Book written by Will Johnson

The Wonder of Breathing

Review by Gunnel Minett

This book can be described as a daily journal written by someone on a spiritual retreat in a monastery. The author is not part of the monastery, only a visitor. The focus of his retreat is to pay attention to his breathing. Just that. To focus on every breath he takes, all day, every day for as long as he stays there. No more, no less. Coming from a Buddhist background, he wants to follow Buddha’s instructions on the awakening of the awareness of breath; “ as you breathe in, breathe in through the whole body; as you breathe out, breathe out through the whole body.”

This simple activity turns out to lead to a big inner change. By simply paying attention to the breathing, breath by breath, his awareness starts to expand. What Buddha was referring to was not just to breathe in air, he also pointed to a spiritual aspect of breathing: it can expand your consciousness and become a spiritual path to a higher potential. 

As a journal of someone on a spiritual path, the book is beautifully written with several poems and suggestions as to how to pursue the experience of expanding the breathing. But personally I think the book would have benefited from a physiological explanation of breathing: understanding the central role breathing has in the body would have added to an understanding of the spiritual dimension. To make us see that breathing is not just vital for our survival and physical wellbeing, but also a powerful way to deepen our understanding of ourselves and how it can make us expand our consciousness and inner wellbeing. 

I have been using breathing as a tool for expanding inner wellbeing since 1980 and have experienced how people have started an inner journey, similar to the one described in this book. It does not matter in what context a person starts to become aware of the potential of the breath. When the person starts to be aware of their breathing, either through altering their breathing pattern or simply by observing the breathing, they tend to start an inner journey. 

If this type of comparison had been added to the book, it would have added a new dimension to the personal journey described. Nevertheless the book offers a very interesting insight to the powerful tool which our breathing can be.

Inner Traditions, Rochester Vermont,, 2019,

ISBN 162055688X, 9781620556887, 160 p, Paperback