Simple Step to Inspiration on Life’s Journey: What is Your Temporary Name?

 Be Safe and Well. Peace, Love, Courage. -Traditional farewell among the Arabs for those leaving on a pilgrimage.
Be Safe and Well. Peace, Love, Courage.
-Traditional farewell among the Arabs for those leaving on a pilgrimage.

While the word pilgrimage may sound mysterious, it is not. Whatever our longing, path or destination, we are all journeying and have been throughout our lives.

All men and women are travelers though often we might be confused wanderers. I think you know what I mean – on the path, off the path, screw the path.

Maybe you don’t think of yourself as a pilgrim but many scholars do. They declare that life is a pilgrimage and the human soul is a pilgrim.

I believe in pilgrimage as a powerful metaphor for any passage with the purpose of finding something that matters deeply to the traveler. The pilgrimage can be an inward journey as transformative and sacred as the revered walk thousands undertake each year on Camino de Santiago.

Two Saturdays ago I went to  Charleston to spend a day with the wise philosopher and poet, David Whyte to explore Solace: The Art of Asking the Beautiful Question.

I wanted to be inspired, learn new things and broaden my perspectives.

His seventh volume of poetry, Pilgrim, is hailed as some of his best work. Whyte defines a pilgrim as someone, like you and me, passing through our lives relatively quickly but dependent on friendship, hospitality and help from friends and strangers alike.

Someone for whom the nature of the destination changes step by step as it approaches, and someone who is subject to the vagaries of wind and weather along the way.

The nature of our journey, no matter our age, will not change when it comes to unexpected challenges and events, or joyful transitions.

The evidence of this poured forth when the audience was asked to identify the exact point of their pilgrimage by choosing a “temporary name.”

I tend to dislike many “turn to your neighbor” interactions, but I was beholden to many of the attendees to have had this one.

Name Where You Find Yourself at the Moment

Recently I finished, “The Son” by Philipp Meyer, the acclaimed author of American Rust. With a starred review on BookList, stellar reader reviews as well as an Amazon choice for June 2013 Book of the Month, this epic tale of the American West was worthy of my time though with portrayals of mid-19th Century Texas violence, especially scalping, I winced a lot.

But Meyer’s historical detail of the Comanche culture – arts of riding, hunting, family and warfare – provided the enchantment I needed to continue. For 842 Kindle pages I followed characters with names of wonderful imagery:

Angry Bird

Prairie Flower

Fat Wolf

Hates Work

Always Visiting Someone

Bright Morning

Sometimes Happy

Curly Head

Each Comanche received a nickname, either characteristic or arising from a peculiarity, which they often retained after arriving at maturity. Oh how I loved the pages indolent and irreverent Hates Work showed up to earn her name.

So what do Comanche names have to do with Whyte’s Beautiful Question Seminar, a pilgrimage, and me and you?035 Predictably, I balked when David’s instructed us to “interact” since I didn’t want to waste time listening to anyone other than the guru I had paid to hear.

But you’ve likely guessed the experience was one of the highlights of the day.

Whyte set up the exercise by posing a beautiful question:

What is Your Temporary Name?

“We are all on the road somewhere. At this point in time, what is the temporary name you would call yourself?”

How we see ourselves now in our pilgrimage pinpoints work we’ve done, challenges and uncovers the commonality in the human endeavor of trying to live life.

After the time in dialog with three individuals the ringing of a small bell signaled the return of our attention back to David. He looked at us and said nothing. He waited and watched, waited … and waited.

Silence is a David Whyte specialty and purposefully executed so you can sit there with your thoughts and be uncomfortable until a first soul begins.

Many individuals smiled with pride in revealing their names while others were cautious disclosing they’d been in better places. A few of the temporary names produced a chuckle; others resulted in the rest of us sending silent courage across the room.

Selected temporary names from the audience:

Lost But Found

Corporate Misfit

Lost, Found and Lost Again

Don’t Call Me Grandma

Hard Times Again

Ain’t Gonna Stand By No More

Sparkling Stream

Moving on Up

Your turn now.

What is Your Temporary Name?

“We are all on the road somewhere. At this point in time, what is the temporary name you would call yourself?”

The name you chose identifies not only where you are right now but where you might be headed. The person who called himself Ain’t Gonna Stand By No More sounds as if changes are brewing.

Movin’ on Up celebrates a transition.

While a temporary name gives clarity, take a moment and explore your name to discover more:

  1. What challenges are revealed?

  2. What celebrations does this name expose?

  3. What experience does your name seek?

  4. How much do you like this name?

  5. How will you feel when it is replaced?

  6. What was your ‘temporary name’ two years ago and why has it changed?

During my lifetime, I’ve held the name Confused as Hell, OMG Missy and Look at Me Now. But as a pilgrim my journey, like yours, keeps going in both certain and uncertain ways.

So rather than stop at a temporary name for the present, what if we were to declare a ‘temporary future name’?

I have never started a poem yet whose end I know. Writing a poem is discovering.  - Robert Graves
I have never started a poem yet whose end I know. Writing a poem is discovering. – Robert Graves

A Future Name Could Change Your Life

Your life is about discovering who you are, where you are now and where you are going.

In his book, Change Your World One Word At A Time: How the way we speak creates our lives, David Firth is adamant in declaring, “Words shape thoughts. Words are the source of action and can determine outcomes.”

Firth believes we ask for things with our words through the conversations, promises, prediction and stories. “We talk our world into being.”

If you want to invent a more deliberate life – an intentional one –  then show up tomorrow with a temporary name for a life you want to live.

Your future name won’t be a forever-one like a Comanche name, But by declaring what you want to be called in a year or two, your future life has a voice – one that can guide and inspire.

For now, forget trying to plan or determine a strategy for life ahead, simply create a temporary name you might like to be called:

At the Top of My Game

Rich as All Get Out

Never Thought I Could Do It

Weight Watcher Lover

Bestower of Care

We are all on the road somewhere – seeing sights, learning lessons and gathering experience – moving from stage to stage of evolving life.

My future temporary name is Making It Count and intended for an update next year.

My name points me in a direction each day, makes me smile and casts clarity as well as intention on my path ahead. I’m all over it.

So ask yourself two beautiful questions:

What is the temporary name you would call yourself right now?

What is the name you want to call yourself a year from now?

 We are all on the journey. Be Safe and Well. Peace, Love, Courage.


About Barbara Pagano

Barbara Pagano,Ed.S., author and speaker, influenced over 3,500 executives in organizations to achieve higher performance. She is now on a mission to help individuals extend their career arcs and craft lifestyles of productive longevity.
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