Dear Friends,
Since the Thomas fire began, all of us who serve the Mount have been deeply moved by heartfelt outpourings of love and support from so many of you around the world who cherish this place and who support our mission of service.

We invite you to read our description of harrowing destruction and miraculous protection at the Mount during the Thomas Fire, and to donate to help us restore this sanctuary of beauty, harmony and inspiration.

The Fire
On Monday, December 4th, a brush fire started four miles east of Meditation Mount, spreading extremely fast due to 80 mile per hour gusts of dry wind, and within hours covered a huge area that burned all the way to the Ventura coastline.

A quick look at the donut shaped fire map shows how downtown Ojai was miraculously saved after over 9,000 firefighters from 8 states worked tirelessly on the scene.

Known as the Thomas Fire, it is now the largest fire in California’s recorded history. It has burned a large swath of the Los Padres National forest north of Ojai, and currently threatens the cities of Montecito and Santa Barbara. “Red Flag warnings” and high winds remain all across the area, letting us know our communities are not out of danger yet.

Fire on The Mount
Here at the Mount on that fateful night, stewards Tim Hall and Art Durand stayed behind after the other resident staff members were mandatorily evacuated.

As the fires drew ever closer and smoked filled the air, they ran from place to place, urgently dousing precious buildings, trees and gardens to discourage the fire from gaining ground.

Together they worked all night, often in 80 mile per hour gusts of wind and near-freezing conditions.

They used the Mount’s 100-foot-long fire hose to chase flames from one side of the mountain to the other – at one point narrowly avoiding being hit by the crown of a giant eucalyptus tree which crashed to the earth at their feet.

When after dawn the risk simply became too great, they too were forced to leave.

Challenges & Blessings
Despite the courageous efforts of Tim, Art, and the firefighters who later arrived at the Mount, about 28 of our 32 acres burned severely along with about 60 percent of the plants in the International Garden of Peace.

We were moved to tears to see Tree House, the home of beloved team members Ali Sun Trees and Tyler Suchman, had been reduced to a heap of smoldering ash.

Yet the miracle of that night is that most of the the Mount’s buildings and some of the gardens still stand. We have Tim and Art to thank for their all night vigil which saved the remaining houses and office.

Firefighters who came on the scene early that morning were able to save the Auditorium and Peace Portal with just seconds to spare. The fire had come so close to the Auditorium that paint and door handles had melted. Burning benches had been doused with water and pushed aside, thus saving our iconic wooden Peace Portal.

And although the fires came right up to the edge of the garden perimeter, thoroughly burning the canyons all around, 40 percent of the plants seem to have survived at the top near the Garden Path.

Tim, Art & Miguel have visited the Mount each day since, doing their best to save our remaining trees and plants, despite having to wear gas masks for the smoke and having no electrical power.

Gratitude for Mount Magic
Another miracle was and is the indomitable spirit of Tyler and Ali Sun, who, since the fire first began and despite having lost their home and belongings, never missed a beat in their dedicated action and participation on behalf our team and the Mount.

Similarly, Tim and Art, just minutes after their all-night fire fighting marathon, and standing in their freezing wet clothes at the evacuation site, created humor and community with the staff, even through their tears.

Our team members have underlined an inner beauty of the Mount which is just as touching to us as the outer beauty has ever been: a team of people seamlessly committed to serving the whole.

Tyler, AliSun, Tim and Art, thank you for your dedicated hearts, your humor, & your service to all in this community.

It is beautiful to be a part of something greater than ourselves and to feel others alongside us, moved by the same love.

At the core of the beautiful outer forms of Meditation Mount which inspire us all, is an activating, harmonious, collaborative Force, a Presence that the outer forms – like our gardens and our team – reflect, and which the Mount invites us to contact within our own hearts and in connection with one another.

We are grateful that this Presence remains fully shining and available to all who choose to participate with the Mount.

The Mount was founded upon this Force and it seems it was at work through Tim, Art and others while Ojai was threatened, as Firefighters later told us the fire was ushered to split north and south, preventing it from moving straight west into Ojai.

A Call To Action
We have been greatly heartened by the many voices now asking, “How can I help?”

We invite you to increase your contribution to the Mount at this time by making donations to rebuild, regrow, and revitalize this sacred place of beauty, harmony, and inspiration.

When the outer forms of beauty constrict, it’s the inner beauty of service that, when cultivated in community, brings renewal and reinvigoration. Our hearts can be lifted, even as we face the grey torn landscapes around us.

This shared purpose of healing, and the actions that follow, give rise new beautiful outer forms – both at Meditation Mount, and throughout the Ojai region.

These hills will come alive again and the Mount is a place that can catalyze that process. Please join us by contributing to this restoration through your gift today.

We also greatly appreciate your offers of voluntary help but as we are still in the midst of this crisis, are unable to respond to them immediately. If however you wish to contact us at rebuild@nullmeditationmount.org, we will reach out to you when the Mount becomes operational once more.

Our actions are our only true belongings.Thich Nhat Hanh
In The Short Term
Although it will be a few weeks before we will know what date we can reopen for continuous service, we are already planning ways that we can support the greater community through this next period of months, as we heal together.

We will seek to lift the hearts and vision of people from all around, as for example, they come to gaze upon the swath of the Ojai Valley that was miraculously saved from the fire, or to find healing by working together replanting trees and gardens.

We also intend to host events for the community which can serve to support collective recovery.

We feel blessed to have you with us as we move through the challenges of recovering and restoring.

Thank you so much for your continued love and support.

The Meditation Mount team of Stewards:

Ali Sun Trees
Art Durand
Brian Ziegler
Corinna Bloom
Elisabetta Raspini
Halina Bak-Hughes
Michael Lindfield
Miguel Contreras
Paul Stanton
Ron Thurlow
Rosamaria Romero
Sheldon Hughes
Stephanie Sacha
Timothy Hall
Tyler Suchman

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