Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence 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 Zukovich had the patience and foresight not to force the Iyengar system of yoga onto Matthew’s body. Instead, Jo had faith in the system’s underlying principles. Iyengar emphasizes alignment and precision. Jo and Matthew discovered that alignment and precision increase mind-body integration regardless of paralysis.5
The mind is not strictly confined to a neurophysiological connection with the body. Matthew discovered that if he listens inwardly to his whole experience, he can actually feel into his legs. It is simply a matter of learning to listen to a different level of presence, a form of presence that subtly connects the mind to the body.6 Matthew describes this form of awareness a tingling, a sense of hum.7
Although Matthew’s life has taken much away, it has also revealed a powerful insight. The outer layer of Matthew’s legs and torso have been stripped away through the paralysis, but he has also learned to experience a more direct contact with an inner presence of consciousness. The silence Matthew encountered within his paralysis is the nexus within his mind-body relationship.8
Matthew’s memoir is a page-turning story, which I find most fascinating. Life presents its purpose and beauty in all sorts of ways.9 The challenge is to step more deeply into our lives, to stay open to our own experience — to not deny it, but rather to simply have it.
1 Matthew Sanford, Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence (Rodale, 2006), p. 245.
3 Ibid., p. xv.
4 Ibid., p. 161.
5 Ibid., p. 188.
6 Ibid., p. 193.
7 Ibid., pp. 194, 198.
8 Ibid., p. 200.
9 Ibid., p. 233.