In case you’ve never heard of True Names: it is the concept that every thing and being has one true name that represents that being’s true nature and that, if learned by others, gave them power over it. It occurs sometimes in religion but even more frequently in fantasy literature.
This is the story of how I learned my own true name, and the unexpected benefits it brought me.
Before I can get into the how, I have to mention some of the prerequisites. Although I’m a spiritual person, that is not a prerequisite. What is needed mostly is experience with looking inside yourself, and with examining your own life. The best way I’ve found to achieve this is through meditation. If you know meditation, you can skip the next part, if not, I highly recommend you read on.
Meditation has gotten a strange reputation in the West as being a bit silly, somehow slightly embarrassing. It may be this undeserved reputation that has kept this amazing tool from many of us. I can say from experience that meditation is a way for one to become aware of their own thought processes, and then start to alter them. In essence, it allows you to think and feel any way you choose.
In fact, if I were allowed a single piece of advice to anyone I ever meet, it would be this: meditate. It’s really not that difficult. All you have to do is sit and make yourself comfortable, but not sleepy. Those weird poses you sometimes see in yoga may work for some people, but really you can meditate just fine sitting up on a chair. And the most important factor: don’t just try it once. To start out with, try to do it for at least twenty minutes every day, for years.
How to meditate: there are lots of things you can try (look it up, there’s tons of material out there) but really the simplest and most effective thing is to relax, close your eyes and do your best to think of nothing at all. Pretty soon you’ll notice that your mind, when not needed for a particular task, starts to run around in circles. Doing this again and again, you start to notice not just what you’re thinking, but how you’re thinking. After some sessions of this, you’ll develop your own little tricks for quieting that mind down and making it do what you want it to. No special techniques needed: all this stuff comes pretty naturally, in my experience, if you’re just willing to put time and effort into it.
And that’s it. Once you’ve mastered this sufficiently, you’ll be surprised at the new perspective you’ll gain on your own mind, and the control you can exert. For example: I don’t think I’ve been really sad in the last six years or so. When I notice my feelings heading in that direction, I simply relax into a meditative state, find out what the underlying cause is, remove it, and restore happiness. And that’s it. It works.
Anyway, about that name. I’d encountered the concept of True Names a couple of times before. Le Guin’s Earthsea probably, although I can’t remember exactly. Anyway, one night I was suddenly convinced that I’d find out my own true name. I could have gone through some elaborate process, but really what would be the point? I simply sat down, got comfortable, got quiet, and looked inward.
Not that it was easy to do. I had to dig really deep. Questions that I had to answer, like ‘who am I’, ‘what defines me’, ‘what do I like to do’, ‘what is my nature’. In effect, I had to look past all the ordinary stuff and find the deepest, most fundamental truths about myself. Not that I could answer any of those questions in the end, but thinking about it gave me clues. The rest of the experience is hard to explain, it simply felt like struggling against the stream, uphill, while moving deeper inside myself, into the dark.
But then, realization finally dawned. The clues and random thoughts about myself merged together, into a single vision of a person. And the name came with that. I perceived it’s meaning, and what it said about the person I was.
It’s been years since then, but the knowledge of my own True Name still proves invaluable day after day. I have doubts and make bad decisions like anyone else, but I’m never shaken because at the core I hold this existential certainty: I know who I am. That is something that can never be taken from me, and it is a true comfort. It also gives tremendous confidence, I’ve found, to know your own true nature. Finally, it’s also a handy guide when making life decisions, but knowing who you are does not tell you where to go or what to do. It’s more like knowing the departure point of the journey than knowing the end destination.
Now to distill this experience into a lesson that may help anyone. I don’t know whether you believe in such vague concepts as ‘faith’ or a ‘true name’. That’s not really what is important. The lesson to take from this, I think, is that you can turn deep inside yourself, examine your own mind, your life, your ‘being’ for want of a better word, and learn the nature of this being. This isn’t the same as asking yourself ‘what am I doing’, ‘where will I be in 5 years’, ‘what career choices should I make’ or anything like that. Like I said, this exercise will tell you who you truly are, not where you’re going or how you’re going to get there. But knowing who you are will help you figure these questions out next.
So that’s it for today, for those who’ve stuck around this far, thank you for you time. The final piece of advice I can give you is this. Don’t just brood on this information, and don’t dismiss it. Do something with it. If only to do the exact opposite of what I have done, but do something with it. Whoever you are, I wish you nothing but luck. May you find your way, just as I have, and may peace and happiness be with you always.
Blessings on you, and good night.