Owning my name

The name that was given to each of us is made up of such a mixed bag of creativity, and family meanings or ties…. Most of us respond in one of a few ways, we love our name, are mostly ambivalent about it or really wish we had a different one!

I have had many mixed emotions about my name growing up, specifically my last name, and not so ironically, these mixed emotions intensified when my parents divorced during my junior year of high school… it was messy, and I will spare you the details, but the result was a lot of internal conflict as well as external drama. I can actually remember asking my mom to change her last name after the divorce so that she didn’t have to be associated with that name any longer, but she was adamant that she would keep the name that her children shared and that she would wear it proudly, which I just simply could not understand at the time.

Throughout my life, I have vacillated between complete distain for my last name, wishing to shed it as quickly as possible, to choosing to keep that name honoring that it is not only a part of where I came from, but an active part of who I am. In talking with other people, I have come to understand that my situation is not so unique, in that many others choose to change their name or separate themselves from their past. And still many others wear their name very proudly and there is a sense of ownership and connection that it represents for them. A very dear friend of mine was the 4th in his family to even share the same first name, let alone the last name that bonded the men in their family together.

I have always thought of myself as someone who was all about individualism and uniqueness. Therefore when it came time to name my daughter I was intentional about not giving her a family name or even a shared middle name. I was adamant that she was her own unique self and that she didn’t need to feel confined or labeled by another previously used name… and in many ways I am grateful that I see life this way and that I promote individuality and unique expression of self, for both my daughter and for myself. However as I have grown and experienced more of life, I feel that I have been able to step more toward the middle on this particular issue, and recognize the incredible value of belonging to something such as a family, with a history and a past, colorful or pleasant as it may have been.

I have come to believe that we are all a part of a larger whole, individuals that are born out of some form of union regardless of how great or how small…. and in a larger context we are part of a bigger family, and then of a community and of a culture and of a place and of a time. Each of those pieces of who we are make up for small and particular details about how we are in this world, how we cope, how we interact, how we engage, what we look like, what our genetic makeup consists of, what our heritage shared. We are not so individual that we exist in it of ourselves. We all came from someone, from somewhere, from some form of connection that once existed, and regardless of how that connection may have lasted or ended, we still are a part of where we came from. And I believe that there is power in owning that.

So here I am, many years later, running a business in which I chose to use my name “Bliss”. And furthermore am known in the professional world by that name right alongside my married name. And while there is color that goes along with that name, I have come to see that there is color that goes along with every name and part of my onus as an adult, is accepting that I am a part of that name and its whole… the good, the bad and everything in-between. Every family has its colors and dramas but what I have come to accept and whole heartedly believe is that those very same families have beauty and strength and zest and vitality, and it can be incredibly expanding to connect with the whole of that. We are not just our negative parts nor are we just fabulously positive parts (although we might like to think that…) We are a blend of both and owning that and working with that is part of what it means to actively participate in life.

Today, I am choosing to own my name. I am owning it for everything that it entails, the German, the Sweden, the Irish and little bits of a few other things…. I am grateful for what it gave me, and I am grateful for what it did not give me or what it took away, for it helped make me who I am today.

Relaxation is an Action

DSC_0639_2Laying in savasana (final relaxation) during the ending of a yoga class this week, I heard the instructor make the statement “relaxation is an action”. This may not stand out to you or be obvious for most people, but for my busy and nonlinear mind, I had never thought of relaxation in this way. I was rather dumbfounded really, thinking to myself, how have i never recognized that action that is involved in relaxing?

I have never been someone for whom relaxation came naturally… in fact I can remember as far back as my early childhood, hearing my mother say to me “just relax” and “you should relax a little”. In reality I still hear these phrases from those who love me and know me most… and even still, relaxation is not natural for me, nor do I always connect with the overall purpose of such an act. I seem to much prefer go-go-go and do-do-do. To the point of my own detriment…

So now, here I sit pondering this new reality, of relaxation being an action, and suddenly it has come to life in a whole new way,  in a way that I can far better understand and grasp, and maybe even begin to utilize in my busied little world. Because “relax” is something I can now “do”. If that makes sense to anyone but me….

I’m going to break it down, for myself.

Action, according to the dictionary is a

Noun: meaning
  1. The fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim
  2. The way in which something such as a chemical has an effect or influence.

What this says to my “monkey mind” (a description for busy/cluttered minds we like to use in yoga) is that in order to relax or to choose to participate in relaxation, there is a process for doing such an act… and additionally there is some sort of intention or purpose to acting in such a way. Could it be that relaxation or the act of relaxing actually has a higher purpose than being “lazy” or “idle” as we have come to understand in our culture? Could it be that relaxation has a purpose and in fact in a significant place in our lives, outside of vacation?

In our culture of “on the move”, “always productive”, “must accomplish”, “better be growing”, “don’t stop till you drop” mentality, it’s like we need permission or some form of concrete evidence based facts to support a need for such a relaxation, because otherwise we look at it as weak and lazy or stagnant and in many other derogatory ways.

I loved the way the second line definition commented on how a chemical has an effect or influence…. we now know so much more about the impacts of stress and being hurried all the time, on the physical body, and we are beginning to understand the science behind relaxation and meditation as well.

Jack Kornfield has really helped pave the way for us in coming to understand the overall benefit and long-term impacts of meditation/relaxation. Because of his ongoing research and steady practice in both teaching and living an intentional, meditative life, we have learned that we can actually change the way we think and the way we behave through practicing meditation or mindfulness on a regular basis.

This happens to be incredibly encouraging to me, to know that I have the ability to change and that I can choose to act in a way that promotes and encourages relaxation- which I am coming to a new understanding of its positive impact on overall function and living a purpose filled, intentional life.

So what is the take away? An action is an intentional, purpose filled process with a specific aim in mind… Our actions can be chaotic and fragmented, busied and even bored, or they could equally become intentional, deliberate and organized in order to promote more authentic ways of living out our day to days, connected to something beyond just go-go-go, do-do-do.

Stress creates a whole host of chemical reactions throughout the body, washing over our minds and bodies… you can research what that means and how that impacts health on your own time. But know that just as stress creates chemicals to wash over the body, meditation, relaxation and mindfulness also create a host of chemicals to wash over the body and mind and their impact is significant for long-term health and well-being.

So today, I am choosing to not only create stillness and quiet in my day, but to sit calmly in mindful relaxation, to change the way I live my life for the better, even one minute at a time.

May you find the intention and motivation to do the same.