My favourite radio show, Speaking of Faith (public radio’s conversation about religion, meaning, ethics and ideas) have rebroadcast their 2006 interview with the highly inspiring yoga teacher, Matthew Sanford. I believe the show will be broadcast on public radio in the US on Sunday morning (May 30), but it’s available on their website as well.
Matthew Sanford was in a car accident when he was 13, breaking his back – among countless other bones in his body – and losing the use of his lower body. He later discovered, and went on to teach, yoga. He also published Waking, a memoir about his experience and teaching. Krista Tippett, the host of SOF, is a wonderful interviewer and she draws the best out of her subjects. They talked about the mind-body relationship, grieving, the languaging around “disability” and “ability,” and the core silence in all of us.
This is what she had to say about the experience in SOF’s weekly newsletter:
For over a quarter century, as a result of a car accident that killed his father and sister, he has been in a wheelchair. Yet I’ve rarely sat across from a person so alive, a body so palpably whole and wholly energetic as his. He has knitted his mind and body back together again over a quarter century, wresting wholeness through layers of cultural denial.
As we speak, Matthew Sanford makes me aware of the seamless cooperation of my mind and uninjured body, a synergy most of us take completely for granted. I stand up and walk as soon as the desire crosses my mind; I gesture with my hands to illustrate an idea I am passionate about; I shake my foot as my own engagement in conversation rises.
This kind of fluid connection was severed in Sanford. Yet as he struggled to come to terms with his body’s new realities during years of recovery and violent corrective surgeries, he encountered another kind of mind-body connection that our culture practices instinctively, reflexively. We celebrate those who battle adversity, triumph over obstacles, beat the odds. We love the 80-year-old man who runs a marathon, the injured hero who never gives up pursuing the technology that will enable him to walk again. This is the mind-body connection translated as a battle of will over matter.