Water + Spirit
JOBI MANSON combines the energy of the ocean with the power of the subconscious for a meditation experience you won’t soon forget.
Your eyes are closed. The sun warms your face, the ocean gently undulates beneath you, and the salt air fills your lungs. You’re lying flat on your back on a paddleboard in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Malibu. You’ve just paddled out beyond the break, and Jobi Manson, who paddled out with you, is holding your board in place so you don’t have to worry about floating out to sea, though you’re starting to think that might not be so bad. Manson’s voice reaches your ears over the gentle sound of lapping water, and she leads you through a few deep breaths before diving in to a guided meditation she’s created especially for you. Sound heavenly? It is. And potentially super powerful too.
Manson’s been guiding clients through this ocean-fueled visualization practice, which she calls a Water + Spirit session, for about nine months now. But the 29-year-old’s connection to the ocean goes back much, much further, as she explains when we sit down to chat on the sunny steps of Sefari, her small, eclectic shop that sits right on the Pacific Coast Highway. She’s barefoot, as she most often is, with grains of sand clinging to the nooks of her toes. Her dog Cheddar, a cream-colored puggle, ambles in and out of the store, stopping at our feet every now and again for a good butt scratch. Manson’s laidback air is matched only by her no-bullshit vibe, and her smile is big and easy. She’s wearing a brimmed hat that shades her face, but the sprinkling of freckles across her nose speaks to a life of ocean-loving, one that started when she was a kid. Manson grew up in Maryland, along the Chesapeake Bay, and the water was always a big part of her life. Thanks to a love for the movie Endless Summer, Manson began surfing when she was 15, going to surf camps in California, and then traveling to South Africa during her senior year of high school, where she spent time surfing and immersing herself in the culture. It was a trip that changed everything. “From the moment I stepped foot on that continent, my life was never the same. It was really the first time I saw myself. And felt at home within myself,” she says. “There’s a different kind of energy there in the way that people connect with each other—spending time with one another around a fire and sharing stories and listening to other peoples’ experience was something that really brought me an incredible amount of joy. That energy stuck with me.”
It turned out to be the first of many trips to Africa—Tanzania, Botswana, and Mozambique are just a few of the countries Manson has traveled to there. And that energy has deeply informed the life Manson leads now. In 2015 she opened Sefari: a wood-paneled, plant-filled space with gorgeous textiles, handmade goods, crystals, and wetsuits, much of which come from her many travels. But it goes well beyond that. “Sefari is a sanctuary for creative exploration. It’s a way of life,” Manson explains. “It’s a physical location where people can come to engage in creative practices as a means of self discovery. It’s connecting and congregating people around artistry, cultural preservation, storytelling—the things that make human experience symbolic, dynamic, and purposeful.”
There’s another life-changing experience that plays a deeply impactful role in Manson’s Water + Spirit work as well. After a discombobulating breakup a number of years ago—one that was both personal and professional—left Manson experiencing a bit of an identity crisis, she went through a program called The Hoffman Process, what she calls “a transformational workshop where you deal with all of the negative patterning in your childhood.” There she learned the import of meditation and visualization, and was also introduced to a book called Blue Mind, in which a marine biologist explores our connection to water from a neurological standpoint. “That book fascinated me because it articulated that which I’ve always felt, as a surfer, as a water woman, as somebody who loves the ocean. It gave me the language and the science and the intellectual perspective of what goes on in our bodies when we’re near the water,” she says. “I was doing a lot of neurological reprogramming at the time and I thought to myself, I wonder what would happen if I combined these two practices?” For Manson, the experience was electric. “I experienced profound spiritual revelation,” she says, with a sense of awe. “Water has a very special ability where it shifts our brainwaves from alpha and beta to theta which is a greater state of relaxation, so it allows you to explore your subconscious on deeper levels.” She decided to share the experience with others, and her paddleboard meditation practice was born.
Book a Water + Spirit session with Manson and you’ll first get a questionnaire, the initial step toward cultivating the self-awareness this practice encourages. In addition to some gently probing questions about your worldview, she asks you to assess where you stand physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. She also asks for your birthdate. From there she curates a meditation experience just for you, drawing from your answers as well as your astrological energy. On the day of your session you’ll meet Manson at Little Beach House, the Malibu branch of the Soho House, which acts as the point of departure. There she’ll provide you with a wetsuit if you don’t already have one, and give you a rundown of the paddleboard basics if you’re not familiar (and you certainly don’t need to be). A few minutes later and you’ll be paddling out to sea.
“Ultimately that is my healing practice, I believe if I can help people shift their consciousness and associate it with a certain environment, then they can have a connection with something that maybe they didn’t know existed,” Manson says. “Curating that type of emotional experience from a sensory perspective is the most powerful thing I’ve been able to witness. It’s how I want to save the world—in that space, in a place that I love. How do we save the world? We save ourselves. Each person just saves themself. From a place of love and consideration.”
Manson’s voice instructs you to take a few deep breaths. You’re not sure how long your eyes have been closed. You weren’t sleeping but you weren’t fully awake either, at least not in the physical-plane sense. You blink, adjusting to the sun, and slowly sit up on your paddleboard, with a new appreciation for the way the light glimmers off the water, for the gentle rocking, for the vastness of the horizon. As you start to paddle back to shore, a seal pops its head out of the water, so close you could almost touch it. An animal, Manson later shares, that represents creativity and playfulness, a sign to pay close attention to your insight and allow your imagination to soar, to follow your dreams.