You're attending an intense, focused business meeting where everyone is shouting their ideas. You feel disconnected, chaotic, confused. A committee is formed, and two people volunteer to chair the position. When it comes to a vote, the person who doesn't "win" feels angry and rejected. You pick up on this emotion, which manifests itself as dismay, panic, and a physical symptom of nausea. After the meeting you have a terrible headache that even your favorite Reiki practitioner has trouble dissipating.
Maybe you should quit attending meetings forever and retire to the Bahamas. Well, that's not quite a practical solution. You need your job, and it is mandatory to go to the business meetings. The service club you belong to provides vital benefits to the community, and besides, you made a commitment to attend its planning meetings. So rather than quit in despair, it's time to learn how to shield.
Shielding, grounding, and centering are basic magic techniques that every Pagan must be able to master, from the freshest "newbie" to the most seasoned high priestess. You’re going to need to shield yourself in religious situations such as a large ritual circle or group meditation, where energy can run freely. You definitely must use shields during a big outdoor gathering, especially a conglomerate of other magic-users. After all, we project our energy as a matter of course. It certainly doesn't hurt to shield yourself during business meetings, whether it's for your coven's holiday planning session or your professional career.
In some Earth Religious traditions, it's up to the ritual leader to shield all the participants within the ceremony. Those with magical experience may be responsible for protecting individuals who cannot shield themselves because of a temporary or permanent incapacitation. (These people may include little children, pregnant ladies, elders, and those with catastrophic illness.) Wiccan clergy are often responsible for creating a sacred space and protecting everyone within it. This could be why the traditional Witches' coven only has thirteen members. Shamanic guides must help to facilitate their students' journey during a trance state. This might be the reason that shamanic work is often done one-on-one or in small numbers within a ritually cleansed lodge. Yet during community meetings or in the midst of huge Pagan gatherings, it is not possible for the leaders to control all the energy of large numbers of people. Therefore it's up to each individual to learn how to shield. Here are a few suggestions:
Using Crystals: Stones, gems, and crystals have long been utilized by magic-users to "ground" or "earth" disruptive energies. Some good grounding stones include jasper, quartz, hematite, and malachite. A crystal can act as a lightning rod, which attracts a charge and channels it safely into the earth. Hold the stone in your hand, place your feet on the earth (or the floor, if it's connected to the earth; if you're in a vehicle sometimes this doesn't work, as there is rubber or plastic between you and the ground). Envision the stone collecting any baneful vibrations and sending them down into the earth. As the energy is grounded, it becomes stable and harmless.
Plain quartz can collect energies and neutralize them, while sending them "out" rather than "down." Hematite is great for mellowing anger. Other stones and gems can collect and change the focus of energy. Two excellent sources on the use of crystals and stones, both available from Llewellyn, are Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic, by Scott Cunningham, and Crystal Awareness, by Catherine Bowman. The latter includes a description of how to cleanse your gemstone after its ritual use.
A note—energy is energy is energy; in and of itself it's neither "good" nor "bad." Just like electricity can be used to power your toaster vs. a lightning bolt that blasts the tree, it must be channeled properly to prevent it from causing harm to any given individual.
Use Talismans: Not quite the same as stones, a talisman acts to deflect overly-intense or harmful energy and helps to bring about positive influences. While gemstones naturally carry their own magical capability, talismans often have to be charged. This can be done during a ritual for that purpose, or by placing them in sunlight, moonlight, running water, or even burying them in the earth. Talismans include jewelry with a magical or religious symbol, runes, herbs, planetary squares, and medicine pouches. The medicine bag may contain natural artifacts that an individual has discovered for him/herself, often during life events or rites of passage. Some Hermetic traditions use very elaborate talismans with ancient languages and planetary sigils. Many amulets can be purchased at local businesses. A very personal talisman can be created by an individual for a unique purpose, and be made of feathers, clay, beads, fiber, and/or metal.
Making a talisman can be as simple as drawing a symbol on a piece of paper, or as elaborate as engraving an image onto a golden disc. Simply writing a word of power, such as "Clarity" or "Decisiveness" can help to focus your energy on achieving that state. To give your talisman extra power, you can inscribe the word using an older alphabet, such as Ogham, Runic, Hebrew, or Theban. (Unless you know the original language, you're gonna be writing the word in English, but using the ancient alphabet's letters.) The book The Magician's Companion by Bill Whitcomb, subtitled "A Practical and Encyclopedic Guide to Magical and Religious Symbolism," contains literally thousands of sigils, alphabets, emblems, God names, and correspondences. Any one of them can be used to create your own talisman.
Llewellyn has several very good books on crafting and using magical talismans, including The Complete Book of Amulets and Talismans by Migene González-Whippler, and Making Talismans: Living Entities of Power by Nick Farrell. To further empower your work, anoint your symbol with appropriate oils, or wrap it in colored cloth, as you ask it to function as a shield. Cunningham's The Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews can give you some ideas on how to use essential oils for magical purposes. Carry your talisman in your pocket during business meetings to avert dangerous energies and increase positive results.
Using Light: Nearly everyone has heard of surrounding oneself with colored light as a shielding technique. White is often associated with the sun, the moon, and in some traditions as death. A white light can push anything else out of the way, yet it is sometimes too harsh (think of a police spotlight). Blue is the color of the sky, and it's less astringent than white light. An infusion of blue light can offer protection without being overwhelming. Soft yellow light can be healing. For meetings where you truly love everyone, but don't necessarily agree with their world view, try surrounding yourself with a rosy pink light, the color of the dawn. Here's an example: You're at your family reunion, and Aunt Bertha is commenting that if you'd just lose ten pounds and leave your "religious cult," you'd finally be happy and rich, just like her son Egbert. Visualize a soft, rosy pink light arising from the East with the dawn, and surrounding you with its gentle protection. Smile and say, "Yes, Aunt Bertha, I'll take that into consideration," while your whole body is surrounded, cocooned, and embraced by the pink light. Okay, it sounds "fluffy" but it works.
Preserving Personal Space: If you are wearing hematite underwear to a business meeting and you're still getting upset by a heated discussion, you'll need to work on creating your own safe personal space. A moment before the meeting, take time to ground and center. Feel your feet connected to the floor, which is connected to the foundation of the building, which is in turn anchored in the earth. Envision roots of energy arising from the ground, nourishing you with water and nutrients of the earth. Feel this sustenance at the center of your body. Or create a sacred space as a buffer around yourself. You may perceive this space as protected by golden light, or an impenetrable wall, or a bubble of energy that allows only helpful ideas and suggestions to enter. Some more creative images include a "bug-zapper" that strikes negative emotions before they can harm you, or a protective coating of oil that all harmful energies stick to. With the latter image, a ritual cleansing bath will be necessary after the meeting.
To discover more good ideas on writing your own magical ceremonies, check out Deborah Lipp’s Elements of Ritual, which includes tips on how to protect yourself during a magical working.
For really tense situations, you may actually need to call on your own personal deities to assist you. Ask them to guard you, protect you, and guide you in finding solutions which are agreeable to all parties. A Mother Goddess who is used to settling disputes between her offspring, or a God of communication or justice would be appropriate. Several Llewellyn books contain a list of God and Goddess names. Since I’m on a Celtic path I frequently use Edain McCoy's Celtic Myth and Magic. For other pantheons, please look at the many sources available on Egyptian, Norse, Hindu, and other deities.
Finally, to preserve your sanity during business meetings, don't take it so darn hard! Think of your high school homecoming football game. All the cheerleaders are screaming for victory. Handmade signs proclaim "Destroy the Bulldogs!" Now, the crowd doesn't really want to murder the opposing team. They just want to win the game. During a business meeting, your opponent in a debate doesn't really want to ruin your entire life. But they do want to win the argument and have things go their own way. After all, their way is the best way, right? The most effective method to deal with this situation is to remain "emotionally centered." Realize that the goal is not to embarrass you, personally, but to implement a particular idea or enforce a certain rule. Keeping this in mind, focus your energies on creating the best situation for everyone involved. Words of power such as "Solution" or "Clarification" can be chanted to yourself, or written on your notepad. Touch your talisman, amulet, or stone as you remember the true focus of the meetingásuch as a roaring success for your Pagan Pride Day event!
Finally, please realize that in a magical gathering, the goal is empowerment. Within a volunteer organization, nobody is getting paid to work at their job; they're doing it for the love of the cause and out of personal dedication. Just like you are!