Updated: Nov 20, 2020
There’s a meditation technique in Buddhism called RAIN which can guide one through the journey of sitting with difficult emotions and accepting them as they are. Often a lot of our discomfort comes from feeling like we should be different and this can lead to even more dissatisfaction. Once we accept our emotions, it's easier to accept ourselves.
Experiencing the full spectrum of human emotions is what binds us all. The RAIN technique isn't about dwelling in negativity or positivity, it's about finding a space between the thoughts, observing them from a distance. A great teacher Glen Svennson from Tushita once said:
"you can be the thought and have the thought at the same time"
If we step back and take time to familiarise ourselves with all thoughts and emotions, they start to we no longer get lost in the stories and can begin accepting all that arises in the warmth of compassion. This is the first step to rediscovering the peace within.
Create a quiet clean space to practice in. Maybe light a tea light and tell your housemates that you would like some time to your self so you are not disturbed. Sit comfortably in a chair, against a wall, or cross legged with a cushion beneath the sit-bones. Take a deep breath and on the exhale close your eyes (or lower your gaze if more comfortable).
Begin with familiarising yourself with the breath. Tune in, listen, and notice the length of the inhale in comparison to the exhale. Feel where the breath moves you the most. Is it the belly? The chest? The ribs? The lower back? Feel what sensations arrive with each breath, if it feels like nothing is happening then don't force it, accept that too and say internally "this belongs too".
The 'R' of RAIN is for recognition. The first step is to become conscious of your mental state right now. What emotions, thoughts and feelings are present? How are they affecting you? What is most prominent for you in this given moment? Perhaps you internally verbalise the feeling(s) present as a way of respecting their presence.
The 'A' of RAIN is to allow. Allow whatever arises to be there in its entirety. It is our habitual tendency to push uncomfortable emotions aside, to contract and tense as if physically hardening to the tenderness of emotional experience. Here we allow emotions to be seen and felt in full view.
Perhaps you experience fear, guilt, anxiety; welcome them all by saying internally "it's okay" or "this belongs". This starts the internal dialogue of listening and accepting.
The 'I' of RAIN is to investigate. This is the tricky part, shifting from experiencing the emotion to seeing it objectively and noticing that it can only harm you if you choose (choose being the key word) to identify with it.
Be curious and get in close, really close. Ask yourself "What most needs my attention right now?" "How am I experiencing this in my body?". Take your time, don't force it, at first it may feel strange but with practice it becomes more natural to listen within.
‘N’ is for nurture, this is where we cultivate self-compassion. After experiencing the physical sensations of an emotion we can care for ourselves and offer some form of comfort.
Asking the question "how can I be more present with this vulnerable part of me?" can be a good place to start. Do you need to feel accompanied? Loved? Supported? Heard? How can you meet yourself in this wounded place with compassionate presence?
Be patient with yourself and linger the longest in this stage. It can be hard to confront challenging emotions. If you experience pain, don't be afraid to cry and allow the physical release to wash through you. If you feel angry and tense, hold this in a warm cocoon of soothing light allowing it to be held in compassion and acceptance.
The After RAIN
Sit still for some time after the practice and notice the quality of your presence. Are you more at ease or more contracted? Reflect upon the practice and notice how the journey of emotion has passed.
The beauty of RAIN is the ability to see through the thoughts and limiting beliefs about yourself. To see them as separate to you, something that does not define you but brings the humbling of humility.
The first few times practicing can feel intense, if this is true for you take time to return to the comfort of a long soothing breath. Perhaps lie down with one hand on the belly and one hand of the chest and take 9 deep soothing breaths.
Remember that we're not trying to fix our thoughts, the thoughts will still be there in the backdrop. RAIN enables us to see through the eyes of introspection and wisdom knowing that we are free from the limiting thoughts and beliefs of the mind.