Everyone is entitled to their individual personal space – a safe and comfortable distance from those around us. Most of us are aware of the “close talker” – the person who gets uncomfortably close to us when communicating. Unfortunately, their proximity undermines their point and we are focused on why they chose to get so close and how we could create some distance from them and return to a “normal” homeostasis. Truly, a level of comfortable space is an innate need within us.
Chinese culture has a lot to teach us about this. Our American custom of shaking hands in some circumstances puts us too close to the unknown. The Chinese bow grew out of necessity and self-protection before modern civilization and organized protection from the government. In more ancient times, people crossing paths had a healthy suspicion of those people passing by, hence the reason why they bowed from a distance instead of shaking hands. Keeping a protective separation was a way to provide time for action in the event they encountered an aggressor and needed time to react.
For this reason, for self-defense, do your best to keep a “bubble” around you (much like the Leonardo Da Vinci’s, “Vitruvian Man” pictured). If you feel anyone is potentially aggressive or dangerous, do not hesitate nor feel awkward about intentionally keeping distance from them. This space arising from your awareness could potentially be the difference between life and death.