How I became Leela
I was born March 10, 1995, in Essex County NJ. The name my parents chose for me was Jaeda Lahnee Sykes. During the summer of 2021, I decided to legally change my name to Leela Mary Zile. "Your name was beautiful! Why did you change it"?! Many people have asked and I'm sure some of you are wondering the same. Well, I agree, Jaeda Lahnee Sykes is a beautiful name so, let's talk about it.
Have you ever heard the story of how Jacob became Isreal after his struggle with God changed him? Although, I am not catholic - I think the Pope tells this story best In this article. Jacob (from the bible) was a go-getter. He managed to obtain everything he wanted by being crafty and creative (even scheming when necessary). But he lacked something, a living relationship with his own roots (something I can relate to). One day he heard the call to return home where there was conflict between him and his family (specifically his brother Esau). During the night his mind was racing with thoughts about what would happen once he arrived. Suddenly a stranger grabs him and begins to wrestle with him. That stranger was God. Wrestling with God is a metaphor for prayer.
Rember, at this point in the Bible, Jacob has already shown himself able to dialogue with God. He sensed God as a friendly and close presence. But that night, he went through a long struggle w/God that almost took him out in fact, he would never walk the same again. He emerged from the fight changed! A change of name, a change in his way of life, and a personality change.
The story of how Jaeda became Leela is similar to how Jacob became Isreal. One night in May 2021I found myself struggling against the unknown. I was bogged down by anxiety and depression, holding on to childhood trauma and family drama, and fearful for the future. So much so that I almost lost my sanity. I had an experience that lead to hospitalization. In the hospital, I was isolated, stripped of my belongings, ignored, confused, forced to take medications that were not medically necessary, and eat food that was not part of my diet. I remember fighting to be seen and to be heard while feeling angry and afraid.
What helped? I practiced Yoga, Asana and I recited this prayer "I am one with the infinite storehouse within me, and all my needs are met instantaneously". I would recite the prayer over & over again in moments of distress. Ironically shortly after I would receive a call or a visit from my partner, Brett Zile. Brett is a middle-aged white man. It's shameful to say yet the reality is I believe if he hadn't advocated for me, my experience would've been worse. Suddenly, I started to receive more than I asked for. I spent the rest of my time in the hospital resting, talking to people that I love (when I was able), and meditating. The best way to articulate what came up from me are these words from the pope.
We need not worry or fear - God will give us a new name, which contains the meaning of our entire life; He will change our heart and He will offer us the blessing reserved to those who have allowed themselves to be changed by Him. By holding on to events of the past and trying to control things far beyond myself I was impervious to (or blocking) God's grace. By surrendering/letting go I was able to make space to receive a beautiful invitation to let myself be changed by God.
Leela or Lila means divine play in Sanskirt (a sacred language in India).
The name aligns with my calling to live life playfully and with ease in devotion to God while building generational wealth and advocating for diversity, education, connection, love, acceptance, mindfulness, sensuality, sexuality, mental health, wealth, spirituality, and sustainable health practices in ways that are authentic to me.