As our final excursion on the retreat, we visited the Basilica of Santa Maria deli Angeli down the hill from the old city center. It is a long walk down (about 45 minutes at a good pace), and some of us went along the pilgrims path, which is marked by red bricks with the names of donors who helped pay for the walkway. Since it has also been a full, active week, some of us took a taxi 🙂 The Basilica is a massive structure, and today, very dramatic as a shift in weather was coming in, so dark clouds and gusts of wind filled the air.
This huge basilica was built around a much smaller structure, which now sits happily under the dome. The Poziuncula was the chapel where Francis and his brothers eventually ‘settled’, and it is the place where Francis died. The location of the structure is important to note because it was not inside the city of Assisi. It was far away from safety and prestige. Note – there are no photos allowed inside; they are really quite insistent upon it, but here is an old image Mirka obtained years ago – I didn’t ask how she obtained it….
A few of us took in the beauty of the structure. A few of us had some personal ritual we completed near the Porziuncola. Eventually, we all worked our way towards the chapel of forgiveness, and Mirka gave us a little of the background of the chapel and one of the miracles of St. Francis that is said to have taken place there, among the rose bushes.
On this very blustery Assisi day, we eventually made our way back to the protection of the old city (protection from the wind, that is – very windy morning!). In the afternoon, we gathered for one more Yoga session on the mat tying together the many techniques we practiced over the week.
Assisi Fun fact – Did you know the city of Los Angeles was named after this church? The full name of the city of Los Angeles is “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula”. It was founded by Franciscans and is named after the church where the Porzioncola lies!! I only know this because after returning from the Pozioncola this morning and having lunch, Jentry, Matteo and I were sitting in the piazza having a cool drink before the Yoga practice when Padre GianMaria walked by on his way to Assisi PAX International. I chased him down and invited him to join us. He did so happily (because Assisi is awesome that way), and as we talked about travel, he mentioned that little gem. Have I mentioned how wonderful it is to spend time in Assisi? Where else can you share a cool drink with a peacemaker and a lovely man in a piazza and be schooled on history and peace? Yoga – ALL DAY LONG!
So, back in St. Giorgio’s chapel for one last gathering…… My roommate for the week is Banu Çadırcı, a fantastic Viniyoga teacher from Istanbul. She and I sat together and made a list of the techniques Mirka shared over the week…. the list was LONG! It all seemed so simple, but since we are both training in this Viniyoga tradition, we liked to step back and analyze the techniques and their integration to the themes of peace, forgiveness, and love that had been flowing through the week. A.G. Mohan recently said that in order for an Asana practice to be classified as ‘yoga’, it needs to contain the following elements:
- “It brings balance and cultivates a state of calm and clarity (sattva)
- It has purpose
- It involves proper breathing
- It is done in conjunction with the yamas and niyamas
- It is learned from a proper teacher
- It is a practice of ‘minding the mind’”
Banu and I enjoyed analyzing the practices from the eyes of a teacher and seeing the mastery of the techniques that Mirka weaved in to gather attention, and support our bodies, minds and emotions.
After our closing circle in the Yoga room, we had time to change and then head to a final dinner together in town. We shared a few toasts, stories from the week and just generally enjoyed the company of this fascinating group of people before moving our attention on to prepare for big days of travel ahead.