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Learning to Breathe: One Woman's Journey of Spirit and Survival
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Learning to Breathe: One Woman's Journey of Spirit and Survival

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  515 ratings  ·  131 reviews
An extraordinary spiritual memoir about the will to survive . . . one breath at a time

While traveling in Laos on a winding mountain road, the bus that award-winning journalist Alison Wright was riding in collided with a logging truck. As she waited fourteen hours for proper medical care-in excruciating pain, certain she was moments from death-Alison drew upon years of med...more
Kindle Edition, 308 pages
Published (first published August 14th 2008)
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What an amazing life this woman has had. What was most striking to me is that her near-death experience didn't really lead to a big change in her life; instead, it helped her see with even more clarity how she'd been living the life she truly wanted. How many people can say that?

I also love how her life of travel is so meaningful. She touches, and is touched, by many people along the way.

The reason I didn't give this 5 stars is related to the fact that she's done so much: there were significant...more
Despite the cheesy title and subtitle, this is the story of a remarkable woman, her incredible energy, experiences and grit. Alison Wright is a photojournalist who specializes in documenting the plight of underprivileged children throughout the world. In 2000, Wright survived being a victim in a debilitating bus accident in which all of her major organs were shoved up under her left shoulder. Because the bus collision happened on a rural mountanside in Laos, she didn't receive real medical atten...more
This is an amazing story of a one woman's journey to wellness after a devastating accident. It is truly remarkable how she was able to stay alive through the ordeal and to stick to her desire to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro by her 40th birthday (which she acheived).
However, I gave it three stars because I felt that she failed to really convey the emotions of the enormity of what happened to her. Nor was she able to articulate her struggles in a way that allowed the reader to share the journey. She came...more
I loved this book. It was fun to live vicariously through her many life adventures as well as seeing her strength and motivation during her recovery.

Last night as I finished it and was falling asleep, I did wonder how much easier it is to stay in the present moment when traveling around the world on endless adventures, because you have to. That is the beauty of traveling, everything is new and fresh. Staying present in the day in an day out of typical life with kids and soccer practice and dinn...more
Alison Wright was in a severe bus accident in Laos when a logging truck hit the bus head on. Alison was sprawled on the pavement, covered in blood with life threatening injuries. The pain was excruciating and combined with her difficulty breathing, she was hanging onto life by a thread. She had practiced meditation for years and applied her tools of the trade and concentrated as intently as she could on every single breath she took, she was determined she wasn’t going to allow herself to die.

I found the book content to be very interesting, but felt the author didn't quite present the Buddhist message. She claims that her Buddhist practice was responsible for her amazing recovery and I'm sure it was instrumental in her being able to survive and conquer her injuries. However, her attitude seems unchanged. Buddhism is all about not clinging to our self concepts, and not clinging to certain outcomes of life...but instead, flowing with life. Her dogged determination to regain what had be...more
Dani Lane
This was a pretty amazing story of a woman adventurer who was critically injured in a bus accident in Tibet. She only survives because of the actions of the strangers who came to her aid and transported her--with great difficulty--to a hospital. Despite the severity of her injuries, and the years of subsequent rehabilitation and ailments, she draws upon her inner strength, an unfailing optimism and her spirituality to conquer and thrive.

It was a relief, almost, to follow the story of a woman wh...more
My wish for this book was that it could have been separated into two parts. I found both the story of Alison Wright's accident and journey to recovery and her accounts of all the amazing things that she has done in her life inspiring, it was just a little bit too much for one book. It felt a little bit like she thought this might be her only chance to write about her life, so she wanted to get as many stories in as she could. Switching from her recovery to memories of her earlier life to her hop...more
Jan 20, 2009 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kelly by: Santica Shin
Learning to Breathe is a memoir by photojournalist Alison Wright. In her book she describes barely surviving a horrific bus crash in Laos and her subsequent recovery.

What is truly amazing about Wright's story is that she really should not have survived given the extent of her internal injuries and the fact that it was nearly 24 hours before she was even able to get to a hospital in Thailand with just adequate enough care to operate on her.

What remains so vivid for me about her story is how her...more
Maura Walsh
Written by my dear friend Alison who went through a horrible bus accident that has changed her life. This is her account of her journey to recovery along with flashbacks of her life of adventures as a world traveling professional photographer. If only one of the events in her life had happened to me, I'd be working that story the rest of my life, but for Alison, her adventures are just a day in the life. Thankfully, God has kept her safe! From war zones to base camp at Everest to the Amazon to t...more
Georgia Roybal
I enjoyed the incidents in her life as a world wanderer. I was amazed with what she survived. I felt at times that she was an adrenaline junkie, albeit with all good intentions on her part. I liked her basic message of connection and living in the moment. I was a little disappointed in the lack of detail about aspects of her spiritual growth. I do definitely think it is worth reading just for the survival and her basic message of connectedness.

There was a wonderful quote at the end which applies...more
I guess I picked up this book because my daughter got in an accident,and I wanted to read about someone who had it much worse, but was still okay at the end. This woman's life is completely incredible. The misfortune keeps following her, and every time she comes out of it stronger and better than before. I am glad I read it. Things are possible, I guess, with the right attitude. It was very interesting to read about Tibet. I hope to pick up more books on the same topic.. The book reminded me a l...more
What an excellent book! It's not just the awesome story of survival, but the spiritual journery the authoer, Alison Wright has been on her entire life that was so satisfying about this book. Wright is definitely an excellent writer as well as photographer. Her life is exciting, dangerous, and lonely; but somehow also filled with joy, comfort, and lots of strong relationships. I could almost start reading this again right away, I liked it that much. Highly recommend this read.
Alison Wright's remarkable story of recovery after experiencing what should have been a fatal accident is gripping at times, and she gleans some great lessons from her tragedy. ("Having viewed my mortality from a front-row seat has given me even more incentive to follow my heart and live my life to its fullest. Now each day seems like a gift, one giant postscript. When you get right down to it, the fear of death is nothing compared to the fear of having not lived a life to its greatest extent, w...more
This was a book I couldn't put down. Her will to medically recover and move forward to meet her goals after her terrible accident on a bus in Laos. I loved her photojournalism tales, and medical recovery issues and her well to get on with life. I found her Buddhist faith to be mildly interesting but other than the mediation elements of it, she didn't convince me, a Christian to even consider it as a life faith. There was no romance, just good family and friend support and excellent medical help...more
Alison Wright, author of this memoir, has been a photojournalist for 20 years. She has traveled all over the world,particularly in Asia. In 2000 she was a victim in a horrific bus accident in the hills of Laos, and was not expected to survive. With excellent recall, she tells of the incident, with all the medical and cultural details, and credits individuals who helped her. She is also a practicing Buddhist, and believes that her training in meditation and yoga allowed her to survive and endure...more
Sarah Whitney
"Working in such dirt-poor countries was a reminder that life is such a fragile thread, and that the simple fact of where you are born can determine how you will die."
page 86

"I was inspired by a quote by Yousuf Karsh, one of the most famous and accomplished portrait photographers of all time. 'To make enduring photographs, it is far more important to know about the inner workings of the human mind and soul, for the heart and the mind are the true soul of the camera.' I needed to physically touch...more
Kate Williams
Not sure why the common adjective "uplifting" never fails to deter me from wanting to read a book. I'm careful not to include that adjective here for fear that it might unfairly toss this worthy book into the scrap heap of "inspirational" pablum. This book is not one of those. Another addition to my list of top 10 memoirs because it does what I think memoirs should do: by telling a life's story, it compels You, as reader, to do more with your life's story.
Went to see her in person for a movie of her work, but wished I had read her book first.To see this perky woman flying into the theatre(almost missed her train) and moving with such ease is astonishing in retrospect. The book recounting her bus crash in Laos and subsequent injuries is a testimony to willpower and faith. I only need think of her to summon the courage to meet life's viccissitudes. Extraordinarily inspiring..
Juliana Haught
This book is a photojournalist's account of a horrific accident and her recovery with flashes back to other events, while at the same time highlighting the plight of various communities dealing with poverty and the effects of war and oppression. Reading this, phrases like "profoundly unlucky", and "magnet for trouble" kept popping up in my mind. This woman has experienced an incredible number of illnesses and injuries in her travels. Also, having family members with ADD/ADHD, I couldn't help thi...more
I got this book as a gift after going through a difficult emotional period in my life. I added it to the book shelf and didn't read it until nearly 2 years later, thinking I didn't need an inspirational book....what a shame! I should have read it then as it's FILLED with inspirational nuggets and is so well written! This is a story of perserverance and tenacity, survival and belief in oneself. Alison Wright's relationship with Tibet is heartwarming and makes me want to get on a plane and explore...more
Maybe 2.5 stars. I enjoyed the details of her accident and the amazing heroes and selfless individuals who helped this stranger during the tragic events. I also enjoyed most of her stories. However, I wasn't mesmerized by this book. I felt the Buddhist teachings are so different from my own Christian beliefs that I had trouble relating. I'm not sure if that makes me ignorant or not! All along I was wishing I could share my beliefs about the purpose of life as I know it with her. I felt like I wa...more
Alison is a great storyteller in the way she weaves her history/life stories in with the accident and her recovery. Another story of true spirit, determination, and self-awareness which makes for an easy read.
I love the way she ties the book together in her afterword: "I realize now it's not about chasing the story. It's about being part of the story. When you get right down to it, the fear of death is nothing compared to the fear of having not lived a life to its greatest extent with authentic...more

Weaving stories of her world travels with the harrowing tale of a bus accident in Laos and her lengthy recovery, Alison Wright captures the interconnectedness of humanity despite the disparate cultures in which we live. She is obviously a risk-taker and a truth-seeker - her passion for telling people's stories through her photography is evident. It was fun to peek inside her crazy life lived mostly abroad. Her determined recovery was also inspiring...I would recommend this book to everyone. As...more
Dina Reynoso
I was soooo into this book during the first couple of chapters and was eagerly turning pages as Wright described her horrific accident that left her almost dead. It's truly incredibly that this woman survived and went on to a full recovery and continued to challenge her self by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. However, I slowly began to lose interest as she began to detail her recovery. I enjoyed the details but her writing just didn't do it for me. I put the book down for several months - always a b...more
An amazing inspirational story but felt a bit lacking. I really enjoyed her mini short stories she incorporated, no doubt she's had some great experiences and knows a lot of people, but I have to say the name dropping took away from her storyline a bit.
Jeffrey Crimmel
I have been a bit disappointed with this book. I thought the writer was going to tell about some of her experiences in the East. Instead is seems to be a book about a near death by a bad bus ride experience and how she overcame the odds of surviving. I feel that the book is something the author needed to write for her own healing but it has not been that exciting. She is a noted photographer and has published several photo books but her ability to tell an interesting story did not raise it's hea...more
Suzan Bond
Sometimes life takes you on very different adventures than the ones you intended. This is certainly the case in this book by a fascinating and determined woman. The book really hums along when the author sticks to the accident and the aftermath. Though the other stories were interesting I detracted from the main story. The biggest complaint about this book is that the author simply tried to cover too much. The best thing about this book is when she talks about suffering and dealing with the afte...more
An interesting book that definitely sparked my desires to visit southern Asia. At times, I felt that Alison was repeating statements for emphasis that wasn't needed. And a lot of the anecdotes in the last chapters seemed thrown in without much "need". Still, I was happy to read this book on recommendation from a co-worker who has traveled to India. She said that she is very envious of Alison Wright's life. Wanderlust certainly is an appealing lifestyle, despite the horrible things that has happe...more
The story of her survival and recovery are amazing. There truly is no limit to what you can achieve if you set your mind and heart to it. Obviuously her faith plays a BIG role in her achievements. The peace with which she and other Buddhists look at things does give you pause for thought. Americans are always going going going - striving for more; Asians seem more in the moment and happy with the little things - like a plastic bag kite or the stars. If all you take away from this book is the des...more
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Alison Wright, a New York based documentary photographer, has spent a career capturing the universal human spirit through her photographs and writing. For many of her projects Alison travels to the remotest regions of the globe photographing endangered cultures and people while documenting issues concerning the human condition.
More about Alison Wright...
Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit Faces of Hope: Children of a Changing World The Spirit Of Tibet: Portrait Of A Culture In Exile Dalai Lama, Heart of Wisdom 2011 Wall Calendar Faces

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