A Meditation on a Mantra: Sat-Nam By Sara Frykenberg

The following is a guest post written by Sara Frykenberg, Ph.D., graduate of the women studies in religion program at Claremont Graduate University.  Her research considers the way in which process feminist theo/alogies reveal a kind transitory violence present in the liminal space between abusive paradigms and new non-abusive creations: a counter-necessary violence.  In addition to her feminist, theo/alogical and pedagogical pursuits, Sara is also an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy literature, and a level one Kundalini yoga teacher. 

Sat-Nam.  It means, “My name is truth.”  Or if you will, I am who I am.  It is an affirmation in the Kundalini Yogic tradition, a greeting and a mantra.  According to one of my teachers, saying the phrase “Sat-Nam” even once changes something inside of you and accesses a resonant power attached to the vibration of the mantra.  Sat Nam.  I am speaking myself.  I am authentically me.

Sat-Nam. “I am who I am”… “I am that I am”… I write this interpretation of the mantra twice because it is uncomfortable for me.  It sometimes still feels blasphemous to utter this phrase: a phrase that I was taught in my Christian upbringing belonged to God and was the name He gave Himself (sic).  But when I feel this way, I am now inclined to ask myself, what is wrong with saying that I am me?  Do I really feel like this is a power that god/dess reserves for herself?  No.  I affirm me.  I exist. “I am,” means to me that I am living, breathing, lively and thriving in this space between life now and life later that I like to think of as an event horizon full of gravity and opportunity.

Sat-Nam.  I affirm that I am… alive and creative.  An affirmation is kind of like a relationship between what is now and what is possible if we create it.  I once took a course with Carol Christ in graduate school and every day she had us repeat the affirmation: “I am here.  I am whole.  I am _fill in the blank with your name_.”  I remember hating this affirmation some days, particularly the statement, “I am whole,” because I felt so broken.  But as the class progressed, I believed it more and more.  One day, a fellow student yelled out the affirmation: I AM HERE! I AM WHOLE! I AM CAROL!  We all laughed and cheered.  My teacher hugged me one day after class—after the class I felt least whole because things in my family were falling apart.  I felt better.  We danced on the last day of class, relieving our sadness over a particularly difficult reading.  Thank you, Carol.  I am here! I am whole! I am Sara!

Sat-Nam.  I am working so hard to be who I am so that I can create changes and relationships that actively challenge abusive habits and paradigms.  In Kundalini yoga, teachers do not touch their students though they will verbally instruct.  The body is supposed to be given the opportunity to rise to the level of its experience, instead of physically manipulated into a posture that might be too advanced or hurt the practitioner.  I felt this happen to my body.  My breath came more easily with time.  I could sit up straighter without fighting so much.  And after a particularly powerful (non-sexual) tantric yoga practice, I cried… because my body regained actual physical sensation it had lost because of past abuse.  I didn’t even know I had lost those physical feelings.  I am amazed by what my mind-body-spirit can rediscover.

Sat-Nam.  I am authentically myself in-between… in transition.  I sometimes feel uncomfortably un-Christian.  My parents would not define me as Christian because to them, if you are not an evangelical Christian who believes that Jesus is the only way to God, then you are not a Christian.  I don’t believe this.  I do believe that Jesus compellingly and beautifully teaches me about the intentional love that is god/dess.  I believe that my yogic practice helps me to see this as well.  However, I am more and more comfortably agnostic.  I am in between definitions of my spiritual path and, as a friend once told me, I seem to do better in-between.

Sat-Nam.  I am speaking myself… and I am speaking about my relationships.  The yogic philosophy I was taught tells us that we are actually each other and god/dess.  A popular Kundalini yoga song says, “I am who I am, that is that.  I am who you are, look at that.  You are who I am, can you imagine that?” … Well, I am not sure—I do not know if I believe this.  But, I do like the idea that bell hooks and Carter Heyward and so many other theorists and theo/alogians affirm: that our own well being is actually contingent on the well being of all other creatures.  This idea of mutual wellbeing also helps me imagine what it means to think of other people as a part of myself.  I am “bigger” in relationship, like Heyward suggests.  I am more me and feel more… victorious… victorious as I watched my friend stand up to sexual harassment this summer: grieved by her need to do so, but so joyful that she released the lie of shame and spoke her self.  My heart soared because she was not silent… I am more because of her, because of my sisters, because of my brother, because of my husband, my friends, my allies, my parents… and strangers who have inspired me amazingly.

Sat-Nam.  “Truth is my name.”  My actual yogic name is Sat Amrit Kaur.  Sat Amrit means: nectar of truth.  The sweetness of authenticity dripping like honey…  it is an affirmation, a mantra and for me, an intention.  Thank you for letting me share this meditation.

4 thoughts on “A Meditation on a Mantra: Sat-Nam By Sara Frykenberg”

  1. Sara,

    This blog has become a source of liberation for me and I thank you for sharing this story and this meditation. As each of us struggle with our own belief systems in the face of education (or the re-building process), reading posts like yours and from other contributers on this sight give me an affirmation that I am not alone in my own theological struggle. As your infantile or basic belief system is challenged and often obliterared, you are guided through your readings, investigations, writings, and conversations with mentors that assist in that process of building. Absent mentors, friends, or people that you can share, bounce ideas (freely) on, it can be a lonely and scary process (and sometimes depressing).

    My mother has also challenged me in my “belief” in that my interpretation of Catholicism is quite different from hers. My Christology is extremely low, and I take into account all traditions and influences. However,in the end, my faith is my own and I am not sure that you can put a label on it; like you it is more or less a slant.



  2. Sara, what a beautiful post. “I am who I am.” There is such peace in that statement. I admire and admit to a bit of envy toward traditions that encourage peacefulness with oneself. As a Mormon, the focus is always on change and growth and progress. We are never enough as we are, the goal is always to change and improve. In fact, our vision of heaven is one in which all we do is learn and progress and change. While I am drawn toward this vision of constant change, I also deeply appreciate the idea of accepting oneself as one is.


  3. You don’t need to be conflicted any more as Sat Naam is the name of God in both the new and old testament.

    Ex 3:14
    ” God said to Moses: I AM WHO AM. He said: Thus shalt thou say to the
    children of Israel: HE WHO IS, hath sent me to you ” . God is saying
    He is the identity of existence.

    Sat Naam means the Name or Identity (Naam) of Absolute Existence (Sat).

    John 14:6
    ” Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life ”

    When Jesus says He is the Truth, he is saying his identity is Truth.
    Sat Naam means the Name or identity of Absolute Truth. Sat Naam is
    therefore the Sanskrit translation of the Name of Jesus, as
    understood in of Christianity. It is also the way to the Truth, for
    by transcending on Sat Naam we follow it to its source.

    Revelations when talking about Jesus says:

    Revelation 19:13
    13 And he was clothed with a garment dipped in blood; and his name is called The Word of God. (Sat Naam direct translation)


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