On April 20, 2002, the new caretakers at Meher Mount in Ojai, California, officially opened the doors for the first time to welcome visitors. Ray Johnston and Elizabeth Arnold accepted the position several weeks earlier while in the Yucatan, Mexico, where Ray was conducting workshops.
In addition to providing energetic healing sessions to clients and conducting personal growth workshops around the world, Ray is also owner of a tour company specializing in world tours of self-discovery. His expertise is in East African natural and cultural history (where he lived and worked in 1979) and in Mexico and the Southwestern U.S.
For 20 years he was a park ranger and superintendent in the North Carolina state park system and retired in 1996. In these "out of the way" areas he learned many of the skills that he feels will benefit Meher Mount.
"My background is in resource management, but living in remote areas one has to learn a variety of management and maintenance skills." His love for and connection to nature and Meher Baba, plus the suggestion of a good friend in North Carolina, was what first brought him to Meher Mount.
"Elizabeth and I moved to Ojai last year. I had been traveling almost constanlty for 6 years conducting tours and giving healing seminars around the world. I had always wanted to live in Ojai after first visiting it in 1972, and I needed a home. The energy and beauty drew me.
"Once in Ojai, my friend John Freeze in North Carolina suggested that I visit Sulphur Mountain and Meher Mount after we had spent time together at the center [Meher Spiritual Center] in Myrtle Beach. I then made regular trips to Meher Mount to meditate and visit the previous caretakers Billy and Pamela Goodrum.
"My connection to Baba began in 1972 with reading the Discourses [Meher Baba] and Listen Humanity [by Don Stevens]. In 1975 I attended a talk at UCSB [University of California, Santa Barbara] given by a young man just returned from Meherabad. He had with him a few articles by Baba. As the small group left the room, I was turned around at the door by an inner force, and I found myself at the table lifting Baba's sadhra to my chest and heart.
"I experienced an energetic opening that was very powerful for a couple of days. Baba has since that time been a consistently powerful part of my own personal healing, transformation, and guidance. My initial hesitancy to apply for the caretaker position was cleared by Baba's reassurance one morning under His tree on the property."
Elizabeth was immediately struck by the beauty and energy of Meher Mount. She was born in Arlington, Virginia, and studied abroad in Oxford, England, and traveled throughout Europe. With a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from George Mason University In Fairfax, Virginia, Elizabeth's professional background includes management, marketing and public relations.
She grew up on Ocracoke Island, where her family resides. Located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Ocracoke is only accessible by plane or boat and most of the Island is preserved as National Seashore.
"We are always surprised and heartened by the support of those who understand the particular challenge of living as caretakers at Meher Mount," explains Ray. "The first couple of months were very difficult getting acclimated and doing water system repairs. I had asked and prayed for a message concerning the challenges of being at Meher Mount.
"Shortly thereafter a friend from Phoenix came to visit. It was in 1972 that he had introduced me to Listen Humanity as we drove across the US, eventually coming to Ojai. Unknown to me, he had copied on an index card some words from the book that struck him and put it inside the pages.
"These words remained on the index card, hidden within the pages of Listen Humanity for exactly 30 years to the month when my friend came to visit us at Meher Mount for the first time last June . Having brought the same book to read once again after 30 years, out falls the card with the message that turned out to be my answer:
"'Know that this house can be useful only to those who recognize their nothingness and who believe in the possibility of changing.'"
According to Elizabeth, "One of the benefits of being at Meher Mount is seeing individuals change as they visit. The stress of their daily life drops away as they glimpse the magnitude of what Meher Mount offers. The panoramic mountain views, the Baba Tree, the shrine at the site of the guest house where Baba visited, all contribute to creating a very special place.
"Agnes Baron's vision and Baba's essence affects all visitors on some level, including us. Being here for even a short visit is transformation."
"Meet the New Caretakers at Meher Mount" is reprinted with permission from the Love Street Lamp Post, January 2003. Published by the Avatar Meher Baba Center of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA.