Hermit Crab Medicine

While stepping into the ocean with my teenage son in tow, we skimmed the water's surface and scanned its floor for signs of life. Save for a few silvery fish that nipped at our heels like hungry little puppies, the only contrast upon the white sand were a few scattered seashells in the shape of tiny sugar cones.

Very carefully we would pick up each, trying to catch a glimpse of life inside. Finally, we were rewarded with a pair of eyes staring back in wonder of the strangeness before them.

"It must be so easy being a crab," my son said. "You could just hang out in your house all day, come out to eat and go right back in."

I watched him turn the shell over with the tips of his fingers, caught in a rare moment marveling over a creature so small. Normally stoic and hard-faced, this young bear of a boy never looked so vulnerable. I felt privileged to witness him, just as he did the crab.

The teenage years are by far the most complex we ever have to emotionally and physiologically live through. Not surprisingly, many of us continue to cycle through these same trials in adulthood. We have carried these lessons upon our backs long beyond their service date, reliving them over and over again because we just can't seem to get the experience to fit right. I can think of no better animal medicine that identifies the teenage spirit than that of the Hermit crab.

Each will hide away as if they're demanding solitude but in truth, they are desperate for companionship, community, and social order. Both are dependent on their environments.

Hermit crabs cannot make their own shells so they're constantly taking residence in what's scattered around them, adjusting their home to a place that fits them best in that moment. They will change shells numerous times, often trying on one just to return back to another. No quality is more associated with teens than their quest for free-expression of trial and error quite like this same manner. As a teen, it is essential to experience a wide variety of social offerings to learn a moral compass and how they contribute to the world. 

Making the connection between Hermit crab medicine and the teenage spirit served as a powerful reminder about adaptability. Both crab and teen slough and re-slough their sense of self. They're in constant movement, shedding ideas and behaviors while adjusting to the circumstances around them, teaching adaptability and resourcefulness.

Defense mode looks different to everyone, but in general, we react with fight or flight. If you find yourself in situations where you're experiencing either, stop to ask yourself what is really going on here and what's really being asked of you. Some helpful questions to get you started might be:

Am I able to let go of the stresses of everyday living and be fully present in this moment?
Am I too busy being caught up in my responsibility, such as a parenting or leadership role, and watching to correct rather than to witness the joy?
Have I outgrown my placement: my home, work, social group or even view of Self? What needs to be shed? What would I benefit letting go of?
Where is my community? Am I allowing others to lead the way? Am I embracing the calling to be a leader? Who do I want to lead or to follow? Why?
Finally, am I being resourceful? Is my waste being managed? Am I using what's around me appropriately? Who is benefiting from what I offer, and is it equal?

By keeping these questions close to mind we can utilize the gift of the crab essence and really shift out of energy that's keeping our resources and ourselves restrained. May this awareness help you find freedom.

'message of the hermit crab' / Jamie Homeister