Learning to Breathe: A review

People have come into my life in a profoundly perfect way over the past year. – Priscilla Warner, Learning to Breathe: My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life

I know just how this feels. It’s a remarkable thing. A gift really. To receive exactly what or who you need, precisely when you need it. I’ve experienced it myself in many ways through my own journey, which began just two years ago. And today, as I sit comfortably in the afterglow of Priscilla’s exquisite memoir, I realize it has happened yet again. Now, with this book, the timing is once again “profoundly perfect.” And even more, I’m certain it was meant to be. What more of an indication did I need but to learn as I read that we share a birthday.

I cannot speak highly enough of Priscilla’s writing. Not only is it elegant and gracefully honest, but accessible in that the context is precise, detailed and completely  imaginable. Her experience becomes the reader’s experience, and you can’t help but cheer her along as she writes of her year-long journey to bring calm to her life. She narrates her quest from the point of view of living it, but also as wise observer. This is a great gift to the reader because she offers a valuable opportunity for everyone to truly learn from her experience, and she does it by sharing all the parts of her journey, her thoughts, her worries, her conversations. All of it.

“Science gives us a lot of the raw information to work with [on anxiety and panic], but how everything applies to you as in an individual is a very specific thing, which you’ll have to figure out for yourself,” says Priscilla’s therapist, Dr. Jaeger.

And this is precisely what she does in this book. She takes the science, she takes the spirit ,and she shows us how she used it to figure it all out for herself. Powerful stuff.

As I read this book and connected with her journey to the very core of my being, as I cried and gasped in understanding and kinship, as I underlined bits and pieces of text, and left dark, heartfelt exclamation marks in the margins, I ironically, felt myself  holding my breath because of the connection I’d found.  I’m just now finding the strength and clarity to emerge from my own season of fighting panic to find peace, and it was the reading of this book that finally helped me recognize what I have done.  Two years ago, when I set out to find myself, I never expected that I would almost lose myself in the process. The markers for my own depression and anxiety were all there, but I now know that I wasn’t ready to face it until this season in my life. It nearly broke me, but in doing so, I was ready for it to save me. I have come across dark waters, but to cross I had to be willing to dive in, to tread water, and finally to extend each arm, tentatively at first, fighting strong counter currents, but soon growing stronger as I learned that I could swim.

This is the lesson of this book, this is the gift that Priscilla offers with her words, and in sharing the guidance she was given by so many others.

“The convention of panic was just a thin veil for you,” Rabbi Robert Sachs told Priscilla in an e-mail one day, which she then shared with us in her book. “It cloaked the stillness and compassion that is you. It takes great courage to let it all go and to display the unbearableness of so much love.

If you’ve struggled with anxiety or depression, or simply feel lost in your life, this book will inspire you to find a path to peace and happiness.

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9 thoughts on “Learning to Breathe: A review

  1. Lindsey says:

    What a beautiful review of a book that I too loved. I’m particularly moved by how you relate Priscilla’s story to your own,and the ways in which her memoir clearly caused you to understand yourself and your experience in new ways. Isn’t that the highest goal of writing? I think so. By the way, your writing here does that for me too! 🙂
    xo

  2. Great review, Christine! I’m adding it to my list!

  3. I was excited to read your review when I saw your blurb on Goodreads and now I am thrilled to have another great book to look forward to reading. Your review paints a picture of a memoir that I imagine will be both resonant and inspirational. Thank you, dear one! xo

  4. Jane says:

    To hear that you loved this book so much is enough for me. It’s on my amazon wishlist!

  5. Jane says:

    Forget the wishlist. I just ordered it. I decided I couldn’t wait!

    • Priscilla says:

      I hope you enjoy my book, Jane. I’m glad I found your blog here. As the mother of two sons, I particularly loved reading about your efforts to focus on kindness, compassion and doing for others. Bravo to you!

  6. I am almost finished with Priscilla’s book and there are so many passages that resonated with me. So many times, I nodded my head in agreement at the emotions she describes. It’s really pushed me to consider meditating in a more serious way. And your right, much of what she conveys in her words is honest and, more important, accessible to the reader.

  7. Beautiful review, Christine. The book is definitely on my To Buy list.

  8. Christine, what a nice review. I finished the book this weekend. One of my favorite lines – “It’s hard to have sympathy for others if we have an overwhelming sense of depletion. We’re just exhausted. We don’t have the resilience.”

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