January 2023: On the secret 🤫

A curious observation from my meditation practice

Window sill at Yoga Moves Glasgow. Photograph by Mysore Yoga Paris. Kia is returning to Glasgow 14-16 April. Join us!

A few times, in my meditation practice, I have attained a moment of oneness which is difficult to put into words. The experience is beyond language and so fleeting that I don’t even get the time to articulate it. What I do know, though, is that its echoes are peace, pure bliss and wellbeing.

I have opened this door a few times, but the curious thing is that I have never managed to plan it, to execute it at will. I became very interested in this riddle, called ‘the secret protects itself’. What this means is that wanting something won’t get it for you. Not even hard work, with this underlying desire, will do. The only thing that will work is to make yourself available, without expectation.

My teacher Kia often says that the cleansing practice of nauli is like a goddess: she turns up when she wants to. For eight years, I have tried daily: practicing the technique that I have learned; watching endless YouTube videos collecting new ways of putting my hands, different pressures in the legs; pushing more, breathing harder, learning to relax … You name it, I have done it. But no goddess. Now, I get up in the morning and I do. Sometimes it is good, and sometimes it is not. The goddess has shown herself to me but I know there is still so much of wanting her that I need to release.

My first reaction when exploring this phenomenon was, I remember, to become angry. How dare these practices not reward me for my hard work? I wanted reciprocity: I put effort in, so I wanted what I thought I was due back. But this is a capitalist mindset, demand and supply, commercialising spirituality. Instead, I had to learn proper saucha, purity, the first of the niyama or inner observance of yoga. Purity of thought, of feeling and of intention.

I needed sincerity, not expectation. Because this is another thing Kia tells often: yoga is not doing, it is undoing precisely these patterns of behaviour, expectations, thoughts, emotions and comparison with others. This is why koans are an interesting form of meditation. Koans are stories, phrases, riddles or questions without solutions, meditated on to bypass intellectual reasoning and open up the spaces of doubt. Perhaps ‘the secret protects itself’ is as a form of koan. I still meditate on it.

What is the intention of your practice? How can you relax it and just practice for practice’s sake, with love, sincerity and devotion? How can you invite, become available, receptive?

I wish you an insightful month of February.

Laura x

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What I have been reading

I first encountered ‘the secret protects itself’ in the work of Arthur J Deikman. Apart from a meditator (and a very experimental one), he was a pioneer of transpersonal psychology who prefered, where possible, to offer eastern practices instead of treatment with drugs. He wrote a lovely book, Meditations on a Blue Vase, and generously shared many of his writings on his website. This is from ‘Evaluating Spiritual and Utopian Groups’:

This fact, that enlightenment requires an enduring change in a person’s motivations, has a number of interesting consequences. The most important is that “the secret protects itself”. No matter what you may say or do, if your underlying intention is selfish, and even if you are unaware that this is the case, no perception of the Truth is possible. It follows that a teacher cannot bestow the Truth on someone else. The capacity for the perception of the Truth must be developed  — there is no short cut. Teachers who imply that enlightenment is in their gift are frauds.

What I have been pondering

I am enjoying by Emmanuel Carrère’s novel Yoga. It is a work of autofiction, narrated in the first person. As a writer, practitioner, researcher and performance maker, I have always been interested in this first person, as a way of embodying agency and taking responsibility. I use it to connect with classic psychoanalytic case studies in my intimate works. I am often the narrator in my academic writing, the object of my meditations. But this engagement is not narcissistic (at least I hope not) but introspective, a way to observe my own consciousness. Yes, I know that at some point this I must fall too, but the road towards the no-self must traverse the self.

In my last book, I wrote about Francisco Varela and Jonathan Schaer’s work The View from Within: First Person Approaches to the Study of Consciousness and in re-reading it I was reminded of the importance to practice – yoga, painting, meditation, dance, whatever you practice – on your own, without fellow seekers or teachers at least once in a while. This first person experience shows your intentions so clearly.

What I have been looking forward to

Resting, softening, pausing are the practices needed if you want to notice more of those patterns that we enact without consideration.

Three years ago, Rosina passed away. She took a lot with her but also left us abundant gifts. I used to go to her Breathing Bones class regularly to check in with my body, mind and breath, nourishing it by simply doing nothing with a little help from gravity. This is a technique Rosina herself created and anybody who has experienced it knows how beneficial it is. I miss it very much and I have been unable to practice it, as it brings up Rosina’s loss in me.

From 8 February, my dear friend Kat Doyle will take on the class, making it hers with her precise body knowledge, calming presence and insightful observation. Now, with Kat’s guidance, I know I am ready to do this introspective practice again. If you are in Glasgow, join us!

My Yoga Classes

My Yoga Moves Glasgow classes run at the Arlington Baths until 23 March:

Yoga (Mysore) | LIVE |
Tuesdays, 07.15 – 09.00
Thursdays, 07.15 – 09.00

NEW! One week a month, I open the zoom window and host pranayama and led primary LIVE and ONLINE.

Pranayama | LIVE AND ONLINE |
Tuesday 21 February, 07.15 – 08.30, optional Q&A until 09.00
Tuesday 21 March, 07.15 – 08.30, optional Q&A until 09.00

Led Primary | LIVE AND ONLINE |
Thursday 23 February, 07.15 – 09.00
Thursday 23 March, 07.15 – 09.00

All classes are open for booking here.

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland classes for students are LIVE on Fridays 1-2pm. Get in touch with Meg Baker at RCS Sports for details or check out the RCS Sport instagram feed.

Classes for RCS staff have started too! We practice together LIVE on Wednesdays 1-2pm. Contact HR for details.