Friday, May 25, 2012

THE RACE: Hey, What's Your Symbol...

I recently read about how the Buddhists have something called "Eight Auspicious Symbols."  In Sanskrit, these symbols are known as "Ashtamangala," meaning "auspicious," which is an adjective meaning opportune or promising success.  Although I'm not Buddhist, I'm intrigued by many of their teachings and find it to be a beautiful religion.  Plus, my lucky number is 8 and I totally love symbolism, so this was right up my alley....

The Eight Auspicious Symbols (as described by Buddhanet - which cracks me up) are:

1.  The Right Coiled Conch
(symbolizing a melodious sound that awakens our nature from a slumber of ignorance and urges us to accomplish our own and others welfare)

2.  Precious Umbrella
(symbolizes preserving beings from illness, harmful forces, and obstacles)

3.  Victory Banner
(symbolizing the victory of activity of one's own and others body, speech, and mind over obstacles and negativities)

4.  Golden Fish
(symbolizing the fortunate nature of all living beings of "fearlessness, without danger of drowning in the ocean of sufferings, and migrating from place to place freely and spontaneously")

5.  Dharma Wheel
(symbolizing the ability to enable all beings to experience the joy of "wholesome deeds and liberation")

6.  Auspicious Drawing
(symbolizing the "union of wisdom and great compassion")

7.  Lotus Flower
(symbolizing the "complete purification of the defilements of the body, speech, and mind, and the full blossoming of wholesome deeds in blissful liberation")

8.  Vase of Treasure
(symbolizing "an endless rain of long life, wealth, and prosperity")

Now those are some empowering symbols!!  No wonder Buddhists are so happy!  

These symbols got me thinking:  What are my symbols?  What do I want to hold up as my banners of empowerment?  What encapsulates me?  As athletes, most of us have our weird little superstitions, pre-race routines, inspirational quotes, and lucky charms.  So why not add some symbols to the list of things to which we look for that added spark of determination, fearlessness, encouragement, grounding....

Here are the Eight Empowering Symbols that I've picked for myself:  

1.  Deer:  I tend to see a lot of deer, especially when I'm feeling a little low, am at a particular crossroads, or actually lost in the woods.  (Actually my favorite book growing up was Bambi Gets Lost, so maybe that's where the deer-thing comes from).  The deer symbolizes so many awesome qualities.  It represents the powers of nature that are not easily subdued.  Deer are adaptable (as they are found on every continent except Australia); they are light and agile on their feet (even when navigating boulders and rocks); they represent energy, independence and regeneration (as their antlers grow back each year); and they tell us to trust our gut instincts.  The spirt of the deer has many sides:  powerful, feisty, cautious, adventurous, and protective.  The deer is the runner in me.  

2.  Gerber Daisy:  This is my favorite flower.  The gerber daisy symbolizes innocence, purity, and cheerfulness.  Although I'm far from innocent and pure, this will remind me to approach every workout with a new, cheerful perspective, as if it's the first workout I've done, or the last one I may do.

3.  The Number 8:  A little redundant in the Eight Empowering Symbols, but since high school, 8 has been the lucky number of my best friend Brenda and me.  In volleyball we had "the power of 8" (although we both pretty much sucked at volleyball).  But the number 8, importantly, is like the infinity symbol - no beginning, no end.  There's power in the infinite loop of life and that power has no bounds when you have people to support you.  The number 8 reminds of the undying strength I can find in my friends and family to accomplish anything I want.  

4.  The Claddagh:  The Claddagh ring symbolizes love (the heart), friendship (the two hands), and loyalty (the crown).  I've worn a Claddagh ring since my best friend Brenda gave it to me many years ago.  It reminds me of the love and friendship I've been so blessed to have in my life and the many people for whom I want to stay healthy.  Plus, it's a symbol of my Irish heritage (that I hope to trace back some day) and reminds me that I represent all of my relatives who've come before me...without them, I wouldn't be here.    

Claddagh ring
5.  The Word "If":  I'll admit that I'm ripping this one off from the 4-time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington.  I'm reading her book, A Life Without Limits (which I'll review in a couple weeks) and there's a picture of her in there before a race, sitting quietly with a water bottle in front of her.  The caption says that on the water bottle she wrote the words to the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling.  I thought that was an awesome idea.  The poem is one of my favorites.  But instead of writing out the whole poem, all I need to remember is "if"...that one word says so much.  "If" I just try.  "If" I succeed.  "If" is boundless; it hold limitless potential.  Just like me....  

6.  Ladybug:  Like the deer, the ladybuy has many meanings.  Ladybugs always seem to find me and I try to protect them when they do.  Ladybugs can symbolize luck, love, and protection...all things that serve us well as athletes.  

7.  The Four Directions:  North, south, east, and west mean many things in different cultures. In ancient Celtic symbolism, for example, North meant earth or home; South meant energy or passion; East meant new beginnings; and West meant water or movement.  I've always felt pulled in many directions because of where my friends and family are - and that's a good thing. I feel that I can call any place home and any direction in which I travel will bring me love and new opportunities.  My mom instilled a sense of direction in me from a very young age, making sure I knew which way was north, south, east, and west.  As long as I know my directions, I can always find my way home.  

8.  A Glass of Beer:  At the end of a long day, a hard workout, or to celebrate some accomplishment, an ice cold glass of beer is the perfect complement.  It's good to remember that we need to raise a glass to celebrate life. And sometimes, the thought of a cold beer on a long hot run, is just the motivation I need!  

Maybe I'll find images for all of these and put them on a t-shirt.  Maybe I'll just draw one or two of them on the inside of my wrist before a workout or race - something to speak to me and remind me what I'm made of and what I'm working for when the going gets tough.  Sometimes all you need is a little symbolic reminder of what you're made of and why you're doing this....

What symbol or symbols would you choose?  You don't have to pick 8, but pick what encapsulates or motivates you.  Put them on a water bottle, a t-shirt, your wrist...something to give you a little spark of motivation when you need it.  


Jen said...

I just finished Chrissie's book, I'll be interested in hearing what you have to say about it, especially with your background in the sport. I love the idea of these symbols.

My road ID says, "If you can dream it, you can make it so". So that's one.

The letter E. It stands for the most precious being on earth to me.

Pearls. I wear them as a symbol now. It is E's birthstone.

The color pink because it reminds me of the 3day walk I did for my Mom.

"Not all who wander are lost" which is from Tolkein and I love the sentiment of that quote.

That's what I can think of off the top of my head, those things I refer myself back to frequently. I may have to ponder this some more. Thanks.

Life Through Endurance said...

Hi Jen. Just wanted you to know that my mom died yesterday very suddenly. She was only 58 & as you can tell from her comments on my posts, she was the most amazing mom & my best friend. I'm back home in Nebraska with the rest of my family now. Not sure when I'll re-surface, but thank you so much for your support. I always told my mom how I had 2 faithful readers - her & you.
Take care,

Jen said...

Oh Michele, I'm so sorry to hear that. I will keep you in my thoughts. I do recall her comments here and remember thinking how loving they were toward you. Take care.

Carilyn said...

Oh, Michele, just read your comment to Jen. I'm so, so sorry. Wanted to tell you how much I loved this post, but I will check back in with you soon. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.