Nothing to protect
We find the experience of nothing to protect at several levels.
One is at the level of the human self. When we see any and all qualities both in the inner (human self) and outer world, there is really no identity to protect. Whatever comes up, including whatever anyone says about us, we can sincerely and honestly say “yes, that too is a part of me”. This gives a sense of richness, fullness, intimacy (with self/world), and freedom as we have no limited or fixed identity to protect.
Another is at the level of ourselves as formless awareness (Unborn, Original Face). Here, we find ourselves as distinct from the world of phenomena and thus distinct from any characteristics. We are that which is beyond and in which the world of form arises, with all its polarities and myriads of characteristics. Again, as we are distinct from any identity, there is no identity to protect. Anything and everything is free to come and go as guests.
Something to protect
In the same way, there is something to protect in a few different ways.
One is when we are exclusively – and temporarily – identified with our human self. Here, we find ourselves with an identity which appears exclusive and mostly fixed. We are this and not that. This gives a great sense of struggle, along with a wide variety of other experiences such as (often blind) fear, anger, desire, meaninglessness, isolation, separatedness and so on.
And even after we find ourselves as formless awareness, there is something to protect. We are this formless awareness and whatever arises in the present, including this particular human self which we apparently have a special functional relationship with. So, we may as well (physically) protect this human self as a vehicle in the world of form, and also protect other selves as they too are vehicles. But we also see the groundless ground in which this all arises, which allows us to have a lighter touch. We will protect these selves from harm in daily life, but also see that the means do not justify the goal here.
A footnote: there is of course no fixed “I” even as formless awareness, but it may appear so for a while – until we realize that this “I” too is just a belief in the thought “I”. Now, the sense of “I” becomes more fluid and shifts with situations, as it does naturally. Throughout this process of fluid “I”, we are well aware that there is no absolute, final and separate “I” anywhere, and that the appearance of “I” comes from just a temporarily useful and convenient overlay of abstractions.