R.A.I.N: A Four-Step Process for Using Mindfulness in Difficult Times

A couple of years ago, I discovered a 4-step mindfulness process that offers ‘in-the-trenches’ support for working with intense and difficult emotions. It has been an ally for me in the moments I needed mindfulness the most.

It’s called RAIN (which is an acronym for the 4 steps of the process).

Here are the 4 steps in brief…

1. R   Recognize what is happening

2. A   Allow life to be just as it is

3. I   Investigate inner experience

4. N   Non-Identification

Here’s how you can use the RAIN method in a difficult time…

R: The “R” in the R.A.I.N method stands for ‘Recognize.’

Take a moment to recognize that a strong emotion is present and gently turn towards what you’re experiencing in an open and non-judgemental way.

Tune in to the direct present moment experience of what is happening in your body and mind… the emotions, the thoughts and sensations that are here.

It can be helpful to mentally name it, for example, “I am feeling stressed” or “I am feeling overwhelmed.” This recognition of what your feeling, opens up inner space and brings you into full contact with yourself and the actuality of the present moment.

A: The “A” in R.A.I.N stands for ‘Allow.’

Allowing means to ‘let it be as it is.’ It is the acknowledgement and acceptance of your present moment reality. Allowing doesn’t mean we have to like the situation. It means we aims to soften (or drop) our mental resistance to what is happening.

The reason this is so important is because we often have the unconscious impulse to push away, suppress or ignore difficult emotions. When we engage in an inner struggle in these ways, we unknowingly create more suffering  and tension.

In this unconscious struggle we also tend to get ‘caught up’ in our thoughts and emotions, therefore we are more likely to react rather than being able to choose a conscious response.

By allowing, we’re able to bring an inner ‘yes’ to our present moment experience. You may notice almost immediately a sense of softening and ease around the emotion.

I: The “I” in the R.A.I.N. exercise stands for ‘Investigate.’

Now that you have recognized and allowed this emotion you can choose to investigate it. You may not always feel you need the “I” step as sometimes just the recognition and acceptance is enough. At other times you may feel naturally drawn to using this step.

So to investigate, you can mentally enquire with questions like “Why do I feel the way I do?” “Are there events that happened ahead of the emotion that might have influenced it?” “Are there physiological factors (Such as not getting enough sleep) that are affecting the emotion?” “What do I really need right now?” “Are there actions I could take to nurture and support myself (and/or others) in this difficult time?”

These questions can help us come into wiser relationship with emotions and thoughts. With this process of investigation we can also choose a conscious response to foster a more meaningful life. Investigation may even resolve and dissolve the emotion completely at times (although it is not the goal).

N: The “N” stands for ‘Non-identification.’

In the “N” step of R.A.I.N, you turn your attention to the simple realization that YOU are not your mind nor are you your emotions. You are the awareness that is always there underneath every thought, emotion and sense perception.

Non-identification means that your sense of who you are is not fused with or defined by your thoughts and emotions. This brings about a natural sense of freedom and ease. It gives a sense of having peace in the middle of it all. No matter how intense and painful the emotional storm, there is always a part of you which is still, silent and untouched.

You can use this R.A.I.N. method anytime you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or out of touch. It’s a powerful way of homecoming in a challenging time.

What are your thoughts on the R.A.I.N. method? Did you try it out and have some feedback or experiences to share? Let me know about it in the comments section below.

If you’d like to read more about R.A.I.N, I recommend reading the works of Tara Brach and particularly her book, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

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