The acronym R.A.I.N., first coined about twenty years ago by Michele McDonald and widely popularized by Tara Brach, is an easy-to-remember tool for practicing mindfulness. We often get lost in spiraling thoughts in the effort to control our world, and then create habitual reactivity – judgments and defenses. This simple, practical practice can take us out of our inner trance and create a “sacred pause” for acknowledging the truth of who we really are. It has four steps:
R – Recognize what is going on
A – Allow the experience to be there, just as it is
I – Investigate with kindness
N – Non-identification with the experience
R – Recognize what is going on: To recognize is to tune towards the direct present moment experience of what is happening – those thoughts, emotions and physical sensations affecting us. This gentle curiosity opens into full contact with the existing reality of the present moment. It is noticing in a kind, receptive way and asking, “What is happening inside me right now?”
A – Allow the experience to be there, just as it is: It is the acknowledgement and acceptance of our present moment reality. It has nothing to do with whether or not we like the situation. It is learning to say, “Yes, I can open to this – even this.” It is relaxing, softening and accepting, without judging or suppressing. Allowing means letting the thoughts, emotions, feelings or sensations we have recognized to just be there.
I – Investigate with kindness: This means directing a natural curiosity, a desire to know the truth, and bringing a more focused attention to our present experience. We might mentally inquire with questions like, “Why do I feel the way I do?”, “How am I experiencing this in my body?”, “What am I believing about myself”, “What do I really need right now?”, or “Is this really true?” Welcome whatever arises compassionately and nonjudgmentally.
N – Non-identification with the experience: We are neither our mind nor our emotions, but rather the awareness always there beneath every thought, emotion and sense perception. Non-identification means our sense of who we are is not defined by thoughts and emotions. We are not the stories we tell ourselves. It is the distinction between stating, “I am an angry person”, and “I am experiencing anger in this moment.” The first three steps of RAIN require some intentional activity, but with “N” we simply rest in natural awareness.