A few weeks ago, a lovely blog I follow  mentioned an interview with Matthew Sanford, a yoga teacher and author of the book, “Waking”.  I’m so glad I listened to it.  Mr. Sanford was in a car accident at the age of 13.  In that accident, his dad and sister were killed and he sustained many injuries including damage to his spinal cord.  He was paralyzed from the chest down and his relationship to his body changed dramatically.  In the interview, he shared beautiful ways of talking about his body, about healing stories that people use and need to be able to recover from trauma and he talks about a silence within each of us.  There is so much really deep goodness in this hour-long interview, but it is this discussion on silence that I played again and again because I wanted to really take it in.

Matthew isn’t able to use his legs to walk because there is a part of his spinal cord that couldn’t regenerate after his accident.  He was told by doctors that he wouldn’t feel anything from his legs again.  This is an aspect of the silence inside of his body. His is certainly more severe than most of us know, and yet he sees that we all can relate at some level to the experience. We can all encounter a brick wall, some spaces and parts of our physical body where the mind finds it too painful or difficult to go. It wasn’t an easy journey for him and it isn’t easy for any of us, and yet he shares the hope of a possibility: when we are able to find stillness and when we can allow ourselves to go toward that brick wall, we might notice that it has a texture and color.  It has a feeling associated with it.  It isn’t just a wall.  He describes it like this:

“In that silence, sound can gain texture again. Life reveals itself again, only darker…

I compare it to walking from a well-lighted room into a dark one.  At first you can’t see anything, but if you sit and you pause and you listen, usually there is enough light to get across the room. Usually there is just enough in there.  You know, it’s not going to be like turning the light back on but in fact, the world gets another kind of texture… that makes it beautiful, it also makes it scary in the dark. You know, it goes either way. “

Isn’t that amazing?  He says that around minute 18, and if you only listen to one part, listen to that.  It’s worth it.   To hear this spoken in his voice gives me chills because it is all so true and he knows it—the brick wall, the dark room, just enough light– the beauty and the scariness.    Mr. Sanford has found ways to stay connected to his legs and to feel his whole body as a part of himself. There is information coming from his lower limbs and he describes it as energy.  It is quiet and it requires that he really listens and tunes in.  He says that yoga and a wonderful teacher who took him in and helped him through the process have made that listening possible for him. But he isn’t really out to sell more yoga.  He is interested in the humanity of the whole thing.  He hopes that through connecting to our whole selves and moving through the brick walls, becoming more embodied people, we will be able to cultivate connection and compassion for other people, we will have a better world.  Only he says it in a way that isn’t quite so cheesy.  You really should hear it for yourself.  


I’m reading “Waking” and it’s good.  Mr. Sanford just published a new book on yoga. There’s a review in Yoga Journal. If you read it, let me know how it is…


3 thoughts on “Waking

  1. This is a fantastic article for people like me, who have to learn to hear their bodies… sometimes… for the first time in 50 years. As someone with a dissociation disorder learning to wake up to my body is a struggle, too. I always find so much insight, though, reading about folks like Matt who have similar challenges for different reasons. It helps me to think differently… and away from “my stuff.”

    Oh. The ‘my stuff’ can be soooo dramatic… until put into a more global context.

    Thanks for another good read, Amanda.

  2. I love this, Amanda.

    And I relate. No physical injury, barring the chronic back stuff, but emotional scars from my childhood that, for most of my life, I WANTED to silence, and tried many things to numb: disordered eating being the main one.

    Now, I feel. Funnily enough, I’ve developed a similar language around healing from trauma: make space to feel. Sit with the sensation (or lack thereof) and explore without judgement…

    Thanks for this articulate piece. xx

    1. Nadine, I love this idea of “making space.” We don’t have to replace anything or shut something out, we just give it a little room to be and to hang out alongside all the other stuff. I’m not very good at it, but I keep at it and it’s nice to hear from you and others that are in it, too. Thanks for reading and your thoughts.

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