There is a lovely acronym that’s been sprouting up in the lexicon of self-care and self-healing that I’ve found very useful. That acronym is RAIN. Tara Brach, a distinctive voice in Western Buddhism, is a terrific resource for exploring the RAIN process.
Hmm. “Process.” How clinical. It’s more that the RAIN practice offers cues, reminders as it were— to place our attention on what may actually bring sanity, even peace, to the war that sometimes rages in our heads and hearts.
So here’s the breakdown of the acronym RAIN.
R reminds you to: Recognize what’s going on inside you.
A reminds you to: Allow yourself and life to be exactly as it is.
I reminds you to: Investigate with gentle attention.
N reminds you to: Nurture yourself with love, kindness, caring and compassion.
I like to think the four letters of RAIN orbit around the nuclei of four essential elements of well-being.
Awareness Compassion Love Grace
What do the four letters of RAIN look like on the ground? How are they useful in the midst of an internal struggle?
Well, first things first. There’s an action that’s helpful to take in order to begin the dance of RAIN. That action is to slow down. Really Slow Down. Even stop. Hit pause on your emotional careening. Take a moment’s break from staring into the black hole those thoughts and feelings are sucking you into. A tiny, microscopic moment is enough.
To stop usually requires conscious effort. I mean, here we are. We’re in a storm! At its worst, our chemistry, our neurobiology, our memories, our pain and fear and abandonment, all may be having an unchaperoned party. A neurobiological dorsal vagal drug fest!
Nobody feels safe and everybody is shouting or hiding. Nobody’s really listening to each other at all.
Oh boy. So what do I do?
One – two – three…PAUSE.
Now let’s take a look at the “R” of RAIN.
RECOGNIZE what is going on. Right now. In this present moment.
“I hurt. I’m angry. I can’t breathe. I’m depressed. I’m scared. I’m lonely. I’m confused.”
Say hello to all of these as they come up. Even if you wince, give yourself a moment of self-compassion anyway.
Allow a moment of acknowledgment – of poignant and direct listening. No need for correction. No need to take a higher path. No need to linger.
Sometimes there’s even a moment of sweet relief to be able to just say “Oh. Right now this is what’s going on.”
Now we can administer the balm of the “A” of RAIN.
Allow yourself to be just as you are, and life to be just as it is.
It’s important to be kind and sensible for yourself with this “allow” thing. Total surrender is not required. Yes, allowing is a step towards vulnerability, and vulnerability isn’t easy. If you can manage five percent, or even less, of “allowing yourself and life to be just as it is.” … Well that’s pretty damn bold! If five percent is what’s going on right now, that’s pretty much 100% of authenticity.
So be kind. A moment’s softening and opening of the heart, belly and breath.
Be a bit mindful that you aren’t alone in the messiness of being human. One of the elements of self-compassion is common humanity. Allow yourself that humanity.
There’s a wavelike motion in these sorts of explorations. Like the ocean, the tide comes in, and the tide goes out. You don’t need to hold on tightly. Or for that matter, at all.
And now, gently, and lightly, bring in the “I” of RAIN.
Investigate with gentle attention.
Tara Brach prefers “investigate” for the “I.” Jeff Licata, depth psychologist and co-founder with Jeff Foster of the Befriending Yourself program, prefers “integrate” for the “I.”
I like both “investigate” and “integrate.” Maybe we can make up a new word? “investigrate?” Hmm, I don’t think so. Sounds too much like messed up English.
“Investigrating” is more an action of contemplation and curiosity. You’re not the detective looking for the bad boy or girl to incarcerate or rehabilitate.
The manner of “investigation” in the RAIN process is not the judging, analytical mind looking for something to fix or eliminate. It’s more of a gentle and deliberate sensing. A kind and self-compassionate viewing of what you’re feeling in the body and emotions. You may see more pieces of the puzzle of you, and that’s great. But overall this type of investigation is not a search for why and what or how to fix it. There will be a time and place for that inquiry. But right now it’s better to just stand in the rain.
Because this is the rain of self-compassion. These are the tears of our longing to love and be loved. It’s OK to stand in the rain for a little while. It’s OK to get wet.
Ah. Here we are now at the “N” of RAIN.
Nurture yourself with love, kindness, caring and compassion.
Pay attention to taking care of yourself. The Cambridge dictionary defines “nurture” as “to feed and care for a child, or to help someone or something develop by encouraging that person or thing.”
Nurturing is a way to develop a sense of safety in the parts of us where we don’t feel safe. Nurture is a verb. To nurture ourselves means to take action. Actions that demonstrate caring. Actions of love and kindness towards ourselves. I may not be able at the moment to do anything about my circumstances, but I can do things that help me to feel better about myself.
Hug a dog. Get out into nature. Take a hot bath and listen to soothing music. Stretch. Meditate. Do Yoga. Tai chi. Take a walk. Read and listen to things that are uplifting. If you need to distract yourself, distract yourself with something nurturing.
What can I do to demonstrate to myself that I am worthwhile just for existing?
The RAIN practice can be a nifty way to change the trajectory that we’re on. To break the spell we’ve fallen into.
I want to mention a couple of things to be aware of in approaching practices like RAIN. In the therapeutic world, as well as the world of chemistry, there is the term titration. In the context of healing, titration means one drop at a time. No need to overwhelm yourself with heavy effort. That would be counterproductive.
A microsecond of recognition, allowing, investigating, and nurturing is sufficient. The accumulation of many microseconds add up and go deep. When you sense the predatory voice is getting louder, back off. Then, when you are ready, check in again.
Finally there’s pendulation. As in pendulum. Allow yourself to swing back-and-forth from “I get it” to “I don’t get it.” Let that movement happen. That’s healthy. No need to resist.
This is a healing rain.