Just like we take care of our physical bodies, we should take care of our less-physical bodies. That’s where a set of skills sometimes called psychic hygiene come in.
Cleansing is the energy equivalent of having a shower or bath – getting ourselves clean, washing away any grime from the day. Shielding and warding sound all spooky – but really, they’re about shelter, about making a space for us to be that’s secure and comfortable. They can even be a little bit like clothing: a way for us to choose what we share with the world around us.
Most of the time, some very general techniques go a long way – just like in our shower or bath, the basic concept (apply soap, scrub, rinse) goes a long way. The most basic methods don’t take any extra tools, though there are a few things you can use that can make the process easier or more fun.
How do you find the ‘dirt’?
Just like in the physical world, some stuff is easier to see than others. There are two approaches. You can either just do an overall good scrubbing, whether or not you sense anything particular (like you probably do when bathing already.)
The other option is that you may find – especially as you practice other energy and magical skills – that you’ll feel areas of your body where energetic grunge seems to stick and clump up. You might feel these as patches of ick (sort of like itchy skin or slime or mud), you might feel tightness or tenderness there. If you tend to hear energy rather than see or feel it, it sounds like a sort of buzz or fuzziness to me.
Basic shower method:
Center and ground yourself. As you stand in the shower, let the water running over you wash away any energetic dirt and grime that may have stuck to you. Visualise it flowing down the drain, away from you.
You can do this in the bath, too – just make sure to get your whole body wet, and to make sure you visualise the water running all the way down and out your drain and far away from you.
Use an appropriate soap:
There are lots of great artisan soap makers out there, many of whom make soaps with sea salt, cleansing clays, or cleansing herbs (see below for ideas) Using one of these in your daily shower or bath can be a great quick way to focus on energy cleansing without a lot of fuss.
Either a handful or two of sea salt in your bathtub, or a salt scrub (some simple instructions on making one are here) are great choices. Salt is a powerful energetic cleanser, and it’s also great for most skin. If you don’t have sea salt, other salt will do just fine, and it doesn’t need to be the incredibly fancy or expensive stuff.
Purifying incense or smoke.
Many traditions use incense or smoke to help purify and cleanse a space or person. Some people use sage or sweetgrass (both common in various Native American tribal traditions), but other kinds of incense can be used and may be more appropriate for your background (and less appropriative).
Brush the smoke up and down your body (and make sure you get your back, and the underside of your feet, and the top of your head).
Add herbs to your bath, or to a hair rinse:
The easiest way to do this is to make a pot of tea, strain the herbs, and pour the tea into your bathtub, or use it as a hair rinse. You should do a spot test first to make sure you don’t have allergies. (put a little on your skin at another time – the inside of your elbow is good – and check for any reaction.)
Generally, you use about a teaspoon of herbs for every cup of water for the rinse, and then add that to your bath. For a bath or hair rinse, I usually do about 4-6 cups of water, so about 2-3 tablespoons of herbs.
Good herbs include hyssop, lavender, or rosemary, but there are many others. Do some research, and try out some different choices! (And as always, make sure to check out the safety warnings and cautions – for example, some people with ragweed allergies, like me, also react to chamomile, which is closely related.)
There are a variety of techniques for aura cleansing – usually, these work better if someone helps you. You can run your fingers through the space just above their skin, combing outwards and flicking unwanted energies away. (You can try it on yourself, but there are spots you won’t be able to reach well, like parts of your back.) You can use a chopping motion (don’t connect with the body!) to break up stubborn patches, and finish up by fluffing up the energy like you would loose hair.
Generally, when you do this, you want to use the following sequence:
- Down both sides of the back (avoiding the immediate area of the spine)
- Down the back over their hips, butt, legs, making sure to get the inside and outside of the legs too.
- The bottom of the feet
- Come back up the front of their body and the top of their head (making sure to get around the sides)
- Finish up by working up their spine, finishing with the top of the head (this helps direct the energy flow in the preferred direction.
Another approach to cleansing work involves the chakras, seven major points of energy in the body. Robin Wood has a simple version, and if you want to learn more about chakras, there’s a fabulous and detailed book by Anodea Judith called Wheels of Life that I’d recommend.
Briana Saussy’s site has an excellent page on sacred bathing, “So Fresh and So Clean – The Art of Sacred Bathing and Spiritual Cleansing“
The other side of cleansing is shielding – basically, making sure stuff doesn’t stick to you in the first place.
As we discussed earlier, some people hear ‘shielding’ and think that the world is full of nasty energetic beasties just waiting to attack and eat us. Fortunately, that’s not true. It’s a lot more common to shield to help keep us in balance, to help us handle a complex situation more calmly, or just get through a day with a lot of people’s energies coming at us more easily.
Or to put it in other terms, shielding is really about having good boundaries, not just energetically, but in other ways as well.
What can a shield do?
It can help you tell what’s you, and what’s outside you.
Once you know, it’s easier to take useful steps if you need to. For example: are you sad because *you’re* sad, or are you sad because you’re picking up emotions from someone else in the room?
It can be a filter.
If there are lots of sounds or distractions or emotions around you, you can use your shield to filter it (turn the volume down) to a level where you can function better.
It can encourage a little more distance.
If you’re someone who is uncomfortable when people are very close to you, shielding can encourage others to give you a little more personal space.
It can help you present the kind of image you want to give off.
For example, being confident and focused, being alert and aware, being open and friendly, etc. You can fill your shield with a color or emotion that you want to have close to you as a reminder throughout your day.
It can help if you are in a situation that involves firm boundaries or confrontation (no matter how polite).
Some people find the idea of a shield a good way to help them be clear and firm in important discussions (about work needs, relationships, or other topics). It can help you be clear about your limits and boundaries. It can also give you some emotional perspective, rather than getting dragged into the broader emotions of a disagreement.
When might you shield?
Some people feel overwhelmed in a large crowd.
While shielding won’t solve all forms of anxiety or stress, it can help people manage a crowded situation (mall, airport, big public event) so they can enjoy it.
Some people shield because they work with the public or in a community setting.
If you’re working retail, or in a school or hospital, chances are you’re getting exposed to a whole lot of other people, who all have different needs, desires, energies, and personalities. Shielding can be a great way to filter that so you can manage it better, and be able to do a better job.
I spent ten years working in a high school library. I loved working there in a lot of ways, but teenagers have tons of emotional ups and downs. I used shielding both to help me not feel overwhelmed by that (my desk was out in the main library) and to help me spot when one of the students might need a little help or a friendly conversation.
Some situations have a lot of emotion or strong feeling attached to them.
For example, an emergency room, a funeral, a wedding, a job interview can all be full of complicated emotions swirling around us. Shielding can help us stay more balanced and aware of our own emotions (as opposed to the emotions around us).
There are some people who seem to draw energy from everyone around them.
This is often unintentional (especially people who are completely worn out, terminally ill, or otherwise in a great deal of need.) Shielding can help create boundaries so we can provide them with more appropriate help and support without exhausting ourselves in the process.
Some people shield almost all the time.
This is often because they’re very sensitive to other people’s energies. Shielding helps them filter and manage the information they’re getting from the people around them.
Sometimes we’re in a situation where someone is hostile to us.
In the rare situations where we need more, our shielding can create a firm barrier between us and other energies, and help us more easily get out of the situation or set firm limits or help us protect ourselves emotionally and energetically.
When shouldn’t you shield?
There are times shielding isn’t appropriate. For example, if you’re in a coven ritual, shielding implies that you don’t quite trust the people there. In the same way, people generally reduce or remove their shielding when around close friends or loved ones.
It can also change how you interact with the world. Many people choose to shield sometimes, but also to deliberately not shield at others, adapting based on a specific need. Shields should also vary depending on what you want.
A wall of stones might be really appropriate for a very challenging situation where you don’t want to get too close to anyone – but it’s not what you want when dealing with close friends or even at work most of the time.
Some people shield only occasionally, for specific settings. Others have a light shield up almost all the time, but adapt it to different situations. Over time, adjusting your shield to the situation does become very natural and fast – but in the beginning, you’ll want to pay conscious attention to it on a regular basis.
- You might not shield at all at home.
- You might shield more heavily at work during a stressful time.
- You might have a light shield if you’re going to a public Pagan event (there are strangers and people you don’t know there, and probably some random energies.)
- You might take down the shield for a long walk in a nature preserve or park.
How to shield:
In some ways, a shield is a small, permanent circle that moves with you. In other ways, it’s more like something you wear that you can change to suit your mood, your needs, and your comfort level. (Just like you wear one thing to work, and another to work in the garden, or to ritual.)
Most people find it easiest to have some kind of concept for their shield. For visual people, this might be a color – golden yellow or blue light are both common (a little bit like a Star Trek force field). For kinesthetic folks, they often like the sensation of a big comfy blanket, or a cloak that covers them. For auditory folks, it might be a sound like a soft hum – or a way to manipulate the sound, like a set of adjustment levers.
The basics of shielding are very straightforward: create the ideal in your mind of what you want to your shield to do, and what you want it to look, feel, sound, or even taste like. The more real you make it in your mind, the easier it will be to maintain. Reinforce that idea regularly throughout the day. I started out by just talking to mine: telling it what I wanted it to do.
To start with, you’ll need to reinforce it regularly – check in every couple of hours. Make sure you give it enough energy to sustain itself: if you center and ground, you’ll probably sense a trickle of energy that can flow into the shield, or if you find yourself with too much energy, you can let some flow into powering the shield instead of grounding it.
Over time, you’ll be able to adjust it very quickly on the fly.
Latest edit December 24, 2016. Reformatted November 2020.