I met Una Maguire in the mid-’90s. She was a director and co-founder of the Institute of Creative Counselling and Psychotherapy. Her energy was unique. She had the quality of an ancient wise woman, a crone energy, which was interspersed with the energy of a playful child. I was beginning as a therapy student and my first real sense of connecting with Una was at the start of our training on a residential weekend in Camolin. We sat on the floor in a circle. It was the beginning of our journey together, a process of slowly removing the mask and allowing the shadow and hurts to emerge. We laughed a lot. We expressed a lot of emotion. There was a sense of safety built up which allowed anger and rage to be expressed and yet contained within the group. This was the beginning of many circles and deep processes over the following three years. Looking back now it seems like an alchemical process of allowing all the base material to emerge and transform into gold; our Self, fully alive, no longer cut off, nor frozen.
Una taught Humanistic and Transpersonal theory. She introduced us to Rogers, Perls, Wilber and Grof among others. She was fond of Eugene Gendlin’s Focussing. She would invite us to slow down and pause, tune into ourselves in order to connect with our Felt sense. This was a time before Mindfulness was so widely known or practised. Una held a presence of Spirit. It was only recently that I learned she was the first chairperson of Woman Spirit Ireland.
I remember Una speaking about the importance of being flexible and going with the flow. She spoke about the image of a solid tree versus a reed and how each would weather a storm. The tree’s rigidity could cause it to break whereas the reed could flow with the storm and be intact by the end of it. These images remain with me. The flow took Una to Belfast twelve years ago.
I met Una again a couple of years ago on a Body/Soul intensive in Dunderry Park. This was a week-long residential workshop based on the work of Marion Woodman. We now met as peers. During a body work session one afternoon, I interacted with Una. We had a nonverbal movement piece in which I felt met in an authentic and validating way. Movement and gesture communicated so much. I was very grateful for this encounter. The sweetness of such encounters occurs in moments. This was the last time I met Una but the strength of the memory lives on. After her death I heard that she donated her brain for medical research. This fits with the spirit of the woman who was one of the first to bring humanistic psychotherapy to Ireland.
I would like to honour Una. The following poem feels like a fitting way for me to do so. Una gave so much to training psychotherapy students. May we continue to pass on the learning.
I Will Not Die an Unlived Life by Dawna Markova
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.
Deirdre Regan BA, MA, Dip in Psychotherapy, MIAHIP is an accredited psychotherapist and supervisor in private practice in Dublin.
Markova, D. (2000) I Will Not Die an Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion. Berkeley, CA: Conari Press.