Whats in a name? We all have to be called something right? Words have power; If you believe in the power of chanting and vibrational energy, surely the word we use to refer to ourselves has to be important right?
Neuroscientist Peggy La Cerra, Ph.D. says; “Our name is our social identifier, a placeholder in the minds and brains of others for the neural accountings of our value to them. When someone changes their name, it is a signal that a new neural archive is to be kept on this person — and previous memories have to been re-filed. In that sense, people can wipe their slates clean and be born again.”
Many people are surprised to learn I wasn’t born Shanti. Yes my mother is a yogi, but wan’t when I was born, Instead I was named from the Bible, ‘Naomi’ meaning ‘pleasant one’. I liked my name and never planned to change it.
As soon as I arrived at the meditation Centre in NZ where, I had agreed to live and work for a 3 month trial period, I was told numerous times I should ask Maitreya, the teacher there, for a new name. Most people there had one, including a guy who had named himself ‘Yes’.
I wasn’t all that taken with the Idea, but in Satsang ( Q&A meetings in truth) it was nice to have something to talk about so I mentioned, ‘people have told me I should ask you for a name’. Maitreya asked me what was wrong with my current name, when I admitted nothing, we both decided it should stay.
Over the next 10 months we meditated twice daily, and I observed the process of name giving and getting. I observed names given bringing to light a certain essence or vibration of being that was perhaps always present but latently like a seed waiting to grow. I listened and watched as my teacher predicted at least 3 dates for a “great change” (world changing event) that passed without too much noticeably happening.
Maitreya claimed to have a direct line to the divine, however God was a trickster and liked to mess with our minds. I will confess there is something inspirational about believing that the world is about to end, practising like your hair is on fire and all that. I believe he did have that direct line, though he would be the first to admit we all have a connection only most of us are not conscious of it.
After 10 months intensive mediation and living in spiritual community, I began to feel different. I grew curious about what it would be like to have a new name to represent and nourish the changes that were taking place. So when my teacher predicted another great change on Oct 26, I wanted to acknowledge that my world was changing from the inside out. So one the eve of the 25th I wrote an email requesting a new name.
On the 26th I was given the name Shanti, which is sanskrit for “Peace”. That night my Nan passed away, a death and a rebirth. It marked the beginning my first foray out of the centre and into the world for her funeral. It felt nice to have my new name to carry some of my inner peace with me back into my old life. The timing for me did feel divinely inspired.
I forget who it was who once said to me that they never knew what an anxious person they were because they never had anything else to compare it too. But I relate to it immensely. I always thought I was easy going but inside there were all kinds of long term neurosis affecting me on a very deep level that I couldn’t see because I was right in the middle of it.
Meditation, a new name and 5 years living a satsang lifestyle changed me in ways I never knew were possible. Yet even today more than 10 years since receiving my name, I’m still discovering new ways of being at peace with myself and with reality. I still feel there’s a way to go before I secure the deep peace found in meditation within my everyday experience but it’s a work in progress.
On returning to Australia, I tried re-using my old name but it didn’t fit anymore. It felt like a lie. I patiently and persistently asked everyone to call me Shanti, and changed everything legally to avoid the confusion of living a double life. Now most people forget I ever had another name, it feels like a lifetime ago.
When I decided to study yoga teaching I struggled with the cliche of a Yoga teacher called Shanti, however it didn’t feel a good enough reason to change my name again so here I am. The storey of Meera can wait for another day.
The date of my naming ended up being the last direct date predicted for the ‘great change’, but I still believe it’s coming soon. Maitreya eventually gave up the practise of bestowing names, inviting those who were interested to choose one for themselves. Especially since his sudden passing I have felt very blessed that this thing he has given me has become such an intrinsic part of who I am, and I’m not JUST talking about a name.