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The Nearness

The Nearness is an 8-week journey to nurture your spirituality.

Each week, participants get together for 90-minute small group conversations that meet in our community app. Everyone receives expert guidance through structured conversation prompts, practices, and support along the way. Plus, there are monthly workshops from poets, activists, and wisdom teachers.

People participating in The Nearness have a wide variety of beliefs, practices, and backgrounds. We don’t ask anyone to believe in any dogma; instead, we welcome difference.

Weekly small group

How Small Groups Work

The heart of this journey is weekly 90-minute small-group conversations.

After signing up, every participant is matched into a small group with 5-6 others to meet at a mutually convenient time. Before each meeting, small groups receive a Guide Sheet, which provides step-by-step guidance for the ritual conversations, including words to say to open and close a meeting, timing guidelines, and prompts for sharing.

Small group conversations will have a different focus, depending on the week: setting intentions for the journey ahead, sharing the story of your spiritual life so far, or finding a regular rhythm to practice gratitude and supportive accountability. Facilitation rotates between small group members each week, and someone who’s familiar with the format will serve as the first week’s conversation host.

Each week, small groups receive a Circle Guide, which provides step-by-step guidance for the ritual conversations, including words to say to open and close a meeting, timing guidelines, and prompts for sharing. Members also receive a weekly 5-minute voice note, through a podcast feed, which offers helpful pointers for your conversations. With these resources, members then rotate as the informal “Host” of their small groups.

Small groups meet each week for 90 minutes along the 8-week journey. The current regular times small groups are meeting at are listed below, though this might change for our next Pathway in early 2023.

  • Tuesday 9:00am - 10:30am Eastern Time (ET) 
  • Tuesday 7:30pm - 9:00pm ET
  • Thursday 2:00pm - 3:30pm ET
  • Thursday 10:00pm - 11:30pm ET 
  • Sunday at 1:00pm - 2:30pm ET 
  • Sunday 7:00pm - 8:30pm ET

Want to get a sense of what a small group conversation is like?

Here's a screenshot of Anjoli Anand (pilot participant), Serena Bian (advisory board member), Casper ter Kuile (co-founder) and Alec Gewirtz (co-founder) starting out the Intention-Setting Circle, the first small group activity.

Anjoli, Serena, Casper and Alec in a small group conversation

In that first conversation, you'll be guided through a series of activities including:

  • Settling into your body and noticing your breath
  • An opening ritual to set the tone for the shared time
  • Introducing yourself with gentle prompts
  • Journaling on your intentions for the 8-week journey
  • Discussing these intentions with your small group
  • Asking each other open questions and sharing affirming comments
  • Making a commitment for the coming week
  • Reading poetic closing words as you end your time together

Expert Guidance

Expert Guidance

The Nearness offers expert guidance to support you along your 8-week journey. As a participant, you’ll receive Guide Sheets that make it easier to discuss your spirituality, practice prompts to help you feel grounded, and mini-episodes of audio guidance that provide clarifying wisdom and actionable advice.

Guide Sheets

Each small-group conversation will use a Guide Sheet, a structured tool that offers easy-to-use practice prompts, poetic blessings, and aids to reflection and group sharing.

Anyone can pick up the Guide Sheet and have a nourishing interaction. Think of it as a script to nurture rich, reflective conversation and help you connect. Each Guide Sheet has step-by-step instructions for small-group conversations, organized as a ritual with a carefully designed beginning, middle, and end. Guide Sheets start with opening practices to feel centered, then move to questions and journaling prompts for reflection and conversation in the middle, and conclude with space for commitments and inspiration.

Check out what one pilot participant had to say about a small-group conversation using a Guide Sheet:

"I just had my first Intention-Setting Circle for The Nearness and it was MAGICAL... We had very different backgrounds, yet we found common ground and by the end of the 45 minutes we were blessing each other with tears in our eyes... Thank you for creating space for connection and community and for real, vulnerable soul-meeting. It means so very much to me.”

Mini-Episodes

To lead you through your small group experience, each week we’ll share a five-minute mini-episode of audio guidance.

These mini-episodes will set you up for success in your small group conversations, help you navigate deepening relationships over time, and share inspiring reflections and spiritual insights.

You can find them in The Nearness podcast feed wherever you listen to podcasts.

Monthly Workshops

Each Pathway welcomes outside wisdom teachers, activists and artists to share their guiding insights. In our Fall 2022 Pathway, we're looking forward to these workshops.

Workshop 1: The Art of Listening

With poets Naomi Shihab Nye and Danusha Laméris

Monday November 7th, from 7:00-8:00pm Eastern Time (to be recorded)

Join award-winning poets Naomi Shihab Nye and Danusha Laméris for a conversation about the "Art of Listening." Listening to our inner voices, our creative muses, nature, poetry, and, of course, one another – all of this and more will be explored!

Naomi and Danusha will use W.S. Merwin's poem "The Estuary" as a starting point, and they will be hosted in conversation by Casper ter Kuile, co-founder of The Nearness. The session will be available live and recorded and shared with the community afterward.

Danusha Laméris and Naomi Sheehab Nye

Workshop 2: The Discipline of Accountability

With activist and author Simran Jeet Singh

Monday November 28th, from 12:00-1:00pm Eastern Time (to be recorded)

Join activist and author Simran Jeet Singh in an exploration of the discipline of accountability through a Sikh lens. Inspired by Simran's recent book, The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life, this conversation will cover themes of translating tradition and the boundaries of spiritual appropriation, as well as plenty of good humor! The session will be available live and recorded and shared with the community afterward.

Simran Jeet Singh