In Unseen Worlds and Practical Aspects of Spiritual Discernment by Anastacia Nutt, the author makes the point that it is useful to cultivate discernment and the ability to filter out negative energies/entities while inviting in beneficial energies/entities. I agree with her approach and have employed in my daily meditations since I started practicing magic. In a of modern occult works the emphasis on protection focuses on creating a sterile environment from which to work magic, but creating such an environment weakens our ability to work magic, because we are excluding everything, as opposed to only filtering out what isn't needed.
I've always found filtering to be quite useful and in establishing a space from which to work magic or simply doing magic on the fly, I've always focused on creating a system of filters that admits the right energy, while taking anything that doesn't fit and distributing it back into the space outside of the magical working. In this way I'm not so much excluding energy as redistributing it where it is needed, while also bringing exactly what I need.
I think the focus on magical protection has emphasized a more martial aspect to such work in part because people buy into the idea that there is a hostile spiritual environment and entities just waiting to attack. My own take on it is not so much that there is a hostile environment or entities, so much as there are environments and entities that are anathemic to us and don't fit in, but nonetheless have a space they do fit into. So if the magician sets up the space right, what happens is the right energy/entities are brought in, while the rest is filtered out and redistributed to where it does belong.
In my opinion spiritual discernment is really a cultivation of awareness about what you are doing and what fits with what you are doing. It's a recognition that what you bring into any magical work and for that matter into your everyday life is determined by your awareness of what fits and works vs what doesn't fit and will get in the way of what you are trying to do. Spiritual discernment, as a result, examines the chaos and harmony in a person's life to evaluate what needs to be filtered out and what needs to be kept. If we approach protection from that perspective we can appreciate and recognize that everything has its place, but where that place is, in respect to ourselves, will depend on what we are doing and what we need to draw upon. Thus we set up a system of protection that integrates what's needed, inviting it into the place it is needed, while keeping what isn't needed in its proper place, honored but nonetheless not invited because it isn't needed. It's an admittedly a different approach to protection, but it's always worked for me and over the years has helped me filter out a lot of chaos.
When you combine this concept with internal work, it is also useful, because it helps you filter out the chaotic aspects of your life and dissolve then, redistributing the energy and people that are unhealthy into their respective places outside of your life, while keeping in the people and energy that are healthy for you. A lot of my internal work has involved coming to recognize what is chaotic and dissolving it and letting go of attachments that would keep it in my space, while also cultivating awareness about who and what really fits into my life and why. Spiritual discernment, used in the capacity, allows a person to acknowledge that each person has their place, but again also acknowledges that such a place may not fit with your life. Not surprisingly doing dissolving work has a tendency to cause some changes in your life as you look at situations and people differently through the work you do and let go of the unhealthy attachments you were holding on to before.
I've had an article published in Silverstar magazine on Redefining Pop Culture Magic.