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In the nearly two years preceding this ceremony, I sewed a rakusu, also known as a patch robe. With each teeny tiny stitch I said, aloud or silently, “Namu kie butsu” which means “I take refuge in Buddha”. The process of sewing was really wonderful (appealing to my detail-oriented & repetitive markmaking-inclined nature). I wound up applying the same process to embroidering my beloved Qayyum’s shirt for our wedding—with each stitch I recited our marriage vows.
On the part of the rakusu that hangs closest to my heart, I sewed a white piece of silk. Before the ceremony, my teacher, Fu, Abbess of Green Gulch Farm & Green Dragon Zen Temple, wrote my dharma name in Japanese calligraphy. I learned my dharma name for the first time in the ceremony. The first part of the name is where I am now and the second part could be seen as the source of my awakening or as a kind of assignment.
The name Fu gave me is: Suiko Ikusei.
Suiko translates to “light on water” and Ikusei translates to “nourishing life.”
When Fu said “Suiko Ikusei: Light on Water, Nourishing Life” in the ceremony, tears immediately welled up in my eyes. This name is more meaningful to me than she ever could have known.
Light on water!
What does light on water mean to me?
For me, it conjures images of Lake Michigan, where I spent my childhood summers with my grandparents and family. In those days, I thought God lived in Lake Michigan.
Years ago, I went to a clairvoyant in Berkeley. During the session, she told me that my spirit guides would make themselves known to me by twinkling and sparkling at me through the physical realm. In the car on the way home, as I drove over the Bay Bridge, sunlight caught on what must have been a droplet of water on my windshield. Never mind that it hadn’t been raining and there was no reason for water to be on the glass—the light danced and shone. I noticed it and my eyebrows shot up, “My spirit guides?” I thought. And then the light flared through the water and for a moment I was blasted with light. “Okay, okay! Careful, guys, I’m driving!” I called aloud.
Ever since then, when I see light shining on water—on droplets of water on windshields, on bits of dew on the grass, on the surface of the Connecticut River in the backyard of Art Monastery Vermont—I think of spirit. I think of divine energy. I think of a little tear in the fabric of conventional reality, through which is winking wisdom and compassion beyond all human understanding.
For some of you, spirit guides aren’t part of your world view. That’s totally fine. This is what light on or through water has meant to me. I don’t expect it to mean this for anyone else.
I went on to make abstract video pieces filmed from the bottom of a pool looking up into sunlight. In fact, following an intuition to film light passing through water led me to a breakthrough in my creative process.
And that is why when Fu gave me this name that acknowledges the quality of my being that is like light on water, I was deeply touched. To me it seems larger than she could have known, larger than she could have gathered from any of my friends & family who offered their reflections on my positive qualities. It is larger than the Buddhist context through which I received it, encompassing my unique conglomeration of spiritual influences, my most tender beliefs, my creative process, and my great love of life. It's seems to me that the name itself is a kind of numinous call that came through Fu.
Before the ceremony, I did not expect to use this dharma name in my every day life. Not knowing what the name would be and no longer living at the temple, it seemed lovely, but abstract. Now that I have received this name and it has touched me so deeply, I want to embody it. I want to be reminded, again and again, of what this name calls forth in me.
So I invite you all to call me Suiko (soo-EE-koh).
(Maybe it helps to remember it as "Sue Eco"?)
Every time someone calls me Suiko I get a little jolt of joy.
I’m not eschewing Betsy. I’ve always liked that name and I have no problem with the person that name represents to me.
And I am excited by the idea of fully stepping into Suiko.
And so I let go of Betsy.
I will be transitioning BetsyMcCallArt.com to Suiko.art in the coming days.
And now, please do your best to call me Suiko.
To call me in as Suiko.
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