Lean Into Love by Bryony Lancaster

Lean Into Love by Bryony Lancaster

For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.

This quote by Rainer Maia Rilke captures the mood – the gifts and challenges of long term relationships. They can be the most beautiful opportunity to put into practice all that we learn and enjoy a deep sense of lasting love. They can also be confronting and difficult at times and provide many reasons to want to flee.

It’s so easy for us to run when things get uncomfortable. Something feels challenging and often we want out. Whether it’s during a yoga class, a business relationship or a marriage.

I have developed a mantra over the last few years that goes…if you want out, dive in. I use it in a tricky yin pose, a distracted meditation session and when difficulties inevitably come up in relationship.

We are hard wired for seeking happiness, heck, half of the wellness industry is built on selling our right for happiness…but what we miss out from in constantly turning away from challenge and towards the promise of happiness is the chance for deeper intimacy. Intimacy with ourselves and each other and a more genuine connection to our world around us. When we learn to turn in towards and then heal a difficult situation, conversation or relationship we often find deeper connection and ultimately a more realistic experience of love.


When I met Harry in London, over 20 years ago, we fell quickly and deeply into love. It was a passionate and intense connection for the few months while I was on holiday…the holiday ended and I came home to Australia but we stayed together, bound by love and wrote daily emails and had weekly calls. What began as a holiday romance turned into a long distance relationship that spanned 2 years and more than half the world. We met up again in Thailand on Valentine’s day having not seen each other for two years (there was no facetime or skype then) and I had forgotten the details of what he looked like, how tall he was next to me and all those delicious details that begin to fade over time. We fell again in love but this time, we knew it was forever.

Since that time we have had a family together, run a yoga studio for ten years and more recently a café. We have climbed to the peaks of such divine moments together and have sailed through such stormy seas in the journey of life. There have been massive arguments, especially in the beginning and moments where (especially tired with little ones and running a business together) that we probably tossed around the idea that we might find greater happiness elsewhere….that perhaps it might be easier with someone else, someone new.

Each time a crack appeared, there was a feeling for us both for the need to lean in. Lean in to the discomfort, get curious about the argument, see where we could talk it through or argue it out…and always, after each chat, after each disagreement we would find a greater connection. A more honest way of relating and seeing each other, trusting that we saw more and more of each other’s true selves and loved each other all the same more because of that. Slowly we would peel away the layers of self and we dove into greater intimacy. Luckily, the willingness to go this was there on both parts.

It’s been the same for me with yoga, especially yin yoga and meditation. How easy it is to run from a long hard hold or to get up from a particularly restless meditation and to give up when the mind pulls at us and the heart resists. But what I have learnt through many years of practice is that when we lean into the pain and the restlessness and gently inquire into what is behind the pain, we inevitably find more freedom from having stayed. So often the inner restlessness is a call for love, to be seen, listened to. We find more peace. By looking into the resistance with curiosity and applying our teachings, we grow deeper in our relationship to self and when we can do that for ourselves, it helps us be able to do that for each other, in relationships. We become less afraid of the challenging moment or conversation and we build more resistance over time and a deeper sense of trust.

Our mind, our ego hates to be revealed. It likes to stay distracted, avoid pain, keep moving, seek happiness…and while there is nothing wrong with this in theory, it’s never long lasting. Eventually the cracks begin to re-appear again and then we need to attend to the pain and find more peace. So if we avoid meditation because we realise how restless the mind is, or we keep moving on in relationships when the hard conversations inevitably arise, we miss the chance to grow deeper.

In Buddhism, we are encouraged to enquire. To unpack, to lean in and this strength is so useful in a yin pose, a meditation practice and is helpful in long-term relationships.

One of my favourite quotes right now is by Iyanla Vanzant and it relates so well to all that we practice both on and off the mat.

“I gave myself permission to feel and experience all of my emotions. In order to do that, I had to stop being afraid to feel. In order to do that, I taught myself to believe that no matter what I felt or what happened when I felt it, I would be okay”.

Once we have liberated ourselves as much as we can from our own pain and suffering, we are better able to love another, to be content with another in the inevitable ups and downs and the light and the shadow of life.

Without these inner resources, when the honey-moon period is over, we are filled with disappointment and frustration and our hearts close to the other. If we leave the door of growth and deepening in intimacy open, the journey in is one that never ceases. But rather it goes deeper, closer, more refined, more free…because we can lean into discomfort and our own practice of seeing the blocks that come up as opportunities for growing closer together.

Having been together with Harry for very nearly 20 years and shared so much of our practice with each other and applied it to our lives, to our love, I feel so full of intrigue and excitement looking out into the next 20 together.


8 tips for staying happy in a relationship

When you want out, dive in

When cracks appear, lean in, enquire, talk and figure it out and dive deeper. Sometime a therapist can help or a teacher to help guide you if you’re no used to this level of communication

Choose yes

Keep choosing each other, not because you have to but seeing the ways you love each other

Find your own happiness first

Our partner can’t be expected to be the magic pill, our happiness needs to come from within us first and then shared so do what makes you strong, happy and content and then enjoy the other person

Be mindful, present and connect

Listen to each other, see each other, watch them across the table and be together like it was the first time and remember to see the parts of them you love


Both parts of the couple need to keep growing, evolving and seeking their own contentment so as a couple you’re evolving and changing and nothing stagnates

Keep arguments to the present situation

Don’t bring up years and years of problems when you argue. Try to talk about what’s going on in that moment to take some of the charge out of it

Bring your practice to your relationship

This helps if both people have a practice to apply but it’s not essential. Some of my friends’ partners have never set foot on a yoga mat and yet bring such awareness and ‘yoga’ to the relationship.

It’s not what you do it’s how you are

See above…but it really doesn’t matter what our partner does for work or if they practice yoga or meditation or not, what matters is how their heart is, how they are in relationship and with the world that matters.