The R.A.I.N. Technique

If you want a great introduction to meditation, read Dan Harris’ book, 10% Happier. If you want a book on how to incorporate meditation into your life, then read Harris’ book, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics. Both books talk about the R.A.I.N technique and its uses. I find this technique to be an easy way to overcome suffering and to separate from the outcome. It’s an easy acronym to remember when you come up with struggle during your day or when sitting down for meditation.

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Mindfulness is not just found when you are seated on a meditation cushion. Mindfulness is a practice that helps you detach from suffering. Your boss is yelling at you for being late with the report or that car cutting you off on the highway is not going to happen when you are seated on the cushion. It’s nice to have a handy acronym to help you remember to detach from the suffering.

Here is the R.A.I.N. Technique:

Recognize

I’m sure you have felt it. You suddenly start feeling heat rising up you neck when someone has angered you whether it be something with your partner running late, the TiVo not recording your favorite show or something more life altering like you parent in the hospital and you can’t affect an outcome. Your stomach drops. Your foot starts to shake from impatience. It shows up in all kinds of ways. The Recognize is the noticing of the emotion. As CRR Global calls it, “the emotional field” or the weather pattern in the room. My kids know when I am “hangry.” They recognize it instantly. “Mommy, when was the last time you ate something?” The key is to recognize that you are triggered. Pema Chodron refers to it as Shenpa or being caught. Something is grabbing you and your emotions. The first step is to recognize that you are feeling emotion.

Allow

I was guilty for the longest time of just ignoring my emotions or trying to numb out the pain associated with them. Allowing is about actually leaning into the pain. It’s being present with the pain and not running away from it. So, if you didn’t get the promotion, or your child isn’t going to grad school or the mediation didn’t work out, allow yourself to feel the pain. Don’t go running to the bar for a drink, to Amazon for a shopping bender, or eating your way through a half gallon of Rocky Road. This is just a form of escape, non-allowance. It’s all about stuffing down our emotions. Allowing is to be present with whatever perceived pain and emotions exists. This is no time for a stiff upper lip. You may need to duck into an office or bathroom or your car, but find a safe space to lean in and allow.

Investigate

My experience with investigation is understanding how your emotional state is affecting your body. Come up with labels for the pain. This is what rejection feels like – tightness in the middle of my chest. This is what anger feels like – tightness in my shoulders and throat. This is what abandonment feels like – swirling in the pit of my stomach. Investigating helps you fully feel and understand how it is impacting your body. This can be scary. To some degree, it’s like going on a roller coaster as it ticks up the steep incline of the hill before the big drop off. To let go and feel your stomach drop as you glide down the hill. Most of us, including me, will try and tighten up and try and ignore the pain of the stomach drop. This is about investigating and labeling the feeling. More like a scientist and less like the lab rat. The observer versus being observed. Investigate the feeling.

Non-identification

This is the crust of the whole thing. Part of why we don’t want to actually feel emotions is that we end up making value judgements. I was telling someone about the first time I was laid off from a job and how I was not going to let the guy who was laying me off see me cry. I can guarantee you that he would not remember if I cried but it’s the main thing I focused on; the wimpy, boohooing woman crying in front of a man I barely knew. Feeling the emotion doesn’t make you less of a person; it actually makes you more of one. Granted, I understand if you want to be in private when you feel the feels as they say. Just make sure that you are not judging yourself, as I did some 30 plus years ago. You are not your anger, your tears, your anxiety. Practice non-identification.

I cried a lot after my husband left, mostly in the privacy of my own home. I called trusted friends to work through my emotions. I have wept over my father being in the hospital yet again. I have felt the anger and anxiety of not getting a plum assignment. The important thing for me is to actually feel it, instead of stuffing the feeling. It’s made all the difference of being able to experience what is happening and not getting caught up in it. What do you need to feel and go through?

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