Learning to Breathe by Priscilla Warner (Review & Giveaway)

Learning to Breathe by Priscilla Warner

It’s funny how the universe sends you messages when you least expect it. I spent most of the weekend in bed with a head cold that turned into a sinus infection. I couldn’t sleep at night because I couldn’t breathe comfortably. What do I do, but pick up Priscilla Warner’s Learning to Breathe: My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life.

Warner’s memoir chronicles her battle against the panic attacks she’d suffered since she was a teenager. Born Jewish, she opens her mind and body to meditation, Buddhist teachings, and even a Jewish ritual bath, in an attempt to control her panic attacks.

Was the universe trying to tell me something? Perhaps the universe was telling me to slow down, not just physically, but mentally as well. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends recently and my sickness forced me to slow down by keeping me in bed for a couple of days. So i slowed down and read this memoir.

Warner’s journey to find the cause of her panic attacks, essentially to find herself, fascinated me. I have never experienced anything like what she experienced. I can’t even imagine trying to live life the way she did, worried that a panic attack would hit her at any moment. During each attack she felt literally felt like she would die.

As she described her visits to various meditation and Buddhist retreats, classes, therapists, acupuncturists and other specialists, I had a hard time relating to Warner. How could she afford these treatments and retreats? She briefly mentioned her husband worked in the corporate world so maybe that’s how she could take all of these retreats. Would others who suffered from panic attacks be able to identify with her struggle and search for a treatment? I know that I would not have the means to try everything she experienced in the book. I’m not trying to make light of her problems. I know that not everyone can just take a class or visit a retreat on a whim.

The book is separated into three sections: How to Live, How to Love, and How to Die. As she becomes more enlightened about her past and present, Warner discovers that she has more to learn. She takes more classes and goes on more retreats. I would have liked to hear more about her husband’s reactions to each phase of her journey. She shares glimpses of his unconditional support but also mentions a bit of “eye-rolling” on his end.   A more detailed insight on her husband’s reactions to each phase of her journey would have made it easier for me to identify with Warner, as I’m at all familiar with most of the teachings and practices she follows.

I think there is a message in the book for everyone. I’m not sure what the message is for me. Maybe I’m just not open to receiving a message from the book at the moment. Or maybe all I can handle right now is to slow down and breathe.

I think I can handle that.

Want to win a Tibetan singing bowl? In the book Priscilla Warner tries several of them before find the one that resonated with her. Playing a Tibetan singing bowl forces you to slow down and concentrate on its beautiful sound.

To enter, just leave a comment below about how you find some quiet and peace in this busy world.

For an extra entry, like From Left to Write’s page on Facebook and leave a comment below.

I’ll draw a winner’s name at the end of the blog tour, Sept 27th.

This post is part of a blog tour for Learning to Breathe: My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life by Priscialla Warner, published by Simon and Schuster. Visit the other blog tour stops every day this week for your chance to win other prizes that Warner used in her journey towards inner peace.

No compensation was received for this post. I received a copy of the book to review. The giveaway prize is courtesy of Simon & Schuster and Priscilla Warner. From Left to Write is not responsible for any lost or misdirected prizes.

About Thien-Kim

Thien-Kim is Editor of From Left to Write. She sneaks in her reading time late at night after her family is sound asleep. She also writes at I'm Not the Nanny.


  1. Interesting – I find myself intrigued by memoirs like this right now, though I haven’t (yet) read any – the Happiness project, that one I wrote you about, my year with Eleanor. Seems kinda trendy right now, no? Your comments are preceptive – even when I read reviews of these books, or blurbs on Amazon or other places, I find myself thinking more about the how and why the book was put together rather than the concept of peace, happiness, or calm the book is purportedly about! As for my own peace and quiet – I find myself just mentally reminding myself to breathe. To just be. Simple, but it is (at times) effective.

  2. Oh, whoops, and I am a follower on facebook!

  3. I try to carve out a bit of time each day to knit. It is my salvation and it centers me.

  4. Priscilla Warner’s journey is such an inspiration!

    Her book trailer is on youtube – shows how she wants to help others by telling her own story: http://youtu.be/8vzEUsh7wWg

  5. I live in a rural area so I like to take a walk in the woods to re-connect with nature when things are feeling hectic.

  6. Christopher says:

    This book actually sounds really interesting. Between work, graduate school and a personal life I have been researching different techniques to find calm and peace. I’ve taken up running and it is a great physical and mental activity that requires focus and clarity of purpose to be successful. On top of this I’ve been researching Buddhism, definitely a philosophy that I can invest in.

    Excellent website/blog. I just started following you on Twitter & FB. Excellent review.

  7. To get away I would literally get away, just get in my car and drive. No where in particular just enjoying the scenery where ever I went. But with the cost of fuel lately and not wanting to add to the bad air quality in our county I’m looking for a new way to “unwind”. Maybe a Tibetan Singing Bowl is just what I need? I know I love to sing and my kids hate when I do, so maybe I can make the bowl sing instead :-)

  8. I am also already a follower of course!

  9. I find peace through walking. There is something so soothing about being alone with my thoughts in nature that really gets me ready for my day and helps me with my frame of mind.

  10. And naturally, I already like the group on Facebook. :)

  11. Window shopping online (i.e., just browsing, not purchasing … well, maybe *some* purchasing). A Tibetan singing bowl would provide nice accompaniment!

  12. I find peace by reading the Bible and praying.

  13. Great post and it’s been fun to follow Priscilla on her blog tour! She will also appear on my blog, Lessons from the Monk I Married, on Wednesday, 9/21! Hope to see you over there…and take care of yourself!

  14. Oh, and meditation and yoga are the ways I calm my mind. Walking in nature is helpful too ^_^! Cheers, Katherine

  15. I’ve resorted to waking a little bit earlier than the rest of my brood in order to have some quiet moments.

  16. I love meditative spiritual practices. Would love to win the singing bowl to add to my experience.

  17. I’m going to have to find this book. I’ve been reading a lot of similar things, and really taking a lot away. I’m starting to dabble in meditation (found a FREE local meditation group), I exercise and have just started yoga, and I read a lot of spiritual books. Oh, and a nice mug of chamomile tea at the end of the day! A singing bowl just SOUNDS lovely!

  18. Naturally, I like From Left to Write on FB :-)

  19. Connie Fischer says:

    This book sounds like it would be very enlightening and a useful tool for many people trying to pinpoint the reason for certain problems in their lives. I have a friend who starting getting panic attacks that came out of nowhere. She was so worried and I was certainly concerned for her. However, with a combination of medication and meditation, she was able to get ahold of this problem. All of us face stress of some kind in our lives and learning to recognize it and then finding a way to deal with it is key to keeping our sanity as well as our general health. For me, quiet time reading is something I must find time for every day. It’s my “chill” time if you will. I enjoy following you on Facebook. Thanks for the great, thought-provoking review!

  20. The best way I find peace and quiet in this busy world is daily yoga. I love my practice and it really is quite a stress reliever.

  21. I’m also now a follower on FB!

  22. I live in the Mountain State and on my way home after work I contemplate Mother Nature and its wonders. Just pure active meditation.

  23. I find peace in nature. I also like to walk along the lake and listen to the waves break along the shore.

  24. I find peace by snuggling with my two dogs on the bed. Listening to them breathe (and snore a little bit) while petting their soft ears and long bodies lowers my stress immensely.

  25. I find quiet and peace by going for a walk and being alone with my thoughts. Bonus if it’s in a beautiful spot like the beach or hiking trail.

  26. Liked your Facebook page.

  27. I feel like when I read, then I can sort out the other problems that are on my mind. I also like to knit, if I can find the time…

  28. The days can go by so quickly in life that it is difficult to stop and take it in … as crazy as life gets I do try and take ONE SECOND each day to take a deep breath and be at peace in that breath.

  29. I too have suffered from severe anxiety and panic attacks and PTSD for over 30 years . I have been working on learning meditation and Chi Gong breathing which is an amazing feeling of calm while doing chi gong it is a whole body peacefulness . I believe I was ment to see the today show Friday morning Sept.23 rd regarding Panic attackes and Priscilla’s book I connected with her every word . I had tears in my eyes and felt This is ME ! Maybe I too can learn to think like a Monk also and break free of this terrible feeling of fear and not being normal inside of me … she gave me HOPE ….!

  30. Brenda Allen says:

    A cup of tea & a quite nook to sit and gaze out a window to witness the beauty of nature all around helps me to relax and de-stress.

  31. I’m trying to get better at taking time to breathe. I have been trying to take a few minutes before my son’s bus comes to just be outside and just be by myself fir a short time.

  32. At some point in the late 90s, i came across a show on cable television., on what was then known as “The Heath Network”. This show, titled, “YOGA ZONE”, would literally transform my daily existence.
    i found it all immediately, and undeniably alluring; from its “exotic” location, the beautiful, soothing music, and the attractive, affable instructors and demonstrators. Another plus was that there was never more than two (2) people on screen at any given time; thus keeping it from the usual group frenzy mentality.
    At first, i only watched. Then i began to watch more often; where soon i was watching regularly. Then i began to — yes — participate … and in no time, i was … “participating” … daily. It was probably somewhere just under a month or so, when i found that i actually looked forward to getting up each morning, turning on the T.V., and along with my new-found set of friends (my absolute favorite episodes featured an adorable, captivating couple, Charles Matkin and Lisa Bennett-Matkin), i would consciously place my bare feet atop my AquaBlue, StickyMat into the correct alignment. Completely relaxed and entirely nude, uninhibited within the comfort and familiarity of my living room, i would move, and turn, and breathe, and focus, — doing my very best to set the tone for the upcoming day; and the tone was, “calm”.
    Sometimes it was admittedly an act in futility, but more often than not, it made the difference between me going “out there” and “accomplishing”, or crawling back into bed, and pulling the covers back up way, way, waaay over my head.
    Today, somewhere nearing 15 years later, altho the show is no longer airing daily (i believe “YOGA ZONE” studios still exist in the NY area, and Charles and LIsa are working their magic within the medical industry), i fortunately amassed a bevy of taped episodes, i purchased their books and DVDs, and still begin each and every day in the pursuit of “calm”.
    inhale … exhale …. inhale … exhale.

  33. I am a paper crafter, and most days it is how I relax. But really doing any kind of craft is relaxing to me! I also meditate, do yoga (not as much as I’d like to), and make lots of lists. Getting myself organized is very relaxing to me!

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