It is with great gratitude that we share here a summary of the Mount’s renewal since the Thomas Fire, which occurred two years ago today.
As you know, Meditation Mount suffered extensive damage in December 2017 when the fire swept from upper Santa Paula through Ventura, and up the coast into Santa Barbara County, encircling the entire Ojai Valley along the way. Sitting in the eastern corner of the Valley, we were among the first to experience its devastation, along with our neighbors to the south, including the Ojai Valley School and The Ojai Foundation.
Firefighters described the Mount grounds as a “moonscape.” The Thomas Fire touched every corner including 60% of the Gardens and beyond that on the property.
The structures of Meditation Mount sit atop 32 acres of open agricultural land. The Thomas Fire consumed the oak trees and chaparral brush on 28 of those acres, scorching our International Garden of Peace with its ever-popular Vista Circle. Even though a couple of our residents fought heroically to protect the facilities throughout the night and into the next day, one of our homes, which we affectionately called “Tree House,” burned to the ground.
Later we learned that virtually every wall, every piece of fabric, every rubber hose and sprinkler were impacted or compromised by the fire or its smoke. Many electrical wires and underground water pipes were affected as well. The bushes that bordered the winding driveway were consumed. Every system ceased to function normally. As the ashes smoldered and the smoke rose, the challenges before us were overwhelming.
What was left of “Tree House” after the Thomas Fire came through.
As we regrouped over the next few months to determine which were the first steps to take towards renewal, many individuals and communities responded with generous offers of labor and donations. Though we had no idea how long it would take to receive insurance funds needed to start the work and pay for the rehabilitation materials necessary to make the Mount welcoming again, we proceeded in faith and trust.
First, we took the time to listen. Our history with Creative Meditation served as the stabilizing force for our staff and board meetings, allowing us to collectively attune to the daily rhythms of the Mount. We realized that, with the wisdom available to us, inspiration from the subtle realms, and our cumulative intuition, we had before us an opportunity to co-create a “new Mount,” one best suited to serve a rapidly evolving humanity and earth. Excitement began to replace grief as we cleared, and cleaned, and commenced with the work of renewal.
CET crew replacing the boulders along the driveway.
Along with observing both the physical and subtle realms, we assessed the damage to our infrastructure. Not only would we need to replant and rebuild: It also became evident that it was time to upgrade elements of our plumbing, electrical, and information systems. The Mount is approaching 50 years old and some of her body parts are vintage originals. We wondered how it would be possible to address these necessary improvements with our limited resources.
And then a miracle arrived: The CET
CET stands for Center for Employment Training. This government program recruits people with various challenges to obtaining employment and retrains through short and long-term projects, focusing primarily on natural disaster recovery. The Mount qualified for CET support and soon crews of paid workers were showing up Monday-Friday ready to contribute.
As we reformed into a larger renewal team, meditating and working daily side-by-side, we were told by many of the crew that this was the first time they felt safe to simply be themselves. Through their insights, we were reminded of the way the Mount nurtures its many and diverse guests. It became obvious that, though our journeys may appear different from the outside, the inner exploration is very similar, being one of self-trust, freedom, creativity, and love.
The CET crew affirmed our trust in what we learned to call “the perfect timing.” There is no way we could have arrived where we are today without them. Our garden is blooming and our walls are shining with fresh paint. The driveway is lined with shrubs and boulders. We have even started to rebuild a washed-out path around the property and have re-identified the Tree House site as a future outdoor amphitheater with an unparalleled view of the Topa Topa mountains.
We are once again on the cusp of being able to welcome guests to the Mount. We look forward to doing so through guided tours early next year, when we will be sharing our mission and vision in person with you, our friends and supporters.
We look forward to seeing you in 2020. In the meantime, we invite you to sign up here to be the first to hear about the tours and events we will be offering.
Your continued interest and support are deeply appreciated!
Yours in the Spirit of Grace and Joy, Meditation Mount Team
Board of Directors: Brian Ziegler (also Executive Director) Elisabetta Raspini Halina Bak-Hughes Michael Lindfield Rosie Romero Sheldon Hughes
Staff and Consultants: Judy Gabriel Karina Arcia Karen McMahon Miguel Contreras Suzie Nixon Timothy Hall Tyler Suchman Victoria Bernstein