Return to the Sacred Heart of Italy
Our Second Global Pilgrimage to Assisi

the 7. higher-we summer retreat - live, global, and online

from August 1-11, 2021

Join in Creating a Global Mandala
Anchored by the Power of Assisi

Some participants from 2020 share their experience

We invite you to join us in sacred Italy–live and online. Last year, all of us who participated in our online global pilgrimage were surprised at the depth and presence we experienced together. If you have always wanted to visit but not found the time or if you would like to experience the sacred power of this esteemed location without flying across the world, we offer you a way to experience the beauty, silence, and spirit of this gorgeous town and region without leaving home.

Assisi is one of the most powerful spiritual places in the world. For nearly 800 years, pilgrims have come to encounter St. Francis, the humble, God-intoxicated, lover of Nature and the path of simplicity. His beautiful poem, Canticle of the Creatures, written when he was near death, is a testament to the Living Spirit in all of creation. Today it has perhaps even more relevance. as we realize our impact on the ecosystem of Earth and all her creatures.

This year, we would also like to emphasize the unique partnership that Francis shared with Clare, who eventually became St. Clare and founded an Order of nuns that still moves women to join today.  The power of their spiritual friendship is both an inspiration and example.

As an online participant, we will take you with us to Assisi via Zoom videoconference. We’ll walk you through the stone streets and into the glorious churches that vibrate with prayer and silence.  We will walk the halls of San Damiano, experiencing the powerful presence in the room where Clare died. We will meditate together in the Basilicas dedicated to each of these powerful figures and in the forest monastery where St. Francis prayed. Together, we’ll explore how the sacred spaces of Assisi deepen our meditation practice. The first days of the retreat begin slowly–with a few meditations mixed with encounters with the beauty and presence of Assisi.

The majority of the retreat will be in the Umbrian hills, at Casa della Pace, a small retreat center in a once-abandoned medieval chapel, which was founded by Santi Borgni. Santi was inspired by the teachings of J. Krishnamurti, the 20th century Indian sage, to create a space where people could meet deeply in dialogue. (He also is an amazing vegetarian cook–and has provided recipes from his vegetarian/vegan cookbook for retreat participants.) During the week, we will dive into silence within a schedule of intensive meditation, conscious movement, walks and delicious Italian vegetarian meals.

The online retreat is free–and we gratefully accept voluntary contributions. A portion of any contribution will be given to Casa della Pace, to help Santi and his team recover from the loss of business due to the coronavirus lockdowns. We invite you to support our work and also the work of the Casa.

Working Schedule

The times shown should be your own timezone.

You choose how much you participate. The meditation schedule is set up so that persons from around the world can find up to six hours per day where they can join the retreat broadcast from Italy. We will meditate in 3-hour sessions that you can join for the first hour or all three. We are also planning to keep the meditation room “open” on Zoom for 24 hours so that you can come and meditate anytime. You will also be able to join online movement sessions, engage in emergent dialogue groups, and cook the delicious food that we will be having at the Casa.

Your Guides

Elizabeth Debold and Thomas Steininger, the co-founders of One World in Dialogue, have been guiding others in meditation and exploring the potential of collective emergence for nearly three decades. For them, meditation is a critical foundation for the development of a new culture rooted in nonseparation and a shift from a hyperindividuated “I” to a co-conscious and co-creative “We.” Thomas has developed emergent dialogue as a new cultural practice that brings this new We alive. They are known internationally for awakening individuals and groups to this new, transindividual We potential. They also are deeply fortunate to be working for more than a decade with a core group committed to developing the collective potential of emergence. From left: Maria Zacherl, Nadja Rosmann, Mike Kauschke, Marlene Potthoff.

The meditation practice that we encourage in the retreat is a radical openness–letting go into open awareness. This helps to build a tangible field of presence that can support us across the globe. Throughout the week, you will receive short, carefully selected works from the spiritual traditions of the world and various mystics, poets and even musicians such as Laotse, St. Teresa of Avila, Sri Aurobindo, Vimala Thakar, Rilke, Thomas Merton, St. Hildegard of Bingen, or Arvo Part who support us each in their own special way to engage with the unspeakable. Through the practice of Lectio Divina, which involves a deep and communal reading and response to sacred texts, we penetrate the layers of meaning in the reading. The texts are selected as the retreat is happening so that they are responsive, and co-created, by the energy and needs of the retreat.


Together, connected by awareness across the globe, we will create a conscious Earth mandala, centered in sacred Italy.

Conscious movement & walks in nature. Developing the sensitivity of our bodies is important in order to perceive and feel your physical and spiritual presence at increasingly subtle levels. (See below for more about our movement offering this year.) We encourage you to spend an hour, at least, walking in nature. Ideally, you will select a place for your retreat that has access to nature so that you can be in touch with the vibrant aliveness of the more-than-human world. 

In the second half of the retreat, we will begin the practice of emergent dialogue for one or two sessions per day. When we enter dialogue from the depths of silence, a new way of being together, of co-creative we-space, opens up. Dialogue in this way is a new form of intersubjective consciousness work–meaning that it emerges in the living space between us.  Our experience of the world changes through encountering this space of emergent potential. The world of subject and object is revealed to us as a complex, nonseparate, co-creative intelligence. This dialogical intelligence is created through the free choice of participating individuals at the same time that it opens our perception to the wholeness of reality.

The dialogue practice usually begins in the second half of the retreat, so that our perception has become refined through meditation before we engage with language.

Melaine MacDonald - Conscious Movement

We are delighted to be joined by Melaine MacDonald, movement artist and professor in the Eurythmy Department at the Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences in Germany, to lead us in conscious movement each day. Melaine’s love for movement and dance as a means of expressing and deepening the spiritual complexity of the human being has led her to experiment with new ways to unite the inner with the outer.

How to Prepare for an Online Retreat

To get the most benefit from this online retreat, it’s helpful to prepare in advance:

  • Will you do the retreat on your own or with friends? We will provide you with enough structure and companionship to do the retreat alone. And, it’s also great to gather a few close friends and meditate together.
  • Where will you do your retreat? Of course, you can do an online retreat at home–or anywhere. But a retreat is an opportunity to go deep and to start fresh afterwards. Having a special place–or creating one in your home–or finding a lovely spot in nature can enhance the retreat experience.
  • How will you prepare your food? We will offer you recipes for preparing simple but delicious Italian vegetarian meals. We will have significant breaks between each 3-hour meditation session so that you can easily cook and eat at a relaxed pace. If you are with friends, share in the dance of cooking together in silence. Shop in advance, as much as possible, and use the cooking time to stay in a meditative space. More about food below. 
  • How should you create a schedule? Setting a schedule is more a matter of intention than convenience. Certainly, start by seeing which of the 3-hour meditation sessions can work for you practically. But then think deeply about your intention for the retreat: do you want to have a light meditation support for a week of vacation or time off? Or do you want to go deep into Being and encounter the depths of your self? Create a schedule that you are confident that you can keep to–and then see if the currents of meditation bring you further so that you meditate more.

Eating alla Casa della Pace

Santi Borgni, the owner of Casa della Pace, is a remarkably creative vegetarian chef. His simple but vibrant meals are perfect for a meditation retreat: they don’t weigh you down–they lift you up!

For online retreatants, Santi offers you a chance to join us for meals by providing recipes for the food that we will be eating on retreat at the Casa for you to prepare for yourself. Santi brings a holistic approach to his cooking, which you can read more about here

Here are two of his potential menus:

Orecchiette (a sort of pasta) with cime di rapa (turnip green, a typical south Italian green).
Tofu roasted with carrots and spices, such as cumin, soya sauce, and garlic.
Raw salads made of grated carrots, green salad, sunflower seeds, and apples.
Fresh local cheese.

Or: Roasted aubergine dressed with basil, garlic, olive oil.
Risotto with onions and saffron.
Thin omelets.
Sauteed chard and chicory leaves.
Raw salad of tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, walnuts and a bit of onion.

Buon appetito!