Meeting our Worries with RAIN
By Tim Burnett
Mindfulness training with its present-centered non-judgmental focus is so very helpful in turning down the volume on worry and rumination. Have you noticed this yet? The power of meeting our complex problems with simplicity is literally revolutionary (in that it can turns us around in a very healthy way).
We notice that the mind is getting lost in planning, fretting, rehashing, rehearsing, and ruminating and we learn that it's possible, with practice, to a take a little inner step back. We don't have to get lost in the thinking and worrying and the associated heavy emotions that come up.
We can use the labeling practice [for more info, see link at bottom] to notice the mental phenomena that are arising without getting quite as caught in them. They are powerful thoughts but it's possible to see them as thoughts. "Oooh, I sure am worrying about this non-stop, wow." And then we can move our attention to the body or the breathing or anchor ourselves in our present-moment sensory experience. Have you looked at the sky lately? We live under a beautiful and always changing sky!
This way, mindfulness can give us at least a moment of peace. And those moments are powerful. Those moments add up. Our ruminating worried mind, little by little, has less of a grip on us. It's less controlling. We can do something else internally and open to so much else externally.
And yet. And yet: we do have problems that need attending to. Every one of us carries burdens and challenges. It's a great exercise in common humanity to look around at people - on the street, in the store, at work - and remind yourself of this. Every single person you see is carrying a serious challenge of some kind. We don’t know what it is, but we know this is true. People have sick and dying parents and children and friends. People are stuck in unhealthy patterns and addictions of all kinds. People are worried about their future and often have very good reason to be worried. It's not easy being a person regardless of our circumstances and many face very difficult circumstances. And we all share this challenge - it's just the details that differ.
More than moments of peace and changes in perception
We also do need to turn towards and work with our problems. The question is how can we do this wisely? How do we meet our difficult problems with a little more spaciousness and compassion? How do we approach inner turmoil with mindfulness?
There are so many answers to this question aren't there? It's good to have a trusted friend or therapist to talk things though with. For many, journal writing is helpful. All kinds of body-based practices can help us gain insight and perspective as well, lest we try to tackle everything with our thinking minds alone.
One meditation-based practice we find very helpful for turning towards our problems is the practice of RAIN. Popularized by the American meditation teacher Tara Brach, RAIN is an acronym.
R. Recognize what is happening – can we release from denial and avoidance, and turn towards it?
A. Allow and Accept that what is, is – can we see and feel and understand this more fully?
I. Investigate the inner experience – what else is here? What are your deeper feelings?
N. Non-identification – see that this problem does not define who you are.
RAIN directly de-conditions the habitual ways in which you resist your moment-to-moment experience. It doesn’t matter whether you resist “what is” by lashing out in anger, by having a drink or other unhealthy coping, or by getting immersed in obsessive thinking. Your attempt to control the life within and around you actually cuts you off from your own heart and from this living world. RAIN begins to undo these unconscious patterns as soon as we take the first step.
Learn more about RAIN and try practicing along with two of our senior teacher's as they guide the practice on our website [see link below].
May the gentle rain of mindful awareness and compassion help you face your deep inner challenges in wise and helpful ways when it's time to do that. And maybe the practice of mindfulness can help house the wide world of your life, and see that your life is much much more than just your problems.