Whats It Like to Take a New Name?
It’s been, and continues to be, an interesting process stepping into a new name. I mean what is in a name anyway?! Have you ever really thought about it? Are you your name?
We Change Names When We Get Married
I changed my last name when I first got married… and for two years I had a whole different last name. That didn’t seem weird at all because it was normal for the woman to take on her new husband’s name. I’m sure if I had insisted on him using mine, that would have been weird… but it certainly wasn’t weird or unacceptable or challenging to anyone in any way for me to take on his last name. And I didn’t mind either at the time. To me it imposed a sense of unity upon me that I didn’t have the sense of before I became one with him. Further I’d barely begun thinking for myself and suddenly I had a different name that connected me as one half to him as the other believing that was how you created a whole.
But a couple of years later I was beginning to realize that becoming one with someone else didn’t create an inner feeling of wholeness and so the pair of us fell out of that marriage just as easily as we had fallen into it… and with our departure went his name and we again became two wholes.
I was surprisingly pleased to get my original last name back – quite possibly because I did feel whole again. I hadn’t anticipated that, but all of a sudden I felt ‘One’ again and realized I really didn’t need to be at One with someone in particular and could be at One all by myself… fancy that?! A marvellous revelation, the significance of which was lost on me back then at 25.
We Take On Dharma Names
So now, with many hours of sitting, several silent retreats, a decade and a few years more later, Jun Po Roshi has given me a dharma name - and again I find myself marvelling at what we attach to a name. This time it is my given name that is taking on a change; the name that was given to me at birth into this precious human body via the uniquely special role my parents chose to play.
And I’ve thought a lot about what they will think and how they will feel about it. It would be so nice if they interpreted this step in my journey as another step along the path of transcend and include… transcend and include. Carmel is certainly not being rejected... I LOVE Carmel... and it's time for Carmel to take on more now. So we’ll see, the opportunity for discussion hasn’t occurred as yet.
But what is it that is in a name that is so precious that only those on the so called ‘spiritual’ path change their given name… and of course those who would just really prefer to try out a different name? I never used to understand it either… till now. I never went through a phase of not liking my name, it was one thing about me I never really struggled with, if you know what I mean?!
But I have known people that have changed their first name just because they didn't like, didn't relate to it or just never felt like they fit into it... and the process they went through was challenging because so many people didn't want to accept that kind of change. To so many people your name was who you are...
So I’ve realized that in changing your given name you are opening up for a whole other avenue of psychology to unravel within the caverns of the minds psyche... and also, ironically, in that of others.
But I’m distracting myself, that could be a whole other blog, I wanted to tell how the name came about.
How the New Name Came About
So when you take on a Spiritual, or Dharma, name – a name with which to deepen into the path of liberation and service with; you receive a name that connects with, and deepens, one’s calling in life. And that would be the cause behind Carmel taking on the calling of Kali; a somewhat daunting prospect from some perspectives and an entirely liberating prospect from others.
So inwardly it’s been very interesting to watch it unfold. I know that until I fully embrace Kali, others will struggle too. But my partner and circle of girlfriends are totally understanding and in acceptance of Kali. I have a spiritual Sangha/Community who see it as part and par of the path we all walk and therefore simply expect it. New clients and people that I’m just meeting think I’ve always been Kali… and perhaps I have. And then there are friends and family who have known me forever and are likely to forever see me as Carmel… and of that I am totally accepting also… because I am still Carmel after all. Being Kali just somehow gives Carmel a deeper outlet. But seeing as we are all of this and non of this at all, that’s not even true.
So instead it’s kinda fun. And it is feels incredibly liberating as I let go of a whole lot of stuff… as if so much that I was hanging onto isn’t relevant anymore. And being that it is Kali I am stepping into there seems a whole lot more energy available than before… a curious thing indeed?!
So how did it come that I was to grow into Kali?
During the Mondo Zen retreat in the States back in August, Jun Po suggested I do Jukai in March (I'll blog more about that soon). So I went home to New Zealand and decided to let my Dharma name come to me myself - before he actually gave it to me... but I wasn't going to tell him and figured that if it was the correct name for me then it would come to him too.
So "Kali" came, in fact no other names really came, just Kali. Sally Kempton wrote a beautiful article you can read here if you'd like to get in touch with your own inner Kali. But to me, Kali – the destroyer of darkness - was the consciousness I wanted to take on… it was time to focus on the light.
So, it was September 2010, and I printed out a photo of her and placed it in my meditation corner with my Buddha and my incense and I meditated by staring into her eyes and body every morning until I was back in Melbourne in March.... when Jun Po gave me the name Kali – “Wide Awake!”
I wasn't surprised, but the outcome did amuse me. Yes Universe, ask and you shall receive… so be careful for what thy asks?! Out of all the names he could have chosen... that was it, that’s what he came to too. He said it was the name he saw me as the first time he met me... so maybe I didn't choose it after all... maybe Kali chose me? Whatever the case, I'm now going through the transition from Carmel to Kali... and it's an interesting ride. I'm not rejecting Carmel, or pushing her away... in fact quite the opposite. But Carmel is now opening up to more and more and realizing that everything I have done so far in life has prepared me for this next phase of life… and so now it is time to step into Kali. I’m very much enjoying getting to know her, she’s definitely fun – and with her around, Carmel no longer has any excuses!
I am Still Carmel... And I'm Kali Too!
To my beautiful family and friends I've known forever – I am still Carmel. To people in my working and spiritual circles Kali seems like whom I've always been... and then they still call me Carmel too?! Everyone goes through transition of varying degrees when someone changes a name. Life is all about transition, so I don't mind what you call me... Kali Carm seems the happy medium?! But whatever you call me, I'm still me... whoever that is... someone, and no one at all, walking the path with the intention of being the highest degree of service I am able.
I’d love to hear anyone else’s stories of changing their name. What was it like as the layers of that old identity folded away? It’s the same for changing a last name as a given name, and different too. For we are all of this, none of this, and so much more than all this too.
An Exercise You Can Do to Connect to Your True Nature
But here’s a little exercise for you try…. Read this first, then sit back and follow it through… notice how it feels…. And really witness the psychology you go through as you peel these layers of conditioning away.
We’re going to strip you of all your roles… so take away your job title, take away your role as husband or wife, mother or father, brother or sister, girlfriend, boyfriend or partner. Notice your psychology, what are you hanging on to? Are you feeling happy, sad, indifferent?
Take away any other role you play in life, if you’re a volunteer, if you’re part time this or that, if you’re the rich dude in the street or the poor one, etc. Again notice your psychology? Are you hanging on to old structures or opening up to new possibilities?
And then take away your name – your whole name... first, middle and last. Become nameless. What are you like now?
Without any of these roles, and without this name that you’ve always had… What are You really like? Who could you be? What could you do? How could you feel? How could you Be?
Feel the freedom that comes from stripping yourself naked from these roles you play in life… of course we love a lot of our roles and we wouldn’t switch them for all the gold in the world… but can you feel the layers of conditioning that fall off of you when you strip yourself from them? Can you feel how by consciously taking on these roles you could do some things different?
So step back into the roles that you love, but step back in new and refreshed… as if you have stepped in free from the conditioned patterns of the past, free to be whoever you chose to be. Free to be in alignment with your true nature? How does that feel? What could you do now? How can life be different now? Is it any different? If you are walking your path in life in alignment with your true nature then very little would be different for you… but if you’re needing to better align yourself with your true purpose in life, this little exercise could very well help illuminate those areas of your life that need attention and change. And with the right attitude laced with positive expectation will lead to excitement and opportunity… but the attitude that holds a negative expectation will create a fearful contracted outcome.
So regardless of the name we carry, with things as volatile and wobbly upon and within our beautiful planet, it is surely a positive expectation that we’d collectively like to create. So lets put on the roles we want to play, be whole and complete just the way we are, and be the change, and the light, we want to see in the world.
Until next time
With love and grace
PS: Tell your insight to a name change below... I'd love to hear.