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Everything I need to know about humanity I learned in high school chemistry.

Today someone used the phrase “draw me out of my shell” and I instantly reacted like any good bodyworker would. I was torn between wanting to deep-tissue the crap out of that phrase and wanting to tenderly ortho-bionomy it to sleep. Do we think, “yes! Draw out! Shells bad!” or do we think, “no! Go in more! Shells important protection for vulnerable inner self!”

Or, better yet, do we get all Buddhist on ourselves and nod sagely and say, “shells are.”

In our nonjudgmental, all-inclusive world of yoga pants and green juice, Only One of these is the Right Answer and the other two are embarrassingly unenlightened. —So, if shells “are,” what “are” they, anyway?

Are these protective homes and defence systems like bird eggs, smooth and impenetrable and distinct from the birds inside? Or are they like hermit crab shells, an active part of the crab's lifestyle, with a place for the crab to peek in and out of at will?

Or are you listening to Beyoncé right now, as I was when the idea of shells came into my head? In which case, again, there is Only One Right Answer: the shell is really more like a halo....

I deal with people-shells all the time in Reiki.  Nobody taught me the following things but by now I've dissected so many energetic bodies and seen the same things so many time, I think of this as standard-issue anatomy.  There's the big shell that fills the room.  Then there's the shell about three feet away from the body, and the shell about two feet away from the body, then the fuzzy thick charged shell about a hand away from the body, and the electric wetsuit right around the body, then the outer body, then the inner body, then the...stuff.  You can also see some of the outer shells by just propping someone up near a wall and looking at the space around.  (If you have someone who has some kind of meditative practice, ask them to ground and unground and watch the changes.)

Energy shells...I had heard of those before in a different context....

Let's pretend we're atoms. Which is true...we are just bunches of atoms stuffed together. Atoms are made up of a bunch of energy shells surrounding a nucleus. Now, those shells don't look like an eggshell or a hermit crab shell at all! They're not even things so much as they are paths commonly treaded by happy electrons. Instead of ourselves being surrounded by solid walls, what if our shells are actually spatial orbital patterns, which we fill up with our own special brand of electromagnetic charge? —And atomic shells aren't even one path; they're made up of multiple subshells. So instead of seeing our shells as single, hard objects that stand between our fragile insides and the rest of the world, what if our shells are us?  What if we are, in large part, a series of nesting, porous, concentric energetic fields?  A series of areas, mostly made of empty space, that hold essential elements and that surround a balancingly neutral and opposite-charged dense molten core with slow energy, exactly as I have described in other writings.

Suddenly that sounds a lot less judgmental and a lot more Buddhist. If that's the way things are, suddenly we don't have to “do” anything about the shells. We don't have to fight against them or bolster them up. They're who we are, and how we connect with the world.

Also, if we think of our energy shells via the atomic model (and not the poultry or crustacean model), suddenly our shells are not what keep us apart from others...they are....

….Wait for it....

….What bring us together with others.

Happy atoms are atoms with full shells. We can all empathize with the atoms.  We all know the contented feeling of having full shells, and we all know the lonely, squirmy pangs of having too many or too few electrons. We instinctively know the atoms' relentless drive to get rid of the extras or find the missing ones. We know about the hunger for full shells. It's what makes us do...everything.

Some societies (hi, South America, the Mediterranean, the Middle East) are great about understanding that sometimes we have too many or too few electrons and need others to help us out. Some societies (hi, United States) are not great about it at all. And then we get unhappy
people. We get many women writing mournful letters to
Cosmo and wonder why.

Now, atoms have just as many checkered pasts and relationship sagas as the women who write to Cosmo.   Because atoms love to bond. It gives them full shells. Yum...full shells.  But there are different ways of bonding. We can bond electrovalently, or we can bond covalently.

That's means, either, 1., we can have a very exciting but weak and unstable bond where one of us gives the other everything. I have bonded electrovalently many times and even though it is highly charged and very exciting, it is weak and unstable and doesn't last. Or, 2., we can have a much stronger and more stable bond where we share some electrons. We share an energy that becomes part of both of us, that we both benefit from, and that fills up both of our shells. And then we create something new and beautiful and steady that can be of some real productive use.  Co-valent. Together-shell.

So: our shells are ourselves, and far from closing us off from the world, our shells are the habitats for the energy with which we connect with the world. Our shells contain and protect our nuclei and they are how we're built to actively reach out and bond with other shells. Our shells are not static things intended to maintain the status quo at all; in fact, they are the opposite, they are dynamic energetic fields specifically designed to help us forge productive conglomerate entities that we could ideally then use to benefit the rest of the world.

In fact, you could say that, far from being walls built for shutting the world out, our shells are embraces that surround us with light.

Just ask Beyoncé.