Let's RAIN on it
Those of you who have taken one of my classes or have listened to podcasts by Tara Brach or other mindfulness instructors the acronym RAIN may be familiar to you. RAIN stands for Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture with compassion. It is a mindful way of really checking in and seeing what is going on in a situation; it allows us time to respond instead of react in stressful situations. It actually can be used in wonderful positive situations allowing us to fully experience and rest in a joyful experience. But in this writing we will explore how it can be useful in a stressful situation - I will do a fun one next - I promise!
Now don't get me wrong - I am not saying reacting is bad; reacting quickly and without any thought is helpful when your toddler is about to reach for something hot or your dog is about to run into the road. Living in the fast paced world we live in we often find ourselves reacting instead of responding and may not be getting to our desired outcomes. RAIN helps us process and slow down. Some of these more reactive patterns of behavior may have been around since childhood; and by learning to find new ways of interacting with these emotions we can often change the outcome or at least begin to rewire the brain to allow change to occur.
What was effective and perhaps a necessary way of responding at one point of our lives, say as children, may not be as necessary or effective later in life, and yet the neurological wiring and automatic responses are still there. For instance, if a child grows up in an unsafe environment, maybe with a parent with postpartum depression, or one who expresses her anxiety as doom and gloom around every corner the child may find it difficult to trust their own environment including those who love them - even into adulthood when they are living in a safe loving environment. The neurological wiring from childhood remains in place until new wiring occurs; and, it takes time and practice to lay down new wiring. Thank goodness neuroplasticity is possible throughout our life time - even when you are 60!
Now, let's see if we can RAIN on a real situation that many of us have experienced. You are driving somewhere maybe running late to dance class with your daughter in the back seat and someone cuts you off or slams on the breaks right in front of you and you need to slam on your brakes to avoid an accident. Before you know it, you have shared a unkind hand gesture and a few choice words to the driver in the other car - and in the next moment you glance back at your daughter looking frightened and a tear is running down her cheek. You think "Oh crap, I've done it again - lost my temper, frightened my kid, I'm a terrible mother." or maybe your diatribe sounds more like, "That guys and idiot …. WTF." BTW I was 50 when I learned what WTF stood for in a therapy session no doubt - thanks Meredith! Now, let's see if we can go back and RAIN on what just happen.
So what is going on? what are you feeling? what thoughts are going through your head, what are you noticing as far as physical sensations? If on autopilot we often think in absolutes and use "old tapes" that may not be so helpful.
You may recognize physical sensations such as tightness in your jaw, heart pounding, hands shaking - all evidence that your parasympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, or freeze) is working - that is a good thing it allows moms to pick up cars that are on their children.
Perhaps you recognize the emotions: anger, rage, fear, relief, and regret all in a matter of a few moments. RAIN helps us unpack it all and perhaps see the same situation from another perspective. Remember Viktor Frankl said, "between the stimuli and the response is choice" - but we need to have space to choose differently. New wiring takes time whether in a house or a brain.
Now can you take a breath and allow that all of that to be present without judgement. Can you recognize the anger by saying "ok so this is anger, this is rage, this is fear, this is sadness or shame." Can you feel the pounding in your chest "ok my heart is pounding, may hands are shaking, I can't catch my breath, I am clutching the steering wheel like my life depends on it.
What is it that most wants attention (emotion, thought, sensation)? It is like an internal triage - attending to who is hurting most. How am I experiencing this in my body? What am I believing? (I'm and idiot? he's and idiot, or maybe Wow! someone is watching over me and I am lucky/blessed.) What does the most vulnerable place want from me? What does it most need? Whatever the inquiry, your investigation will be most transformational if you step away from conceptualizing and bring your primary attention to the felt-sense in the body.
When investigating, it is essential to approach your experience in a non-judgmental and kind way. We want to create a safe space to connect with whatever we are feeling; anger often arrives first on the scene then hurt, fear, and sometimes shame shows up to the party. Just as in Rumi's poem The Guest House all emotions are welcome - even the "yucky or scary" ones!
Nurture with Self-Compassion
Now aware of the hurts or fears can you identify the areas of suffering? This is often done more easily if we image our best friend was in that same situation - what would you be saying to that friend. It is sometimes easier to offer compassion to others than offer it to ourselves.
Ok let's play it all through. RAIN - I recognize anger still in my body followed by shame, guilt, I allow space for all of these emotions one by one. I investigate what thoughts, or beliefs so I hold to be true and am I being compassionate with myself. "So maybe I am not a terrible mom, but instead I was having a bad day and lost my temper." What sensations are there? Can I identify them and sit with them. Sometimes they sit on me - feeling like a boulder or a sharp tightening in my chest; but after I notice, allow, and show some compassion and reasurrance they are willing to sit aside me or even go away. I name each one and make space for them. As Rumi says,
Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
And now can I see this situation in a nurturing and compassionate way? As was The Buddha's tradition he welcomed all to tea; treating each with respect and compassion: fear, regret, the things done and left undone. It was only after these emotions are acknowledged would they let go and move on. "Name it, claim it", so set out your best china, linen napkins, the finest tea and scones and invite with compassion and grace as Tara Brach would say "whatever you are most afraid or unwilling to feel."I didn't say it would be a fun party and if often takes a couple visits to make things right between ourselves and our emotions - at least that is my experience.
Perhaps sit a moment and pause, remember there is grace in the space for ourselves and others; imagine each emotion coming to the door (fear, anger, self-doubt, shame) - whomever you don't want to let in - that is who we each need to set our finest table for; and then pull out a chair for them with grace and compassion.
It is easy to invite our friends and loved ones in but inviting to tea the emotions we do not understand or fear provides the greatest opportunity for growth. It is then and only then that we can gain our greatest freedom from what binds us.
Rumi's poem Guest House https://www.infocounselling.com/guest-house-mindfulness-poem/