About the Book

“I strived to find a way to balance my not-so-subtle yearning for a sense of inner peace while bearing witness to life’s atrocities and injustices. Apparently the universe  felt I needed more than a gentle nudge. In fact, it took the impact of a one-ton logging truck to find it.”

                                                                                                                 — Alison Wright


The air was heavy and smelled thickly of burned rubber, of brakes and tires stretched beyond their limits ..In the distance, I could hear muffled voices calling, “My God, someone do something! This woman is bleeding to death!”

I silently prayed that someone would help whomever that woman was… I saw the deep arm-length gashes. The open flesh looked like it had been attacked by a shark, a dark wine color rapidly spreading across the front of the light blue sleeveless denim shirt… That’s when I realized that the woman they were talking about was me.” — Taken from the opening of LEARNING TO BREATHE.

In LEARNING TO BREATHE: One Woman’s Journey of Spirit and Survival (Hardcover: Hudson Street Press; August 2008; Paperback: Plume; August 2009) Alison Wright, a renowned photojournalist with a lifetime of world travels behind her, tells of riding a packed bus on a winding mountain road of Laos in the first few days of the new century. In an instant of crushed metal and shattered glass, her life utterly changed: taking a dangerous blind curve, the bus collided head-on with a logging truck, nearly killing her. In unbearable pain, severely injured and barely able to breathe, Alison lay by the side of the road and drew upon her years of meditation practice, concentrating on every breath as if it were her last.

It would be fourteen excruciating hours before Alison finally received any medical attention, although in a life-saving gesture her glass-mangled arm was first sewn up by a young man with a needle and thread. Eventually reaching Thailand, she began a series of excruciating surgeries which continued back in the States. She had survived injuries no one thought she could, and now determined to get her life back, she struggled to remain positive when her doctors discouraged her from thinking about returning to her previous career and athletic lifestyle. Never one to accept defeat, Alison set herself the goal of achieving a new dream: to one day climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.

LEARNING TO BREATHE is Alison Wright’s searing account of the accident, its aftermath, her recovery, and her triumph: from Kilimanjaro on her fortieth birthday, through an extraordinary pilgrimage of gratitude to Mount Kailash, to an eventual return to Laos and a reunion with the people who helped her in those crucial first hours. 

Filled with stunning accounts of a lifetime of adventure and photojournalism, and informed by a spiritual quest to find a universal human connection among cultures around the world, LEARNING TO BREATHE is an unforgettable tale of one woman’s urge to not only survive but to live a life filled with meaning and compassion.