This is a beautiful book … It has freshness, poignancy and a passionate truth about it … full of wisdom, gentle humour and healing vulnerability.
- Daniel J. O’Leary, author of Travelling Light: Your Journey to Wholeness
This is a beautiful book drawing the reader into it, and into themselves. It speaks to the heart of the reader.
- Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy, author of Gardening the Soul
A Cork psychotherapist is set to join world-renowned self-help gurus like Susan Jeffers and Eckhart Tolle on the bookshelves.
Following an ankle and back injury which left her inactive for months, Martina Lehane wrote a self-help book based around the real-life experiences of Irish people.
Her book, Seeing Anew: Awakening to Life’s Lessons which has been snapped up by a top publisher, focuses on the profound life lessons that are to be found in the day-to-day doings of ordinary citizens.
Lehane, a native of Macroom and a counsellor and psychotherapist for 20 years, was forced into inactivity for about three months over the summer of 2011 to allow her body to heal from injuries incurred from a fall.
During this time she wrote a book. At the time, she says, she viewed it as little more than a therapeutic exercise. "I didn’t write it for publication," she recalls.
However, her husband Pat insisted on sending the completed work to a publisher: "I finished the manuscript and showed it to some people who were very excited about it but I didn’t see what they saw in it! Then Pat said he was going to send it to a publisher.
"I didn’t think they’d be interested. I thought he was wasting his time, but they came back very enthusiastic about publishing it."
The book is divided up into stories or personal experiences, each of which comes with a lesson or moral, and a meditation section for the reader.
One story looks at the turbulent childhood experienced by two brothers — one lived a very positive life as a result, while the other used those negative experiences as an excuse for his violent behaviour.
The lesson, according to Lehane, is clear: "One brother transformed his life because of the past, but the other repeated the past. That’s a real-life example of how we all have choices.
"Bad things happen to all of us but we have the choice whether to transform our lives or to transfer it into our lives. The book is very much about self-help and focuses on the theme of human and spiritual development."
- Áilín Quinlan, Irish Examiner, November 05, 2012
Both title and subtitle of this delightful book accurately point towards its contents. The book is full of freshness and energy, and invites its readers to ‘see anew’ and to reflect on the experiences of their own personal life in new and inspiring ways in the light of gospel values. There are 24 chapters, each of them relatively short, but worthy of many hours of reflection. Because of its simplicity, depth and authenticity, it is tempting to read the book from cover to cover in one sitting. But, if readers resist this temptation and move slowly through the book, they will be even more richly rewarded. Each chapter ends with a reflection which offers a practical application whereby readers can enter more fully into how the material just read can encourage them to ‘see anew’ and steer them to a discovery of their own inner light.
An accredited psychotherapist, the author is director of retreats and programmes at the Ennismore Retreat Centre, Cork. In a creative and life-giving way her experience in the twin fields of psychology and spirituality shows through on every page. Choosing different experiences from childhood and adult life, she gently shows how many of the conflicts and issues we face in daily life have their roots in the habits and defensive patterns unconsciously laid down in our earliest years. Less often she will illustrate a point from her experience as a psychotherapist. But it is the skillful way that she integrates her insights gleaned from practical experience in psychotherapy and spirituality that makes this book so attractive.
In a disarming and non-threatening way, each chapter invites us to explore the origins of our varying patterns of behaviour. Martina Lehane Sheehan gently does this through non-intrusive but compelling examples from some of her own life experiences. For example, in Chapter Six, imaginatively titled ‘Satin Cushions: Allowing Ourselves to Enjoy Life’, she poignantly reflects on what it was like as a child to grapple with her father’s terminal illness. ‘I didn’t want to offer anything up,’ she writes, ‘I just wanted not to watch my mother silently cry, not to watch her get sick from the worry of it all … I wanted my father to be like other fathers – at home with us.’ She then notes how ‘it somehow felt disloyal to enjoy anything’ while her father had such suffering, and that ‘it was not until much later in life did I realise I was living a script my father would not want for me.’ In the reflection at the end of this chapter she invites the reader to quietly ‘[n]otice the scripts you carry with you about ‘not deserving’, or the blind loyalty you may have to some family sorrow.’ She then suggests to the reader to ‘[v]isualize yourself letting go of this legacy from the past, knowing that those who have gone before you are not asking you to suffer in this way,’ and concludes with the encouragement to ‘begin to say a conscious “yes” to all that God delights in giving you.’
In her eighth chapter the author illustrates how our patterns for seeking approval are laid down in early childhood. Titled ‘Best in Class: Letting Go of Our Need to be Perfect’, she demonstrates how as children we are very skilled at adapting to what we think is expected of us. By means of various practical examples she invites us to ‘be content on those days when we know we are not the best or not the worst, but when we know that we are all equal in the playground of life.’
The titles of the various chapters also give a flavour of the book’s richness and practical contents. ‘Loosening the Grip: Lessons in Detachment’ is followed by ‘To Sulk or Not to Sulk: When Life isn’t Fair.’ There is also the intriguing title, ‘Working with Attitude: The Ripple Effect’.
The underlying unity of the book is grounded in the Scriptures. It contains a seamless interconnection between the challenges of life and the way that the living word can illuminate those challenges once we allow ourselves space for reflection. Throughout there is a lightness of touch, a good sense of humour, many nuggets of practical wisdom, and a lovely flow in articulation skills. Some apt quotations from poets, philosophers and spiritual authors appear at suitable intervals.
The focus of these thought-provoking chapters could be summed up in the lyrics of Leonard Cohen, quoted on p. 21: ‘Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.’ We can allow ourselves to be clay pots, which in God’s eyes become works of art. Underlining the value of making space for reflection, the author writes on p. 15: ‘No matter how many books we read, or what advice we receive from others, it does not touch us unless something resonates within our own hearts and connects us to consciousness in an authentic way.’ This is indeed a book which will be treasured by those who read it as its author intends. The Retreat Centre in Ennismore is privileged to have such a gifted director.
- Carmel McCarthy, RSM, Doctrine & Life, December 2012
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 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.
John O’Leary IAHIP, 23rd November 2012