My journey to self-discovery at a spiritual commune in Costa Rica.
I never felt like I fit in, anywhere. I often wondered how I’d been born in my hometown, why there was so much hate for self and “other”, and why my parents wouldn’t let my grandmother take me to Spain and Mexico to better know my Latin roots.
The world I grew up in felt painfully white.
Void of creative self-expression and filled with rules I didn’t understand regarding how the world should work. Filled with uniformity and a profound contrast between who I felt myself to be and what was presented before me.
I think the most palpable identifier was fear. Everyone was so fearful of being different, of setting out on the open road, of defying their angry male God, and of heaven forbid, leaving Buffalo.
I often found myself on the opposing downbeat of a completely different song.
Not in skin color, but in soul. In the richness, that comes from something of the night.
Public school felt like a war zone.
Much of my life felt like one, ongoing conflict. At home, in school, on the basketball court, and internally. I yearned to make sense of the endless madness around me.
Despite my surmounting accolades and ambitions, it felt like I had to defend myself constantly. In hindsight, I see that success gave me a sense of self, authority, and protection. It gave me a constructive outlet to channel all the anger and rage.
The result was that I became the captain of my basketball team, an award-winning debater, and graduated in the top 10% of my class with a full scholarship to university.
And yet, any natural and emerging sense of who I was felt diminished and wrong.
Before I knew who I was, I learned to hide.
I hid my deepest sense of self in places I lost the key to so that no one could reach or see me. If ‘I’ did surface, I thought, people would see the inner conflict, the division of identity, and the heavy feelings of being broken and bad.
I’d lost many key friends throughout my childhood that the fear of losing any remaining sense of community or security was terrifying. So I avoided additional conflict by hiding what I felt caused the loss: me.
By senior year, I didn’t trust people, especially adults and authority figures. I wanted out of Buffalo. I wanted out so badly I could taste it, but where would I go?
When I turned 19, I flew to Mexico to live with my aunts and cousins.
It was eery and uncanny to see that my Mexican family mirrored so closely that of my mixed family in the states. Both generations ahead of me were comprised of strong matriarchies consisting of three sisters. Each of the trios contained one sister that was married with children. All three sisters in both countries lived under the same roof, helping to raise the children.
My time in Mexico opened a door for me. I grew to know a part of myself that my grandmother was trying to show me since I was a little girl. My broken Spanish turned into full-on sentences and a sense of pride in who I was in this lifetime began to blossom. It was one of the first times I felt I had a say in who I was and what I wanted.
Flash forward to seven years later. I was a success, but I still didn’t know who I was.
In the course of the next decade, I threw myself into work. I enjoyed a loving relationship of eight years with a beautiful man and worked with some of the most successful people in business including Seth Godin, Jonathan Fields, Ramit Sethi and others.
I attended school at the Universidad de la Habana in communist Cuba for six months. I was trilingual, started multiple businesses and worked at the prestigious USUN Embassy to Rome. I boasted two TEDx’s, and traveled the world extensively, all by 27 years of age.
But I was still striving. There was a sense of emptiness and inner hunger I couldn’t quite quench. I was tired, self-aware, and unsure of what I was looking for.
In 2014, my life shifted and I entered a proverbial shit storm.
That summer I was still in San Francisco job hunting. The health of my elderly family stateside was declining rapidly and within three months, my grandmother and her two siblings passed away, shutting the door to a generation and lineage that raised me.
A generation that instilled in me a profound work ethic, a palpable pride in being Latina, and a knowing of who I am above and beyond what the world thinks. And now they were gone.
It was with her passing that I came to understand much of her unspoken story and the wisdom she passed on to me.
I was doing my best to make San Francisco my new home, but life had other plans.
Nine months after I started my job at Lyft — three months into 2015 — I was dumped by my new boyfriend and laid off a week later.
I found myself in the thick of the night, again. But I didn’t see any stars.
I didn’t sense anything beyond the deterioration of all sense of security, identity, and hope. I cursed God. I cursed my choices. I cursed myself.
I was left to look at myself, again, outside of the people, jobs, and accomplishments that had defined me most of my life.
Everyone thought they knew me, but I felt like I barely knew myself.
Who was I if not a Ballesteros, an accomplished business woman, and Armando’s girlfriend? I wasn’t certain and that was frightening.
I discovered a remote meditation center in the jungles of Costa Rica.
I was undergoing a reclamation of the soul — a profound spiritual death. This I knew.
I also knew I needed to lay to rest a life that was no longer mine. To release myself of the baggage I was carrying and to properly and metaphorically die with ease and guidance. This would require a very special space and community.
A friend of mine recommended I look into a meditation center her cousin attended the year before. This, I realized, was where I needed to go and I was terrified.
Shortly before leaving for the meditation center, while journaling, I had a premonition that I would be given a new name. The idea popped out onto the page as if it fell from the sky. It wasn’t a known desire of mine, in fact, it felt foreign. And yet, there it was, on the page in front of me.
Once at the center, I overheard some people mention a special name giving ceremony.
It wasn’t advertised, they said. The student initiates the process and personally makes the request during the ten-day silence at the end of the summer.
New names represent a death of the old self and mark the transition into your spiritual self.
In my final week at Pachamama, we underwent 10 days of complete silence. During this extended meditation, we were able to write letters to the elders, describing our personal experiences and to ask for guidance. In two of my letters, I requested a new name.
The truth is, I didn’t want a new name or the burden of explaining it to others.
And yet, I knew I had to do it. There was no thinking involved in this decision. I was following a deep calling.
At the end of the retreat, seven of us sat in a ceremonial sweat lodge to get our new names.
I was one of the first to receive my new name. I remember thinking that I better like this shit. That it better look and feel beautiful and easy to brand.
As I turned over my rock in the sweat lodge, I remember seeing my new name imprinted for the first time.
Vira Lalita. Gentle wisdom.
It was Sanskrit.
I gasped as I saw the name Lalita.
I was given my grandmother's name.
My grandmother had died less than a year earlier and Lala was her nickname. In Spanish, Lalita is the smaller version of Lala.
I started to cry. I felt like I had come full circle and knew that I had been guided to Pachamama, to that sweat lodge, and to the desire for a new name.
My grandmother had been such a strong presence in my life while alive and was an even greater supportive force while on my journey in Costa Rica.
Upon further research, I discovered that Vira Lalita also means the following:
Vira means brave, heroic, and powerful. Lalita is “she who plays”. Playful, desirable, lovely, charming, and gentle. Lalita is also a Hindu goddess meaning Divine Mother.
No one at the center knew my grandmother was called Lala and that’s the inherent magic of spirit.
Vira Lalita immediately became a catalyst of sorts. It furthered my own journey of self-excavation to retrieve what I’d buried so long ago. It was time to uncover my true nature and rewrite the stories that led me to bury myself to begin with.
One year later, I'm at a business conference, chatting with Seth Godin —friend and mentor — sharing my desire to be on stage.
My business is growing in leaps and bounds and I miss speaking and performing, I shared as we sipped tea. The one key obstacle standing in my way has been the ongoing inner conflict of who I am, I continued.
Am I really Lalita? Even if it sounds like the infamous novel Lolita?
And am I ready to step back onto stage with a new name?
Am I willing to truly commit to this new name? This new identity.
In that moment, I realized I needed to choose the name I felt more empowered by. That this wasn’t about anyone else; it was about me. This was , in fact, the core lesson I’d been learning over the past two years.
In that moment, it felt obvious. While I loved Lauryn, I felt empowered and aligned with Lalita.
Changing my name has come with uncertainty and backlash, too.
First off, most people, unless Latin or Indian, have a hard time pronouncing the name Lalita.
Secondly, friends I expected to fully support my decision, surprised me with powerful objections, saying my new name felt ghetto or weak. I found it interesting to see my friends mourn the loss of Lauryn in similar ways as I had.
Thirdly, I’d built my own mini-empire on the back of “Lauryn”. To continue with a new name felt like I was throwing everything away. This made me question if entering the world as Lalita was the right decision.
I didn’t come here for approval.
I came here to express myself and expression is a personal, fluid choice. It’s a gift. I do best when I give myself the space to express my ever-changing ecosystem and Lalita is a key part of that of that.
Lalita is a bold choice, but it’s my choice. It’s the beginning of a new chapter in my life, one where I dictate my own powerful story and declare who the f*ck I am, no matter how much or how often I change.
I’ve got to claim what’s mine in this lifetime and climb into my own throne. #queening #in #full #effect
It’s my duty to honor who I am, especially when the world challenges me.
So allow me to formally introduce myself.
Me llamo Lalita.
Estoy encantada de conocerte.