Shielding is the second part of the esoteric practices grounding & shielding. Shielding is usually presented as a visualization exercise that's meant to protect you from anything ever. Perhaps something like this:
Imagine your aura (the energetic substance surrounding your body) as a bubble extending 6 feet above you, 6 feet below you, 6 feet in every direction. It's only your energy, your energy is clear, and no one else's energy affects your aura.
That's all well and good, but when you really need to protect yourself, you need more than a visualization exercise--you need boundaries and you need to assert them. Which can be hard if you're not clear on what those are and how it feels to have healthy boundaries and how it feels to assert one's self.
Musicians are incredibly sensitive people. We pick up on subtle body language cues, can sense someone else's entry into a piece of music without even being able to see them. We are feelers. As singers, not only are we incredibly sensitive people, but whatever we do, however we feel, and what we're thinking is reflected in our voices. Singers have got the double-whammy of feeling.
Singers often feel very vulnerable. And frequently we are dealing with a double-standard: we're part of the performing ensemble, however we ARE the instrument. We're up front, letting it all hang out, looking as fabulous as possible in the process, and we are completely exposed. We are part of the group, yes, however if we mess anything up, we have nothing to 'blame it on' but ourselves.
This is where grounding and shielding come in very handy. (Check out grounding here if you haven't yet.) Grounding helps keep you centered and clear in your mind; shielding helps you protect your center and stay clear on your goals. Now that's a winning combination!
5 Steps to practice self-protection and assertiveness (a/k/a Shielding)
1. Find tools that assist you in steering your own ship.
If it's helpful to visualize your aura as extending, impenetrable, fortified by steel and, if need be, protected by 6-inch, razor sharp tentacles that would injure anyone who tried to tread on your boundaries.
That's an esoteric way of saying "See yourself as strong, unshakable, with a solid, core belief that you are valuable and you are skilled; if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, you will stand up for yourself in whatever way is appropriate to the situation."
If you are strong and protect yourself well with exercise, keep it up! If it takes needlepoint, knitting, or meditation, do it. Find what works for you and keep it up!
2. Control only what you can control. Leave the rest.
There's nothing worse than feeling like you're completely out of control...of everything...so find what you're in charge of. You're in charge of your business--learning your part, researching the music, making sure you're on-time, having your performance clothing ready to go.
You can't control that cello player who plays all wonky, the giant wasp flying around the conductor's head, or the guy in the 3rd row on the left who forgot to turn off his cell phone. Again.
If you can do something about it directly, do something. If not, learn to push right on through it until you can get away from it.
3. Know when to separate yourself from negativity & gossip.
When you feel negative and it's not your natural state of being, it's time to do some centering and strengthening. Nay-sayers are tough to deal with, most especially ones that say gigantic negative things with a smile on their faces. If you feel positive, or even neutral, feel it. But separate yourself from others' negativity. It's theirs, so leave them to deal with it. (More to this in #4.)
Gossip will destroy relationships faster than you can say "You know what I heard?!" Participating in gossip is talking about other people behind their back, spreading information that you know isn't true or that you don't have the right to tell about other people; it's unhealthy because it creates a triangulation between you, the person with whom you are speaking, and the person you are speaking about. To put it in plant terms: leaves of 3, let it be. Nobody likes poison ivy. So if you're gossiping, you're the poison, Ivy.
So while you can't control the fact that everyone's gossiping about the conductor doing you-know-what with you-know-who, you can choose not to spread the rumor and you can choose to change the conversation.
Remember that sometimes we all fall into the gossip trap. We are human, afterall. We do it without even noticing it. If this happens, get centered and strengthen yourself so you can steer clear of it and move on.
4. Your new mantra: "Not my circus, not my monkeys!"
Drama. It's for the theater, the opera stage, the concert stage, the rehearsal space and nowhere else. Use this mantra as often as needed....and then 5 more times.
Because it's not your circus, nor are they your monkeys.
5. Carry compassion with you.
John Watson said it best:
Be kind; everyone is fighting a hard battle.
You will probably never know the battles that others face every day. And you may never know what keeps them going.
There's this guy in my neighborhood, for instance, whom I was most certain I would pelt with old shoes if I lived next to him. He mows his lawn for hours on end, all exact rows lined up perfectly, then gets out the leaf-blower and blows the grass clippings off the decorative rock around the trees. And there are a lot of decorative rocks.
One night as I was walking past I thought bitterly, "If I lived next to him, I'd sell my house and move! He makes so much noise! On the nicest evening of the week!" Then it occurred to me that for a lot of people, they have one activity that they hang on, it's their weekly salvation. And for this guy, it might be taking pride in his lawn. Perhaps his job his horrible and the only thing that helps him in summer is creating a beautiful lawn and being outside.
I could be TOTALLY WRONG, but that thought certainly gave me peace.
Speaking of peace, it's important to carry compassion for yourself. Carry compassion for times when you haven't asserted yourself, for the times when you've gossiped, for times you've gotten into other peoples' circus'. (Circi? ;) )
Compassion is beauty and strength in one.
What helps keep you strong and assertive? We'd love to hear your thoughts below.