Do I hold on or let go?

Holding Close and Setting Free as a Way of Living

"Holding close and setting free is not a common concept. Most people tend to think in terms of “holding on” or “letting go”—choosing one or the other. The idea of holding something or someone close and, at the same time, setting them free—two gestures becoming one—opens a new world of possibilities.

For me, holding close and setting free has become a beautiful and grace-filled way of living. I believe that the highest form of relationship—whether with a person, an animal, a circumstance, a belief, or an organization—is to hold them close in our hearts and, at the same time, set them free to grow and evolve in their own path. 

All my dogs over the years have taught me about life, freedom, uninhibited presence, aging, and ultimately, death. Two of them have been particularly special, Toby being the second. The first was Brandon, a Rhodesian Ridgeback and Labrador Retriever mix. 

My later years with Brandon prepared me for walking beside my parents in the last stages of their lives. Those were not easy journeys, yet they were the beginning of my learning about holding close and setting free. This last year with Toby deepened even further my understanding of the boundless capacities of the heart. If we are willing to stay present with what is happening, even when it’s not easy, the rewards can be huge.  

In the last year, just as I’ve been holding Toby close and setting him free, I’ve been practicing the same with my work. I have been very intentional in stepping away from teaching and opening more space for mentoring, coaching, writing, and speaking. And I’ve been very transparent about my personal journey through this process.  

Holding close and setting free has also helped me be present with the continuing breaking open of systems and structures in my country and in the world. Life keeps stretching me. Day by day, week by week, month by month, I get clearer about what is mine to do and what is not."

Thank you, Alan. And what about you? What is one person or situation in your life that you'd like to hold close AND set free? What will be different for you?

With great love, 


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