Posts Tagged protection

Shields – Front and Back

I’m often asked about Shields. Usually it’s in context of energy work, protection, personal defence against negativity. That’s fine, as this is something that we will likely encounter in our lives and so have to deal with.

But how often do we consider what’s keeping those shields up, or what’s behind them?

All my life, I’ve been told what to think. Society does that, after all – from marketing billboards, to advertisements on television and via social media. But also from teachers, bosses, friends and family. Everyone has their ideas and wants to share them. I’m sharing my opinion right now.

The difficulty comes when someone is determined that their opinion is better, truer or more valid than your own. You have to give in to their Truth, because they’re right. End of discussion.

I wrote of Trolls yesterday, and suspect this is a logical progression. How do we deal with those who cross that line between a thoughtful suggestion and a demand? Often the root is intention – genuine caring versus a wish to dominate or ‘win’. Sometimes the demand stems from an insecurity – others must agree with this person, or they are somehow insulting him/her by insinuating that they are actually wrong.

I’m not going to get into that again today – I’m sure you all have experience of this to some extent. But it can be hard to deal with, and this is where the request for shields comes in.

Overbearing co-workers, demanding relatives, pushy friends… these aren’t Trolls, are they? They’re usually just other people who genuinely feel that they’re doing their best, without realising how uncomfortable they make us.

Or is it actually a problem with Me? Is it that I’m being challenged in ways I’m not comfortable with, and so want to hide rather than deal with the issues?

We throw our shields up and back away. These can be psychic/energetic or physical – going home and closing the door is a good reaction, to claim your own space once again! But once we’ve done that, then what?

We can whinge about the Troll or the person forcing their opinion. They don’t understand me. Sometimes that’s true, and we must respond accordingly.

But as we stand behind our shields, taking time to think, so we can place our feet, take a breath and consider ourselves as well.

What about this is making me uncomfortable? Is it the manner in which the ideas are being pushed, or do I genuinely disagree? Can I articulate my thoughts now, in this safe place? Am I able to consider a response, or would I prefer to keep hiding? I could always just leave, or avoid the person altogether…

We fuel our shields from our selves. If the ground beneath our feet is uncertain, so the protection will crumble; but if we are able to identify our own personal Truths, then our foundation is firm.

I read of a simple exercise to find your own Truth, to see what it feels like. Give it a try:

State your name: eg ‘I am Cat’.
Now state a wrong name: ‘I am Bernard’.

Can you feel the difference?

Try other obvious lies. Play with this. ‘I’m the world’s best accordion player.’ ‘I really like cucumber.’ ‘My favourite singer is Justin Bieber’. You get the idea.

Now try stating your truths with this in mind. ‘I think that this won’t work’. ‘I’m sorry, but I don’t agree.’ ‘This might be a better option.’ ‘I don’t like that colour at all.’ Keep playing, with negative and positive angles, and levels of firmness. See what suits best.

Try stating some of the things you’ve been told so confidently. How do they feel? ‘I’m sure I can find time for that assignment.’ ‘I’d love to wear that outfit.’ Is it true? Were you just whinging, or do you genuinely disagree? Note how strongly you feel, see the difference in emotional tone.

Explore which of these statements is true to you. Each one can be a brick in your shield-wall (if it’s even needed now), but crafted with care. You are standing firm, but also remaining flexible – encouraging discussion and debate, connection and understanding, from within a place of safety that is held by you. You are standing up as equally valid, with a voice to be heard.

And you might start to notice the other person’s walls in turn. If your truths simply bounce off theirs, maybe it’s time to highlight that they’re not listening; or even to step away. Show people the truth of you, not an imagined version that they might be projecting – or which you have helped to build.

I see this a lot in Paganism, because spirituality is a topic which is deeply heartfelt to many people. Passions incite strong opinions, and often descend into all-or-nothing arguments. But they don’t necessarily need to.

I’ve been noticing those who listen versus those who don’t; individuals who seem to be seeking confrontation and argument, not discussion. Shields that are so inflexible, the person behind might not even know why they’re arguing at all – it’s just habit, or that sense of ‘because I should.’ Or fear of being exposed as ‘wrong’.

Take time to consider what’s behind your shields – and whether they work with you or keep you imprisoned.

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The Dark Side

Years ago, I was quietly told that it was a tricky thing to be a ‘public’ Pagan. You raise your head above the parapet, you’re liable to get it shot at.

This is entirely true (and not just of Pagans, of course!). When you publicly identify as anything, there are those who will take umbrage at this, whether for your perceived audacity at doing so, or just that they think you’re wrong because they don’t like what you do.

In Paganism, there’s a practice that’s come to be known as ‘Bitchcraft’. This kind be genial – gossiping around campfire, for example, tipsy joking with no real malice – or nastier, more insidious talk. Words, as we know, are powerful things.

As I’ve said before, I’ve been on the receiving end of ‘How dare you’ diatribes before, generally for the reasons above. I try to be open to discussion and comment, and so must expect the negative with the positive. The difficulty comes when the muck-thrower is more interested in the throwing of muck than discussing something with a view to resolving the issue.

Together with other public Pagans, I’ve been accused of some ridiculous things, with arguments which go around for as long as they’re sustained, because the basic premise is incorrect and the person with a chip on their shoulder doesn’t actually want to discuss matters – they want to have an argument. Because they’re right, automatically, and anyone who disagrees is wrong. There’s no debate with such an approach. This is the time to ‘not feed the trolls’ (in internet terms) and just walk away; this fire will not burn without fuel.

However, situations can become even nastier. I’ve heard of people actively persecuted by Pagan-identified groups, with physical assault and damage being caused because the recipient does not practice in a way that the attackers consider ‘right’ or ‘proper’. I recently received a letter from someone who doesn’t want to identify publicly as Pagan – she’s still finding her way – and yet her local group are sending her threats, curses, physically damaging her property and generally assaulting her… because she won’t ‘come out’ as Pagan. This is, to my mind, wholly unacceptable on many levels.

A few months ago, I was asked at a Moot about the ‘Pagan Police’, and what to do if there was information about assaults occurring within a group or coven. I’d never come across such a thing myself, but presumed that the Pagan Police were actually the same as the real Police – if someone is acting illegally, that’s true no matter what their faith. There is the Pagan Police Association in the UK, who act for Pagan Police Officers, so it’s safe to presume that you won’t get mocked if the issue is a faith-based one (but you may need to push to find a representative in your area). Groups such as the Pagan Federation also have legal representation for Pagans as needed.

But it was then suggested that a ‘Pagan Police’ is somehow formed. A group which moderates behaviour within our ‘community’. I thought about this… would such a thing not be impossible at base, and vigilanteeism at worst?

Think about it. The Pagan Community is a very amorphous thing, made up of multitudes of different views. Those in authority are often regarded with suspicion, even when they are trying to help (see the point of this post); many groups who work hard to represent Pagans tirelessly and often thanklessly (the PF, TDN, OBOD, etc) can be on the receiving end of perceived ‘power-seeking’ or accused of taking ‘authority’ positions. This can be a real no-win situation. How can we have authority if we won’t accept authority, railing against it with suspicion – even though it’s made up of folk like ourselves?

So it’s up to us, in our individual communities, to moderate behaviour. Sometimes that does mean walking away. At other times, it may mean bravely taking a stand – retorting to the gossip or slanderer. A simple ‘That’s extremely rude’ perhaps, or ‘Actually, I don’t agree.’ ‘Why do you think that?’ is a great precursor to discussion. Sometimes the person is only whinging to make noise, and quiet down once challenged – or even be inspired to think about why they’re saying what they are.

Each situation is unique, I think, because each person is. Sometimes the nay-sayer is crying out because they’re been abused themselves, and need help or support. It can be a matter of ego too, the desire to be heard. We can listen to these people, then, and respond appropriately. The challenge here is not to becomes uncaring bullies in return.

However, greater difficulty comes when boundaries need to be set and proper behaviour has to be moderated. This isn’t ‘power-gaming’ – this is polite society, with respect for others. If you speak up, you will be heard, so expect to receive a response. You might not like that, but then it’s up to you to respond in turn. This is intelligent adult discussion. Sometimes it’s not as simple as ‘I’m right/you’re wrong’ – Paganism accepts shades of grey (doesn’t it)?

Issues such as those I’ve mentioned cannot always be solved with ‘love and light’. The peaceful nature of many Pagans makes conflict hard to deal with. But sometimes we need that maturity and strength, taking a stand to remind others that they cannot always get away with acting like children – or those whom they rail against.

And taking responsibility does not mean you’re seeking power; sometimes it’s just standing up for yourself and/or others. This is needed. We walk between worlds: our own perceived ‘Pagan’ society and the ‘Muggle’ world. We’re not playing, as we see that our words and actions have consequences.

I stand up and represent my Paganism, in my Druidry. I get challenged, and I’m glad of that – often the questions inspire me to think more deeply about a matter! But my way may not be yours, and occasionally you may need to be challenged as well. Great care must be taken that passion does not turn into denigration or abuse.

What are we doing… how are we listening and responding?

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The Need for Protection

Pagan Basics: Shielding. Why, How, and What From?

You wouldn’t go out in the snow (or sun, or rain) without the appropriate clothing to protect you. Nor tap into a live current, or handle a blazing fire. So why should working with any other sort of energy be different?

I’ve found a lot of practising Pagans tend to be rather blase about shielding. It’s like stretching before a run – those who know, do. Those who don’t… hurt afterwards (and accomplish less).

Why do we assume ‘oh, it’ll be all right’, and then skip it to get to the ‘good’ bits? Because, quite honestly, that assumption stems from the vague idea that what you’re doing isn’t actually that important. A version of ‘it’s not really real, so it doesn’t matter.’

If that’s your point of view, stop with this path. It’s not for you. It requires someone who’s willing to put in the work at every stage, from the foundation upwards.

You’re here, so I’m presuming you’ve some knowledge of working with energy. Whether consciously in ritual or unconsciously in your daily life… because, after all, you have. From the nastiness of a crowded shopping¬† centre in the January sales, to the peace of a hilltop at sunset, you will have experienced the feeling of different energies impacting on your own. It’s just a matter of working in relationship to that.

This is a key skill within Druidry. If you follow this road, you will find yourself actively noticing those energies daily as you learn more of your connection to the world around. This isn’t just for formal ritual.

One of the first things that Paganism 101 teaches us is how to Cast a Circle. Why? Circles are cast to protect, from within and without, both individual or group. But (contrary to what the Ceremonial Magicians will tell you) your own personal circle can be any shape. It’s yours, after all. It’s a matter of focusing on your own energy to affect that around – in other words, magic. Or Quantum Physics, depending on your point of view.

And it’s not necessarily all about the correctly coloured candles in the correct places at the correct times. It’s about you, now, this moment, being able to look after yourself. A little like Pagan Self-Defence. Practice, and after a while, it becomes instinctive.

I’ve found a variety of ways of creating personal shields. From the slightly ritualised, based on the ‘Spoils of Annwn‘, to a quick visualisation from ‘Stargate‘, I’ve worked with ideas suggested to me, translated into a way that works for me. When I first started out, I was protecting myself from something both very physical and also intangibly threatening – so I envisaged myself armed with sword and shield. At other times, I surrounded myself with a net of beautifully crocheted thread, that catches those energies that may harm.

But even now, I can forget… and soon feel the overwhelming awareness of the world taking hold and attempting to drag me under. This isn’t necessarily negative or ‘evil’ – it’s just the sheer amount of energy that everything in the world gives off, again consciously or unconsciously.

Consider that crowded shopping centre. The screaming child, the harrassed mother, the worried unemployed person, the pain of the old lady in the wheelchair, the tiredness of the staff. Multiplied by the number of people. Every curse is a physical blow, every internal sob felt in your own chest. And there’s no natural light, the very air is recycled, the ground under your feet concrete above a car park. Your roots can’t stretch that far, the natural world seems so far away…

It’s not about the formal fighting of mystical demons. It’s about using your own focus to protect yourself daily, when such onslaughts occur. They’re not necessarily directed at you (although they certainly can be), but you need to respond.

Yes, it’s difficult. This is one of those tasks that is constant ‘practise’, every time – because every time, it’s a subtly different situation. You still have to deal with it.

One of the quickest ways to protect yourself is to find a quiet place as best you can (a handy bench, a corner booth in a coffee shop, or even the stall of a public lavatory). Centre yourself. Root down, ground if you can. If you’re in plain sight, don’t worry – everyone else will pass by, thinking you’re just having a rest. Close your eyes a little if it helps and is safe to do so.

Imagine that circle surrounding you, coming from within to surround you. Visualise it however you prefer – a bubble, a web, a ball of light, even a circle of thorns. Feel the space inside as your own, protected from the outside hubbub. Breath. Use a talisman if you find it helps: a necklace pendant, telephone charm or tiny medicine pouch.

You aren’t disconnecting from the world. You’re standing in your own energy, within it. Know your intention, what you mean that ‘safe’ energy to be, what its’ purpose is. Let the¬† protective layer settle around you. Then stand up and go about your business. Finish your tasks, and when you’re in a place of safety, let yourself breath out… and the shields can relax. Ground once again, remember your connection. Then – and this is most important – find some solid food.

It’s important not to cut yourself off completely. Investing too much energy into those protections for too long can go too far, blocking out the world, so that you’re detached and unable to understand or truly see what’s going on around. You’re still part of the life on this planet – total disconnection is harmful in itself (worse, in its way, than returning to the ‘sleep of ignorance’ that most people are content to stay trapped within).

Working with your own energy (as well as that around you) is part of your Pagan practice. That’s another topic in itself, but the key word here really is ‘practice’. Learn your own power and stand in it. If you lose that connection, work to regain it. Exercise, gain strength in your energy.

It’s a constant task. But if we are to live in conscious relationship to the world around, we need to be able to recognise and ride the tides – and know how to help others when they start to sink.

 

Note: This is a very large and complex topic – if you require any further information, please feel free to message me privately.

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