It’s Raining, it’s Pouring, Mindfully Exploring

Using the RAIN technique to cut through confusion and stress

Within seconds of entering Springfield Hospital, a severe rain and wind storm suddenly took control of all things outside. “Wow,” I thought, “I was really fortunate this time. Usually rain is attracted to me like a magnet.” I mentioned my near miss to a colleague who replied: “You dodged a bullet!”

I arrived at the hospital to teach a mindfulness-based stress reduction class. As I watched Mother Nature toss around her rain with fury, I was reminded of a technique called RAIN. This mindfulness technique builds present moment awareness, cultivates self-compassion, and supports the transformation of habitual mental reactivity. RAIN de-conditions the habitual ways in which we tend to resist present moment experience.

Before we explore RAIN, let’s look at the Triangle of Awareness. This approach helps to understand the mind-body connection:

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Physical sensations of any experience (pleasant or unpleasant) can be separated from the thoughts and emotions about the experience. The triangle of awareness is about learning to separate and distinguish what is being felt in the body from what is being thought in the mind, and to separate and distinguish thoughts from emotions (feelings and moods). With practice, you will learn to experience the three components of the triangle as distinct. 

RAIN is an acronym. Let’s explore RAIN’s meaning and application:
      (adapted from Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace & Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart)
R    Recognize what is happening
A    Allow life to be just as it is
I     Investigate inner experience with kindness
N    Non-Identification

Recognize what is happening
Recognition is about turning towards your present moment experience. It’s about developing your capacity to utilize the Triangle of Awareness. In any given moment, notice, without judgment, what you are experiencing mentally (thoughts and emotions) and physically (sensations). 

Allow life to be just as it is
An important attitude of mindfulness is letting go. Allowing means letting go of resistance and judgment of the thoughts, emotions, or sensations you discover as you explore the R of RAIN. It’s common to “duck” when unpleasant situations and feelings are thrown at us. With practice, you can learn to turn towards each moment just as it is - pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant. 

Investigate inner experience with kindness
With investigation, you can bring compassionate curiosity to your present moment experience. The R of RAIN invites you to recognize your experience as you turn your attention towards it. The I of RAIN takes your inquiry to the next level. As you investigate your inner experience with kindness, you might ask yourself: “Is this experience familiar?” “What beliefs are at play?” “What are my thoughts, feelings, or sensations telling me?”

The R, A and I of RAIN lead to N, the freedom of non-identification and the cultivation of awareness. Non-identification invokes your natural ability to witness your thoughts, emotions, and sensations. By doing so, you free yourself from the illusion that you are defined by any limited set of thoughts, emotions, or stories. 

How I use RAIN
I find RAIN helpful for exploring, and then transforming, mental and emotional tendencies. Here’s and example of how I used it recently: I’ve been preparing for the Broad Street Run, a 10 mile race that I enjoy running with my daughter Laura. In an attempt to increase my endurance and speed that has lagged from a stormy winter, I have overdone it and have had to miss a couple training runs to allow my legs to heal. This has kicked up some stuff!

So here I go with RAIN:
R   Recognize what is happening
I pushed myself to hard with training and have to recover from injury. I ignored signs that my leg muscles were strained. I feel annoyed and frustrated. My legs hurt from the knees down. I’ve been here before. 

A   Allow life to be just as it is
As I turn toward what is, acceptance begins to settle in. My annoyance and frustration softens. 

I   Investigate inner experience with kindness
I notice the juxtaposition of training mindfully vs. training to improve speed at all costs. I become aware of how I tend to push myself to the point of injury. And this tendency has ramifications mentally, emotionally and physically. This is a pattern I have repeated in preparation for races and backpacking. I realize that this is not the only genre in which I tend to push myself to hard. 

N   Non-Identification
I begin to witness the difficulty I have created for myself. My attachment to the future unfolding in a specific way, i.e. achieving a PR (personal record) softens. I begin to reconnect with the joy of running this race with my daughter. 

RAIN on yourself
The next time life seems a bit stormy, RAIN on yourself! With practice, RAIN can be an ally that supports you through life’s challenges. Begin with the R and A of RAIN, and then add on I and N as you get more familiar with the practice.