These are questions we rarely ask but may find ourselves contemplating when we’ve stepped onto a spiritual path of initiation. In simpler terms, we may get the signal that our old identity feels worn out and ready for retirement, yet we don’t know what we will find or create on the other side. This is the initiation I speak of, which I began some 7 years ago. It was literally the summer of 2014 when I finally started giving myself permission to play again. To explore and find what made my heart sing. And what many of you know from walking with me over the last 7 years would be a deep journey to healing and transformation.
Some things never change, like the true nature that lives inside you. This true nature expresses itself most easily when we are a child; one reason why so many people today are doing their inner child work. Because along the way, domestication happens, trauma happens and adulting certainly happens. And a lot of us have come to believe, being a responsible adult requires letting go of the child. When in fact, the spiritual magic in life is held by the child’s propensity for learning, exploring and creating new and adventurous things. Your inner child may have a whole list of things it sees as “what’s most important in life” that you have lost sight of due to all the “have too’s or shoulds”. Navigating a re-introduction of the child and their wisdom back into our lives is a significant process and tends to shed light on many of the ways we have constructed our identities to fit into something other than what the inner child would have us do. We may have closed ourselves off to our inner child long ago, so hearing their pleas can take some real discomfort to get our attention.
This brings me to the power that lies in both the name we choose and the intentions we set with the identity we choose. Now you see, your identity is actually a mirage. All the things you think you are, at the end of the day, aren’t really anything. Anyone that makes it into old age or debilitating illness, quickly learns this and discovers they must find something else good and beautiful inside themselves when they can no longer prove their worth through the identities they carried earlier in life, most often connected to what they did. Your true identity lies within the divine aspect of yourself. Your true self that is not limited by conditions or rules or social norms, or even what family believes you to be. Your true identity is as free and flowing as a mountain stream in sunlight, or a raging bonfire at night. Your true identity is what brings your spark to the surface, a twinkle in your eye or the rushing warmth in your heart. When you set down the minds’ ideas about “What Identifies You”, you are really just the moment you are most aware and wide open to the greatness of creation that is all around you and within you. You are not separate from any of this.
So now that we’ve established that grand spiritual concept, let's look at the name. So what name were you given? Who gave it to you? How many times have you heard that name over the years? how has it changed? What memories do you hold most strongly associated as that person with that name? What expectations lie within the identity locked into having that name? What does your name mean or resonate? How does your name make you feel?
I encourage you to take a few minutes in your journal to contemplate these questions.
Now, I was given a very beautiful name, for what it was, for the tradition I was born into. My birth name was Laurel Marie Hagner. Hagner was the given, from the traditional male lineage practices of my European ancestors, which I won’t go into the history of that, but there is an aspect of ownership there, without the feminine line having a record. But then like many families, the middle name carried my mother’s line. Marie, my grandmother’s name. Laurel would be my personal name, followed by these links to lineage. What then followed suite, was the first half of my life I sought to fulfill the energy of those names. What also followed was an energetic attachment, set of conditions, beliefs and expectations that were unseeable to the naked eye but very clear inside how I believed I was supposed to be, perform, prove myself and manifest in the world. It wasn’t until burn out that I took the 2nd half of the “Rest on your Laurel’s myth” seriously and retired early in order to recover from a laundry list of accomplishments that ultimately barely filled my inner child’s cup. In short, I began resting on my Laurel’s as much as a type A could. My ego on the other hand was very attached.
So when I began my own journey in 2013, I knew I was many many layers away from getting honest with myself. Everything I was or did, looked pretty amazing from the outside, but from the inside I was miserable. I’d suffered with un-identifiable illness, depression, anxiety and anger for a good deal of my life, drowning my suffering in productivity and a good show. But when I began to take time and space, a different stream of consciousness began to speak up. This one not only informed me I’d be letting go of more than I could possibly imagine, good old spiritual death times 100. But it also informed me I would be getting a new name. At that time, even that idea drew my mind and ego into the picture, but my spirit kept telling me “all will become clear with time”.
What did become clear over the next 7 years of transitioning from one iteration to the next, and letting different names come in like “trying on the dresses”, was that each name I took was a prayer, an intention I was setting for myself. First Laurel Marie, was to really appreciate how lovely what I was given at birth was. An acknowledgment of my mother’s gift of my life and the beauty and strength I knew to be found in my Grandma. Then came the Buddhist refuge name given to me by Lama Tsultrim Allione, my female spiritual teacher, of Sherab Khandro, a name that landed in my body, with a fantastical twist, tying me to an ancient past and another identity I would also need to release. Then came the Sofia-Ravens, which beckoned to me from the lineage line of my father. Again a Grandmother energy I wanted to relate to. One by one, these names came and landed in different ways. With their meaning, connections and identifications.
Now it's probably become apparent, my naming process has not been an overnight designation as much as it has been an evolution. And while a part of me wanted a magic wand to be woven over me and my life to transform me into the “other person”, what I came to realize along the way is that I needed to love the person I was no matter what my name was. As much as I thought I needed a name, I actually needed to release all the names so I could just be myself. Who ever that wanted to be in any moment. The same realization has taken place around how I show up in the world, how important I find it is for me to share myself and my life with the world, whether that looks like the old “career” model or it simply is how I show up. All the other details can fall as they may. After so much of my identity being wrapped up in my past iteration as a professional artist, a dismemberment of the aspects of my identity that were tied into social approval, likes and production definitely hit the chopping block.
You may be wondering how that brought me to now, where I am going to share my new name. The one that has finally been given in a way that I will carry for the rest of this iteration, or not. You see, it came not when I was in retreat, or being baptized by a new river. It came when I decided to follow my heart to a different part of the country and determine I wanted to live a different life. When I decided to give life to the desires my heart was speaking of and my mind was simply along for the ride. When I stood before my beloved partner and asked for him to tell me what he saw. When I prayed to the Goddess and asked in what form she most strongly holds me. And at the end of the day, what is my true character and nature.
It would not be the lovely Laurel Marie that accomplished so much and worked tirelessly to do the right thing. It would not be the Tibetan name my guru gave me. It would not be the echo of my father’s great grandmother who lost her life to child birth. It would not even be the name I came up with myself. It would be like a prayer, that landed in my body as a recognition of my faith and loyalty to something greater than myself and all I knew. Sofia would ask to come in as a blessing and acknowledgement of my journey here on this planet. Sofia, the source of humanity and the path we each walk in the quest to be joined with God. Isis would speak strongly, like a wind that pushes at your back, holding you when you think you might fall. Isis, the Great Mother, would give me no choice but acknowledge her endless presence in my life. And then came my lover, and his sweet morning greeting, that parted the clouds I wrestled with upon waking. “Good morning Sunshine!” I’d hear, the sweet woman in me looking up and feeling like “You see me?”, beneath all the other things? You see me?
When it came time to actually change my name, it was not what I expected. Spirit had other things in mind and I would be given my task to wake up every morning forward as Ms. Sunshine, no matter what I felt inside. I would be shown that all the clouds I thought I carried, could be burned away by acknowledging my own true nature, no matter the weather. When it came time to tell my mother, or share my new name with friends, each time is like a blessing, a curious event, for even I am still learning to step into my true essence and let it shine. So as I write you, the breeze blows through the trees, the sun shining on my skin and I feel its warmth, knowing it is something that lives in me. I feel its brilliance, like the spark I feel when inspiration and glee comes. I give it full permission to teach me and show me what I already am, but sometimes forget. I take the name with gratitude and a smirk, appreciating the wisdom spirit has and my own capacity to follow its guidance. Thank you to the angels, the family, the friends, my Mother, my Lover and all the brilliant spirits that create everything around me. And thank you for mirroring back, that which I am, so I may experience my own gifts from the inside out.
Thank you for reading. I will keep you up to date of changes and where you can read and learn more at new locations in the future. Sending you all love.