I arrived in Assisi a few days before the start of the course, and was welcomed by a lovely young woman Chiara, her twin brothers and their father. I stayed with them for a few days, and experienced such hospitality I felt like part of their family..! From the balcony there was a beautiful view over Bettona town, spread on a hill. I made friends with their cats, enjoyed the company of these wonderful young people.. had conversations with their father, listening and nodding a lot, as I can’t speak Italian at all really, while the father would speak that only and very fast as well! Yet, I found this trying to understand Italian and getting understood in return as such a lovely challenge these two weeks in Italy, I was happy for every opportunity.. We also went out with Chiara, her friend Daniela and their other friends, in Perugia which is a very cool, strange windy student city near Assisi, and one evening also to afro dance which was great fun.
The course started on a sunny Tuesday and it was exciting to meet the other participants over a chat and a dinner at the beautiful hotel Assisi Garden. We were a group of 14, women from Finland, Canada and Australia, and one man from Finland.
So it became a week of lots of (feminine) energy and sharing, indeed..! Lovely ladies, they were all in their own ways warm, kind, wonderful, encouraging and inspiring. Many of them were spiritual healers, teachers or practitioners, and all come together in this place from all these corners of the world.. here in Assisi, one of the most spiritual places on Earth, as they say, we united for sharing, learning and exploration, in the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi..
There were beautiful experiences, synchronicities, pondering on the mystic stories, inspiring people of the past and present, on life, nature and our connection with it and ourselves.. learning and chatting about (re)connecting. Discussions about love, respect and gratitude in our doings and aspirations.. We visited many churches, and indeed in this city, there are plenty. The three-story cathedral of St Francis is beautifully decorated, though I guess according to the tradition of St Francis, not all that richly inlaid with gold and other expensive material as many other big cathedrals are. The church of Santa Maria Degli Angeli, which was quite a magical place.. St Francis had died in that place, and he also formed the small original, modest but beautiful stony chapel that is now inside the huge more modern cathedral of Santa Maria itself. In this cathedral, there is a corridor where two white pigeons live.. they are said never to leave the cathedral. There was also the chapel of St Chiara, where her story of commitment and modest life became very easily heart-felt.. And the forest site of St Francis. We had a lovely walk up the hill to reach the site, and entering in this forest was pure medicine for the soul, one could say. St Francis used to contemplate there in the trees, in the caves and groves.. we were about to turn back on the path but decided to continue a little further, and in the end there was an outdoor “church”, where a few benches were scattered around an altar. We had a little music moment there, in the sun and light breeze of the afternoon.
Why St Francis has always been and is today an inspiration to so many, became only really familiar to me through this course. His depicted connection with animals, modesty and will for a harmonious life between nature and man, non-intruding attitude with and respect and gratitude for nature.. these things for me are reminders in each day, and when thinking of it, it did humble one to feel grateful for stepping on these roads and places where St Francis also went through some of his steps in life.
I remember in Peru, when visiting a school teacher and shaman in Pisac village, our trip to the mountain was all about gratitude for and asking permission from the spirits all around, the wind, the sun, the mountain. During the week in Assisi we together “practiced” the same, during our visits to the “sacred sites”, the parks, or just anywhere.. this simple thing is so powerful, and quite inlaid in lots and lots of cultures for sure, and yet these days, not in all places we could say do people feel gratitude in each moment for what is around.. It is something that might make a huge different in each person’s life.. to remember, at all our moments, to realize that it is a gift, a precious thing indeed, something so amazing that we can’t even comprehend it. To breathe out gratefulness, ask “permission”, or listen to the surroundings, for grater connection and a sense of belonging. And all it takes, at any moment, is stopping, attention, opening up.
So, we were inspired by these stories of St Francis hundreds of years ago turning the then-demon-dwelled hill into the religious and spiritual centre it then became and still is, a place for pilgrimage.. in this natural beauty of the landscape, mountains, forests, hills. We also learnt and shared about eco-therapy, nature connection and other healing practices. We talked about crop circles and other mystic things and how these served and could serve, non-dependent on what their nature of reality is perceived to be, as reminders and messages to us all about life, what we’re her to do, and our common and alone paths forward.
Gratitude was, thus, the most prevailing feeling and way of being over this week and afterwards. Gratitude for the things learnt and shared, for past, present and future.. for each other! I loved feeling so much love and openness with these ladies and a gentleman, and am grateful for the connections. 🙂 With them, with my hosts over this time, with all those whom I’ve met.. people and other creatures alike.
To remember each day this little practice I learnt once from a friend:
“Breathing in, I feel joyful. Breathing out, I give thanks.”
So; thank you, thank you, thank you!