About twenty years ago Michele McDonald coined the acronym R.A.I.N, which is an easy to remember, four step mindfulness practice, which helps you deal with intense, destructive emotions. R.A.I.N stands for Recognize, Allow, Investigate and Non-identification.
Over the last few years I have been introducing this practice to my students that suffer from anxiety. I am not a doctor, just a meditation teacher, but I have personally found it to be very beneficial and so have my students. The beauty of R.A.I.N is that it can be either used as a stand-alone meditation practice or as an on-the-spot tool to help you mindfully (and compassionately) work through whatever challenging emotion you are experiencing.
Here is how you can use R.A.I.N.
1. Recognize what is happening
As we very rarely live in the present moment, we tend not to face up to whatever emotion we are feeling. We just blindly follow the strong emotion. With this practice we take a moment to recognize what emotion is present by gently turning towards the emotion in a kind, open and non-judgemental way. We become in tune with our thoughts, feelings, sensations and behaviour.
Personally, I have always found it beneficial to mentally label the experience I am having, such as, ‘I am feeling overwhelmed’ or ‘I am feeling stressed.’
This step will help you recognize what you are feeling and become aware of yourself, in an open, kind and safe way.
As I have said, you can do this in a formal meditation session or on-the-spot. If you do it on-the-spot, make sure you find a quiet place to sit. Gently close your eyes and slowly work through the four steps.
2. Allow life to be just as it is
Allow means to let life be exactly how it is. Not trying to change or manipulate it in any way – it is what it is. We allow ourselves to acknowledge and accept what is happening in the present moment. It doesn’t mean we have to like the situation, but it does mean you can accept it. Once you do this you will probably begin to feel the strong emotion start to soften and loosen its grip.
It is our habit to suppress, push away or try to ignore the strong emotion. Some of you may even identify with the emotion and start to be critical about yourself. This is just causing ourselves more suffering. So the ability to allow the emotion to just be is an extremely important one.
It will also allow us to respond to the situation in a considered way, and not just blindly reacting to it.
It may be that these first two steps are enough for you, and you do not feel like you need to do the final two, because the strong emotion has started to lose its power. However, at other times you may feel you need the full four steps. It is entirely up to you to decide how you wish to use R.A.I.N.
3. Investigate your inner experience
The investigation stage gives us the chance to question ourselves and to find out what is going on. We can ask ourselves questions like:
Why am I feeling like this?
What events led up to the emotion?
Are there factors that are affecting the emotion, such as tiredness, hunger, feeling overwhelmed or being unwell?
What do I really need to do right now to help support myself through this challenging time?
These questions give us the chance to fully understand what is happening, why is it happening and how can we support ourselves. This investigation step allows us to fully understand what is going on and gives us the opportunity to choose a conscious response.
As with all these steps, be kind and gentle with yourself. We are not playing a blame game here. We are just trying to investigate in a non-judgemental way.
This is an extremely important step. It allows us to turn our awareness to the fact that we are not the emotion. You may be experiencing a strong emotion, but the emotion is not you. You have an awareness of an emotion, but that is all it is, an awareness.
When we identify with our strong emotions, we find it very difficult to let them go. We feel there is no difference between ourselves and our emotions.
Non-identification means our sense of self is not fused with what we are thinking, feeling or experiencing. This will help us feel a sense of calm, peace and freedom while we are in the grip of the strong emotion.
I would encourage you to give this mindfulness practice a try next time you feel yourself in the suffocating grip of a strong emotion.