Anthony Carter

Lean Into It

By Anthony Carter

Leaning into it is a concept we have taken to heart at Hospice. It is such a helpful approach in places that hold great fear and discomfort for us, like the pain of grief or the fear of dying. This idea refers to moving toward the source of our pain rather than away from it.

We may find it very hard to lean into it sometimes; we may feel like running away from things. But running, as tempting as that may be, can leave us even weaker and more vulnerable. For instance if we have an encounter with an aggressive dog, our instinct may be to run. But instead, we are called upon to lean into the situation by standing our ground. 

The same is true of fear or anxiety, sadness or despair, guilt or anger, loneliness or helplessness – in other words, our grief. We can either run from these feelings and have them snapping at our heels or we can turn and stand our ground and become familiar with them.  

The path to fearlessness isn’t in giving our fear the slip somehow, but in really getting to know our fear. In the same way, the path to wholeness lies in getting to know our brokenness. As we bring our focus to bear on these difficult thoughts and feelings, and as we call them by name, the power they hold over us begins to falter. And in the face of our courage they begin to resolve.

Leaning into it is a metaphor for being willing to directly experience whatever is arising for us in the present moment. It is like saying ‘yes’ to whatever life brings our way instead of looking for a means of escape.  

Sadly, this philosophy is not well supported in our culture; quite the opposite. There are many escape routes being modelled for us out there, from alcoholism to workaholism, that merely lead us deeper into the quagmire. In the face of fear or discomfort we can become real masters at disguise. But by masking our symptoms, suppressing our feelings, and hiding our thoughts, we cut ourselves off from the very healing we need. 

Author and neurologist Robert Scaer says “We’re a frozen culture. Our problem is that we keep our fears, anxieties, and sadness bottled up inside us: we don’t throw ourselves on the coffin of our loved one, or wail and tear our clothes, or really do anything to discharge our losses. So they stay in our unconscious and our bodies.”

At Hospice Yukon, we encourage our clients to lean into it as we help them turn to face their difficulties. We encourage our volunteers to lean into it by being self-aware as they offer service to others. And we all lean into our work by striving to keep our minds and hearts open.