About My New Name

Those of you who know me from my previous work at Entertainment Weekly or SexyFeminist.com, or those of you who know me from real life, might notice a new addition to my name at the top of this website. I’ve decided to incorporate my new Dharma name — which signifies my recent taking of the Zen Buddhist precepts, a.k.a. my becoming an “official” Buddhist — into my professional name. There are a few reasons for this. I hadn’t even considered this as an option in the months leading up to my Jukai ceremony, even though I was excitedly anticipating getting a fun new name that people at our Zendo would call me. But when I heard our abbess, Roshi Enkyo O’Hara, announce my new name, “Keishin,” in the ceremony, I suddenly wanted it in my everyday life. First, it’s pretty. Second, it means something along the lines of “relentless pursuit of truth,” which is both a reflection of the non-fiction writing I do, and the standard I want to maintain when pursuing it. It’s a constant challenge to bring Zen principles into one’s everyday work, especially work as noisy as pop culture writing, and I appreciate the reminder. Third, I’m tired of being mixed up with the bazillions of other Jennifer Armstrongs out there, especially the ones vying for top billing on the Internet. I am not a storyteller/musician (actually, I sort of am, but I am not this awesome-looking bagpipe lady), nor am I a children’s book author, a historical novelist, or a very prolific local news reporter who’s been clogging up my Google alerts lately.

I used to swear I’d never change my name, not for marriage nor for anything else. Jennifer Armstrong is simple, strong, and all-American. I loved it as a byline name for the past 15-plus years of my career. But then the Internet came along and wrecked all that. And Buddhism fixed it. Everything balances out in the end.

So I now give you my new name: Jennifer Keishin Armstrong.

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