Why I "changed" my first name

Why on Earth have I “changed” my first name? Why have I gone, after 30 years, from Maria to Majo? It started with an interview I had on the podcast with Emily LaFave Olson. She went back to her maiden name after taking her husband’s name. That felt ballsy (more like ovarian!) to me. Here’s a woman who reclaims her original family name, who makes a very large statement to the patriarchy, and who works with her husband so he doesn’t feel emasculated when she takes back her maiden name.

This conversation planted a seed in my mind. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a tricky relationship with my own first name “Maria José.” When I was two, we immigrated to Canada and kids made fun of my name – especially the José part because it was a boy’s name. Kids would taunt me by saying things like, "No way, José." As an immigrant trying to fit into a predominantly white English culture, I decided to cut out the José and make everybody else’s life simple – so there I was, just “Maria.” And how many immigrants or children of immigrants do you know who do this? So many beautiful names become essentially “colonized,” ripped from their mother language to make everybody else’s life easier.

At home, my parents called me by my full Argentinean name, either “Maria José” (especially when I was in trouble) or the nickname “Majo” (which is Ma from Maria, combined with Jo from José,  pronounced Ma-ho), or the nickname’s diminutive “Majito.” And at home is where I felt I most belonged and could be myself. In other words, my closest family calls me Majo.

In studying the heroine’s journey, I’ve learned that whether you’re a woman, minority, or someone who doesn’t fit into the dominant paradigm or system, you have to give a part of yourself up. There’s a part of yourself you learn to suppress, repress, erase, or obliterate so that you can assimilate and get by – so that you can avoid standing out. For some of us it’s in a big way, and for some of us it’s more subtle and sneaky, like our names.

As a creative woman, maybe you too have learned to suppress your very creativity, femininity, desires, feelings, shadow, magic, or overall witchiness because mainstream society can’t handle it and because women have been hunted for it in the past. The fear is real and deep: “If I’m weird, I might be killed.”

So, the truth is I haven’t changed my name, but have reclaimed myself. And in the process, I’ve learned a lot. First, it was hard for me to let myself be messy and transitional. I experimented with both “Maria José” and “Majo” and after some time, realized that “Majo” felt better and easier in this phase of my life as it would still allow me to have representation from the feminine (Ma) and masculine (Jo) sides of myself while still leading with the feminine.

And in researching the meanings for “Majo,” I was astounded: playful predecessor to the Flamenco dancer, “witch” in Japanese (swear on the Goddess), and the title given to empress-nuns in 12th Century Tibetan Buddhism.

It was clear to me that though this is my birth name, it was also given to me now by Spirit and my ancestors as I continue to enter into more power, confidence, and wisdom.

But still, the process of going from Maria to Majo is inconvenient (think about everywhere I’m plastered online) to seemingly burdensome to other people. After all, this was changing my first name and “personal brand” – the phase has felt awkward at first for some clients, friends, and family members who have always known me as Maria. Additionally, the "j" in Majo can be confusing to many English-speakers coming across it for the first time in written form, as the Spanish "j" is pronounced as an "h" in English.

But what I’ve also learned is this: If people truly love you, they want you to change. If people want you to fit an idea they have of you, they want you to stay the same. People gravitate towards comfort, and change is uncomfortable and sometimes confusing. In a recent interview with Grace Bonney from Design Sponge (coming out in a few weeks), she shared the importance of letting yourself evolve, even under the public eye. Let your brand, let your vision, let everything that you are change and grow and evolve. Your true supporters will respect and understand that. They’ll embrace and even celebrate it.

There’s so much we “default into” in this lifetime – choices we don’t make that are authentic to our true selves, but decisions and situations we literally default into. What would it mean to question these defaults and find a way to more greatly align with our higher purpose? It’s scary and seldom done. It's a privilege, but also an inevitable outgrowth of being intentionally on the path to evolve, and definitely a part of the heroine's journey.

It’s a special, historical, and polarizing time. Women everywhere are reclaiming their maiden names and words like feminism, nasty, and pussy. Immigrants are honoring, even protecting their mother tongues, cultures, and original names. It’s an important time for us to align into greater authenticity and purpose, take a stand against hegemonic forces that impose assimilation instead of celebrating differences and diversity.

So, sisters, to conclude: I have transitioned now from Maria to Majo, so please call me Majo. Don’t worry, Maria is still in there! She’s been integrated with José now.

This explanation has been long overdue and thank you for taking the time to read. But this little change is an example of something greater, a greater pattern about becoming more of who we are.

Do not be afraid to change, even after you’ve invested so much in one direction or way of being. You can still change if it feels authentic. Take what has always been yours. Reclaim it. Share it proudly. And don’t worry about naysayers, energy-vampires, haters, backlash, and other people’s discomfort – that’s all part of the process. Your lovers and friends will stand by you.



Photo by Jaclyn Le


Female Entrepreneurs + Creatives Rise {Moon Paper .05}

How are you doing this February? What’s coming up for you? It can be a tricky time of year after the sparkle of the New Year has passed and we get back into the daily grind. We may feel overwhelmed, lost, and floating in uncertainty about our path.  I’m here to let you know that’s completely normal. The election has forced us to wake up and step into more authenticity.

And given everything that’s happening politically and nationally, it’s imperative that we safeguard our energy and attention. It’s easy for the media to ruffle our feathers, and so we need to be mindful of what we consume and how it affects our system. Please consume with care; and consume with wisdom. Take care of your mental wellbeing and do not think of yourself as selfish for it. In order for us to do our deepest work and serve in the best way possible, we must focus on what matters most and not all the noise that surrounds us.

Here are some inspiring resources and opportunities for you to explore.


Discipline & Faith with Alana Nichols

I cried in this episode. Alana Nichols brings the meaning of heroine to a whole new level. She basically flipped her own mentality after being paralyzed from the waist down in a snowboarding accident. And now she’s a world-renowned athlete. But what really brought it home for me is the choice we have everyday: to see what we have instead of what we don’t have. If you’re looking to feel inspired, moved, to have your heart touched in a deep way, please listen to this woman’s story. In a recent email, she wrote to me, "It was a true privilege to chat with you and I so appreciate your emotional investment in my story.  I sincerely hope that this podcast will help and encourage women regardless of their hurdles."


Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers  by Lois P. Frankel

The premise of this book is hilarious: “Quit bein’ a girl!” and I couldn’t agree more as some of us still can’t call ourselves “women” and are stuck in an infantilized perception of ourselves. It’s time to unlearn some of the ways we've been socialized. It’s a tough love book that will comb through all the mistakes in how we act, speak, dress, and play the game in our professional lives. Her coaching tips are very practical and I may make this required reading for my private clients!


Global Entrepreneur Report by Scorpio Partnership

Sorry to get nerdy on ya, but I can’t help it.  Are you thinking of becoming an entrepreneur? Conducted among 2,600 entrepreneurs based in 18 countries, the study led by Scorpio Partnership reveals the emergence of a new generation of entrepreneurs under 35, "The Millennipreneurs." And it turns out female Millenial entrepreneurs are on the rise and planning for world domination.


Adobe’s Creative Residency Program

If you’re creative, check out this opportunity to get paid for a year and work on your side project. Adobe is not paying me to include this in my personal newsletter (though they are sponsoring the podcast), but I really wanted to let you know in case this residency resonates and you have the chance to get more eyes on your creative work. Now, don't let your inner critic get in the way. Even if you think you'll be rejected, apply if you're interested.


“The Talk” by Sharon Olds

In the sunless wooden room at noon

the mother had a talk with her daughter.

The rudeness could not go on, the meanness

to her little brother, the selfishness.

The eight-year-old sat on the bed

in the corner of the room, her irises distilled as

the last drops of something, her firm

face melting, reddening,

silver flashes in her eyes like distant

bodies of water glimpsed through woods.

She took it and took it and broke, crying out

I hate being a person! diving

into the mother

as if


a deep pond—and she cannot swim,

the child cannot swim.

~ Sharon Olds

Also, I have created an entire poetry section of my poems online. I believe poetry is the language of the soul and therefore deserves its own place in the world and certainly on my website.



P.S. In case you haven’t noticed, I am no longer going by Maria or Maria José, but by Majo (pronounced Ma-ho). I will explain why I have done this after 30 years in a later post.


Fall down and get up {6/6)

This article is the last in a series (now an ebook called the Magical Effects of Morning and Evening Rituals [MEMER]). If you haven't already, check out:

Prefer audio? These are all available on the Heroine podcast too. If you don't have iTunes, you can stream episodes here.

Happy New Year!

I want to talk about three things that have helped me develop a “reset” mindset when my rituals fall to the wayside.

First off: you’re human. You make mistakes. You aren’t perfect. And you’re certainly not a machine. I keep reiterating this point throughout the ritual series because I think it’s important. Far too many of us hold ourselves up to idealized standards of very disciplined people with high willpower. In a perfect world, maybe we would be like that.

But the truth is that even if you have designed your ritual (or set your new year resolution), by now it has probably morphed or lessened to some degree, or decayed altogether. That’s natural. Rituals take quite a bit of energy, intention, and smart environmental design to maintain. We have to design for the maintenance of rituals as much as the creation of them. So don’t be too hard on yourself. 

So, what is a reset mindset?

If you imagine a baby who is learning to walk. He or she falls numerous times, and the probability of success does not depend on the baby’s ability to keep walking, but on the baby’s ability to pick its little booty up again after he or she has fallen. Yah? That is more predictive of the baby’s success than anything else.

Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this in her book Big Magic in relationship to her writing practice. She says that what matters is whether you show up again to the page the next day, after you have failed, or it was a struggle, or you forgot to do it all together. Do you come back? Do you get back on the path when you fall off? Or do you abandon, forget, and quit? The key is to get back on the path and the ability to do that will make a big difference in your life.

Our ability to get back on the path towards the commitment to ourselves is what I’m calling a “reset mindset.” It’s the ability to look at where we are again, dust ourselves off, and put ourselves back on the track after we waver.

Ok, but realistically. What helps us develop this reset mindset? Keep in mind that this is a skill we have to hone and practice. To forget or abandon is the easy default.

Now for those three things that have worked for me that will help you, too.

The Immersive Experience

The first is what I call the occasional immersive experience. Most people complain and say things like, "Well I don’t want to pay for a retreat or immersive experience to help me keep going." But I see these as maintenance activities. Because the rituals we’re talking about involve creativity and/or rest, I say sign up for at least two immersive experiences per year – they could be programs or retreats – that help you deepen your relationship to the rituals in your daily life. Those things make a difference, and help build towards a muscle. Yes, you’ll get a boost in motivation after these experiences and then your rituals will naturally decay, but that’s natural. You can take another immersive experience. The metaphor might be like filling up your gas tank (gas being inspiration, energy, or motivation). You fill up for motivation and ride that out, and eventually you’ve got to fill up again. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Some people might argue that you grow dependent on these immersive experiences and never truly learn. But I would argue that there is a gradual learning that takes place after each immersive experience. As that knowledge grows your ritual decay times should become longer, but there are many factors that contribute to this so it's worth observing in your own life.


The second is community. Do you have other people in your life who have morning and evening rituals who you can talk to about them? I have soul sisters who live close by and we gather once a month to chat about things going on in our lives. These like-minded friends often reflect back to me positive lifestyle practices that I want to maintain (yoga, meditation, etc.) and we inspire and support each other. Community is a source of motivation, and finding a group of women or people that can “fill up your motivation tank” is essential. If you’re curious about this, I host a monthly women's group in SF. You can learn more about it here


The third skill that has helped me develop a healthy reset mindset is self-compassion. The big fear with self-compassion is that you’re “letting yourself off the hook,” or using it as an excuse to let your rituals fall to the wayside. Dr. Kristin Neff, psychologist at University of Texas, Austin and expert in self-compassion, debunks this idea. She says:

Remember that being compassionate to oneself means that you want to be happy and healthy in the long term. In many cases, just giving oneself pleasure may harm well-being (such as taking drugs, over-eating, being a couch potato), while giving yourself health and lasting happiness often involves a certain amount of displeasure (such as quitting smoking, dieting, exercising).  People are often very hard on themselves when they notice something they want to change because they think they can shame themselves into action – the self-flagellation approach. 

Most of us are so used to shaming ourselves into action in the short-term, maintaining a steady current of chronic stress that wears and tears on our nervous system over time. Self-compassion means accepting where we are in the present moment so that we can get back onto the path in a centered way. It’s ultimately the more sustainable tone and approach we can take in recommitting to our rituals.

A large part of self-compassion is seeing the common humanity in what’s happening. Saying things like, “Hey, rituals are hard. This isn’t easy. A lot of people struggle with sustaining rituals,” helps remind me that I’m not alone in this learning process and that there’s nothing actually wrong with me.

Another sub-component of self-compassion is mindfulness, which involves inviting yourself to recognize, allow, and investigate the decay with kindness. For example:

  1. Recognize: “Oh, I haven’t done my ritual for 3 days.” Notice what’s happening without judgment. Awareness is the first step.

  2. Allow: “What does it feel like when I don’t do my ritual? What did it feel like just now to realize I haven’t done it for 3 days?” Allow for any emotions to arise and be there.

  3. Investigate with kindness: “These things happen. I wonder what happened...or what I need to do to get back on track…”

*Note: these steps are borrowed from Tara Brach’s RAIN process.

Once you’ve become mindful about what’s happening, you’ve put yourself in a way better head and heart space to take appropriate actions and next steps.

Finally, let’s remember that self-compassion can have its dose of fierceness and “tough love” when needed. You can remind yourself of why you’re doing rituals in the first place in a way that is honest and sobering, yet without the self-flagellating thoughts of “you always…” or “why can’t you ever…” etc.

There you have it – the three ways to develop a reset mindset and get back on the path: periodic immersion experiences, community, and self-compassion.  

This wraps up my series on designing rituals, but it doesn't really end here. As we know by now, rituals take care to maintain. I hope you'll revisit the information in this series often for your continued support and guidance. I've lovingly put together this series into a complete ebook, with a unique introduction about my own background with rituals and why I decided to write about them. It's available now and you can order it here