Many of the texts and teachers available today give basic information on shielding, but never go beyond that level. As a result, far too many pagans and magiqual practitioners are lacking solid training in shielding and protective magique. This article deals only with personal shields, and a few of the myriad techniques one can use to move beyond the simple "surround yourself with white light" methodology which is often the only information taught on this topic. My perspective on shielding is a little different, and to define terms right up front, I will state that my use of that word refers to any essentially defensive or protective technique. Most people are taught to shield in a temporary way, only when they encounter a situation which makes them feel threatened or uncomfortable. Shields should be permanent, and never be 'turned off'. If you wait to launch a defense or build a shield in response to a given situation, it's already too late to be truly effective, often resulting in a headache or some other manifestation of what you've absorbed before the shields are solid and in place. If you are dealing with a magiqual attack, putting shields in place once you have noticed the attack is a bit like closing the barn door after the horses have escaped. Defenses which are left in place and properly maintained over time are also likely to be far stronger than ones tossed into place in response to an immediate threat. There are those who feel they must not expend the energy needed to create or maintain a defenses when they are ill. If you spend the time and energy on the design and creation of your shields at the start, the maintenance "energy cost" to you on an ongoing basis is next to nothing. Even when you are sick (which, after all, is a really good time to be shielded!) you need not lower your defenses. You should work on your shielding and protection daily until they are second nature to you. Each time you begin to work, scan your shields. In the beginning, you will see weaknesses, cracks, thin areas, etc. at the start of each session. Reinforce them every day, plug up the holes, patch the cracks, and strengthen the whole system. When you do this consistently, over time you will notice more and more of your repair work holding and not having "worn off" since the last scan. Once your shields are stable, and do not require constant reinforcement and repair, you may find you don't need to scan them daily. You should, however, continue to scan on a regular basis to maintain them. Shields learn what you teach them to do, through daily visualization and programming. Many people are satisfied with shields built with simple visualization, such as surrounding themselves with white light, or an energy bubble or a crystal egg. These techniques are simple, easy to learn, easy to teach, and often relatively adequate for 'normal' situations. Most are taught to visualize their shields as something protective, but essentially non-intelligent and inanimate. Consider, however, creating your shields more dynamically. Intelligent, active, able to respond in a variety of ways to a given situation, self-cleaning and self maintaining shields are constantly alert, vigilant and dynamic. This can be accomplished with time and work; this effort will also assist you in developing consistent visualization skills. Some people don't like to allow shields this much autonomy, and prefer to micromanage protection. It is true that one can occasionally have trouble accepting healing and energy in through one's shields if they are built this way. Since you are programming your shields to protect you, they should respond to anything sent your way with suspicion. You can always ask people to "drop the energy at the door" should this become an issue for you. Determining how strong you want your defensive system, and how much independence you will allow that system in responding to changing conditions is a very personal choice. People are often afraid their empathic skills will be negatively impacted by the use of a permanent shield. This need not be the case. You can use your visualization techniques to create "filters" which allow empathic information through to you, while filtering out the attached emotional impact. This may actually make it easier for you to utilize your empathic skills, since you will find it considerably less draining without having to absorb and process the emotions along with the information. Filters are not the only way to accomplish this, but they are simple and effective if used correctly for this purpose. Shields can be programmed to be self regulating; that is, they are able to monitor and repair their own health, and to strengthen automatically as situations change. In protective magique, some people choose to mirror back negative energy sent to them. I consider this wasteful. The energy is a gift to you, even if this was not the intent of the sender. Your shields can be taught to clean the energy, and then use it for their maintenance and strengthening. Of course, the irony of using such a "gift" for this purpose provides a bit of amusement as well! Shields should be very personalized. Experiment with them, work with them until they meet your needs, and can provide customized responses to given stimuli. Do not get caught up in the appearance of your shields. I have run across far too many people whos e shields were incredibly ornate visualizations (which take some energy to maintain), but had little functional value. Always let form follow function, and consider what the task is before you create the image. Your shields are not for show; they have a job to do, and the form should support that job, rather than having the function come out of, and be limited by, the form. Shielding provides an incredibly flexible and efficient method of regulating the "energy weather" around you. It takes time and effort, good visualization, and repetition to create responsive and effective shielding. Once in place, solid shields help main tain your emotional and physical health and balance, in addition to providing more obvious psychic and magiqual benefits. Properly constructed and maintained, your shields are the most important magical tool you can have.