Book Review: Seeing Anew: Awakening to Life’s Lessons

46 Inside Outby Martina Lehane Sheehan Published by Veritas
ISBN 9781847303967

Reviewed by John O’Leary

The book defies being placed into a particular category. Seeing Anew cleverly weaves quotations from those who have gone ahead of us on the path of self-knowledge and exploration into really wonderful stories and examples. It is a particular feature of the book that the chapters appear to be separate but make up a connected whole which is very difficult to define, though has something in common with a piece of music written in movements. There are themes here; growth inward to inspire a meaningful moving outward, worth, saying yes to life, abandonment, waiting and the arising of self to name a few. Each is underwritten by solid explanations of psychoanalytic thinking, drawing out what is going on in our minds and what we act out in our lives, making sense of confusion and suffering.

I have often wondered what it is about the power that wise words have to ‘wake us up’ with a start, or move us into a place where we are suddenly still, reflective or even in tears. In her book Fugitive Pieces, Ann Michaels wondered too. She wondered if the cries of those murdered and persecuted in the Holocaust travelled on beyond hearing; did their energy continue out into the universe “searching for the psalms”. Is it that the psalms and wise reflections from great poets and teachers are waiting amidst silence, to give shape and meaning to what we cannot express? Do they provide the metaphor that we cannot reach for ourselves when our struggle leaves us bereft of understanding?

Martina has chosen these words very carefully and with great wisdom. Beautifully written, they will gently and steadily work their way into your being as you read each chapter and the accompanying reflection exercises. This book is essentially about individuation of the heart.

Hidden within each chapter is a narrative not only of words, but of feeling, which only reveals itself as you move through the sections creating a sense of something intangible but very present. The reflections at the end of each chapter are deceptively simple, gently invoking and deeply challenging.

Written with honesty and openness, the book invites us to learn from life’s lessons. It is held by a broad spiritual perspective that will appeal to very many people. Commentary on the cover and in the foreword speaks to “reading it in one session… because it was so easy to read… because I could understand it.” My own experience supports this. I found that by reading it slowly but with few breaks, a rhythm emerged that drew me in to a deeper conversation with what it was proposing and asking.

Revisiting each chapter will be a treat.

Martina Lehane Sheehan is an accredited Psychotherapist working in Cork and is Director of Retreats and Programmes at Ennismore Retreat Centre Cork. She has recently published her first book which is available through Veritas and Easons and she is donating her proceeds to Chernobyl Children’s International.