The Ojai Foundation Departs from The Land Sanctuary by Summer 2022
Nearly four years ago, The Ojai Foundation (TOF) entered a new and challenging time in its history. The Thomas Fire, followed shortly thereafter by the Covid-19 pandemic, drastically altered the context within which TOF operates, revealing large and difficult decisions. For years now, we have been grappling with these issues, and though the particulars are unique, we know we are not alone in facing challenging times. This autumn, the TOF Board of Directors aligned on a decision that the form of TOF must change. Central to this change is a timely departure by summer 2022 from the beloved ridge that gave birth to TOF and has been our primary teacher for more than four decades. (As many of you know, we don’t own the land, and have had a lease since the 1970’s.)
The impetus for this decision has been a long time coming. The four years since the fire have been dedicated to recovering safety, accessibility and beauty on the land while re-imagining and re-initiating TOF and partner programming. These years have also been spent navigating continuous challenges to meaningfully getting back on our feet. Throughout, we have done everything we could to recover the land and organizational potential. This has asked of us humility, patience and perseverance, and has served as a reminder that it is in the face of hardship that resilience arises. One essential aspect of resilience, as we are learning, is the ability to adapt.
With this, we sense that the conditions are calling for profound change, not only for TOF, but for the world more broadly. Our ongoing exploration of how to best move forward, guided by vision and grounded in financial and other realities, has led us, time and again, away from trying to resurrect the form of TOF, and toward acceptance of change. Thus, this decision stems not from a sense of defeat or lack of love for what was, but from a recognition that the most generative and powerful act we can make in support of TOF is to evolve. In so doing, we believe the gifts held in the current form will be made available, and further seeded in the collective, to help carry the work forward.
As you may imagine, we did not come to this decision quickly or easily. For some, our decision will seem paradoxical, to others, heretical, and still to others, exactly right. For those who experience this news as a loss in some way, we are with you, and offer our condolences.
We see this change as a rite of passage for the organization, for those who have helped to midwife it into being, and for all those who have been impacted by its existence and carry part of the memory and the legacy. As with so many rites of passage, there is a reckoning with the gifts and challenges that brought us to this threshold, alongside a reckoning with the unknown gifts and challenges waiting on the other side. For us, as for so many, the question, “What comes next?” looms large. And while we are alert to the many threads of possibility, we return again and again to the questions, “What needs to happen now? How do we honor the ridge and all that which made TOF what it has been, even as we step toward what it is becoming?”
Thus, our aim is to move through this transformation with care, taking the time we need to transition as best we know how, and no more. This includes a focused effort to center reciprocity and relationship—with the ridge, the tributaries and teachings that gave shape to TOF, the local Chumash tribal hosts, the landlords, the practices, the community, the shrines, the ancestors, the future generations, and more. While the decision regarding the future stewardship of the ridge rests with the Happy Valley Foundation, we carry the hope that the ridge remain available as a sanctuary, and are doing what we can to support this.
As an organization deeply rooted in practices of storytelling and witnessing, we believe that sharing the story as it unfolds is part of moving through this rite of passage well. We will do our best to share updates, respond to questions, and create spaces for council, story sharing, grieving and celebrating as we go. We welcome other suggestions you may have too.
Finally, as we share this news publicly, we offer a deep bow to the many hands, hearts, and visionaries that have come before, breathing life into the dream that TOF is a part of. For whatever part, large or small, seen or unseen, that you have played in this story so far, thank you.
For those wanting to know more, we have prepared a simple FAQ sheet: Completing TOF Stewardship of the Ridge FAQs. Please take a look.
The TOF Board of Directors