This past Saturday, September 27th, I officially moved in to my new first name, "Anya". Having been born the first time around near sunset, I wanted my second arrival into the world to be at the beginning of the day. So it was decided that I would hold my naming ceremony at 7:01 a.m. as the sun rose. As the fates would have it (fate often has other ideas), Saturday turned out to be an overcast, drizzly day. But it didn't matter. I was up with the sun to commemorate my new beginning.
My brother, and two of my closest goddess girlfriends, Ganga and Deena, gathered with me and my chaplain friend, Milton, on the beach. I took a moment of solitude before we began the ceremony. I sat on the rocks, waves crashing at my feet, and faced east towards the rising sun. I pondered the journey my former name had given me, what I'd learned through it and thanked it for its support. My mind flashed with memories of places I'd been, people I'd known, all that the past signified. I gave it over to the Divine asking that space be created around all that was, so that it could still inform my future without hindering it. It was a letting go into the great mystery of life, allowing that which will be to unfold as it will.
I walked back along the beach to my friends, who were lighting candles in an enclosure. A blanket was spread out on the ground, kept from blowing in the wind by rocks tacked down at all four corners. We formed a circle. Ganga began the ceremony by leading us in the chanting of three OMs, thought to be the primordial sound of the universe, followed by three Shantis.
My friend, Milton, the chaplain, then lead the ceremony with these words:
"'I call on all who stand in witness of this ceremony to honour the sacred sound bound to this person’s name, to foster the dream bound within it and nurture the colours revealed in it’s sound. I give into your care the name Anya. We dedicate ourselves to her nurture, may she ever walk in gentleness, peace and love.' (Song of the Circle)
We are gathered here today to celebrate not only a new name for this person, our sister, our friend, but we do so surrounded by the four elements that bring life to us – and are the foundation for a new beginning. We stand on the warm, soft earth that gives us stability, we breathe in the clean air that brings clarity of mind, we stand beside the rolling waters that give us adaptability, and we share the warmth of the fire from the sun that activates our intuition. We stand here together surrounded by these gifts to honor one more gift, our kinship and friendship with Anya – and to offer her the gift of our support as her brother and friends.
For what is in a name? . . . It is the embodiment of the person who carries it. When we say the name, the person comes to mind. It is not just the person though – it is who she is, what she cares about, what makes her laugh and what makes her sad, how she has helped us through our lives, and how we have helped her, all the times and emotions and words we have shared. It brings to our minds – this is what she believes, this is what she does, this is how she looks. So simple is a name – yet so complex, for once known – simply saying it – even thinking it - brings to our minds all the delights and joys and happiness of knowing who carries that name.
We are here to be part of re-naming you – you are now known to us and to all the world as Anya –a special name chosen by you. Be proud of your name and make it proud of you.
A new name is born, a life is changed, the first step taken on a new path. We are here not only to witness this happening, but to pledge our support and love to she who carries it in her mind, in her heart, in her spirit. We are to honor this special person in our lives – our Anya. Do you all so agree and pledge to do so?"
My friends supported their pledge with a resounding YES! I cannot even put into words what it felt like to look around this circle of ones so dear to me and know that they've seen me through so much in this life and held a sacred love for me, so deep, so real, so pure. The greatest and most profound gift I received during this naming ceremony was the gift of being seen. As I locked eyes with each of my friends and my brother, I was struck by the awesomeness of the connection we share; the deep, penetrating unconditional love and support we give to each other and the vision we hold to be the greatest grandest versions of ourselves. Tears of joy slipped down my cheeks.
Next, I took three crystals and gave one each to my brother, Ganga and Deena. I asked them to infuse these crystals with the essence of who they are and when ready, to return the crystal to my waiting hand along with a pronouncement of their wish for me this day. They each did this in turn, folding the crystal in my palm with their intentions for the new Anya. As a symbol of moving forward with my new name and carrying these three souls and their gifts to me wherever I go, I closed my hand around the crystals and stepped over a line on the ground declaring "I am ANYA!" At this point, I was all smiles and felt my heart do a little dance.
I then read the following poem by Rabindranath Tagore, one of my favorite Indian poets. This is my prayer to the Divine as I move into this new life:
“Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not. Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own. Thou hast brought the distant near and made a brother of the stranger.
I am uneasy at heart when I have to leave my accustomed shelter; I forget that there abides the old in the new, and that there also thou abidest.
Through birth and death, in this world or in others, wherever thou leadest me it is thou, the same, the one companion of my endless life who ever linkest my heart with bonds of joy to the unfamiliar.
When one knows thee, then alien there is none, then no door is shut. Oh, grant me my prayer that I may never lose the bliss of the touch of the one in the play of the many.”
The chaplain closed the ceremony with a Light Invocation where we bathed ourselves in Divine Light. I felt lifted, inspired and loved.
Afterwards, we sat on the blanket and listened to Ganga sing in her beautiful angel voice songs of power, songs of bliss, songs of enlightenment. She sang one of my favorites, "The Butterfly Song", whose chorus echoed through my mind and heart the rest of the day:
"Fly high, fly high like a butterfly
You were meant to spread your wings.
Fly high, fly high in your heart, in your mind
You were meant for greater things."
I then took to the beach and danced around while Ganga sang some more. We took pictures. We laughed. We cried. It was wonderful. And although the sun never made an appearance, my heart was alight with the radiance of love.
Milton asked me to choose a Memory Stone from the beach to keep as a memento of the ceremony. He also chose one.
It had always been a dream of mine to wear a sari. On my last birthday, I was given some beautiful silk sari fabric by Deena and my brother. It seemed only fitting that I would have this fabric made into a sari for my naming day. And so it was. I ventured down to Little India in my city and had a sari tailored for my special day. Deena learned from the Indian shopkeeper, a friendly lady now affectionately known as Auntie, how to wrap the sari for me. We bought bangles, earrings, a bindi and some mehndi and put me together for the evening.
Saturday evening, I donned my sari and stopped in at the bookstore where I work, before heading to Little India for dinner. That little bookstore has had a profound influence on my life, in ways I don't think I'll ever even fully comprehend. Everyone at my ceremony, with the exception of my brother, I had met through that bookstore. Deena was a co-worker. Milton and Ganga were once customers. Ganga is now my co-worker at the bookstore. My dear manager, Shahadat, who is like a father to me, declared me "Indian Barbie." I felt like a princess.
There is more to this story (isn't there always?). There were so many serendipitous occurrences, things that came together for this ceremony so beautifully and divinely. But they are best told over tea. Words on a page sometimes just can't express the full range of an experience.
Thank you all for sharing in this day. I have carried you all with me with each breath. Namaste.