I know it's been a while, but life gets hectic sometimes. I barely have time to breathe, and finals are coming up next week.
The "last" step for practicing magic is learning to shield.
Shielding is a way of deflecting or redirecting energy aimed at you. (Either consciously or not.)
This practice can come in handy not only for protection, but also if somebody is fairly empathic as an everyday thing.
When working with other people, especially if they're unexperienced, shielding can protect you from "nuclear runoff" or energy that's gone astray.
Okay, enough rambling... Onto the meat of the post, how to shield.
The way I learned to shield, is by putting up a bubble of energy around you, and empower it to do what you want with energy that comes your way. The most common would be deflecting it. Though some people empower their shields to ground the energy, or to reflect it back to where it came from. This will take some practice, but if you've been working with energy, then you should have a pretty good feel of how to do this.
A lot of people do visualizations with their shielding. Barbed wire, or armor are very common visualizations. Many people also put up multiple layers that protect against various types of energies, which they can "take down" and put back up individually.
Personally, I don't find a reason for shielding too often. I put up a shield to protect the vehicle I'm in whenever I go somewhere. I put up a shield when I'm in a public place with a lot of people I don't know so I don't get overwhelmed by the emotions. But when I am home or with people I care about, I have nothing to be protected from.
Some people are paranoid about other people practicing magic against them, but I am not.
There are also more permanent kinda of shields that you can put up around people or places, but these are more allong the lines of a protection spell or ward.