Help Create a Global Mandala
Anchored by the Power of Assisi

the 6. higher-we summer retreat now is live, global, and online

from July 31 to August 7, 2020

As the world tries to cope with the coronavirus, and travel bans affect our summer plans, we invite you to join us in sacred Italy–live online. For those who have always wanted to visit but not found the time or who 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.

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 meditate together in the Basilica and in the forest monastery where St. Francis prayed. Together, we’ll explore how the sacred spaces of Assisi deepen our meditation practice.

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 will be providing recipes for virtual participants!) During the week, we will begin a schedule of intensive meditation, yoga, walks and delicious Italian vegetarian meals.

The online retreat is free–and we encourage donations. A portion of your donation will be given to Casa della Pace, to help Santi and his team recover from the devastating loss of business due to the coronavirus shut down. We invite you to donate to support our work and also the work of the Casa.

Preliminary Schedule

Note: more details will be added, but this is the basic plan
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 (depending on internet capacity) 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 yoga sessions, engage in emergent dialogue groups, and cook the delicious food that we will be having at the Casa.

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. 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 in consciousness across the globe, we will create an Earth mandala, centered in sacred Italy.

Yoga Practice. We will offer yoga instruction via Zoom so that you can experience your own physical presence in a subtle way. This movement and stretching of the body supports alertness and openness so that you can perceive and feel your physical and spiritual presence at increasingly subtle levels. The yoga practice also supports the intensive sitting practice in meditation.

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.

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!