Monday, November 21, 2011

Memoir: Waking

"Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead"
-The Bhagavad Gita. Ch. 2.11
In reading waking, it seemed as though Sanford has an intimate grasp on this notion haven gone through his traumatic accident and recovery and ultimately finding yoga. The notion of detachment and shedding of worldly desires is something that continues to tug at me. I’m really wrestling with it. In reading the memoir Waking, this is a theme I picked up on that resonates. Waking chronicles this idea of soul/mind and body and how the two interact. A resounding theme described in the latter half of the book is about integrating body and mind; the physical with the metaphysical to maximize and actualize self. It is a powerful account of how yoga and asana practice facilitates that.
I realize that is the focus of the book – his journey through yoga and asana to divorce himself from what has happened to him to find who he is, his “way.” However powerful and moving that is, this is not what moved me the most in the book. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, because I know I’ve commented on this before in class. However, this idea of mortality, love and detachment keeps tugging at me. Essentially, I understand and agree with the notion that what we do and all that we possess is not what we are. I am a soul, a metaphysical/spiritual being in this physical existence attempting to learn all I can. Yet along the way some of the possessions I’ve come to acquire are hard for me to not lament.
This is a little aside. I know the saying goes; when given a blessing do not ask why it was sent. However, I find myself constantly wondering what it is I’m doing right to deserve the people in my life. They are my greatest treasures; a source of so much joy, their love is part of the Divine love felt in my life. Truth is, that love is something I both give and desire. Though I feel my grieving process is a healthy one, like most people I have an issue saying goodbye. I’m not lamenting their assumed ascension to a different and presumably better place. Honestly, I lament the fact that they have left the immediate right here-and-now with me. Does that mean their love is any less present in my life? Perhaps I’m thinking too much about it. I just feel as though they are something I am extremely attached to and their absence speaking specifically of my immediate family would render me in a sort of temporary paralysis. I don’t know if that is a bad attachment to have – to the love of people in my life. That is something I’m trying to understand. I’m not sure if Waking offered any concise clarification on the issue.
Realizing that we never cease to be, my loved ones - even though physically absent or distant- does provide comfort. However, the issue is in adjusting to – for lack of a better phrase – the loss of something treasured.
Something that struck me in the memoir was the way in which Sanford described the death of his father and sister. He states that their death had become their life. Though I hear the sadness in his account of the passing of his father and sister, Sanford seems so very detached from that aspect. He speaks of the dreams and his connection to Laura, his sister, in these dreams. In them he cries and releases the built up emotions within, but it still doesn’t resonate with me on an emotional level. I guess I am hung up on this most of all because although he expresses grief, it does not seem passionate. I understand this to be a memoir and recollection of his journey; but as I try to put myself in his shoes I feel as though I would experience it so much more differently. I believe the paralysis and zeal to survive for my remaining family members would be at the forebrain of my existence. However, I think the sudden loss of my loved ones – the realization that they are gone – would wreck me under those circumstances. That makes me reflect my existence and love as an attachment. I guess Sanford was just focusing on one aspect of his life at a time; a survival mechanism in more respects than one. His phrase “Death as it is absorbed by the living,” comes to mind.
Another recurrent theme that struck me with this memoir is that of dreams and their connection to the transcendent. He recounts his brothers’ apparent dream of the accident years before it occurred, another dream of the accident from a friend, and physically transcendent yet tangible encounters with his deceased sister. Although Sanford does not claim to be clairvoyant, or possessing any medium or psychic power he accepts the dreams and visions as part of his existence – tantric. I find this an interesting response. I have experienced something similar.
Several years ago, I distinctly remember having a dream in which I was in the back of a funeral procession leading into a large stone building with architecture reminiscent of the southwest located in a vast sand plain. Upon entering I went right, separate from the rest of the procession dressed in black. I entered an all-white room with a sofa, window, and black woman dressed in white seated on a couch. I sat at her feet like a kindergartener about to receive instruction. I asked the beautiful smiling woman many questions; only two of which I remember. The question was this: the true nature and role of Jesus. To which she pointed to her right and said: “he sits here.” The second question was: what is heaven like? To that she smiled and presented me with the back of a mirror. Without warning, she tossed the mirror in my face and I was met with the most blinding white light. It is kind of indescribable. A few weeks later, one of my eldest Aunts passed away. Months later my favorite Aunt would also pass away. After months of hospital visits and long drives to and from San Antonio she was committed to hospice. I remember returning home from hospice after saying my last goodbyes. I dreamed that night. I dreamed that I woke up from my bed in North Russell and looked over to the other bed in my room to see my aunt. She had on her hospital robe, her legs were amputated (as they were when she died). She smiled at me. She said through tears: “Hello Sunshine. I’m going to miss you.” To which my reply was the same. I’ll never forget that. People will say that was just a dream or my mind consolidating the happenings of my life. Like Sanford, I accept it as part of my experience, some real, something felt. In the end, I guess that’s all we can do.


  1. wow this is an intense response and amazing recounting of your dream experiences as well. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. I love the candidness and honesty of your response. I also read Waking for my second memoir. I think Sanford would think that it is ok, even good and healthy, to love the people in your life. The journey of healing is a long and difficult one, like stretching the muscles of the body. It's difficult and painful and feels like nothing is changing, and then one day you wake up and realize the pain isn't the same as it was before.