Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Vulnerability and Self-Protection

Protective Sphere

I’ve been thinking about vulnerability and protection lately.  It came up in a funny way.

Recently, I went for a rather long health treatment – an infusion of trace  minerals.   I intuitively brought a sarong to cover my legs.  I was wearing shorts, so I didn’t need to cover my legs.  But I knew I would feel better with a light coverlet.  More protected, less vulnerable.  I honored my inner voice.

This is a subtle example, not a dramatic one.  But it keenly raised my awareness of feeling slightly vulnerable and needing to provide myself with a sense of protection.

There are probably countless times in any given week when we feel vulnerable like this.  And chances are the circumstances are more emotionally loaded – from an unkind remark to an irate boss to full on harassment.

Do you know when you feel vulnerable or overwhelmed?  When you feel you need a sense of protection?

If you’re not sure, take a moment to think about it.  What are the signs?  What are some of the circumstances that typically feel uncomfortable to you?

When you do feel vulnerable or in need of protection, what steps do you take?  Do they work for you?  It’s not unusual to develop unhealthy patterns of protection from shrinking to aggression.  Are you able to react in a healthy way?

Boundaries

There are many different ways to empower and protect yourself.   They typically involve creating boundaries.  For example, when we’re in a difficult situation, we can take a step backward, which clarifies our personal space and defines a boundary.  Or we can politely decide to take a break to give ourselves some needed breathing room, some time to recenter ourselves.

It can be difficult to create a boundary if you’ve never had one, if your boundary has been violated through trauma, you’re a highly sensitive person, or you feel you don’t deserve one due to deceptive brain messages learned in early childhood.

Learning how to love yourself can be a first step to reclaiming a sense of personal space and defining your boundary.  A strongly integrated sense of self is essential to health – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  This is a healthy sense of self, which differs from clinging to self or egocentricity.

Creating a Protective Sphere

One simple way to feel strong and more protected on a regular basis  is to visualize a protect bubble around you.  This is a simple exercise you can do each day.

In her book, Heal Yourself with Qigong, Suzanne B. Friedman, LAC shares these steps for creating an energy-bubble for protection:

  1. “Stand… or sit upright in a chair with the backs of your hands resting on your thighs (palms up).
  2. Close your eyes and slow your breathing.  Feel your whole body relax.
  3. Visualize a bubble around your body in your mind’s eye.  Take as much time as you need to mentally create a thick bubble enveloping you. Visualize and “see” the shape, color, and size of the bubble.
  4. Once you clearly see yourself surrounded by a bubble, draw up a memory of a time or an experience when you felt particularly powerful, calm, or in charge.
  5. Let that feeling emanate out of your body to fill the entire bubble.  Take a minute or two to do this.  Perhaps the feeling has a color or quality you can see that fills the bubble.
  6. After you have filled your bubble, take another moment to see and feel it around you.
  7. Take a few deep breaths after concluding the meditation.”

Your mucous membranes including those in your gastrointestinal tract and other internal organs are also part of your boundary against foreign invaders like viruses, bacteria, and other micro-organism.  If you wish, you can also imagine your mucous membranes as healthy, strong, and fully protective.

Your protective sphere many need an extra boost any time during the day when you are entering into  or suddenly find yourself in an especially difficult or challenging situation.  When that happens,  take a moment to bring awareness to your bubble and refill it with your own sense of safety, power, strength, and calm.

You might get tripped up on step 4 if you’ve never had an experience of feeling powerful or protected.  If that’s the case, you can draw upon an image of someone you admire who is grounded and strong.  Someone who seemingly doesn’t have trouble with boundaries.  Mysteriously, Xena, the Princess Warrior often pops up in my mind.

Like any new habit, creating and truly feeling the presence of a protective sphere takes time and diligence.  It’s not hard nor time-consuming.  It can be done in minutes.  It’s simply a matter of taking time to create the visualization regularly each day until – eventually – the visualization becomes a part of you.  The more often you practice creating your protective sphere, the more natural it will become and the stronger you will feel.

If you have trouble making this a regular habit – as I did for a very long time – the practice of loving kindness is a wonderful way to build your self-worth so that you feel deserving of self care and protection.

The Love Bubble

These days, I create my protective sphere as a natural extension of loving kindness practice, which is an antidote to fear and anger.

First, I envision  the essence of love, compassion, and wisdom.  In my case, that’s a Buddha.  But it could be any spiritual figure or an image of light.  Then I imaging all of her (or his) unconditional love pouring into my heart. I absorb it fully knowing that I am as worthy of love as any other being on this earth.

Next, I repeat the loving kindness phrases –  first directing them towards myself –  “May I be happy, May I be well, May I be safe.”   All the while I focus on my heart center, imaging this unconditional love in the form of light growing stronger and stronger and radiating within my heart.   Then I allow the light and love to surround me like a protective sphere.  After awhile, I move on to repeating and direct the loving kindness phrases to others.

Whenever I feel unsure during the day, I return to my heart center and reconnect with this vibrant sense of love that resides within me.  I also take a few moments to repeat the loving kindness phrases, directing them towards myself, towards a difficult emotion that has sprung to life, or towards other people who also need a dose of kindness and love.

There are many different ways to create a sense of strength in your life.  This is just one, but I find it profoundly healing myself.

Do you have moments when you feel you need added protection in your life?  What do you do to feel a sense of strength, protection, and power?

Recommended Resources

  • Heal Yourself with Qigong, Gentle Practice to Increase Energy, Restore Health, and Relax the Mind, by Suzanne B. Friedman, LAC, DMG
  • Healing Trauma, A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body, Peter A. Levine, Ph.D.

Image:  Wikipedia

If this article inspired or helped you, please share the link with others.  Thank you so much  for reading.  You can also connect with me on Google+ or the Always Well Within Facebook Page.  With love, Sandra

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25 Comments

  1. Very sweet post. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Sandra,
    Earlier this week I had a marvelous sense of empowerment when speaking with a friend about a new business venture we plan to begin. I felt confident and excited about it. I’ll draw upon this memory to create my pink power bubble.

    Yes, I do have moments when my confidence sinks and I think, “What the heck am I doing? I should be looking for a real job so I can start making some real money again.” But, then, I remind myself of all the years I’ve spent having a “real job” and how many times I longed to be in my own business.

    I calm myself down with this affirmation: “Relax, all is well.” I remind myself I have a roof over my head and that all my basic needs are being met. What’s one year of not having a “real job” in the overall scheme of my life? Just a blip. If I don’t try this I’ll always regret it and wonder if I could have done it.

    After this little pep talk I feel safe, better and confident that I’m not just an aimless slacker without a “real job.” (Until the next time…..)

    • Angela,

      This is such a great example of how we can apply this exercise to boost our self-confidence. “Power bubble” is another great phrase.

      Pep talks and affirmations are also a great strategy. I love this little conversation you have with your self. Wonderful tips for all of us. Thank you.

  3. Sandra – the loving kindness practice sounds like a good way to protect ourselves when feeling vulnerable. And so is creating boundaries.

    But what some of us resort to is isolating ourselves, building up walls and distancing ourselves from the problems or issues we face. Creating a protective sphere (like you suggest) seems healthier than creating a solid 40 foot granite curtain wall around us (like castles of the middle ages!?!) right? 🙂

    • Vishnu,

      Yes, it’s true that we sometimes try to protect ourselves by isolating ourselves and the other ways you have mentioned. Creating a protective sphere is healthier! But sometimes we have to go to the uncomfortable extremes before we find a healthier way, don’t you think? It’s all part of the process, it seems to me.

  4. Nothing like a few boundaries and protective spheres to guard our way, especially a bubble of love.

    You reminded me of a lesson from Jack Canfield. The idea was this:
    Summon a waterfall. Picture it like the fountain in front of the Belagio. When you need extra strength, summon a waterfall to surround you. It’s a visualization technique to lift you up against negative thinking.

  5. Sandra,

    I’m so glad you wrote about vulnerability and self-protection and that J.D Meier mentioned, “You reminded me of a lesson from Jack Canfield. I met Robert MacPhee, Jack Canfield’s master trainer, and he agreed to do a live call-in interview with me on Thursday September 22nd, at 4 p.m. PST about, “getting out of your comfort zone.” He wrote the book, “Manifesting for Non-Gurus,” and tomorrow I shall post the phone # to call in and ask him your questions. I think this is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to ask Robert some tough questions. I shall have the podcast of the interview on my blog on Monday September 26th. I hope this will help readers with specific questions.

    • Sonia, How amazing! Getting out of our comfort zone is a hot topic. I’m sure this will be very interesting. Thanks for sharing the opportunity with my readers. I look forward to hearing the podcast on your blog.

  6. I like the visualization suggestions. I have done something similar in the past when I felt I needed some extra protection.

    I have been to court with my ex-husband more times than I even care to mention. We are going this again Friday as a matter of fact. (…and we have been apart almost a decade. His doing. Not mine.) I used to absolutely abhor going to court and having to LET his attorney humiliate me and make me look stupid. That is their job. My attorney can try to protect me, but he cannot really.

    I used to envision a protective bubble around me, and the unkind words of the opposing attorney and the glares from my ex-husband bouncing off of the bubble like misguided arrows. This helped some.

    Now, I feel so empowered and at peace with myself that I do not even feel the need to envision a bubble of protection. Nothing they can say or do will hurt me. I am good. The words and glares will just bounce off of my own essence. It is impenetrable.

    • Debbie,

      The highest form of protection is recognizing that emptiness cannot hurt emptiness, which is what you hint at when you speak of how their words and glares will bounce off your own essence. I’m awe-inspired by your belief that you are impenetrable. What a great inspiration for all of us.

  7. Dearest Sandra, I found this very moving. I just LOVED your example of the shorts and sarong. I think it is VERY important that you used a seemingly “subtle” example because it is all those seemingly subtle vulnerabilities that we often tend to ignore, or brush off by saying “oh don’t be silly, don’t be a baby”, etc. In doing this we treat those “nudges” or needs with disrespect by not honoring them. In essence we then disrespect ourselves.

    Many years ago I had a close friend.say to me, “We don’t even initially have to know WHY we feel vulnerable. We just need to honor it, and do what we need to to feel protected and nurtured. The knowing will follow if it is needed.” I think if we can honor the subtle vulnerabilities, then we can easily honor the more visible ones.

    The older I get the more I honor my vulnerabilities and don’t feel a need to “tough it out”. I’ve been brave enough in my life, gone out on a limb enough, and out of my comfort zone enough to know that I can and do challenge myself. And I will continue to challenge myself…HOWEVER….there also comes a time when we learn to honor, protect, sooth, comfort, and nurture ourselves when we feel raw, vulnerable, a bit more fragile, and so on. THAT is what I am learning to do now. To protect and honor my vulnerabilities. To embrace them the way I would in another person, which would be with compassion, understanding, and love.

    Thank you SO MUCH for reminding me of this. I need it right now in my life. I also was moved very DEEPLY by your example of the shorts and sarong. It really allowed me to see your beautiful, gentle heart. It felt like an embrace. Much much love to you my dear beautiful Sandra.

    • Dearest Robin,

      You thoughts coincide with my own explorations of how to balance vulnerability and power. It’s not a matter of one being “good” and the other “bad”. But it seems to me that when they are out of balance, troubles arise in the form of personal suffering and can also impact our relationships adversely. This is a question I will be exploring for awhile!

      Thank you for sharing how you are working with your vulnerabilities. I already know you are powerful, courageous, and brave. This is the perfect example of embracing them as you would in another!

      I also found it fascinating how “subtle” this example was. But I had a clear message and followed it along. Of course, I can just sit there in my shorts, but why not follow my inner sense. The sarong may be symbolic in a way. Being in a clinic with other people receiving treatment, it can remind me that I don’t have to let everyone’s energy in.

      Your thoughts on vulnerability have touched me deeply. I send all my love to you too, dearest Robin.

  8. The first thing that came to mind for me was similar to your example, a medical procedure. Sometimes health practitioners are not sensitive to the vulnerability of their patients. I wonder sometimes if putting myself in that sort of vulnerable, dehumanizing situation actually damages my health rather than contributing to it.

    • That’s a really interesting question, Galen. I’m sure it does impact us on various levels. This particular clinic is filled with a loving atmosphere so I find it a very supportive environment. I often find it difficult to be in most regular medical environments, but then again there are so beautiful and loving doctors and nurses in those places too. In any case, my sarong comes along!

  9. PS–Meant to add that I LOVE the photo!

  10. I’ve never been good at dealing with emotional vulnerability. My tactic is to retreat, and Kevin finds it scary when I shut him and everyone else out so I can deal with whatever I’m dealing with (and probably not even all that well). It’s definitely not the same thing as the protective sphere you’re talking about! Lately I’ve been thinking about it in different terms. When I work on the wheel in pottery, I can feel it if my clay goes off center. The walls bump my fingers instead of flow, my hands fight the clay instead of guide it. I’ve also gotten better at re-centering my clay. I think I’m also getting better at detecting when I’m emotionally off-center and (more slowly) being able to re-center.

    I still haven’t figured out how not to shut people out in the process, though.

    • Jennifer,

      You have a lot of awareness of your process of withdrawing to care for yourself. That’s brilliant. I understand how Kevin might find that scary. I’ve been with partners that tend to withdraw at times too. It’s all food for our spiritual evolution, but some of it can definitely be painful at times. I tend to drift between being overly emotion and sometimes I can get a little fierce.

      It’s wonderful to hear how it’s getting easier to detect when you’re emotional off center and slowly re-center. If you need to withdraw and go within, maybe there’s nothing “wrong” with that. In a way, it’s like going into the cocoon for awhile. If you can assure the other person – when you are not in the thick of it – that this is what you do – at this point in time – and that it’s not a rejection of them or permanent, maybe it would help to quell their fears.

      It’s inspiring to see how you are growing.

  11. Great choice of topic, Sandra.

    The main acts of self-protection I perform are to remain (mostly) anonymous online, and to do as many anonymous things as I can make the time for that benefit people, the planet or other animals for little or no financial compensation. Service performed for free makes me freer. It makes me a stronger, richer person, and I’m so much less bothered by all the forms of smallness that diluted my spirit in my younger days.

    • Very interesting perspective from you, Mike. Kindness is a beautiful way to stop-over-focusing on the self. In that way, it’s a terrific protection.

  12. I love this post, Sandra, and coincidentally my own most recent post hints at this very topic. I have always felt extremely vulnerable in almost any situation, thanks to the way I was raised and being deaf. But recently I’ve begun to embrace the deafness instead of fighting it. To do so was to recall and embrace the memory of myself as a preschooler, before getting hearing aids and intensive coaching in overcoming the deafness. Once I started doing that, it’s as if the harshness of the world eased up, and it has transformed my relationships with the people I love as well as acquaintances and strangers. I feel as if I’m literally hugging my soul, and finally feel sufficiently secure and nurtured. Funny how that works, hmm?

    • That was an amazing story, Meg. It’s amazing to see how simply (though not so simple) being authentic is the best protection of all. Thank you.

  13. Hi Sandra,
    This is a powerful post. I used to put myself in a pink bubble of light before going to do my counseling work in the prison I worked in for one year in the 90’s. It was an amazing year of learning how to be strong and powerful and funny and graceful at the same time. I hope your healing is going well. xoxo

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