Wednesday, August 15, 2018

How to Find Quiet at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

How to Find Quiet at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

“You said this would be a ‘spiritual tour’ of the Aquarium but it is so noisy.” “Are there days when children aren’t allowed at the Aquarium?” “I’m exhausted by all the people here.” 

I promise the folks who come on Blue Theology service trips and pilgrimages that we will have a “spiritual tour” of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but at 2 million visitors a year, is that possible?  Don’t we need quiet and a little personal space to be “spiritual?”

Yes, and no.  People are different.  Some folks feel most connected to God in a crowd, like a massive church service, or with noise and action, like the March for the Ocean I went on in Washington DC.  God is there!  (I understand, but I don’t like the anti-children attitude of many guests.)

Yet silence and space can help us find deep spiritual peace.  As a 20-year volunteer guide, I can turn you on to a few hidden quiet places and some spiritual practices that can help a visit to the Aquarium be less of a madhouse.

I wrote last week about the spiritual practice of praying ocean icons in front of the Aquarium’s small round windows.  I will continue this theme for a few weeks in these Wednesday posts, to motivate me to complete my brochure or app on “How to Have a Spiritual Visit to the Aquarium.” 

Please share with me your own spiritual experiences there, or ideas that would help the Aquarium meet your spiritual needs.  (And remember that I love to give tours, and I can get a fair number of folks in free – be in touch!) 

Today – some ideas for a quiet visit. 

-Come right at opening (9:30/10am depending on the season) and go right to the big or deep places that move you – Open Sea million-gallon tank, jellies, octopus, before others get there.
-Stay late (closes at 5/6pm).  Families often bail after lunch.
-Come on a weekday.  Or January – empty.
-Go up to the third floor – rarely are folks there because not so much to see, but there is a sweet little deck, and a view of the top of the big Kelp Forest exhibit.  Once I saw a father holding a little toddler there, staring at the gentle pump that makes the ocean surge in that exhibit, and I asked if they needed help finding anything, and he said “No thanks.   We just needed a little break from the noise and people, to calm down.  We like this spot.”  I left them in peace.  (We guides can be too talkative.  The staff has tried to teach us that sometimes the greatest interpretation is just to stand and watch in awe.)
-Find other hidey-holes if only for a breather: The Open Sea balcony, the benches behind the stairs to Splash Zone (pictured,)  various little hidden decks.  Few people at any of those places, even on a popular day.
-When there is a feeding scheduled, resist the lure of the crowded spectacle, and go somewhere else, take the road less traveled.
-When a group of school kids approaches, just stand still and let them rush through like a school of fish.  Don’t try to avoid or outrun them, just pretend they are sardines and let them swim on past.  It happens very fast and they are gone.
-Just slow down.  Stop and read the inspiring quotations.  Sit on a bench in the sun or the dark and close your eyes and let the murmur of folks be a wave of compassion. 
-You can always get your hand stamped and go outside, take a walk on the recreation trail and see the harbor seal beach next door and then come back later.  And compared to Cannery Row, the Aquarium is downright silent!
_____________ – come for the excitement, stay for the quiet – we will help that happen.  I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and on Facebook.

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