Symbols have become important to me as I learn how to fight back against my fibromyalgia. Not only do I tend to do some things in threes, as 3 is an important number in Chinese medicine and other practices, but I have adopted a couple of symbols as my own and they have become tools for me to fight my fibromyalgia. The first time I mentioned doing things in threes to my husband, he was worried I was going to become OCD as well as dealing with my fibro. I assured him that’s not what I meant. I take deep breaths in threes. In my deep breathing, I breathe in for 3 seconds, pause, then breathe out for three seconds. It actually took me a bit to build up to this. I had to start out at 2 seconds and work my way up. There’s something about tying the relaxing effects of deep breathing to the number three that boosts its effect for me. When I practice yoga, I usually do sets of three complementary poses together. That’s pretty common in yoga practice though, it’s not something I made up on my own. When I practice other forms of meditation, or Qi Gong (Chinese practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation, with roots in Chinese medicine, martial arts and philosophy), I do things in threes or multiples of threes. One of the things I do in Qi Gong actually has me repeat the same motion 81 times on each side of the body. But that’s for another post.
According to Wikipedia, “a symbol is something that represents an idea, a process, or a physical entity. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning. For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for “STOP”. On a map, a picture of a tent might represent a campsite. Numerals are symbols for numbers. Personal names are symbols representing individuals. A red rose symbolizes love and compassion.”
I love all things Irish. My husband and I spent a month traveling around Ireland one summer during college. I fell in love with the country and the culture. My symbols are Celtic in origin, but you can choose a symbol from anything that has personal meaning to you. I wear a necklace all day, every day with my chosen symbols on it. This necklace has become like a shield for me. It helps to shield me from the stressors every day throws at me, the pain I feel every day, triggers that spike my pain, and anything that upsets me emotionally and therefore spikes my pain.
My symbols are:
The Celtic Tree of Life. As above, so below. The tree of life connects all forms of creation. It helps remind me to stay grounded and centered. We are connected to all things on this Earth and can draw power and support from them. I don’t go too far into this line of thinking, but I do find it comforting to think of so many sources of support surrounding me that I can tap into when I need them.
Brigid’s Cross. In Celtic religion and Irish mythology, Brigid (Brigit or Brighid) was associated with perpetual, sacred flames. She is the goddess of wisdom, excellence, perfection, high intelligence, poetic eloquence, craftsmanship (especially blacksmithing), healing ability, druidic knowledge and skill in warfare. It’s her healing ability that attracted me to her. I was at my worst when I stumbled upon Brigid and her healing abilities in Irish mythology. I figured I could use all the help I could get. Brigid was adopted by Catholicism and is also known as St. Brigid. Her symbol is the cross pictured above. I wear an updated version of her cross, pictured below. It’s actually a triple cross – threes again – with her sacred flames around it. It has a more Celtic feel with the interlocking knotwork of the triple cross.
When I’m getting stressed, or the pain is spiking, I grab my necklace and take deep breaths. I’ve done this so much now that just touching the pendants on my necklace calms me down. My necklace is a focus for me and helps me to breathe through a spike in the pain. This only works well for quickly passing spikes. For spikes that hang around for a while, or a full-blown flare, my necklace only works so well. It helps to calm my emotions which does help reduce the pain a bit. My mind relaxes and some of the stress dissipates. That’s not much relief in a full-blown flare, but it’s still some relief and I’ll take it. Symbols can be very powerful. Just look at the Cross in Christianity as an example. Each of us can choose our own symbols. It’s not like chosing a creed to live by but choosing something meaningful to you does give that symbol its own kind of power. For fibromyalgia sufferers, anything that can focus our thoughts and distract us from the pain, even for a moment, is a really good thing. Maybe you already have a symbol and don’t even know it. Think about it. Maybe finding your own symbol will help you in some small way, like it has helped me in my battle against fibromyalgia.