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What's in a name, anyway?

Something unexpected happened in this week's Monday Morning Yoga class, and it still has me thinking. Because we are an intimate group, we have time to share our name at the start of every class. I also usually ask a question, like favorite color or vacation place. Inevitably the answers weave themselves into the theme of our class, so it really is a custom made, one-of-a-kind experience. This week I suggested we share first names and whatever else you like! Our first yogini set us up for a great share and others quickly followed.


Her name is Rebecca, but her whole life, until age 38, everyone called her Becky. At 38 she decided she liked the name Rebecca much better, and made the switch. From there, we heard so many stories about names! Stephanie legally changed her middle name when she was 13. Sara still has problems traveling because a pesky "h" made it onto her birth certificate, but nowhere else. Agness as a middle name was the dismay of childhood but perfect in adulthood. And none of us will forget dear Sarah Pearl, whose middle name was passed down from an aunt named Pearl Buttons! Magdalena went by a shorter name for a while because of a movie star. Eventually she realized she has a beautiful name and changed back!


So many stories about names! These are just a few.


As practice began, lying on our backs, we deepened our breath and filled ourselves with the story, acceptance, and fulfillment of our names. We relished in our individual selves and our unique personal journey. We smiled inwardly and settled into the muscles and bones we inhabit for this lifetime. It felt lovely. This acceptance is necessary.


And then I had to spoil it with a little reminder: We are not our names. We are not our bodies, our jobs, our family, or our thoughts. We are actually much bigger than this. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. (Not the other way around.)


Yoga Sutra 2.3 is all about the ways suffering enters our lives because of misidentification and forgetting our divine nature. These ways are called kleshas, or veils. (If you want to learn more about the kleshas, you can listen to my podcast series on this topic HERE.)


The basic idea is to not identify so much with your changing conditions and aging body, but rather with your unchanging spirit and eternal self. To put it another way, keep your feet more firmly planted in being part of the greater forest, rather than your individual tree.


There's a wonderful mantra for practicing this awareness, and it's easy to place on your breath and bring it into meditation, movement, prayer, driving, parenting, working, playing, gardening, or anything!


Sat Nam.

These two simple syllables come together to pack a powerful punch and a reminder of who you really are. Sat (truth) nam (name). You are truth. Your name is truth. At your deepest essence, you are a spark of the divine. I like to think of it as "that." All that the Universe is, all that we are, all that has been and will be is within me. "I am that."


Try it on:

Inhale thinking Sat.

Exhale thinking Nam.


Inhale thinking "I."

Exhale thinking "am."


Whatever your given name is, I hope you spend some time loving on who you are in this life as this name. I also hope you remember that you are truth. Let that recognition be your backstory, and go about the business of living into it everyday with every breath.


Much love,

Sat Nam,

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