This meditation guides us in bringing the mindfulness and self-compassion of RAIN to a challenging part of our life, and particularly, to places of self-judgment or feelings of failure.
While it’s natural to feel fear during times of great collective crisis, our challenge is that fear easily takes over our lives. This talk explores how the mindfulness and compassion of the RAIN meditation can help us find an inner refuge in the face of fear, and deepen our loving connection with each other.
Practice with the meditation excerpt from the talk (includes a video with cherry blossom images): Short Talk and Guided Meditation: Bringing RAIN to Fear.
Most of us have spent a lifetime fixating our desires on external objects. But if we learn to really trace them back, we discover that they are the voice of loving awareness calling us home.
We begin the meditation by briefly scanning through the body and sensing awareness of being here. We scan our life and use the acronym RAIN to Recognize a feeling of wanting, Allow it to be there, and Investigate how we’re holding the experience in our body. Then as we trace back to our longing for belonging, we Nurture a feeling of belonging as warmth, openness and tenderness that’s already here.
This is the final meditation from the full talk given on March 3, 2020, Desire and Addiction (Part 1): Voices of Longing Calling You Home.
Download in PDF: Guided Reflection: Bringing RAIN to Difficulty
Guided Reflection: Bringing RAIN to Difficulty
Sitting quietly, close your eyes and take a few full breaths. Bring to mind a current situation in which you feel stuck; one that elicits a difficult reaction such as anger or fear, shame or hopelessness. It may be a conflict with a family member, a chronic sickness, a failure at work, the pain of an addiction, a conversation you now regret. Take some moments to enter the experience—visualizing the scene or situation, remembering the words spoken, sensing the most distressing moments. Contacting the charged essence of the story is the starting place for exploring the healing presence of RAIN.
R: Recognize what is happening. As you reflect on this situation, ask yourself, “What is happening inside me right now?” What sensations are you most aware of? What emotions? Is your mind filled with churning thoughts?
Take a moment to become aware of your “felt sense” of the situation as a whole. Can you feel how the experience is living in your heart and body, as well as in your mind?
A: Allow life to be just as it is. Send a message to your heart to “let be” this entire experience. Find in yourself the willingness to pause and accept that, in these moments that what is…is. You can experiment with mentally whispering words like “yes,” “this belongs,” or “let be.”
You might find yourself saying yes to a huge inner no—to a body and mind painfully contracted in resistance. You might be saying yes to the part of you that is saying, “I hate this!” That’s a natural part of the process.
At this point in RAIN, you are simply noticing what is true, and intending not to judge, push away or control anything you find.
I: Investigate with a gentle attention. Now begin to explore what you are experiencing more closely, calling on your natural interest and curiosity about your inner life. You might ask yourself: What about this most wants my attention? or What most wants my acceptance? Pose your questions gently, your inner voice kind and inviting.
Notice where you feel the experience most distinctly in your body. Are you aware of heat, tightness, pressure, aches, squeezing? When you have found the most intense part of your physical experience, bring it into your face, letting your expression mirror, and even exaggerate, what you are feeling in your body. What emotions are you aware of as you do this? Fear? Anger? Grief? Shame?
As you continue to investigate, you might find it helpful to ask: What am I believing? If this leads to a lot of thinking, drop it. But you might find that a very distinct belief emerges almost as soon as you ask. Do you believe that you are failing in some way? That someone will reject you? That you will not be able to handle whatever is around the corner? That you really are flawed? That you will never be happy? How does this belief live in your body? What are the sensations? Tightness? Soreness? Burning? Hollowness?
As before, send the message of yes or this belongs or let be, allowing yourself to feel the fullness or intensity of the difficult experience. As you contact and allow what is happening, what do you notice? Is there any softening in your body and heart? Can you sense more openness or space? Or does the intention to allow bring up more tension, judgment and fear? Does it intensify or change what you are feeling?
Now ask the place of most difficulty: What do you most need? or How do you want me to be with you? Does this suffering part of you want understanding? Acceptance? Company? Forgiveness? Love?
N: Nurture. Let yourself attend from your most awake and wise heart. As you sense what is needed, what is your natural response? What does this vulnerable place most need to remember, experience or trust? You might offer yourself a wise message, such as I’m sorry, and I love you or Trust your goodness or It’s ok, sweetheart or I’m here, and I’m not leaving. This place might also find touch healing, and you might gently place your hand on your heart.
Feel free to experiment with ways of befriending your inner life–whether through words or touch, images or energy. Discover how your attention might become more intimate and loving.
After the RAIN. As you offer this unconditional, kind presence to your inner life, sense the possibility of relaxing back and being that awareness. Get familiar with the quality of presence that is here. Like an ocean with waves on the surface, feel yourself as the tender, wakeful openness that includes this changing life.
Can you sense how “who you are” is not identified by or hitched to any particular wave of fear or anger or hurt? Can you sense how the waves on the surface belong to your experience, but cannot injure or alter the measureless depth and vastness of your being?
Take some moments, as long as you’d like, to simply rest in this spacious and kind awareness, allowing whatever arises in your body or mind to freely come and go. Know this natural awareness as the innermost truth of what you are.
Adapted from True Refuge by Tara Brach
Practice below and here: Meditation: The RAIN of Compassion (30:00 min.)
CHAPTER ONE: RAIN Creates a Clearing
Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose. Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life. ~ Martha Postlewaite
We all get lost in the dense forest of our lives, entangled in incessant worry and planning, in judgments of others, and in our busy striving to meet demands and solve problems. When we’re caught in that thicket, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters most. We forget how much we long to be kind and openhearted. We forget our ties to this sacred earth and to all living beings. And in a deep way, we forget who we are.
This forgetting is a part of being in trance—a partially unconscious state that, like a dream, is disconnected from the whole of reality. When we’re in trance, our minds are narrowed, fixated, and usually immersed in thought. Our hearts are often defended, anxious, or numb. Once you recognize the signs of trance, you will begin to see it everywhere, in yourself and others. You are in trance when you are living on autopilot, when you feel walled off and separate from those around you, when you are caught up in feeling fearful, angry, victimized, or deficient.
The good news is that we all have the capacity to free ourselves.
When we are lost in the forest, we can create a clearing simply by pausing and turning from our clamoring thoughts to become aware of our moment-to-moment experience. I call this wakeful and immediate awareness “presence.” It is also referred to as consciousness, spirit, Buddha nature, true nature, the awakened heartmind, and many other names. When we’ve reconnected fully to presence, we can open to what is going on inside us—the changing flow of sensations, feelings, and thoughts—without any resistance. This allows us to live our life moments with clarity and compassion. The shift from being lost in unconscious mental and emotional reactivity to inhabiting our full presence is an awakening from trance.
As we begin our journey together, the four steps of RAIN—Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture—will be our tool for arriving in presence. Simply put, RAIN awakens mindfulness and compassion, applies them to the places where we are stuck, and untangles emotional suffering. It is easy to learn the basics, and you can begin to use the steps right away. RAIN creates a clearing in the dense forest, and in this clearing you can recover your full heart and spirit.
In this chapter, I’ll walk you briefly through each step of RAIN and offer a simple form of the practice—a warm-up— that you can apply in everyday situations. But first, the story of an afternoon when I needed RAIN.
“NOT ENOUGH TIME”
My dense forest hums with a background mantra: There’s not enough time. I know I’m not alone; many of us speed through the day, anxiously crossing tasks off the list. This often comes hand in hand with feeling beleaguered, annoyed at interruptions, and worried about what’s around the corner.
My anxiety escalates when I’m preparing for an upcoming teaching event. I remember an afternoon some years ago when I was in last-minute mode. I was madly searching through my very disorganized electronic files, trying to find material for a talk I’d be giving that evening on loving kindness. Much like the files, my mind was stirred up and muddy. At one point, my eighty-three-year-old mother, who had come to live with my husband, Jonathan, and me, popped into my office. She started to tell me about an article she liked from The New Yorker. But seeing me glued to the computer screen (and probably frowning), she quietly placed the magazine on my desk and left. As I turned to watch her retreat, something in me just stopped. She often came by for a casual chat, and now I was struck by the reality that she wouldn’t always be around for these companionable moments. And then I was struck again: Here I was, ignoring my mom and mentally scurrying around to compose a talk on love!
This wasn’t the first time I was jarred by forgetting what mattered. During that first year my mom lived with us, I repeatedly felt squeezed by the additional demands on my time. Often when we had dinner together, I’d be looking for the break in the conversation when I could excuse myself and get back to work. Or we’d be on errands or going to one of her doctor’s appointments, and rather than enjoying her company, I’d be fixated on how quickly we could get everything done. Our time together often felt obligatory: She was lonely, and I was the main person around. While she didn’t guilt-trip me— she was grateful for whatever time I offered—I felt guilty. And then when I’d slow down some, I also felt deep sadness.
That afternoon in my office, I decided to take a time-out and call on RAIN to help me deal with my anxiety about being prepared. I left my desk, went to a comfortable chair, and took a few moments to settle myself before beginning.
The first step was simply to Recognize (R) what was going on inside me—the circling of anxious thoughts and guilty feelings.
The second step was to Allow (A) what was happening by breathing and letting be. Even though I didn’t like what I was feeling, my intention was not to fix or change anything and, just as important, not to judge myself for feeling anxious or guilty.
Allowing made it possible to collect and deepen my attention before starting the third step: to Investigate (I) what felt most difficult. Now, with interest, I directed my attention to the feelings of anxiety in my body—a physical tightness, pulling and pressure around my heart. I asked the anxious part of me what it was believing, and the answer was deeply familiar: It believed I was going to fail. If I didn’t have every teaching and story fleshed out in advance, I’d do a bad job and let people down. But that same anxiety made me unavailable to my mother, so I was also failing someone I loved dearly. As I became conscious of these pulls of guilt and fear, I continued to Investigate. Contacting that torn, anxious part of myself, I asked, “What do you most need right now?” I could immediately sense that it needed care and reassurance that I was not going to fail in any real way. It needed to trust that the teachings would flow through me, and to trust the love that flows between my mother and me.
I’d arrived at the fourth step of RAIN, Nurture (N), and I sent a gentle message inward, directly to that anxious part: “It’s okay, sweetheart. You’ll be all right; we’ve been through this so many times before . . . trying to come through on all fronts.” I could feel a warm, comforting energy spreading through my body. Then there was a distinct shift: My heart softened a bit, my shoulders relaxed, and my mind felt more clear and open.
I sat still for another minute or two and let myself rest in this clearing, rather than quickly jumping back into work.
My pause for RAIN took only a few minutes, but it made a big difference. When I returned to my desk, I was no longer caught inside the story line that something bad was around the corner. Now that I wasn’t tight with anxiety, my thoughts and notes began to flow, and I remembered a story that was perfect for the talk. Pausing for RAIN had enabled me to reengage with the clarity and openheartedness that I hoped to talk about that evening. And later that afternoon, my mom and I took a short, sweet walk in the woods, arms linked.
Since then, I’ve done a brief version of RAIN with anxiety countless times. My anxiety hasn’t gone away, but something fundamental has changed. The anxiety doesn’t take over. I don’t get lost in the dense forest of trance. Instead, when I pause and then shift my attention from my story about getting things done to my actual experience in my body and heart, there’s a spontaneous shift to increased presence and kindness. Often I’ll keep working, but sometimes I decide to change gears, to step outside and play with my pup, make some tea, or water the plants. There’s more choice.
OUR PATHWAY OUT OF TRANCE: TAKING A U-TURN
When I’m in the trance of busily speeding through the day, I’m typically lost in thoughts, disconnected from my body, and cut off from my heart. RAIN provides a way out of trance through what I call a “U-turn” in attention.
We are taking a U-turn whenever we shift our attention from an outward fixation—another person, our thoughts, or our emotionally driven stories about what’s going on—to the real, living experience in our body. It’s like being at a scary movie where we’re totally gripped by the story on the screen and then suddenly become aware: Okay, it’s just a movie. I’m watching it with hundreds of other people. I can feel the seat under me, feel myself breathing. And we’re back again, aware of our own presence, grounded in our real life.
Only by purposefully bringing attention to our inner experience can we move from trance toward healing. We need to become aware of the circling anxious thoughts, the habitual tightness in our shoulders, the pressure from being in a rush. Then we can begin to turn from our stories—about someone else’s wrongness, about our own deficiencies, about trouble around the corner—to directly feel our fears, hurts, and vulnerability, and ultimately the tender wakefulness of our heart. This all-important shift unfolds progressively through the steps of RAIN. But the key is, we have to first realize we’re in trance!
AM I IN TRANCE OR IN PRESENCE?
Above the line is everything we are conscious of, and below the line is everything outside our conscious awareness—a hidden world of fears, aversion, conditioning, and beliefs. To the degree that we’re living below the line, we’re in trance. Being in trance is like being in a dream. We’re unaware that there’s a larger, living reality. And awakening from trance is like waking from a dream. We become self-aware, directly experiencing our inner life, the world we belong to, and the space of awareness itself. Living above the line is living in presence.
Presence has three primary characteristics: wakefulness, openness, and tenderness or love. Many spiritual traditions describe presence as an open, sunlit sky. When presence is full, like the sky it is luminous and boundless, and it provides warmth and nourishment for life. All kinds of weather systems pass through it—happiness, sorrow, fear, excitement, grief— but like the sky itself, presence can hold them all.
We’ve all touched presence. We’re resting in presence in the moments before sleep when we become still and relaxed, listening to the rain on the roof. There’s a background of presence when we gaze in wonder at a star-filled sky. We open to presence in gratitude for someone’s unexpected kindness. We may never forget the presence we feel as we witness a birth or a death. Past and future recede, thoughts quiet, and we’re aware of being right here, right now.
In contrast, trance encloses us in a virtual reality of thoughts and emotionally charged stories. We’re trying to solve problems, satisfy desires, get rid of discomfort, or make our way to a future when things might be better. We are at the mercy of unconscious beliefs, feelings, and memories that drive our decisions and reactions to life. Not only that, but our unconscious wants and fears shape our deepest sense of who we are. When we’re in trance, we usually feel separate or alone, threatened, and/or incomplete.
Our daily trance can feel ordinary and familiar, wrapping us in a cocoon of habit. It can carry us in pleasurable fantasy, immerse us in obsessive thinking, and tumble us in waves of painful emotion. But whatever the content of our trance, we are cut off from ourselves and cut off from our capacity to connect authentically with those around us. We’re just not all there!
How do we know when we’re in trance? We often don’t know. But I’ve heard many people describe how they woke up to their particular versions of being under the line, in trance.
FLAGS OF TRANCE:
- I realize I’ve just gone through a whole bag of trail mix.
- Everybody’s the bad guy today – my kids, my boss, my partner – I’m finding fault with the world.
- I catch myself sizing up other men to see who’s the most dominant.
- Even the small stuff seems like “just too much.”
- I’m listening to someone, and planning how to go outside for a cigarette.
- I lose an hour following links online.
- My neck starts hurting, and I realize my shoulders are up and knotted and that I’ve been anxious for hours.
- I notice the inner voice (my mother’s) saying, “Can’t you do anything right?”
- I’m walking through a store and suddenly realize I’m comparing my body with every other woman’s I see.
- I’m rushing around trying to get things done, and I hurt myself or break something or make a stupid mistake.
Recognizing our flags helps us to step out of trance. For me, this means that when I catch myself anxiously rerunning my to-do list, or feeling guilty about letting someone down, I become more alert. These wake-up calls help bring into consciousness my fear of falling short and the physical tension I’m carrying. Then I can remember that my fearful beliefs aren’t truth and that I have more choice as to how to spend my time.
|unconscious—below the line||conscious—above the line|
|asleep, in a dream||wakeful, lucid, aware|
|caught or possessed by emotions||emotions witnessed mindfully|
|dissociated||in contact with feelings|
|heart defended or numb||heart caring and tender|
|reactive to experiences||responsive to experiences|
|grasping or resisting||balanced, open, and discerning|
Ask yourself, “Right now, what is my experience of presence?” or “Is there anything between me and presence?” Even these simple inquiries can alert you to trance and begin to awaken your awareness.
Or look back on your day and scan for the times when you were under the line. Can you identify some of the flags of trance for you? Sometimes in trance there’s just enough consciousness to recognize that you’re struggling, conflicted, shut down, or anxious. These wake-up calls let you know you need the healing—the sunlit sky—that is available above the line. This is when you call on RAIN.
LOVE SHINES THROUGH THE CLEARING
Four years after moving in with Jonathan and me, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. One afternoon six months later—about three weeks before her death—I sat by her bedside reading from a book of short stories we both love. She fell asleep as I was reading, and I sat there watching her resting easily. After some minutes, she woke up and mumbled, “Oh, I thought you’d be gone; you have so much to do.” I leaned over, kissed her cheek, and continued to sit with her. She fell back to sleep, a slight smile on her lips.
I did have a lot to do. I always have a lot to do. I flashed on being too busy to pause and talk about that New Yorker article, and all those times I’d rushed through our shared dinners, felt dutiful about spending time together and guilty when I saw her walking outside alone. But my practice of RAIN had changed something. In our final years together, I was able to pause and really be there. I was there for making our supersized salads, for walking our dogs by the river, for watching the news, for chatting long after we’d finished a meal.
Twenty minutes later, my mother woke up again and whispered, “You’re still here.” I took her hand and she soon drifted off. I began crying silently, and something in her was attuned because she squeezed my hand. Oh, I’d miss her terribly. But my tears were also tears of gratitude for all the moments we lived together. And for the clearings that made this possible. On the day of her death, I was filled with immense sorrow and love, but no regrets.
Learning to create a clearing gives us our life. It is what opens us to the unfolding of radical compassion. When we’re in trance, we can’t really listen as our child shares excitedly about what happened at school. We can’t pick up that a colleague is acting uptight because they are struggling with self-doubt and fear. We miss out on sunsets, chances to play, openings for intimacy, attunement to our own loneliness or longings. The practice of RAIN brings us above the line and lets us reconnect with presence and our naturally caring hearts.
REFLECTION: THE U-TURN TO PRESENCE
You might consider this a warm-up to practicing RAIN, something you can explore when you’re stressed, rushing, and anxious. This simple reflection can reconnect you with a sense of inner resourcefulness, self-compassion, and choice as to how you live your days.
Experiment with the U-turn at a time when you realize you’ve been lost in thought—perhaps obsessive worrying or planning, judging or fantasizing. Begin by pausing, sitting comfortably, and allowing your eyes to close. Take a few deep breaths, and with each exhale let go of any obvious tension in your mind and body.
Now shift your attention fully away from any remaining stories or thoughts, and notice your actual present-moment experience. What sensations are you aware of in your body? Are there any strong emotions present? Do you feel anxious or restless as you try to step out of your mental stories? Do you feel pulled to resume your activity? Can you simply stay right here, for just these few moments, and be with whatever is unfolding inside you? What happens if you intentionally regard your experience with kindness?
When you resume activity, notice if you sense any shift in the quality of your presence, energy, and mood.
QUESTIONS AND RESPONSES
Is it possible to experience presence when you’re angry?
Yes! You are in a state of presence (above the line) when you’re aware of the blaming thoughts and physical experience of anger. During these moments, in addition to the anger, there’s a sense of witnessing the anger and some choice in how you respond. In contrast, you’re in trance if you’re lost inside the cycling thoughts and feelings of blame, with no sense of choice or control.
Do you have to follow a particular spiritual path to work with RAIN?
RAIN is a tool that can be used by anyone seeking to deepen self-understanding, self-compassion, compassion for others, and emotional healing and spiritual awakening. There is no requirement to hold a particular set of religious or spiritual beliefs. Whatever your beliefs, RAIN will enhance your direct experience of being awake and open, present and kind.
I have a regular mindfulness practice. Is RAIN a substitute for this? Or do they fit together?
They naturally weave together. The first two steps of RAIN, Recognize and Allow, are the foundation of mindful awareness and compassion. The second two steps, Investigate and Nurture, deepen mindfulness and directly activate compassion.
RAIN can be your tool for bringing mindfulness and compassion to a particular challenge. To explore this, continue with your regular mindfulness practice until you feel caught in a difficult emotion. In that moment, call on RAIN to guide you in systematically offering a mindful and kind attention directly to the emotional tangle. Once the tangle has loosened, return to your regular practice of moment-to-moment mindfulness.
In addition to including RAIN in the midst of a meditation sitting, you can pause anytime during the day when you feel stuck or challenged and call on RAIN to assist you.
Sometimes when I’m doing yoga, strong emotions like fear, anger, and self-doubt will come up. Can RAIN help at these times?
It’s quite natural to experience strong emotions during a range of body-mind practices like yoga, tai chi, chi gung, breathwork, Reiki, guided imagery, and biofeedback. Many people have found that integrating a pause for RAIN opens the way to profound emotional healing and brings a powerful synergy to their path.
Brach, T. (2019). Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of Rain. New York, NY: Viking Life.
Turning Toward Fear with RAIN
Adapted from Tara’s new book –
Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of R.A.I.N.
In a far-off land, word spread far and wide of a holy man with magic so powerful it could relieve the most severe suffering. After seekers of healing traveled through the wilderness to reach him, he’d swear them to secrecy about what was next to pass between them. Once they took the vow, the holy man asked a single question: What are you unwilling to feel?
Learning to directly face anxiety and fear with the RAIN meditation—Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Nurture—gives you a pathway to inner transformation and a fearless heart.
Recognizing the Trance
After a daylong seminar on RAIN and stress, Brianna came up to me and asked for some help with a personal situation. She’d recently been hired as a marketing vice-president in a large corporation, but she felt intimidated by the CEO, who was very quick to cut off anyone who he felt was wasting his time. He ruled over the weekly staff meetings, which Brianna described as “torture” that put her into a state of “brain freeze.”
“I shouldn’t be worried about my competence,” she said. “I was recruited because I got an industry award at my last job. But the atmosphere here is totally different—really corporate, and the other VPs pretty much ignore me. I just go back to my office with my stomach churning and wonder how long I’ll last.”
I suggested that Brianna practice RAIN for a few minutes right before each meeting and asked her what was going on for her at that time.
“On those mornings I can really feel the anxiety building, and it lands me in a frenzy of busyness . . . reviewing reports, marking what I might need to comment on . . . nothing really productive.”
I smiled because I recognized that feeling all too well. “Okay, so before you start RAIN, imagine you’re pressing the pause button on that frenzy.” Brianna closed her eyes and pictured herself at her desk, a half-hour before the weekly meeting.
“As you pause,” I said, “your first job is to Recognize (R) the anxiety and Allow (A) it to be there.” After she nodded, I added, “Now, what do you notice if you bring your attention and interest to how it feels in your body?”
Beginning to Investigate (I), she muttered, “dry mouth . . . really tight chest . . . heart hammering . . . and, oh yeah, my stomach’s in knots.” I suggested she place her hand on her abdomen and send her breath there with a long slow inflow and outflow. This would to help her steady her attention and stay in contact with the fear.
What Does this Most Need?
Now I guided her to ask the scared place inside her what it needed most, a key inquiry in Investigating. After a moment, she looked up, surprised. “It said, ‘let it be ok that I’m here.’”
The Nurturing (N) that scared place needed was to be accepted, not to be made wrong. I asked Brianna how the wisest, kindest part of her wanted to respond. Could she find a way to acknowledge this very vulnerable part of herself with compassion?
She sat quietly, still breathing slowly, her hand on her belly. Then she nodded. “I just sent the message—it’s ok, this belongs. And . . . it does feel more ok. I’m actually a bit more relaxed.”
This became Brianna’s RAIN practice each week before going to the staff meeting. And when she felt anxiety spiking during the meeting, she’d simply breathe into it and send the message—It’s ok.
The freedom of This Belongs
About three months later, Brianna updated me. Her tension around the CEO hadn’t disappeared, but her anxiety had lessened somewhat. More important, it didn’t feel like such a big deal: “I’m not so alarmed when I get anxious,” she told me. “I was fighting it so hard, but now it’s ok that it’s there. That really does free me up.” She also shared some real progress in making creative contributions and connecting with others.
Asking yourself “what am I unwilling to feel?” can open you to deep spiritual healing. Fear is the feeling that something is wrong and that, rather than facing it, we need to act to protect ourselves. When, instead, we have the courage to pause and meet fear with the mindfulness and compassion of RAIN, our awareness and wisdom enlarges. If we need to respond to a threat, we’ll do so—with increased balance and presence. But often we’ll see: It’s just anxiety, it’s ok . . . this belongs—and begin to unhook from a lifetime pattern of reactivity. While fears continue to arise, we have access to a heart space that is open and free.
Brach, T. (2019). Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of Rain. New York, NY: Viking Life.
We all encounter “demons” of fear, anger, hurt, craving and shame. This talk explores our key ways of resisting difficult emotions, and how “when the resistance is gone, the demons are gone.” We look at the power of mindfulness and compassion to undo resistance, and open us to the loving presence that can handle whatever energies arise. This special talk was given at the 2019 IMCW 5-Day New Year’s Silent Retreat.
photo: Jonathan Foust
photo: Jon McRay
RAIN: A Practice of Radical Compassion
The acronym RAIN is an easy-to-remember tool for bringing mindfulness and compassion to emotional difficulty.
Recognize what is going on;
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
Investigate with interest and care;
Nurture with self-compassion.
You can take your time and explore RAIN as a stand-alone meditation or move through the steps whenever challenging feelings arise.
R—Recognize What’s Going On
Recognizing means consciously acknowledging, in any given moment, the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are affecting you. This can be a done with a simple mental whisper, noting what you are most aware of.
A—Allow the Experience to be There, Just as It Is
Allowing means letting the thoughts, emotions, feelings, or sensations you have recognized simply be there, without trying to fix or avoid anything.
You might recognize fear, and allow by mentally whispering “it’s ok” or “this belongs” or “yes.”
Allowing creates a pause that makes it possible to deepen attention.
I—Investigate with Interest and Care
To investigate, call on your natural curiosity—the desire to know truth—and direct a more focused attention to your present experience.
You might ask yourself: What most wants attention? How am I experiencing this in my body? What am I believing? What does this vulnerable place want from me? What does it most need?
Whatever the inquiry, your investigation will be most transformational if you step away from conceptualizing and bring your primary attention to the felt-sense in the body.
N—Nurture with Self-Compassion
Self-compassion begins to naturally arise in the moments that you recognize you are suffering. It comes into fullness as you intentionally nurture your inner life with self-care.
To do this, try to sense what the wounded, frightened or hurting place inside you most needs, and then offer some gesture of active care that might address this need. Does it need a message of reassurance? Of forgiveness? Of companionship? Of love?
Experiment and see which intentional gesture of kindness most helps to comfort, soften or open your heart. It might be the mental whisper, I’m here with you. I’m sorry, and I love you. I love you, and I’m listening. It’s not your fault. Trust in your goodness.
In addition to a whispered message of care, many people find healing by gently placing a hand on the heart or cheek; or by envisioning being bathed in or embraced by warm, radiant light. If it feels difficult to offer yourself love, bring to mind a loving being—spiritual figure, family member, friend or pet—and imagine that being’s love and wisdom flowing into you.
After the RAIN
When you’ve completed the active steps of RAIN, it’s important to notice the quality of your own presence and rest in that wakeful, tender space of awareness.
The fruit of RAIN is realizing that you are no longer imprisoned in or identified with any limiting sense of self. Give yourself the gift of becoming familiar with the truth and natural freedom of your being; it is mysterious and precious!
Resource: Guided Meditation – The Practice of RAIN
Copyright © 2020 by Tara Brach, Ph.D.
This meditation explores the meaning of forgiveness and its role in healing and transformation. We then are guided in a forgiveness practice that helps us release the armoring of blame, and inhabit an inclusive and open heart (given at the Fall 2019 IMCW 7-Day Silent Retreat).
Drawn from Tara’s new book, Radical Compassion (2020), these three talks explore how the RAIN practice (Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture) awakens the active, embodied caring that heals and frees our hearts.
Check www.tarabrach.com for more information on Tara’s new book, including links to order.
…the alchemy of compassion is unless we’re willing to feel… unless we’re willing to be touched by suffering, it will be a sort of abstract kind of compassion – it won’t be real tenderness – a really awake heart. Radical compassion is when there’s a tenderness and an active caring…
The heart becomes a transformer of sorrows if you know how to breathe in, but also breathe out and really offer out either through prayer or active helping. People who can actively engage their caring actually feel better because they’re not bottled up and paralyzed.