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What's In a Name?

It is from personal experience that I endorse and prescribe what Vedantic psychology has known for thousands of years. Change the name and you change the person.
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Vedantic psychology says it is healthy and life-enriching to change your name a few times in your life. Interesting, isn't it. How could your name possibly impact your health? And how could changing your name possibly enrich the quality of your life? It seems somewhat odd and maybe even superficial to think of a simple name change as potentially having such sweeping implications in your life. And yet, from personal experience I can vouch for this time-honored tradition of spiritually-transformative wisdom.

I was born in the U.S. with a standard, common, mainstream name. My parents did not slap the name Vaishāli (why-shawl-lee) on me at birth. In fact, I don't think my parents even knew a single Sanskrit word. It was in my mid-30s while studying Vedantic philosophy that I was introduced to this idea. And like most deeply-seeded, life-transcending information, I needed to hear it more than once before I was willing to open my mind and embrace the idea. The purpose and fundamental healing power in changing one's name is that it creates an environment for a unique quality of inner-expansion to take place. It facilitates a heightened personal opportunity to evolve as a more self-realized unlimited being.

We all have traumas, disappointments, failures and rejections associated with our name. We all have had the experience of sitting in class thinking, "Don't call on me, I don't know the answer. Don't call on me." When the teacher calls your name. We all have known emotionally painful situations when someone we loved and respected called us stupid, an idiot, irresponsible, a failure and a loser, unlovable, worthless, a reject. We all have experienced a life-defining moment reinforced by our name. Whether it was the bully calling our name just before inflicting all the physical, emotional and psychological pain they could muster on us, or whether it was our name being called in court during a divorce or bankruptcy hearing.

The ultimate effects are that we become dumbed down and restricted by the label we cling to while incurring these continuously-accumulating, self-minimizing impressions. We then loyally drag that damaged, reductionist self-definition around with us over time. The result? We have unconsciously imposed a boundary on our inner growth and knowledge of ourselves. Changing your name allows you to be a new person, free from past tyrannies, mistakes and tragedies. Changing your name gives you conscious and unconscious permission to be a greater person unfettered by past restrictions, memories and caustic associations. You can access a greater, more liberated personhood and sense of self-identification. You get a do-over with an upgraded status and outlook.

When I first learned of this profound psychological self-healing, I was skeptical. It sounded like a witness protection program for misdemeanors. Could it really be that easy to trick yourself out of a lifetime of self-imposed smallness? However, it was in the moment when I went to reach for this opening to an untarnished, ultra-refined, expansive self-perspective that all the reasons my mind could manufacture of why I couldn't or shouldn't suddenly appeared. It was then that I realized it wasn't quite that easy. First I had to maneuver the inner minefield of self-sabotage and low self-esteem before I could embrace a grander and greater, new and improved me.

The Indian teacher I was studying with at the time explained if you are going to change your name it is best to choose a name from a sacred language. English is not a sacred language. It is a language of commerce, of science, of measurement and weight, but it does not have the vibration of a sacred language. Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Sanskrit: These are all examples of sacred languages -- language that contains within it a higher vibration that is consciousness enhancing and healing. As it turns out, one of the gifts this Indian teacher shared was the ability to determine exactly the right Sanskrit sacred name for anyone in this life.

Every Sanskrit name means something. So, before I could muscle up the courage to ask for my Sanskrit name, I had to work through all the fearful imaginings I had that my name might actually mean something awful like "One who eats like a feral pig," or "One who could not even successfully organize an underwear drawer," or "One who thinks they are moving forward when they are actually careening backward." It was astounding all the diminutive and deformed projections the intellect could conceive of and dredge up. It was a massive interior maze I had to extricate myself from before I could even articulate the desire to hear a new name.

Once that self-created hurdle had been scaled, I asked for a name. The teacher paused for a long time before answering. "I am going to give you the name Vaishāli (why-shawl-lee). That is the name of the hometown of the Buddha. I am giving you that name because the people in America will be able to say that name correctly. Your real name is Vanandana, (wha-none-da-na) which means 'One who surrenders with Divinity.' But if I give you that name everyone in America will call you Vanda Ana. It is more important that I give you a name everyone can say correctly, than if I give you the right name that no one can say."

It was in that magical moment when I received a new name that all the fear, insecurity and self-doubt melted away. The truth had set me free. The Vaishāli name did eventually deliver everything as promised. The old person died peacefully away, taking with her the history, agonies and unhappiness she had carried with her for so long. (Too bad that didn't include credit card debt.)

It is from personal experience that I endorse and prescribe what Vedantic psychology has known for thousands of years. Change the name and you change the person. Just remember, Vaishāli is already taken but there is still Vanda Ana.

Vaishali is the author of "Wisdom Rising" and "You Are What You Love." She is an international health & wellness speaker who has appeared on The Dr. Oz Radio Show and Vaishali learned to transform her life from the threat of two terminal disease diagnoses, domestic abuse and financial devastation. Join Vaishali in Los Angeles July 21st and 22nd for a one- or two-day "Create Your Health Holistically Though Chi Nei Tsang & Ayurveda" and/or "Spirituality 505." To: learn more visit:

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