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Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,021 ratings  ·  145 reviews
Matthew Sanford's inspirational story about the car accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down is a superbly written memoir of healing and journey--from near death to triumphant life.

Matt Sanford's life and body were irrevocably changed at age 13 on a snowy Iowa road. On that day, his family's car skidded off an overpass, killing Matt's father and sister and left
Hardcover, 241 pages
Published June 27th 2006 by Rodale Books
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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Travel Writing
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Matthew Sanford is amazing. Just a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

Suddenly feeling lost in a familiar place

My body interacts with the world and records it regardless of whether my mind is having any experience
Healing can travel in so many directions

I also know to trust time...time keeps moving. It may move slowly, it may be withour contour or flare, but it keeps moving

Trust that the passage of time brings results

The silence we carry is not loss. It is the presence of death as it travels
Apr 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
The focus of this book is the mind-body connection and while I haven't experienced the kind of trauma the author has, I did have a new awareness and respect for my body during childbirth. That baby was coming whether I tried to stop her or not. Pretty incredible what the body can accomplish.

The story of his family's auto accident and his recovery was fascinating. And I believe that his physical therapy and therapists ignored the connection between mind and body. Perhaps that has changed some wit
Elizabeth Andrew
Aug 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I love Matthew Sanford's genuine voice. It's plain--this is a book without frills. It is welcoming--Sanford tells a good story. But most of all, this book is driven by passion. Sanford cares so much about the interconnections between body and spirit, his prose can't help but move the reader. When I closed this book, I was struck by how love for a subject can transcend craft.

As a spiritual memoir, I found WAKING refreshing--the primary spiritual practice is yoga, and Sanford does a beautiful job
Cynde Moya
What struck me was his notion of "healing stories" and how some of these stories did or did not work for him. The stories from the doctors that his legs were dead and there was nothing more to be found out from them, was countered by his much later studying Yoga. Through yoga he re-discovered that the silence that is his lower body, still has a lot of connectedness with the rest of his body and his mind. Through yoga he offers a different paradigm from which to understand paralysis, and the para ...more
Michelle Margaret
Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Wow! This is a moving, accessible, page-turner of a memoir by Matthew Sanford, a yoga teacher who became a paraplegic at age 13 in a car accident in which his father and sister were killed. His paralysis has led him to a profound understanding of suffering, silence in the body and the mind-body connection/disconnection. A favorite quote: "I am without tears because I am reaching for my most familiar healing story: using the silence to achieve a deadened acceptance. I am not pounding the steering ...more
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Do yourself a favor, if you have a family member or a friend with a spinal cord injury, read this book. I ended up working as a consultant to Matthew Sanford as he developed his plans for spreading his message and his practice of reuniting the mind and body for people where that connection has been broken. He’s a remarkable person with an important set of ideas and tools for anyone with spinal cord injuries or other significant disruptions in the mind body connection.
What a treasure this book must be to Mattew Sanford and his family. He survived a horrific accident that not only killed his father and sister but left him a paraplegic at the age of 13. His very open and descriptive tale on his recovery and tale of “trauma to transcendence” was heartbreaking yet showed amazing strength. What he survived would likely have killed many! He shows the true power of the mind, body, spirit connection. ~ A Bibliophile ❤️📚
Leslie Waugh
Aug 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Unbelievable. Everyone who practices or teaches yoga should read this. Anyone who works in health care or the medical field should read this. Anyone with a pulse should read this. This memoir offers revolutionary insight into pain, the mind-body connection and healing from trauma. Truly surprising, raw and inspirational.
Nov 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Sanford describes the mind-body connection like no one else I've read. I would consider this writing essential for any yoga practitioner seeking transformation. ...more
Melanie Maloney
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a treasure this book must be to Mattew Sanford and his family. He survived a horrific accident that not only killed his father and sister but left him a paraplegic at the age of 13. His very open and descriptive tale on his recovery and tale of “trauma to transcendence” was heartbreaking yet showed amazing strength. What he survived would likely have killed many! He shows the true power of the mind, body, spirit connection.
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was selected as part of my yoga book club. I recommend it to anyone. The story of Mathew’s life is unimaginably painful and so relatable because he likens his traumatizing experience to the everyday occurrences that we all face... easy, quick read and moving, often humorous and always humbling.
Apr 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence chronicles both the physical and spiritual journey of a man who became a paraplegic at the age of 13 after surviving a horrific car crash. Both Sanford's father and sister were killed in the crash. He documents his own struggles as well as the struggles of the rest of his surviving family members with great empathy, from his mother's struggles as a widow raising a disabled child and his brother's burden of having to be fiercely independent and a rock ...more
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I loved this book. Read it because I read about his interviews with Krista Tippett in On Being. Then listened to his Ted Talks. Sanford is an amazing man who endured a horrific accident at the age of thirteen, followed by a coma, a diagnosis of paraplegia and many surgeries. Eventually, he realized that "manning up" was not the way for him to become whole. He found a wonderful teacher who helped him to see that what he had already discovered about the silence between his body and mind was a gift ...more
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: yoga, disability
a beautiful journey intersecting disability and being fully present through yoga. Matthew has thrilling insights to understanding and accessing the energetic connection to one's body. that healing is an art. about moving slower and pushing softer. stillness. and that the principles of yoga are non discriminating. any body can do yoga especially when done with the original intention of yoga: as an exploration of consciousness. ...more
Nov 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: yoga-books
I heard an amazing interview with Matthew Sanford on the NPR program "Speaking of Faith" and promptly ordered the book. His story is riveting; I am in danger of riding past my subway stop on the way to work with this book in hand. ...more
Margaret Hoff
Mar 12, 2018 rated it liked it
This was mostly a 2.5 for me. I admired it. I admire the author. I just felt more “outside” the memoir than inside the journey. I will be hearing the author speak tomorrow and will participate in the yoga. Perhaps I’ll change my mind!
Aug 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal. Heart-breaking at times but so many lessons to be learned from Matt Sanford's journey through life. Really an inspiring man and story. ...more
Mar 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Ok. Honest. Too much fairy dust when he talks of mind body
Jun 23, 2020 added it
Shelves: 2012-13
For November book club, I read “Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence” by Matthew Sanford. Matthew Sanford teaches yoga workshops at Mind Body Solutions in Minnetonka, MN. He was also featured on a recent episode of “On Being.”

When he was 11 years old, Sanford was in a car accident that paralyzed him from the waist down. For six months, he was in recovery at the Mayo Clinic. While he was there, doctors and nurses taught him to adjust to his fractured body. Over and over, they told him he
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a book where Matthew Sanford shares his own story without judgment, protection, and sentimentality.[1] It's a book about appreciating and believing in your own experience.[2]

At the age of thirteen, Matthew was in a car accident that killed his father and sister. It also left him paralyzed from the chest down.[3] Matthew met his yoga teacher, Jo Zukovich, twelve years later.[4] This changed his life and lead to an exploration of the possibilities of yoga and paralysis together.

Jo Zukovic
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Silence and healing stories described in Introduction. Re: silence: "It is the source of the feeling of loss, but also a sense of awe." Re: healing stories: "They come together to create our own personal mythology, the system of beliefs that guide how we interpret our experience. Quite often, they bridge the silence that we carry within us and are essential to how we live."

"Perceiving foreknowledge of one's fate is one way to [heal trauma]...This longing for a connection deeper than random defin
Patty Whitney
Dec 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence is Matt’s story — and it is an astounding story of pain, trauma, healing, awareness and re-awakening of body, mind and breath.  At the age of 13, a car accident left him paralyzed from the chest down.  Broken, battered and damaged, Matt trusted the medical world when they convinced him that any sensations he had in his lower body weren’t real; that the only connection that matters is one that leads down his spinal cord and results in the ability to wa ...more
Tiffany Mercer
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The first half of this book is very difficult to read and digest as a parent especially, but definitely just as a human being. If you can get through the horror and devastation of the accident, subsequent hospitalization, surgery and rehab this story turns out to be amazing and shocking and inspiring all rolled in one. It is absolutely fascinating how Matt was so in tune with himself that he discovered an energetic relationship between his mind and physical body through yoga. I don’t think most ...more
Honey Rand
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it
I love memoir. Educated. Anything Augusten Burroughs. The Recovering. I wanted to understand, to live with the writer his pain and his transcendence. On a family trip, an accident leaves father and sister dead, brother and mother largely unhurt, but the writer, a teenager is paralyzed. The doctors tell him there is no hope. He's angry and for more than 10 years, he lives with the anger. He's married and then he is not. Eventually, he's introduced to a yoga teacher where he begins to learn to mov ...more
Marissa Jager
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This memoir is both a jarring recollection of the physical violence a body can withstand and a sentient guide on how to transcend our bodies as we know them to reclaim our fullest lives despite said violence. The healing powers of yoga are not to be underestimated. The way he describes dissociation, i.e. leaving his body or entering "the Silence"in order to survive unspeakable physical pain, echoes what so many survivors of sexual trauma have described to me in my therapy practice. Beautifully w ...more
May 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
It bothers me to assign only two stars to this book because this was obviously a very difficult journey for Matthew and I don't wish to underplay that. I admire Matthew for not blaming his doctors and helpers for his situation and for not giving up and I found the early part of the book powerful and inspiring. However, I couldn't keep up my interest in his story once he got deeply into Yoga. I couldn't connect with what he was trying to describe. Maybe one has to be there to experience it becaus ...more
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful story...I couldn't put it down. It is really difficult to fathom losing your father, sister and mobility in an instant. Matthew discusses his accident, recovery and transcedence in this book. It is sad in parts, horrifying in parts and uplifting as well. Matthew never stops growing as a human, and there is nothing more magical than reading about this. My yogi brother passed this to me, and I have passed it to my 14 year old...and I am hoping he reads it. I told him the premis ...more
Susan Straley
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Matthew Sanford has been through hell. From the experience of being on a ventilator that took away his ability to control his breath to his discovery of yoga as a way to get in touch with his energy-body, his struggles are real, open, and vivid.

This book educated me in the on-going physical concerns of someone paralyzed. Matthew describes how yoga helped him get back in touch with the energy that surrounded his living body. He persistently and bravely pursues his journey with yoga even through
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yoga, memoir, 2020, disability
Matthew Sanford was the closing keynote speaker for an online yoga conference I attended recently. My mind was blown several times over during his keynote so I knew I had to look up his memoir. His writing reveals a deeply sensitive and insightful nature and spirit. He explores themes of living, loss, and dying with a fearless candor and curiosity that is refreshing. Several passages about the mind-body connection made me pause and reflect, especially about my own "healing stories." As a result, ...more
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Matthew Sanford once led an ordinary life in a loving family. But at the age of 13, a devastating car crash took the lives of his father and sister and left him paralyzed from the chest down. Advice from his doctors to “forget his lower body,” however, was what really crippled Sanford, leading him to ignore his once-athletic body, until at age 25 he discovered yoga and the healing power of the min ...more

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“Then there are also the quiet deaths. How about the day you realized you weren't going to be an astronaut or the queen of Sheba? Feel the silent distance between yourself and how you felt as a child, between yourself and those feelings of wonder and splendor and trust. Feel the mature fondness for who you once were, and your current need to protect innocence wherever you make might find it. The silence that surrounds the loss of innocence is a most serious death, and yet it is necessary for the onset of maturity.

What about the day we began working not for ourselves, but rather with the hope that our kids have a better life? Or the day we realize that, on the whole, adult life is deeply repetitive? As our lives roll into the ordinary, when our ideals sputter and dissipate, as we wash the dishes after yet another meal, we are integrating death, a little part of us is dying so that another part can live.”
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