Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence by Matthew Sanford

"SupportWaking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence by Matthew Sanford
Rodale Books, 2006

Genre: Memoir

Rating:  4/5

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 walk.  But Matt was never going to walk again, so he learned to ignore the subtle signs that suggested a connection still existed.  For over a decade Matt sat in silence, completely dislocating any relationship between his mind and his broken body.  Until he found Jo, a yoga instructor that was willing to patiently work with him to heal that which he didn’t think existed — an energetic sensation within the mind-body relationship.  And so begins the search for his body.

No book has made me more acutely aware of my breath and my body.  I found myself breathing deeply, just so I could feel the breath move through my body.  I flexed my toes just so I could feel the sensation in my calves and thighs.  I tried to imagine what it would be like to feel the profound sense of silence in the lower half of my body, to not be able to wiggle my toes or bend my knees at will.  And I whispered words of gratitude for the mind-body connection that allows me to do and feel all of these things.

I also sit in awe of Matt and his courage and resilience.  What gives Matt this extraordinary strength of character?  Why is that some people crumble under adversity, while others, like Matt, thrive? He has fought more personal battles and overcome more tragedy than I care to imagine.  In fact, at times it was hard for me to read about his personal struggles, his setbacks, his tragedies.  How much can one person endure and still come out the other side without bitterness or without a broken spirit?  Apparently, a lot.

“I have never been heartbroken. It is not possible. What I thought was broken was actually my heart revealing its depth …… Hearts are transcendent. They do not break, minds do.”

For all these reasons, I found Waking to be immensely powerful and a valuable read.  But this is where the audience will diverge — those that consider their bodies to be a purely physical vehicle will probably not appreciate the last one-third of the book.  This is where Matt discusses the energetic relationship that exists between the mind and body and it may be too woo-woo, for lack of a better term.  And those that do believe in this connection between the mind and body may be disappointed that he doesn’t spend more time discussing the energetic relationship that allows him to feel where there is no feeling.  This is ground-breaking stuff.  I feel teased, as if he just brought me to the edge of understanding and then came to an abrupt stop.  I want more.  I want to understand how to connect my mind and body at this level.  As a devoted yoga student, I want this to change the way I listen to my body during class; to change the way I carry myself through the world.  Perhaps patience just isn’t my strong suit.

Regardless, I encourage to open your mind to new possibilities and read Matt’s story.  It is both heartbreaking and uplifting.  I guarantee you, you will never view your body the same way after reading it.

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5 thoughts on “Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence by Matthew Sanford

  1. I enjoyed this review. Really like the quote. Sounds like this is a meaningful read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read, jw! Xxoo

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! The quote you shared in the middle of your post is mind-blowing! I lost my husband a year ago and would say I’m heart broken but now I realize it is just showing me the depth of itself. It is true that it’s my mind that can’t seem to accept the reality of the situation. It’s kinda weird how I absolutely know he’s gone but because I don’t want it to be so, I fight the truth. We are strange creatures.
    Thank you for sharing this review. It sounds like a wonderful book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing, Wanda. I am so, so, so, so sorry for your loss. May your mind help your heart heal. And yes, we are strange creatures. I appreciate your reaching out and connecting with me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your kind words. I truly appreciate it and the wisdom in that quote is one of those insights that I believe will help me heal.


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