One way to help keep our nervous system in balance is to practice mindfulness. My go-to teacher for that is Tara Brach. The practice that she teaches, which emerged about 15 years ago among a group of Buddhist teachers, is called RAIN, and it helps to move us from what Tara calls “trance to presence”. It’s about pausing when we become aware that our reactivity is increasing, our thoughts are starting to race, or our breathing has become shallow, and then shifting our attention to what’s really going on inside.
When we are in trance our minds are narrowed and we get hooked on the problem itself. We can start to feel defensive, separate, fearful or angry.
So how does using RAIN help? RAIN gives us a method for pressing the pause button on trance and being moving towards more presence in the moment.
What are the steps of RAIN?
R stands for Recognize. In this step the idea is to notice that your mind or heart is racing, you’re feeling anxious, and then to ask a question like “What’s happening/going on inside me?” or “What am I believing right now about my mind racing or feeling anxious?”
A is for Allow. During this step we can ask the question “Can I be with this feeling or sensation of anxiety?” If the answer is yes, you then hang out with or observe the feelings, physical sensation(s) or thoughts you’re having without trying to change them or judge yourself for having them. If the answer to the question is no, that is okay too, it means your system is too overwhelmed to do the practice at that time and you need to honour that no. There will be other times when the answer is yes.
I is for Investigate. This step is about being curious and digging deeper to discover what’s really going on. Some questions to choose from are, “Where am I feeling this in my body? What’s really happening inside me right now? For example, if you’re feeling anxious, angry or sad, where is that coming from in your body? Is there something else happening inside you that’s underneath your feeling? What are you believing about yourself right now? Is this really true? Are you certain this is true?”
N stands for Nurture. Once you have some clarity or awareness of what is really going on from investigating, for example, “I’m afraid…”, the next step is to nurture that tender place that has revealed itself. Questions to ask yourself are, “Can I be with this with kindness? What does that part need right now?” It can be as simple as putting your hand on your heart and saying something like, “It’s okay” or “I’m here for you”.
After the RAIN. Tara has now added this fifth step, which is taking a couple of extra minutes after the first four steps to let the awareness and nurturing settle in more deeply. The idea is not to jump quickly back into whatever you were doing prior to RAIN,
Further Rain Resources
As with any practice, RAIN is an ongoing practice and changes occur over time. Here is a link to a RAIN meditation by Tara to help get you started: https://www.tarabrach.com/meditation-practice-rain/
For a PDF of the steps of the RAIN practice go to https://www.tarabrach.com/wp-content/uploads/pdf/RAIN-of-Self-Compassion2.pdf
I also highly recommend Tara’s latest book, Radical Compassion. It is easy to read and provides many in-depth examples of the RAIN practice.