Monday, March 30, 2015

Discovering sanctuary: A book to counter the ‘age of anxiety’

Sanctuary: The discovery of wonder

By Julie Leibrich

ISBN 978-1-877578-96-0, $40
Otago University Press

Sanctuary: The discovery of wonder by Julie Leibrich is a unique, inspiring, contemplative work that combines reason and imagination, poetry and critical thinking. In this spiritual memoir Leibrich shares her deepest fears and her deepest insights.

‘Revealing my interior life became a way of sharing authentically with the reader,’ says author Julie Leibrich. ‘The book is a conversation. It is an intimate book that reaches out.’

Leibrich draws on the writing of philosophers, poets, novelists and theologians as a gateway to reflection and musing. Conversations with friends, theoretical ideas, aphorisms, poems and images are seamlessly incorporated. She does not ‘tell’ the reader, but shows, how in her own life she came to understand the nature and meaning of sanctuary.

‘What sanctuary means for us individually, and how we experience it, differs. What I discovered, during the ten-year period of writing the book, is that, ultimately, finding sanctuary is about discovering the space within ourselves that is sacred and safe. This is what leads to wonderment.’

Mental or physical illness, the death of a family member or friend: there are many circumstances in life that challenge us to re-think, and re-engage with, what really matters.
Leibrich writes frankly about her own breakdown and draws on her experience as a poet, writer, former research psychologist and Mental Health Commissioner.

‘Some people are forced to take stock of their lives in order to survive, but for others it can just be reaching a point where something inside them says, “something is missing, something is wrong”.’

Sanctuary is a book to read slowly, a book to dip into; it is a book of our time: a counterpoint to the ‘Age of Anxiety’ in which we live. As Judi Clements, CEO, NZ Mental Health Foundation, says, ‘The reading experience is in itself a sanctuary.’ 

Julie Leibrich is the author of 11 books – four poetry collections, four children’s books and three non-fiction works on mental health, and on crime. She has been awarded several grants and prizes, including the Todd New Writer’s Bursary, the Joy Cowley Award and the Legal Research Foundation Special Book Award. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, and she has given invited talks in several countries. Born in England in 1947, Julie came to New Zealand in 1974 and has lived in Raumati since 1987. She worked for 20 years as a research psychologist before becoming one of New Zealand’s first Mental Health Commissioners.

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