperfection is creative, imperfection is allowed, imperfection is soulful – embrace flaws and be as compassionate to yourself as you are to those you love.

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