Alison Wright

Learning to Breathe

Hudson Street Press, August 2008

Six years ago, Alison Wright came to understand the power of the breath. She had been traveling on a windy mountain road in Laos, when the bus she was riding collided with a logging truck, severing the bus in two. Alison was among the worst wounded of the surviving passengers, and as she waited for help to arrive — bloody, broken, in excruciating pain and believing she was moments from her death — she drew upon her years of meditation practice and concentrated on every breath, literally as if it would be her last.

LEARNING TO BREATHE is an extraordinary spiritual memoir – the story of Alison’s survival and, in the end, her triumph. On the day of the accident she suffered massive injuries, so severe that her internal organs had been pushed up into her left shoulder. Yet breath by breath, she made it through fourteen hours without proper medical attention, and through months of surgeries and grueling physical therapy.

Never one to accept defeat, Alison set herself the goal of attempting her dream: to one day climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Alison did climb Mt Kilimanjaro. She reached the summit on the morning of her 40th birthday. Gasping for air, she stood at the highest point in Africa, thankful for every moment she’d had since the accident, and determined to never again take even one breath for granted.

Alison has traveled the world as a photojournalist, focusing her efforts on documenting the traditions of the endangered cultures and the children of Asia. She is author of three books of photography, has published articles in National Geographic, , American Photo, Outside, Geo, Time, Forbes, and The New York Times. She has won the Dorothea Lange Award in Documentary Photography, the North America Travel Journalism Award, and has twice been the winner of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award.


“Alison Wright is a wonder. I’ve known her for years as an extraordinary photographer and a serious meditator, and I thought I knew her story well. I knew nothing. I didn’t know what a profound writer she also is. Her life is one of a true pilgrim and a seeker of truth. It is a life of exploration, devotion and transformation by fire. There is muscle and tears here, and the fierce flame of inspiration. She’s the real deal.”

—Richard Gere

“Alison Wright is one of my very few heroes. Her story is both harrowing and inspirational: her writing immediate and moving. I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time. ”

—Tim Cahill, author of HOLD THE ENLIGHTENMENT, JAGUARS RIPPED MY FLESH, and co-writer of the IMAX film Everest