Generally speaking, the Italians live with their hearts open and easily show the full spectrum of their feelings. St. Francis and St. Chiara of Assisi still today represent love in its pure, highest form. The charming Italian small town of Assisi in Umbria can be considered as a true center of love. I went there for some years ago to write, and no wonder that I had my true lessons of love there in Assisi.
I share those lessons of love below from four perspectives, from physical to universal. The lessons were challenging, as Love itself is a great mystery: so much more than emotions and the ultimate truth for the creation of the world. And, we can experience love in so many forms, from selfish and egoistic love to most beautiful, universal love.
Let’s start the lessons from the very beginning.
1. Direct speak
I lived in a small hotel in Assisi, the breakfast of which was taken care of by a self-confident Italiano. There were only a few residents in that tiny accommodation place, so intimacy and attention were guaranteed in that respect.
I had travelled there for being alone with my thoughts, books and writing. I should have known that less often things go as planned.
At the second breakfast I received an invitation for the afternoon to that man’s house. I was a little bit surprised, as there was no “open sign” on my forehead (30 years+ with the same man) and I had shown no interest in him. After receiving that invitation I came up with nothing else, but to stay completely incomprehensible at italian and body language.
This all was a little bit amusing, too, but this generous gesture only made me feel uncomfortable. Maybe it was part of the “house bonuses” for lonely ladies? The Italians are in many ways very generous, hospitable and straight to the point. Or maybe they wanted better reviews to the e-booking web-pages after the rental periods? But, on the other hand, I also started to think about my own reactions and why I found the situation so uncomfortable.
Through some thought processes and insights the access to the sources of love started to open for me.
When a man / woman is genuinely nothing but himself and loves himself exactly as he is, with all his good and bad traits, he is lovable in the eyes of other people.
Many people therefore find such a person very attractive, don’t you agree? It is important to be able to say honestly to ourselves: I love myself, because I am just like this! If we do not love ourselves, we will not be able to love anyone else. And, we can’t give others anything we don’t have. What we want to give must also be found within us.
Think now of people you are drawn to and those you are not attracted to at all. Write down all their negative and positive traits. Then say to yourself: This is me.
This is an excellent exercise in seeing and accepting oneself exactly as one is, not above or below anyone, and not ashamed of criticism and not allowing flattery to impact on oneself. Try it!
To receive love, it is really important for us to be natural and be OK with one’s pros and cons – and dare to respond to the call of love, when we feel it is good, natural and right.
2. Loving service
I found a wonderful, quiet place to write in Assisi. I sat there every day for hours. A woman, who cared for a lady sitting in a wheelchair, came to the same place every day. The lady sat with dignity in a wheelchair and they always admired the same landscape with me for a moment.
We saluted each other every day and I noticed, how the traits and eyes of the woman in the wheelchair softened day by day after seeing me. They changed from hard to gentle. The lady could not speak, but her eyes spoke to me.
At the end of the week I was writing again in that wonderful place, when I saw a woman coming without a lady. She looked at me and pointed at my bottle of water. I had just taken one last sip of it. She spoke italian and I understood the word “Fontana”.
She took my bottle and was away for a while. Then she returned back from the spring with my bottle full of water!
I couldn’t say anything other than grazie to her in italian. I felt deep gratitude. The woman acted completely selflessly.
I was again surprised by the italian generosity. I, an unknown stranger, a foreign passerby, experienced loving attention and care of both of the ladies in different ways. I also saw how their gestures, gazes and whole beings were full of compassion and how they acted without the desire for reciprocity.
When we show our genuine love, it truly comes from the heart. We are then both the giver and the receiver.
The more we see love in others, the closer we become to the power of the pure love of the most highest being. It is like Mother Mary would surround us.
3. The heart speaks to heart, the soul to soul
There are many lovely and powerful places in Assisi. One of my favorite is the Cathedral of St. Rufino. One day I went to sit in a small chapel in that cathedral. I had been meditating for some time when I felt ready. I opened my eyes and saw a small, old man in front of the altar in the chapel. He picked up transparent candles in round glasses. Then he walked over to me and put the candles on the bench next to me.
He started talking to me italy very quietly. At the same time, he took my face in his hands and stroked my cheek.
That continued for a while. I didn’t understand physically other than a few words, but something significant happened at the same time. My heart started to open. I felt great compassion and love for that man. His other eye was half injured and closed, but there was something in his gaze.
I don’t remember anyone ever having taken my face in his hands, stroking my cheek and speaking pure words of love in that way. The touch is always very personal. Everything felt good and natural – and at the same time a little supernatural. The heart spoke to heart – the soul to soul.
When you connect with someone at the soul level, you are on the same level in every way. We are connected to the feelings of the other and at the same time to our own feelings. We don’t try to understand why the other or we feel like we do. We just feel like he feels.
It is important in everyday life to make observations about one’s own feelings, needs and how one can meet that need. Just as we feel that our needs are not being met, we feel if we are not being loved. Observe and ask what your loved ones need. Serve!
When we try to see the world through others eyes, we are connected to their souls. When it comes to your beloved one, which includes sexuality and romance, take off all your defenses and dare to be vulnerable and naked at all levels.
This is how you can show your soul.
Do you dare?
4. At the source of love
The next day I visited Assisi up and down: the old convent of Eremi delle Carceri up in the mountains and the convent of San Damiano down in the valley. I try to tell you something I experienced.
In the first place, I could feel the presence of the spirit of Francis. It is universal love that opens the heart to experience pure love. In the other place all the doors were open for some unknown reason. I succeeded to visit every place in the accommodation of Chiara and her nuns. The spirit of Chiara is present in that place, and it is felt through love that opens every cell in the body.
I also meditated at the convent of San Damiano. I saw with my inner eyes a huge cosmic flower that was pulsating life. In that evening I went to see the local musical Chiara di Dio, which beautifully tells the story of the life of Francis and Chiara.
At the end of the musical, as Chiara died and left her body, a gigantic, cosmic flower pulsating in the universe was projected on the back wall of the stage.
That showed that we indeed are connected to the same field of energy.
We can also think that the energies of Francis and Chiara bring forth our own archetypal energies, the masculine and feminine sides of our own being. Power, initiative and strength meet beauty, intuition and compassion in each of us. These energies are supposed to achieve a balance in each of us one day.
When that happens, we can connect with the Source of Love, that we are and who we are.
We come into contact with our own divine being.
Rumi talks beautifully about this:
Know that my beloved one is hidden everywhere.
Know that he is behind all beliefs.
Know that in my heart he is as bright as the moon.
Know that he is life in my body and soul.
Please let me know, if your experiences regarding the lessons of love align with the above. What were your biggest insights? What did you learn?
Thanks for sharing!
PS. You can find this article in my blog in Finnish: Rakkauden oppitunti Assisissa. Artikkeli on julkaistu kirjassani PyhäänVaellus (2016).