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The Sea Urchin

Nov 25, 2021
Mindful Nature Connection


As with every walk on the beach, I receive more than I seek and this time I had stood on a sea urchin. After years of diving in danger infested seas, my first injury was from a small innocuous creature on one of the safest beaches in Europe. After hobbling home, I tried the first instinct approach which was extraction by tweezers and tried to pull the spines out. Failing miserably, I progressed to a precision tool, a needle but although I could see the little things stuck inside, I was only successful in creating open foot slices. Of course, it was a Sunday and all pharmacies and GPs were shut so Doctor Google was once again consulted.

The first thing it said was “do not attempt to remove the spines with tweezers” as the little blighters have barbs and will then be in there forever. Candle wax was suggested and I covered the area with burning wax. Alas, it was obviously not soy candles that would help and although my foot was now softer and smelling nice, another approach was needed. 

After more research, I found that the sea urchin is made of calcium carbonate and therefore I must not remove the spines but dissolve them in acid. A well-known emergency cure is urine, I read, at which point the family and their sympathy melted away saying they could see that I was coping on my own. White vinegar was a superior choice to urine, I felt, so I hobbled to the pantry and had a choice of balsamic and a jar of gherkins. So, there I sat with my foot in hot water and gherkins for an hour waiting for the spiny creature to dissolve. 

I self pityingly cancelled all my two footed plans and sent my husband out for Epsom salts, normal vinegar without the peppercorns floating in it and chocolate (not mentioned in Google but essential to recovery I felt). By the end of the day I had a bloated, crenated foot that looked like it had been dead for days, a series of botched puncture wounds that my daughters couldn’t look at because it set of trypophobia (do not look this up, you will immediately find you have this phobia), one measly spine that came out after the Epsom salts and an admission of defeat at my home surgery. 

I sought professional help the next day and the podiatrist did an hour of open foot surgery removing another spine but said that were still at least three spines stuck deep inside and there was not a lot else to do apart from the daily gherkin bath.

Two days later I was limping about with a by now pus oozing foot and met a surfer who said that there was a well-known surfing method of rubbing the affected area with olive oil at full moon and the spines will come out themselves. This seemed akin to burying a steak at moonlight to get rid of warts but the theory is that sea urchins come to shore at full moon and the moon has a pull on them. Full moon was three days away and after waiting it out, to my amazement as I sat exposing my foot to the moon, I pressed my foot and a large spine eased itself out. The other spines have obviously now become part of me, adding to my prickly nature apparently and the surfer girl now always gives me a knowing smile 

I assumed sea urchins are simple creatures but not so. They have no eyes but can see throughout their entire body as they have light receptors on their tube feet. They literally see with all of themselves. In between the feet, they have pincers which they use to groom themselves with, keeping them healthy. The spines act as a defense mechanism for their vulnerable insides which they use to skillfully extract the important food from all the debris around.

As they reach adolescence they grow their tube feet inside the sensitive outer membrane they are developing. They are then pulled towards the shore and when they experience the extreme turbulence and smell of kelp near land they know it is time to change (at full moon I presume). They then undergo one of the most remarkable transformations in nature where they pull themselves inside out like a sock to be reborn as a miniature adult. As soon as this transformation and tumult has happened, their work is done, they land ashore briefly and they spend the rest of their life almost immortally feeding and chilling.

Sea Urchin lessons

1. We often cover our vulnerabilities a with prickly exterior, injuring others with our barbed attacks that can poison or remain for a long time. We can also be on the receiving end of other’s spines, especially if sensitive or empathetic. Don’t let the poisons of the past or other people’s barbs stay stuck inside. Use the tools and support systems you have, to work at excavating the barb. Sometimes you may also have to create the space for acceptance that they are an integral part of growth and part of who we are and that in time the pain will disintegrate or become absorbed.

2. Redefine your spines into feet of light, allowing you to see with more clarity and vision, create tubes filled with light receptors of love, antennae of knowing and ability that let you see with all of yourselves, especially your hearts so that you experience a heightened consciousness when you interact in the world.

3. It is our vulnerability that holds our greatest strength, our inner being that works with the value of discernment, getting to the depth of issues and extracting the important and valuable from the daily mental debris we encounter. Balance the tough and the tender, use your discernment and transform your vulnerability into transparency and integrity that will give you your strength.

4. When we are nearing the shore, we may need to be totally turned inside out to be reborn. Look for the turbulence, the tough times, the chaos, as signs that we are close to land and be prepared to undergo the metamorphism, that although painful, will ensure an more enlightened adulthood and a new life and freedom of movement.

5. This too will pass! Limping along with spines in your foot is a pain. Sometimes though, we may need to apply a mindfulness appproach in sitting with the uncomfortable until inner peace, synchronicity and right timing happens to allow things to emerge more easily. Use the time to ‘groom’ yourself, keeping healthy while you wait. And, if you are sitting with lots of pricks that won’t go away, lie back, take some breaths and talk to the moon.

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