WHAT IS SHIELDING?
Earlier this year we went over grounding and centering as basic meditation and energy management practices. This month we added shielding to our tool belt. What is shielding? It’s something I believe we all learn to do instinctively when we are young. There are many ways to do it, depending on our disposition and context.
For starters, think back to a time when you had to interact with a person who isn’t easy to be around. Imagine the feeling of not being able to escape a potentially unpleasant interaction. You brace yourself, right? That feeling of bracing yourself is one form of shielding. Pay attention to what is going on in your body when that happens. It’s highly likely that you freeze. Most people feel some sort of contraction: shoulders tense up, the jaw tightens, and maybe you even retreat into your mind or “go above the chest,” as one person put it. That makes sense: when we feel threatened, most of us feel safer in our minds than our bodies. Physically this may manifest as arms crossed over the chest in protection.
Going into “freeze” mode is just one of our defense mechanisms. Flight is another move, and we see this when people withdraw and isolate themselves. When we are unable to flee physically from a situation (as in the imaginary scenario above), energetically it is still possible to retreat. “Flight” in this context includes giving someone the “cold shoulder,” pulling your energy so far inward that you “become small,” or just shutting down.
Fight is the third mode of defense we use. Some get “battle ready” and put up energetic shields. People report feeling “focused” and “fiery.” I also place arms crossed over the chest in an aggressive, rather than defensive, posture into this category.
DOWNSIDES OF SHIELDING
While these types of shielding are done in the name of self-preservation and can be an effective means of protection, drawn to the extreme and continued long after the danger passes, can turn into maladaptive behaviors, such as withdrawal, accompanied by chronic pain (e.g., in the neck and shoulders) from holding so much tension all the time.
What’s more, in the most immediate sense, shielding in the energy of fight, flight, or freeze can be ineffective. This is because the very person you are trying to shield can often sense, even if unconsciously, that you are shielding. Think about what happens when someone gets aggressive with another person on a crowded the train. Some people automatically go stone-faced to avoid escalating the conflict. But what often happens in that situation is that the antagonist feels shut out and and is compelled to get even more aggressive.
Shielding can backfire even in non-violent situations. I’ve personally experienced trying to shield myself from an overwhelming person by putting up an energetic wall, and that person literally got up from her seat, walked all the way across the table to where I was seated, and took my face in her hands so I could give her eye contact while she spoke to me. I had just learned new ways of shielding just days before this encounter, and it solidified my decision to put them immediately into practice.
RECOMMENDED WAYS TO SHIELD and MAINTAIN BOUNDARIES
Here I list some methods of shielding and maintaining your energetic boundaries in ways that are conscious, rather than reactive (fight, flight, freeze).
White Light Shield
This is perhaps the form of shielding most people are familiar with. There are many ways to do this through visualization and breath, but the basic technique is to bring down white light from the heavens into your body and breathe it out into your aura until you feel (or imagine yourself0 completely surrounded by a protective field. This is your shield, so if you want to switch up the color of the light, by all means go ahead. I’ve heard of people playing with golden light or even pink light (the color of unconditional love).
This is a personal favorite of mine, and one I use all the time when I move through crowds. Remember the exercise of creating and destroying roses? This time we create at heart level a rose a foot or two before us, a foot or two behind us, a foot or two to our right, and a foot or two to our left. We give each rose its own grounding cord. …And that’s it!
The idea is that border roses are energetically subtle, so they won’t trigger others to react to it the way they would to a wall. You may find that people tend to maintain a respectful distance from you, or if they happen to move in closer, they will quickly glance back out of your personal space so you don’t feel invaded.
PLAY! –> Play around with putting up a wall versus putting up border roses. You’ll see it takes a whole lot more energy maintaining that wall. For even more fun, try putting up a wall made of wood vs. brick vs. stone and see what happens then!
This is a method for maintaining your energetic boundaries and staying centered during conversations. As with border roses, the golden platter is subtle enough not to trigger the other person, so they won’t insist on trying to get around your shield. Simply imagine a golden platter between you and the person you’re talking to. Instead of taking everything in, whatever that person says goes directly onto the platter, where you can then assess it. If it’s not something you want to take in, leave it on the platter! Everything on the platter can then slide or (if you give it a grounding cord) ground into the earth.
I really enjoyed our discussion last week, but if you have any further comments or questions about shielding, or want to share your practice, please do so below!