“What’s in a name?”
Although those words come from that famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that we take in stride as part of his play, I don’t take it in stride, and it’s never been one of my favorite quotes.
“What’s in a name,” William? Are you for real? Everything is in our name. Love, criticism, expectation, trauma, and every emotion in-between. Bill’s point of view needs a heavy dose of mindfulness training, and I’m going to take a moment to set him straight.
What’s in a name? Everything.
Your name may feel comfortable, make you cringe, feel distant from your spirit, or melt your heart just by hearing someone say it. Your name can also be a distasteful trigger from a challenging past. I have friends who have experienced abusive childhoods, and because of the pain they feel every day of their lives, they have taken formal steps to legally change all their given names. First, middle, and last.
New start. Fresh beginnings. Rebirth. Clean slate.
Before I share my personal journey with my first name, I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Linda. I am the founder and moderator of a Facebook community called “Shift of Heart.” In this loving community of peace, we are all nurtured by an environment of acceptance, inclusion, love, wisdom, healing, and abundant support. During one of our inner inquiry sessions, I asked if everyone was happy with their first name. If not, do they long for a different one? What would it be? What is their true “Spirit Name?”*
Linda opened her heart and responded to my question authentically, openly and bravely:
“Instead of using my given name of Linda, I honor my true Spirit name of Autumn. Creating my Spirit name is very deep, life changing, and something I don’t really understand. Changing my name has made a huge impact on my life and it was an action step toward self-love. Even though I accept that friends and family may need to call me Linda, I am Autumn deep within my core. I honor my true musical inner Spirit name of Autumn.
Autumn was instrumental in calling forth my inner child. She is the one that wants to be playful and joyful. She wants to dance, play the piano, write poetry and compose music. Autumn uplifts my life and makes me feel free to be who I really am. Not everyone needs to change their name to feel free to play, but I did. If I am true to myself, I am free.” © by Autumn
My strategy toward achieving greater personal growth and transformation is similar to Linda’s story.
When I need extra strength, confidence, and courage, I might call upon the persona of a well-known person who exudes these attributes, and if I don’t choose this option, I have a more imaginative one.
I anoint myself with a new secret name that vibrates all the qualities that I need to draw out of myself. Then, I call upon the healing power of visualization and imagination, and abracadabra, I become the vibratory energy of my temporary new name. I walk taller, talk and think more confidently, feel stronger, and am more resilient.
Allow me to introduce the highest vibration of the name, Cheyenne. I visualize her essence as the ultimate example of courage, confidence, strength, grounded determination, leadership, and spirituality. She is also a dreamer of dreams, comfortable in her body, openhearted, and an evolved person filled with light, love, and infinite wisdom.
There’s Shoshanna, too. Creative, independent, energetic, amusingly dramatic, introspective, poised, glowing, and radiant from inside-out, sparkling eyes, filled with grace, speaks from both her power belly and her heart, and never needs anyone’s approval or permission to be all of who she really is.
If I’ve been overly serious and would like my sense of humor to blossom, I may call upon my inner Amy Schumer to help lighten me up. I doubt I’ll be as funny, but you never know.
My favorite name is Melody, and ironically, it is not a name I imagined. Although it is my authentic middle name, I prefer to use it as my first name and a replacement for Cheryl. My opera singing mother must have intuitively sensed my destiny when she gave me my birth name of Melody. Along with being an author, I am a singer, performing artist, and composer.
Melody is the me of me. She is my true spirit, my heart, and who I am. My soul recognizes a name vibration that emanates love, compassion, gentleness, music, wisdom, imagination, courage, and dreams. When someone calls me Melody, I feel visible, understood, loved, and respected. I think to myself, “Yes, here I am. Thank you for calling me Melody. You know my soul.”
What’s “wrong” with my first name? Absolutely nothing. Cheryl is a beautiful name. The only problem? It never feels like my name. I feel detached from it. When I hear someone say Cheryl, I turn around to look for her. “They couldn’t be asking for me,” I think to myself. “I’m Melody.”
One caveat: At different times in my life, “Cheryl” was criticized, judged, disowned, silenced, given the silent treatment, invisible, shamed, and bullied. Admittedly, my emotional detachment to this name may be connected to these experiences.
There is another name that makes me shudder, too. My reaction to it stems from the negative parts of my childhood, religious culture, tradition, history, and the pain of prejudice.
When I was young, my family called me Zissy. It means “sweet” in English and it’s also the name of a deceased family member. I appreciated knowing the sentimental reason behind why I was called Zissy, but I winced every time my mom yelled for me to come home. Everyone in the neighborhood could hear her. “Zissy! It’s time for dinner!”
Zissy singled me out. It made me different from all the other kids. Instantly, I felt like “the other.” It is always tough to belong to a minority anything—religion, color, sexual orientation—you name it.
When kids heard the name Zissy, it was over for me. I became the target of relentless bullying, bias, teasing, and prejudice.
Fast-forward into the land of adulthood and the good news is that I am doing the inner growth work needed to lovingly embrace both Cheryl and Zissy in the same way I embrace Melody. My goal for inner healing is to integrate self-love into all my names. Every given name, every pseudo secret inner name, and every pet name people have called me along the way. Inner growth and personal transformation are core values for me, and like everyone, I am a work in process and a work in progress.
As I gain deeper insights about myself, my goal is to be at peace with all my names and with all parts of myself.
I am Melody, Cheryl, Zissy, Zisseleh, Grelody (Grandma plus Melody equal “Grelody”), Cheryl Melody, Mel, Sherry, Chéri, Cher, Shoshanna, Shosh, Chey, and Cheyenne.
Now, it’s your turn. Unlike William Shakespeare’s quote, everything is about the vibration of our names.
Because there is an emotional reaction and life history to hearing your name, here are “look within” introspective questions for you to consider:
>> Secret inner names anyone?
>> How do you feel about your given name(s)?
>> Have you changed any of your names?
>> Are you named after someone in your family? If so, does it feel sentimental, inspiring, or burdensome?
>> Do any of your names make you cringe (first, middle and/or last), or do they give you the warm fuzzies of love?
>> If you could choose any name in the world, knowing the essence of who you are now, what is your imaginary name? What name fits you emotionally, spiritually, and mentally? Now that you know yourself more these days, what name would you dub yourself?
>> Now, for my favorite question: what is your Spirit Name? I’d love to hear your personal story. Whatever name you choose, it’s genuinely wonderful to meet you.
In my book, Heart-Dreamer: Stepping into Life, Love, Creativity and Dreams – No Matter What, page 12 says it all:
“Your Spirit name has a sacred vibration and there are many ways to use it. You can keep it a delightful secret and only use it when you talk to yourself.
You can also use it as a catalyst for shedding distasteful parts of your past or for elevating your present and future. Your Spirit name symbolizes new beginnings.
The most comfortable time to step into your new name is when you meet new people. Be bold. Claim your sacred name and stand tall in its high vibration.
In Native American tradition, Spirit names are known to carry magical powers. Invite these powers into your life every minute of your day.”
And so, William Shakespeare. I rest my case.
One more thought.
I wonder what “Billy” would choose for his Spirit name?*
*Author’s Footnote: I just learned the term, “cultural appropriation,” from two of the editors at Elephant Journal. I am grateful that they raised my consciousness about using the phrase, “Spirit Name.”
When I first wrote my book, Heart-Dreamer (as well as this article), I thought that I had created this term. I had developed and lived this spiritual concept for many years, empowering myself by changing my name(s) to reflect my true essence. It came from an intuitive knowing that changed my life for the better over the years.
Upon googling these two words while writing my book, I discovered that giving someone a Spirit Name is a sacred tradition woven into many indigenous ceremonies. Even after knowing this information, I did not know that it was not okay to apply this concept and tell others about it. I did not know it was disrespectful.
I thought I was shining a light on this beautiful tradition as well as telling others how I use this concept in my own life. I now realize that it could be considered disrespectful to appropriate sacred ceremonial ideas from any minority’s cultural traditions.
Although the quote from my book, Heart-Dreamer (at the bottom of this article’s page), gives credit to this Native American tradition and the sacred Spirit Name ceremony, I naively thought that in doing so, I was reflecting the respect and acknowledgment this beautiful ceremony so richly deserves.
In my innocence, I thought I was shining a light and spreading the word, reinforcing it with my own practice in life to adopt names that reflect my true essence. Since then, I have since learned another layer to living life with increased consciousness and respect.
Please learn from me. The definition of “cultural appropriation” is “when members of a dominant culture appropriate from minority cultures.”
We are all continuously learning to increase our consciousness, and I am no exception. Thank you, editors, for pointing this out to me.