This morning  (Thurs, Oct. 28), the Laguna Beach Neighborhood Congregational Church welcomed 5 Tibetan monks (all the way from India) to its sanctuary. For the next five days, these monks will be creating an original sand painting (Sand Mandala) as an expression and call for compassion in Laguna Beach and around the world.

This was quite an opening event to witness. After an initial introduction from their interpreter, they proceeded with chanting and singing as they blessed and prepared the space for their 5-day event. From there, they took more than an hour to create a chalk print of the original design, then began dusting the “blueprint” with very fine (almost invisible) threads of colored sand  through small metal funnels. They “play” the funnels with thin metal rods, which hurries or slows the sand’s flow in the funnels. To see my introductory explanation of this, as well as a CNN time-lapse video, click my blog entry here: Tibetan Monks Come to Laguna

It is meticulous and seemingly back-breaking work.  The monks are such lovely, amicable  souls, though. As they pluck the chalky strings to create their blueprint, and as they stoop over the sand painting for hours on end, they are absolutely indifferent to us, the curious onlookers, as we kalump around their space and crowd in for photos and videos. When they straighten, or walk to the foyer for a short break, they bow and smile to any one coming their way. Whatever their outside world is doing is no matter to them – they are solely focused on conveying the message they have come to teach.

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It was only a month ago that one of the congregation’s members heard that the Monks were on a West Coast tour. A new Tibetan store had opened in town (I know, I know, I’ve failed as the Know All of Laguna Beach, but I’m on it this weekend!) . . . .and the owner of the store asked this woman if she knew of a place in Laguna Beach that would be conducive to such a rare event. (Truly, these Sand Mandalas are rare creations and are usually reserved for much, much larger populations.)

She called the Reverend immediately to ask his opinion. “Of course it was supposed to be here and right here in the sanctuary,” says Rev. B.J. Beu. “This is our sacred space; it’s where we celebrate all walks and all religions.”

The monks will continue to create the painting through next Tuesday morning. When I asked what the congregation will do on Sunday for its normal service, Rev. Beu explained that the service will incorporate the monks in the ceremony. They will continue to work as the church celebrates All Saints day, “which is certainly all about honoring people and their denominations throughout history,” he says.

This is really such a phenomenal, rare event to see. Make sure you get down to the church over the next 5 days – simply walk into the sanctuary, take a seat, or hover close to their work. This will be something you remember for many years. The monks are at work every day from 10:00 to 3:00. Admission is free.

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