Tara Brach’s RAIN practice is a really helpful tool that combines aspects of mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, and self-compassion to help manage and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
WHAT IS IT?
I use it as a kind of inner MOT to check-in with myself when I’m feeling unhappy, or “lost” in some way. Many consider it to be the Swiss-Army knife of self-help strategies as it packs all of the following good stuff into just four quick reflections which can sometimes be carried out in a matter of minutes.
1. Emotional Regulation: RAIN promotes emotional regulation, helping us manage feelings of fear, anger, shame, or hopelessness. By Recognizing and Allowing these emotions, we aren’t fighting against them but instead acknowledging their presence. This acceptance often leads to a natural decrease in emotional intensity, enabling us to respond more effectively to emotional triggers.
2. Breaking Negative Thought Patterns: By Investigating our feelings and thought processes, we can identify recurring negative patterns that may be fueling our anxiety or depression. This process of internal exploration is like performing an inner “health check” or “maintenance inspection,” assessing the mental machinery that drives our emotions and behaviors. With this understanding, we can start to challenge and change these destructive patterns.
3. Enhancing Self-Compassion: The final step of the RAIN process, Nurture, fosters self-compassion. By consciously sending kindness and love to ourselves, we cultivate an inner ally rather than an inner critic. This self-compassion has been proven to improve psychological wellbeing and resilience, helping us to better cope with life’s challenges.
4. Reducing Rumination: The RAIN practice can help stop the cycle of rumination, a common symptom in both anxiety and depression. Rumination is when we’re stuck in a loop of thinking about distressing thoughts over and over. Through Recognizing and Allowing these thoughts, and then Investigating them with curiosity rather than judgment, we can interrupt this cycle and reduce our symptoms.
5. Promoting Mindfulness: RAIN practice strengthens our overall mindfulness, which is the skill of being fully present and engaged in the here and now. Mindfulness has been widely studied and found to have numerous mental health benefits, including stress reduction and improved focus, and can act as a buffer against the detrimental effects of anxiety and depression.
Bring to mind a current situation in which you feel stuck, one that elicits a difficult reaction, such as anger or fear, shame or hopelessness. It may be a conflict with a family member, a chronic sickness, a failure at work, the pain of an addiction, a conversation you now regret. Take some moments to enter the experience—visualising the scene or situation, remembering the words spoken, sensing the most distressing moments. Contacting the charged essence of the story is the starting place for RAIN.
R: RECOGNIZE What Is Happening
As you reflect on your current situation, engage your three internal operating systems – mind, heart, and body.
Begin with your ‘Mind OS’. Ask yourself, “What thoughts are passing through my mind right now?” Note these mental narratives and images, observing them without judgment.
Next, engage your ‘Heart OS’. Ask, “What emotions am I feeling?” Are there feelings of fear, anger, sadness, or frustration? Identify these emotions and allow yourself to feel them, again without judging yourself (if you can). Understand the emotional tone of the situation – is it tense, heavy, or chaotic?
Finally, tap into your ‘Body OS’. Ask yourself, “What physical sensations am I experiencing?” Do you feel tightness in your chest, butterflies in your stomach, or a lump in your throat? Does your body feel light or heavy, still or agitated?
In each of these stages, take a moment to become aware of what is predominant, acknowledging whatever is happening inside you right now. This multi-level awareness will create a more comprehensive picture of your internal state.
A: ALLOW Life to Be As It Is
Send a message to your heart to “let be” this entire experience. Find in yourself the willingness to pause and accept that in these moments “what is . . . is.” You can experiment with mentally whispering words like “yes,”, or “I don’t like it, but OK, if I have to”, “I consent,” or “let be.”
You might find yourself saying yes to a huge inner “no,” to a body and mind painfully contracted in resistance. You might be saying yes to the part of you that is saying, “I hate this!” That’s a natural part of the process. At this point in RAIN, you are simply noticing what is true and intending not to judge, push away, or control anything you find.
I: INVESTIGATE with Gentle, Curious Attention
Bring an interested and kind attention to your experience. Some of the following questions may be helpful.Feel free to experiment with them, varying the sequence and content.
- What is the worst part of this; what most wants my attention?
- What is the most difficult/painful thing I am believing?
- What emotions does this bring up (fear, anger, grief)?
- Where are my feelings about this strongest in my body? (Note: It’s helpful to scan the throat, chest, and belly.)
- What are the feelings like (that is, the felt sense or sensations, such as clenched, raw, hot)?
- When I assume the facial expression and body posture that best reflect these feelings and emotions, what do I notice?
- Are these feelings familiar, something I’ve experienced earlier in my life?
- If the most vulnerable hurting part of me could communicate, what would it express (words, feelings, images)?
- How does this part want me to be with it?
- What does this part most need (from me or from some larger source of love and wisdom)?
We often read “Investigate” as an invitation to fire up our cognitive skills—analyzing the situation or ourselves, identifying the many possible roots of our suffering. This is a common misunderstanding, and it can distract from the essence of ths Investigation, which here lies in awakening our somatic awareness. While mental exploration may enhance our understanding, opening to our embodied experience appears to be a more reliable way to healing and freedom.
So instead of thinking about what’s going on, we keep bringing your attention to our body, directly contacting the felt sense and sensations of our most vulnerable place. Once we are fully present, we try to listen for what this place truly needs to begin healing.
N: NURTURE with Loving Presence
As you sense what is needed, what is your natural response? Calling on the most wise and compassionate part of your being, you might offer yourself a loving message or send a tender embrace inward. You might gently place your hand on your heart. You might visualize a young part of you surrounded in soft, luminous light. You might imagine someone you trust—a parent or pet, a teacher or spiritual figure—holding you with love. Feel free to experiment with ways of befriending your inner life—whether through words or touch, images or energy. Discover what best allows you to feel nurturing, what best allows the part of you that is most vulnerable to feel loved, seen, and/or safe. Spend as much time as you need, offering care inwardly and letting it be received.