Meditate with Monterey Bay Aquarium

It’s no secret that meditating reduces anxiety and depression and improves immunity—and during the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to bolster our physical and emotional health. Research has also shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression, according to Harvard Health.

A southern sea otter named Abby in the Sea Otter Exhibit. ©Monterey Bay Aquarium

So I was thrilled when I opened an e-newsletter from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California informing me that during the time that the aquarium is closed to the public for the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re hosting video meditations (they call them “medit-oceans”) featuring a soothing, 10-minute guided meditation you can do while gazing at some relaxing ocean imagery. (You can join the medit-ocean live at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time, Monday–Friday. You can also find the meditations on YouTube or the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Facebook page at any time that you need some nature-based relaxation.)

“This is a stressful time, but connecting with one another digitally and sharing our love of the ocean centers us when so much feels uncertain. We hope you, too, will find some relief and community online with us.”  

                                               —Monterey Bay Aquarium

Glorious “Relax-ocean”

Two young visitors admire the aquarium’s Kelp Forest exhibit. ©Monterey Bay Aquarium

This morning, my husband and I participated in the first of a series of live, online “medit-ocean”: a 10-minute video treat gazing at Pacific sea nettles, a type of jellyfish that stings. (You can see a photo of the Pacific sea nettles at the bottom of this post.)

A very calm woman’s voice instructed us in deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and visualizations. I especially liked the part where she instructed us that every time a thought—or a worry or a fear—pops up, just to visualize attaching that thought to one of the undulating sea nettles and then watch it float away.

After 10 minutes I felt refreshed—plus I had an appreciation for and fascination with the Pacific sea nettles after having watched the animals’ graceful tentacles—some long and thin, others flutey and lacy. There will be different animals featured for different meditations, so I’m eager to get to get better acquainted with the sea life!

Be There Now with Live Webcams

If medit-ocean isn’t your thing, there are other great online ways to explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium, whether you’re in a Manhattan skyscraper, on the Arizona desert, or in the snowy Rocky Mountains. Via webcams and videos found on the Aquarium website  and their Facebook page, you can literally experience the wonders of the ocean no matter where you are.

Monterey Bay Aquarium has ten live web cameras to choose from, including:

Penguin Cam: Resting, preening, or swimming, these inquisitive African penguins are hoot! They’re fed to make sure they get their daily vitamin, and sometimes by tossing food into the water to stimulate foraging behavior. Watch for underwater acrobatics as the penguins dart and dive to catch their fish.

African penguins on exhibit in the Splash Zone. ©Monterey Bay Aquarium

Sea Otter Cam: Be delighted by the antics of our sea otters or mellow out to the hypnotic drifting of our jellies. including playful sea otters (humor is good for your health)

Kelp Forest Cam: Watch fish and small sharks glide through the swaying kelp forest

Sea Jelly Cams: There’s one live camera for the underwater dances of the reddish sea nettles and another for the hypnotic moon jellies that drift like slow-motion dancers.

A flamboyant cuttlefish in the Tentacles exhibit. ©Monterey Bay Aquarium

Shark Cam: You’ll spot sharks, rays, and other fishes as they cruise through the rocky reef. Among the types you’ll see are Sevengill sharks, leopard sharks, spiny dogfish and the elusive Pacific angel shark. The Aquarium’s 90-foot-long hourglass shape gives big sharks plenty of room to glide and turn. Watch carefully and you might see big skates and bat rays pass by the window!

Coral Reef Cam: This Baja coral-reef community teems with colorful tropical fish, including the Cortez wrasse, scrawled filefish, and Cortez angelfish. In the wild, coral reefs are among the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth.

A cluster of strawberry anemones. ©Monterey Bay Aquarium

This is how I’m getting my infusion of the miraculous animals and sea plants in the oceanic ecosystems until I can travel again. When it’s safe after the pandemic, Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the first places I hope to head.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Read more about my travels to California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium: Monterey Bay Aquarium: Saving Oceans One Fish at a Time 

Though sea nettles are jellyfish with a sting, their flowy motions are perfect for a tranquil meditation. ©Monterey Bay Aquarium

A Flock of Witches Paddles California’s Morro Bay for Charity

Each year, a shadowy group of witches and warlocks creates a fun and frightful scene when they take over Morro Bay, California, the weekend before Halloween . Local professional photographer Danna Joy Dykstra-Coy witnessed the event and memorialized the 2019 scene with these amazing photographs.

The annual Witch’s Paddle at Morro Bay, California. Photo © Danna Joy Dykstra-Coy

“We started the Witch’s Paddle event in 2013 to celebrate Halloween,” says Annette Ausseresses, one of the original witch paddlers. “Since then, we’ve seen the idea really take off, and now there are Witch’s and Warlock’s Paddles happening from coast to coast.”

The Halloween fun is even better now that it has an altruistic aspect. “We decided to add a donation component to this year’s event and get the public involved,” says Ausseresses. Canned goods and/or cash donations were collected at the Witch’s Paddle by the Food Bank of San Luis Obispo County, a network of community partners dedicated to alleviating hunger in San Luis Obispo County and building a healthier community.

Solo witch in the harbor of Morro Bay. Photo ©Danna Joy Dykstra-Coy

The public is invited to join in the paddle or to watch the floating coven in the harbor. (Please note that there’s no instruction, lifeguards, or supervision at the event. Participants are encouraged to follow Coast Guard requirements for personal flotation devices, and each person is responsible for providing their own equipment and costume.) For board rentals, contact Morro Bay Stand Up Paddleboarding, which can make sure all scary participants are fitted with the most suitable board.

Explore Morro Bay by Foot, Car, or Broomstick

Located along coastal Highway 1 in San Luis Obispo County just south of Big Sur—and midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco—Morro Bay offers activities that range from ocean-side golf, kayaking, sailing, hiking, fishing, surfing, biking, and bird watching, to kite flying, shopping, dining, wine bars, local craft brews and miles of unspoiled beaches.

This active, seaside fishing village has a bustling waterfront and offers a fun and funky getaway for travelers who seek great wine, seafood, and outdoor adventures.

Morro Bay is famous for massive Morro Rock, named “El Morro” (Spanish for “crown-shaped hill”) by Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542.

Witches paddle near Morro Rock to raise money for the local food bank. Photo ©Danna Joy Dykstra-Coy

Morro Rock is so prominent that it’s been dubbed the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.” It’s a State Historic Landmark, bird sanctuary, and home to nesting peregrine falcons.

The rock itself is the last of a line of long-extinct volcanoes, which include nine peaks, called the Nine Sisters, ranging from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay.

Morro Bay’s charm and mild Mediterranean climate offer an idyllic coastal escape great for kayaking, surfing stand-up paddling, hiking, camping, and more, so bring your broom and join the fun.

For more information on things to do and see in Morro Bay, visit www.morrobay.org.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer, editor, and writing coach

Floating flock of witches on Morro Bay. Photo © Danna Joy Dykstra-Coy