Review

Learning to Breathe: My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life

by Priscilla Warner

Her sons were grown and doing well, her marriage was solid, and she had recently completed a lengthy book tour for the bestseller THE FAITH CLUB, which she had co-authored. In many ways, life was very good for Priscilla Warner. But she was relentlessly dogged by anxiety and panic attacks that gave her no peace. The often-debilitating condition had been an unwanted companion for most of her life, and she was determined to find peace and serenity --- her "inner monk" --- no matter how difficult the task.

"LEARNING TO BREATHE is educational, informative, interesting and very well written."

Her first epiphany came in a most unexpected way, as epiphanies often do. A car rental agent who had noticed the unusual jewelry Warner was wearing suggested she might find a certain shop in Haight-Ashbury worth a visit. As she browsed the shop, she became intrigued by Tibetan singing bowls. And the clerk introduced her to a CD by Gyuto Monks, whose  unusual chanting appealed to Warner. Determined to learn how to make her singing bowl sing beautifully and armed with the CD of chants, Warner's quest for peace had begun in earnest. 

Warner gave herself a present for her 56th birthday: a beginning meditation course taught by a Tibetan monk, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. Through meditation, the monk successfully overcame his panic disorder. Warner felt sure he could help her. When she met him, he answered all of her questions to her satisfaction. Yongey's humor, his positive attitude and frank way of explaining things really did start Warner on the path toward her "inner monk."  

Through effort and practice, she became adept at meditation but realized that meditation was only part of her solution. She was willing to try any therapy or treatment that might tame her inner turmoil, so she sought out healers, monks and therapists who employed various approaches to acquire the peace she sought. She practiced yoga, chanted along with her CD, painted the Buddha meditatively, and learned how to make her Tibetan singing bowl sing. EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprogramming), which was used by one of her therapists, helped her recall and then release painful trauma that was very therapeutic. A rabbi guided Warner, who is Jewish, through a mikvah, a ritual cleansing bath. The sum total of all of her hard work? Very impressive.

While following Priscilla Warner along her path toward her "inner monk," readers learn a few lessons that might come in handy when dealing with stress and anxiety. LEARNING TO BREATHE is educational, informative, interesting and very well written. 

Reviewed by Carole Turner on October 6, 2011

Learning to Breathe: My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life
by Priscilla Warner

  • Publication Date: May 1, 2012
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • ISBN-10: 143918108X
  • ISBN-13: 9781439181089