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Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  725 Ratings  ·  113 Reviews
Matthew Sanford's life and body were irrevocably changed at age 13 when his family's car skidded off a snowy Iowa overpass, killing Matt's father and sister and leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. This pivotal event set Matt on a lifelong journey, from his intensive care experiences at the Mayo Clinic to becoming a paralyzed yoga teacher and founder of a nonprofit o ...more
Paperback, 253 pages
Published May 27th 2008 by Rodale Books (first published June 27th 2006)
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Pierced Librarian
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Michelle Margaret
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
Apr 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Leslie Waugh
Aug 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Angel Gardner-Kocher
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
Elizabeth Andrew
Aug 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 06, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan Höglund
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This is a hard story. The youngest survivor of an awful car crash suffers the worst injuries and is compelled to survive for the sake of his family, facing years of recovery. He spends years in a wheelchair, ignoring the lower 2/3 of his body, and pretty miserable. Eventually he finds a body worker who starts helping him explore new ways of healing, which leads him to practicing yoga and eventually appreciating the mind/body relationship that he's able to develop.
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely life-changing book. Written by a man who suffered a severed spinal cord at the tender age of 13 and who now teaches yoga, of all things, this book gives a real insight into what it's like to be a paraplegic. But not the way you think! He is so frank and forthright. There's not an ounce of self-pity in it. Please read this book.
Paige Dunford
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a powerful story that every human should hear. I am full of new ways to think and experience yoga and life in general. Highly recommend!
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very quick read. Inspirational story. I would have liked to hear more about how he became an Iyengar Yoga instructor! Impressive.
Melissa Brandts
Nov 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read about paralysis and yoga, written by a local author.....
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book changed me.
Sep 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Health care professionals, people wanting to think about mind/body connection and embodiment
Recommended to Joy by: Speaking of Faith, now Being on NPR
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
Matt is paralyzed as a child in a wreck that kills his father and sister. He talks about growing up and putting pieces back together while going to incredibly difficult / painful medical procedures. I found most interesting him talking about an inner silence we feel when we are not distracted by anything or wholly immersed in what we're doing. The mind body connection is vital yet we pay nearly no attention to it. Through yoga, he looks to reconnect to his paralyzed legs and lead a full life hel ...more
Sep 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Can you take your leg wide, like a big V?" The spasticity in my legs resists, but eventually they spread and stay put. I am hit by a rush of something , something feels strange, something. . . "Matt, can you put your hand on your thighs, lift your chest, and breate?"

"Matt, can you put your hand in parayer? Keep your elvows at y our sides. Stretch from your shoulders to your elvows, from your elbows to your wrists. Press your palms together, stretch throught each finger, and lift your chest." Th
Brenda C Kayne
Oct 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
How can a man paralyzed from the waist down become a yoga instructor? This book tells you how in a profoundly meaningful way. I think it's one of the most important yoga books ever written in this country.

It is both a painful and uplifting read. Sanford writes with much detail about the physical ordeal of what he undergoes in order to live. In the process, however, he makes discoveries about life and about his body that are remarkable. His ability to communicate that with such clarity, wisdom an
Aug 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book for health care providers. His story reflects the exact reason I want to go into the health care field. I think many health care providers treat patients as just that..a patient. When in reality they are a person, and no matter how many times you have seen a diagnosis you have to treat it different as no individual heals the same way.

Matthew does a great job of explaining how frustrating it is when doctors listen but do not truely "hear". The consequences can be major. It is impo
Jan 29, 2008 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Matthew Sanford was paralyzed from the chest down at the age of 13 in a car crash that killed several members of his family. In adapting yoga postures and practices to suit his body, he has come to understand more about a body he can not feel than we who have full use of our bodies. He is also trying to get the healthcare industry to start incorporating some of the practices of yoga into the therapy of paralysis.

I had the opportunity to hear him speak and to take a yoga class directly from him.
Brooke Brown
Matthew Sanford's journey from devastation and loss to so-called transcendence (Sanford's words) is a bit lacking. Don't get me wrong, he most certainly has transcended the physical traumas that were inflicted upon him at such a young age. But what's lacking is an understanding or explanation of his psychological and/or emotional self. Certainly there's as much trauma to transcend in the emotional realm as the physical, if not more so.

I get the sense that Sanford is hiding behind a brave face m
Jun 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, spirituality
This book is amazing--Matt became a paraplegic at age 13, in a horrible car accident that killed his father and sister. He describes in exquisite detail the surgeries, the treatments, and therapies he participated in and endured. That's the trauma and he found yoga in his twenties and that's when the transcendence begins. It isn't easy--it's hard. He even breaks more bones. But he begins to reconnect with the paralyzed parts of his body in a new way, a way he was taught not to do in the traditio ...more
Jan 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: healers, yoga enthusiasts
4.5 stars. This story of what Matthew Sanford went through after a terrible car accident at the age of 13 is fascinating and well-written. Sanford vividly describes the accident and his treatments. I found myself relating to how the body deals with traumatic energy.

The only reason it didn't get 5 stars is because the section on yoga bogged down some. Also, he uses Silence as a continuing metaphor. It worked in the beginning, but just got to be a bit over used at the end.

Sanford has a profound
Aug 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be quite moving and very well written, especially for someone who is not a professional writer. Sanford is so articulate in his descriptions of the altered mental atmosphere of trauma and pain... and equally articulate about the process and sensations of healing. In particular, I was very affected by his deep connection with the quietest, most subtle sensations within the body, and how these connections affect our spirit and psyche. I'd definitely recommend this book, especi ...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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