Letting Go

Check out this sneak peak from our last 8-week journey

We created The Nearness because we wanted a dedicated space to explore life’s big questions with like-hearted people. So, we are thrilled that over the last two months, 50 small groups have been gathering week-in, week-out to reflect intentionally, explore openly, and learn to love deeply, together. 

The theme for this 8-week journey was ‘Letting Go’. And in this blog post, we share the introductory post from co-founder Alec Gewirtz that framed the course experience. 

If you’d like to join the next journey on the theme of ‘Belonging to Something More’, you can sign up until July 2nd. We’d be so glad to welcome you to The Nearness!  

As a toddler, I liked to drop things. I picked up a book and dropped it, picked up a banana and dropped it, picked up a baseball and dropped it.

“Letting go” of our wounds and resentments, our self-accusations and fading hopes, isn’t as easy as dropping a ball or banana. We identify with those thoughts and feelings, and it’s hard to drop an identity.

For example, I like to write, I feel safe and strong in my introversion as I write, and my dream of winning the Pulitzer Prize – my visions of me in a suit on stage, giving an acceptance speech – reinforces my wishful identity as an Extremely Gifted Writer. If I let go of that dream – if I let it go because it sets a near-impossible standard for me, because it focuses on the brief pleasure of an outcome rather than the sustained fulfillment of a process, because it does nothing but cause me anxiety – then I’m letting go a little bit of my identity. If I’m not an Extremely Gifted Writer, who am I? A Somewhat Gifted Writer? An Average Writer? That possibility makes me an Extremely Sad Writer. I want to be special! I want to win a Pulitzer Prize. 

This “Letting Go” course is an invitation to a clarified sense of self – an invitation, in particular, to accept that we don’t need to be different than we are.

We consider the “Letting Go” course to be a journey from resistance to acceptance, in which we recognize that we don’t need  to erase our wounds, to achieve our dreams, or to feel better, prouder, smarter. The Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön talks about how we’re often “addicted to hope” – the stubborn “hope that we could be saved from being who we are.” We’re mortal creatures, with inescapable wounds, thrown into a family and society that we didn’t choose. We wish that it were otherwise, but it can’t be.  

What redeems our nagging dissatisfactions, our frustrated hope and misdirected longings, is a loving stillness, a tender silence, that we can find inside of us through spiritual practice. That’s the premise of what we do in The Nearness – striving to reconnect with this dimension of ourselves in our weekly gatherings, where a beautiful gentleness often suffuses our voices and bodies and carries into experiences of mutual care and closeness. 

We discover that this love, this tenderness, is the most important thing about us, and the most important thing in the universe. “Yes, we’ve been hurt,” the Christian monk Richard Rohr writes.

Yes, we’ve been talked about and betrayed by friends. Yes, our lives didn’t work out the way we thought they would. ‘Letting go’ helps us fall into a deeper and broader level at which we can always say ‘Yes.’ We can always say, ‘It’s okay, it’s all right.’ We know what lasts. We know who we are.” 

We know that what lasts is love, and we know that who we are is a vehicle for this love.

That’s why the The Nearness’s Spiritual Principles are centered on love:

  • There is something larger than us that we encounter in experiences of wonder, resilience, and love; 
  • This mystery calls on us to love others, ourselves, and the world around us. 
  • The goal of our spiritual lives is to answer this calling.

Guided by these principles, we’ve framed the “Letting Go” course as a journey of the heart, helping us to live with more love. Instead of rejecting ourselves for all that we haven’t done or become, we can show ourselves kindness, as if we were talking with a friend. Instead of hardening to the world – to the stream of viral tirades, burning forests, bleeding bodies that we see on Twitter and the news – we can soften to the goodness that seeks to repair the rubble, the diligent hands that set the world upright on its broken columns. Letting go is a journey from resisting life as we find it to loving it. 

But letting go doesn’t mean being passive in the face of pain and chaos, and it doesn’t mean refusing to grow. 

In an interview with Satish Kumar, a former Jain monk and prominent nuclear disarmament and climate advocate, he taught me about the relationship between letting go and political and personal change by stressing the importance of “nonattachment to outcomes.” Despite devoting his life to very concrete ends – fewer nuclear weapons, healthier ecologies, cleaner power sources – Kumar surprised me by sharing that he never focused on results. Letting go of outcomes, he focused instead on the intrinsic meaningfulness of his work or his attempts to be a more responsible human being – the self-contained beauty of his labors of service and creativity. 

Outcomes are illusions, Kumar argued. Life is a process, not a product. There is no destination, no end result.

The only end result of life is death, but even that isn’t an end result, since we don’t actually experience our deaths. In truth, the only outcome of life is living itself, the endless unfolding of reality. To “let go” is to dance with life, to attempt to follow its unpredictable curves and twirls, one intrinsically meaningful action at a time.

Letting go therefore isn’t a one-time action, a switch to flick, a magic trick.

To “let go” is to adopt a new stance toward life, to surrender to the ongoing present, allowing life’s sacred love to flow in and through us.

We can’t force this to happen, because letting go is the opposite of forcing it. Letting go is a kind of softening, a form of relaxing and releasing. You can’t really describe it, and you can’t really “achieve” it. We can only practice it. 

Which is what we’re here to do. 

Welcome to “Letting Go.”