How to Work with Anxiety on The Spot: an Intro to RAIN Meditation

I’m a big fan of any mindfulness exercise that can be used while sitting in formal meditation and can also be applied on the spot when difficulties come up in our day to day lives. RAIN meditation is my go to exercise that checks both of these boxes. I’ll break down the steps & how to benefit from this practice in more detail below!

Some Background

R.A.I.N. was first introduced by meditation instructor Michele McDonald, and has been popularized by psychologist & meditation teacher, Tara Brach. RAIN is an acronym for a four step process of working with difficult feelings. It stands for recognize, allow, investigate, and nurture.

When This Might Help

These steps can be used any time a difficult feeling comes up and you’re looking to turn towards it rather than avoid it. It's for any of those times that you’d like to use these tricky moments as opportunities to cultivate presence, awareness and compassion, and move away from our habitual tendency to avoid painful feelings and distract ourselves.

Formal & Informal Uses

This practice can be used either formally as a seated meditation, or informally on the spot as stuff comes up throughout the day. The formal meditation time allows us to sit quietly and strengthen skills of mindful awareness while we’re not in the thick of things. When we include the formal sitting practice in our routines, it helps us train the mindfulness muscles in our brains, making it easier to tap into R.A.I.N. throughout the day.

This leads us to practicing with R.A.I.N. On the spot. This can be as simple as taking a few moments to run through the steps as difficulty comes up. You can either run through each step, or maybe just practice running through the first two steps (recognize and allow) when you just have a quick moment. Being able to intentionally practice on the spot with smaller difficulties to start, helps us feel more confident in dealing with challenges as we move forward. You may also want to explore using R.A.I.N in your journaling practice. To learn more check out this post!

R-Recognize What’s Happening

The first step to rain is to simply recognize, or name, exactly what’s happening. We’re starting to drop our attention inward. Name whatever thought patterns, feelings, or sensations most stand out to you. Is there anger? Jealousy? Sadness? Check out the nature of your thoughts, is there busyness? Planning mind? Maybe your mind is caught up in worry. Label whatever it is, with an attitude of non-judgment.

A-Allow your Life to Be as it is

In the allow step, the goal is to practice letting whatever is present to be as it is. Sometimes it can be helpful to say “yes” to whatever you’ve recognized , or to play around with other phrases like, “I consent”, “this too is present”. Anything that helps you cultivate acceptance of whatever is arising will work.

I-Investigate Your Inner Experience Non-Judgmentally

In the investigate step of RAIN, we want to be careful not to get too analytical. You really want to keep this as simple as possible by focusing the investigation on what you’re feeling in your body. Do a quick scan of your body, noticing how your feelings are showing up physically. Maybe there’s some tension in your neck and shoulders?

If you’d like, during this stage you could also investigate what you may be believing about yourself in the moment. Are you believing that you’re not good enough? That your feelings aren’t ok? That you can’t handle what’s going on? Again, whatever you’re believing, try your best to practice a non judgmental attitude towards your experience!

N-Nurture The Hurting Place

The nurture step is an opportunity to practice tending towards your challenging thoughts and feelings with kindness. So maybe ask the part of you that is struggling; “what do you need right now?”. Maybe it needs to be held with acceptance, maybe it needs some space or some specific kind, healing words. Oftentimes it can be helpful to just place your hand on your heart, or wherever you’re feeling tension, and breath into the space in your body where the pain is presenting itself.

After the Rain & On

When you’re done with the steps of rain, check in and notice what your experience is like now vs when you started the exercise. This is another opportunity to accept your experience just as it is. Again, feel free to practice this formally, sitting in a quiet comfortable space, or try running through the steps throughout the day. Either way, I hope with practice this can help you move towards feeling more confident when you come across difficulties and discomfort in your life!