Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bookish Review: Learning to Breathe

Memoirists face the danger of coming off as self-absorbed, neurotic, or both. In Learning to Breathe, Priscilla comes off mainly as neurotic, but I don't think she'd argue too much with that description. She's mostly more likable than Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love), though the book is not quite as compelling. Priscilla struggled for most of her life with panic attacks, and the book covers her exploration into meditation (among other things) to try to gain control of her life and her breath. My own prejudices gave me a hard time deciding how I felt about this book. On the one hand, Priscilla has a pretty great life and I was often thinking, "Suck it up!" or "What do you have to be panicking about?" On the other hand, although I have never had a panic attack, I have had asthma attacks, and the inability to breathe is a VERY scary feeling. To have that come on suddenly and frequently such that you felt you could not trust your own body and felt somewhat hijacked in your own life--that is nothing to scoff at. In addition, I sometimes have trouble reading about the granola-crunchy benefits of meditation and chakras and yoga, while at the same time, I practice yoga semi-frequently and find that it can do amazing things. I don't know if it is my Western mentality struggling with Eastern ideas, or if I am too much of a pragmatist most of the time to be thinking about clearing energy channels (which requires more openness and imagination) without rolling my eyes. Still, I think Priscilla's story might be helpful for those who suffer from panic attacks or who are looking for a source of calm. Definitely not a must-read, but it could be beneficial for some.

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