Last Updated on 5 January 2024
About twelve years ago, a number of Buddhist teachers began to share a new mindfulness tool that offers in-the-trenches support for working with intense and difficult emotions. Called RAIN (an acronym for the four steps of the process), it can be accessed in almost any place or situation. It directs our attention in a clear, systematic way that cuts through confusion and stress. The steps give us somewhere to turn in a painful moment, and as we call on them more regularly, they strengthen our capacity to come home to our deepest truth. Like the clear sky and clean air after a cooling rain, this mindfulness practice brings a new openness and calm to our daily lives.
The acronym RAIN is an easy-to-remember tool for bringing mindfulness and compassion to emotional difficulty.
Recognise what is going on;
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
Investigate with interest and care;
Nurture with self-compassion.
You can take your time and explore RAIN as a stand-alone meditation or move through the steps whenever challenging feelings arise.
R—Recognise What’s Going On
Recognising means consciously acknowledging, in any given moment, the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that are affecting you. This can be a done with a simple mental whisper, noting what you are most aware of.
A—Allow the Experience to be There, Just as It Is
Allowing means letting the thoughts, emotions, feelings, or sensations you have recognised simply be there, without trying to fix or avoid anything.
You might recognise fear, and allow by mentally whispering “it’s ok” or “this belongs” or “yes.”
Allowing creates a pause that makes it possible to deepen attention.
I—Investigate with Interest and Care
To investigate, call on your natural curiosity—the desire to know truth—and direct a more focused attention to your present experience.
You might ask yourself: What most wants attention? How am I experiencing this in my body? What am I believing? What does this vulnerable place want from me? What does it most need?
Whatever the inquiry, your investigation will be most transformational if you step away from conceptualising and bring your primary attention to the felt-sense in the body.
N—Nurture with Self-Compassion
Self-compassion begins to naturally arise in the moments that you recognise you are suffering. It comes into fullness as you intentionally nurture your inner life with self-care.
To do this, try to sense what the wounded, frightened or hurting place inside you most needs, and then offer some gesture of active care that might address this need. Does it need a message of reassurance? Of forgiveness? Of companionship? Of love?
Experiment and see which intentional gesture of kindness most helps to comfort, soften or open your heart. It might be the mental whisper, I’m here with you. I’m sorry, and I love you. I love you, and I’m listening. It’s not your fault. Trust in your goodness.
In addition to a whispered message of care, many people find healing by gently placing a hand on the heart or cheek; or by envisioning being bathed in or embraced by warm, radiant light. If it feels difficult to offer yourself love, bring to mind a loving being—spiritual figure, family member, friend or pet—and imagine that being’s love and wisdom flowing into you.
After the RAIN
When you’ve completed the active steps of RAIN, it’s important to notice the quality of your own presence and rest in that wakeful, tender space of awareness.
The fruit of RAIN is realising that you are no longer imprisoned in or identified with any limiting sense of self. Give yourself the gift of becoming familiar with the truth and natural freedom of your being; it is mysterious and precious!
Resource: Guided Meditation – The Practice of RAIN
Adapted from Tara Brach’s book: True Refuge: Finding Peace & Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart (Bantam, 2013)
Copyright © 2020 by Tara Brach, Ph.D.