Try This Mindfulness Practice When You Feel Stuck

Here, a simple four-step meditation technique that can help you release stress in a matter of moments.
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Originally developed more than 20 years ago by meditation teacher Michele McDonald, Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Non-Identification, also called RAIN, has become a well-loved, four-step mindfulness technique taught by leading meditation teachers and mindfulness-based therapists for easing stress, anxiety, and other often uncomfortable feelings. 

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Tara Brach, PhD, who blends Western psychology and Eastern spirituality and founded the included this meditation practice in her recent book, Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of R.A.I.N. “It’s a way to access mindfulness and compassion when you’re in a moment of feeling really stuck,” says Brach. “When we’re encountering emotional difficulty or we get reactive, we usually forget what to do. RAIN is an easy-to-remember set of steps that can help reconnect us, so we can access presence and open mindedness.” Brach changed “Non-Identification” to “Nurture,” to accommodate the need for self-compassion in this process. “For most people, when we’re feeling shame or fear or anger or hurt, we need to bring self-compassion to that vulnerable place before we can be free,” Brach explains.

See also Tara Brach's Meditation for Self Compassion

Practice RAIN

You can do what Brach calls a “light RAIN” for a few minutes, or sit with it longer, for 15 minutes or more. “Whatever we practice grows stronger,” Brach says. “And each time you do it, you’ll have more familiarity with how to heal.”

Whenever you feel stuck, stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed by a difficult emotion take a few minutes and consider the following:

1. Recognize what is going on. “Take a look at yourself and notice whatever emotion is most predominant—start there,” Brach says. “If you’re angry, recognize anger. If you feel like your job is threatened, maybe you feel fear. Ask yourself which emotion is most calling for your attention.” “Recognizing the emotion also gives you more space and freedom.”

Brach also suggests whispering the name of the emotion you’re feeling. “If you can name an emotion it reduces some of its power,” she says.

2. Allow the experience or emotion to be there. “It’s important to not try to fix or judge it,” Brach says. “What’s helpful is if you say to yourself, This belongs. That can give a little more space to just to let it be.”

You don’t need to spend a long time in this stage of the process. It can even be a moment. “It’s a willingness; you let the emotion be there rather than fight or deny it,” Brach says.

3. Investigate what’s happening in your body. “It’s important for this to be somatic,” Brach says. “A lot of people make the mistake of thinking it’s a cognitive process and it’s not. It’s primarily about discovering what it is in your body.” Do you feel the emotion as an ache in your chest? Do you feel a flutter in your belly? Notice that.

4. Nurture yourself as an act of self-compassion.Give that part of yourself that you recognized what it needs,” Brach says. “One way is through a message: You could remind that part that you love it, that it’s good, and you’re lovable. Another way is to call on the love and energy of others, even if it’s someone who has passed or a pet. Bathe in that warmth and goodness, and offer kindness to yourself.” Brach adds: “For most people, when we’re feeling shame or fear or anger or hurt, we need to bring self-compassion to that vulnerable place before we can be free.”

See also Bring More Mindfulness Onto the Mat

The Final Step

Brach added a final step—After the RAINto help the healing sink in. “Notice the difference between how you felt when you were stuck and how you feel after the RAIN. The quality of presence that arises is more the truth of who you are, and you’ll feel more and more at home,” Brach says.

See also A Beginner's Guide to Meditation