Naming a Yogi

T.S.Elliot wrote a poem about the naming of cats…

“The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES…”

In the ashram where I attend my yoga studies with the Teacher of my heart some of the people have a spiritual name; given by the Guru and evocative of the highest aspirations of that devotee’s heart.

When the weather was cold I inquired in an email to that Dear Teacher about this matter, as the naming of cats, er Yogis, had been tumbling around in my mind. What cut to the heart of my inquiry was a yoga class last Winter. Between the second and third of a set of three back-bends I was resting, hands rising and falling with the rhythm of my breathing. I realized in a flash that I was less worried about that I might not have a name, but that in having one, what it might be!

What if this name asked more of me than I could give? What if I didn’t feel like I looked like this name, or felt like this name, or couldn’t say this name well? What if, in the darkest corner of my mind, I didn’t feel worthy of this name? A hell of a lot can happen in the space between back-bends.

I knew when this surfaced I ought to write my Teacher. I did, then let it go. This sort of thing isn’t in the devotee’s hands, you know. I’m not even sure how this sort of thing works; a magical smattering of Grace tossed with a most magnificent  peppering of cosmic dust and a dollop of intergalactic delight – mix well and bake on high at 350 for twenty-five minutes.

Last Saturday I’m at Dragonfly Yoga Studies where I did my initial yoga teacher training. It’s like the scene of the set it off remix, you know, where it all started. This is also where I met Swami Jaya Devi, that Teacher I mentioned earlier. Swami is teaching all weekend there.

This is the second day of a three day immersion. The day is bright. Some friends and I had eggplant for lunch after the yoga class and before the afternoon spiritual growth and meditation. I’m seated on my cushion with my friends from Fort Walton and Atlanta all in the same room. The kirtan stops and Swami settles in, says Namaste to us all then asks for me to go up there.

This doesn’t happen all the time. In fact, I’ve never been quite summoned, though I have been greeted, hugged and Namasted by this lady. Even though I know nothing bad ever happens up there, I did feel my heart swim round in my chest like a startled goldfish.

I knelt in front of her and everything faded behind me; it was just the two of us when she took my hands. I smiled, probably I look nervous and also very excited. She looks calm and quite like she knows she’s about to make my entire year in the next thirty seconds.

I feel myself tremble when she starts talking about names, and I shake when she says my name, given to me in the lineage I long to dive into by the only Guru on the planet I could call my own.

Prana Devi

She says my name and I cry as she smiles. I rise up to hug her and hang on for dear life. There is clapping and cheers behind me but I don’t want to look around just yet. I want those two words to drench my bones and cells and ignite in my eyes.

I return to my seat. Swami says that my name is of the Goddess of the Breath and I say how I still need to catch mine.

I have caught my breath now, and just want to say this name of mine, repeating it like the steady metronome of my heart’s thrum. I also wish to use this name in the world. It’s one of those things that’ll take time, like it took time to realize I wished to know what my name is.

I didn’t tell my mom (or anyone) until the next day because I didn’t quite want to explain it yet, but to be around those friends present who just started calling me by that name. This helped settle me more, the effect very grounding. When my mom went to bed she said, “Goodnight Prana Devi.” Thanks Mom.

My dad said, “Call I just call you honey, but have Prana Devi on your birthday cake?” I think that’s a win.

My little sister asked if Swami held me up like they held little Simba up in The Lion King, then she sang the song to make sure I knew what she meant. Then she asked how to spell my name so she might have something monogrammed.

My middle sister changed my name in her phone, and texted “Aunt Prana”.

I am waiting to change the schedule at Uru until I have a chance to let folks who come to my classes know, so they don’t think I left and this new lady stepped in. I can hear it now, “Who is this Prana Devi teaching in Nickie’s time slots?”

I’ll wait to adjust social media for the same reason, not that I’m super savvy in the social media department. I’m working on it, as I am an Etsy shop. I’ll tell you more about that later, but I can say that the shop is already set up and operated by Prana Devi. It looks really good that way.

And I have to say I’m really grateful for this moment in my practice in which I feel settled and excited. I’m grateful to Ma and my Swami who sent lightening to strike in my heart and ignite, like a spark of devotion that struck from the stars and settled there to burn.

The Naming of Cats by T.S.Elliot

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey–
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter–
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover–
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

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