A place that has stirred contention in the community served as a place of calm Wednesday evening.
Andrew Soliz, a Native American who holds sweat lodges at his Bluebird Canyon home, hosted a group of visiting Tibetan monks.
The red-robed men filed out of a minivan and Soliz's wife, Carrie Woodburn, met them in their backyard. She placed medicine bag necklaces around their necks.
Soliz said the medicine wards off evil spirits they may encounter in their travels.
The monks are from the Drepung Loseling Phukhang monastery in southern India.
"The spirit of what the monks are doing all over the world — sharing peace and harmony with people — that's what we're trying to do here in Laguna Beach," Soliz said.
About 40 people, including the monks, stepped down the rock pathway and crawled into a tipi filled with rugs, pillows and an altar where Woodburn, Soliz and Neighborhood Congregational Church's the Rev. B.J. Beu settled.
"We face a similar struggle: that people don't understand our ways of prayer," Soliz said to monks, who nodded in agreement. "My home is your home."
The ceremony started with a Lakota prayer by Soliz and then the monks did a chant, which was explained as a means to please Buddha.
Sage hung from the tipi's wood posts and a candle burned in a bed of flowers in the center. People closed their eyes, some lifted their hands and heads, taking in the low, guttural chanting, which the monks followed with instrumental music. Soliz held a Lakota pipe ceremony and visitors passed a long wooden pipe around to smoke, which held Willow Tree bark, Soliz said.
The monks presented a blessing scarf to Soliz, Woodburn, Beu and Pam Wicks of the church. It was to say thank you and to say "we'll meet each other again," the monks' translator said.
Beu said he holds a special spot for Native American traditions. He was invited to participate in a sun dance at the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota in 1991, when he was working on his PhD in theology. He said his experience gave him a sense of clarity about his future and the importance of finishing his studies.
"It was that Lakota sacred ceremony that brought me back to the church," he said.
As people exited the tipi, a few remarked why neighbors and the city took issue with his ceremonies. The city eventually ruled that Soliz added additional shrubbery to his perimeter so that his neighbor could not see into his yard.
"I'm really grateful and hopeful that things will continue to heal around here," Soliz said.