R.A.I.N. is a meditation practice that can help you transform difficult emotions by expanding your awareness. It is similar to the STOP exercise but differs in that it goes beyond a pause encouraging gentle investigation into what is happening inside. The acronym R.A.I.N. stands for Recognition, Allowing/Acceptance, Investigation and Non-Identification. It echoes, as Jack Kornfield writes, “the Zen poets who tell us ‘the rain falls equally on all things.’”
The term R.A.I.N. was first coined about 20 years ago by Michelle McDonald. Below is an adaptation based on and for the most part using the words of Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield.
Recognize what is going on
Recognising means consciously acknowledging, in any given moment, the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are affecting us.
You can awaken recognition simply by asking yourself: “What is happening inside me right now?” Call on your natural curiosity as you focus inward. Try to let go of any preconceived ideas and instead listen in a kind, receptive way to your body and heart, and bring awareness to whatever thoughts, emotions, feelings, or sensations are arising right here and now.
Common signs of that we are caught up in experience include a critical inner voice, feelings of shame or fear, the squeeze of anxiety or the weight of depression in the body.
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is
Allowing means letting the thoughts, emotions, feelings or sensations you have recognised simply be there.
You may notice one of three ways that you react to unpleasant experience: by piling on the judgment; by numbing ourselves to our feelings; or by focussing your attention elsewhere. For example, we might have the sinking, shameful feeling of having been too harsh with someone. But rather than allowing that feeling, we might blame our friend for something, worry about something completely different, or decide it’s time for a nap. We’re resisting the unpleasantness of the feeling by withdrawing from the present moment.
However, as you become more willing to be present with what is, a different quality of attention will emerge. Allowing makes acceptance possible. It is intrinsic to healing, and realising this can give rise to a conscious intention to let be; to accept what is.
Investigate with kindness
Investigation means calling on your natural curiosity—the desire to know truth—and directing a more focused attention to your present experience.
Investigation adds a more active and pointed kind of inquiry to what has been recognised previously. Questions that can help your investigation are: “What most wants attention?” “How am I experiencing this in my body?” “What am I believing?” “What does this feeling want from me?”
Investigation makes space for deeper levels of your experience to surface. The more warm and gentle welcome we can provide for whatever arises, the more hidden or perhaps defended places will emerge. Investigation asks for a compassionate, kind and open-hearted approach towards experience.
Without this heart energy, investigation does not feel safe. Investigation with kindness allows us to connect with our suffering and to respond by offering care to our own heart.
Natural Awareness, which comes from not-identifying with the experience
The first three steps of RAIN require some intentional activity. In contrast, natural awareness allows us to realise the liberating homecoming to our true nature beyond the activity of the mind.
There is nothing to do for this last part; we simply rest in natural awareness. You may experience this as a sense of warmth and openness, a shift in perspective. You can trust this!
A metaphor that sometimes helps is to think about the sky. It is always there, always blue. Sometimes we only see the clouds that cover up the sky, they may be stormy or just little white clouds. We forget that beyond the clouds the sky is always there, always blue. Like the blue sky, natural awareness is always there.
To develop this practice it takes time, commitment, patience, kindness and trust.
Learning takes place only in a mind that is innocent and vulnerable.
Jack Kornfield, 2007, Doing the Practice, http://www.jackkornfield.com/articles/dharmaandpolitics.php
Tara Brach, 2014, Feeling Overwhelmed? Remember “RAIN”, http://www.mindful.org/tara-brach-rain-mindfulness-practice/