Book Review: The Art of Breathing

‘You are not your thoughts, you are the observer of your thoughts.’

This phrase really stuck out for me in this gem of a book about mindful breathing; and ultimately mindful Living.

The first thing that really popped out was the book’s visuals – beautiful, simple illustrations set in a deliciously dreamy blue and black. They flow throughout the book and they drew me in completely.

The story at the start was descriptive, moving and terrifying at the same time. It grabbed your attention and made you want to read on. Penman brilliantly used his own experience to great effect. After you have caught your own breath again, you are lead gently into the core of the book and what it’s about. I did wish there had been a few more stories like this one, something you can really feel.

I have heard a lot about ‘mindfulness’ but this is the first book I have read on the subject and was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed and embraced it. I resonated with so much of what Penman writes and you could tell that he really walks his walk. It felt genuine and authentic.

‘Mindfulness is observation without criticism.’

The meditations were easy to understand. Starting with a simple one, they slowly grew in depth. I particularly loved the ‘Fruit and Insight meditations’. Although his suggestion of practising them for 10-20 minutes, 4 or 5 times a week seemed slightly undoable to me on a regular basis. That said, some people might be able to manage this. I thought at the time that would love to be able to listen to the meditations, and lo and behold discovered that you can also download them to listen to.

There was a wee bit of ‘science stuff’ in it but he made very understandable. I did lose my focus a bit about three quarters of the way through but I think that might just be how I react to facts and figures. My mind tends to wander a bit!

There were so many fabulous quotes throughout the book that I struggled to include all the ones I connected with but this particular one stood out;

‘You needn’t be a mystic to have mystical moments.’

As I made it half way through the book, I realised I was already using mindfulness day to day! I instinctively use my breath to calm and soothe me in moments of panic or fear. So it was good to know that by following my instincts I was tapping into my own healing energy without really noticing.

In general, I thought this was a great place to start learning about breath, mindfulness, meditation and could be a very successful way to develop a practise in the long term. Penman says that it is something you simply cannot fail in – and I believe him.

Review by Sally Light

You can listen to the audio from this book here.

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