Decrease anxiety through awareness of RAIN
| Posted by Jinnene |
As meditation teacher, psychologist, and founder of Insight Meditation Community of Washington, D.C., Tara Brach offers regular talks on how we can decrease anxiety through awareness.
Brach advocates for an approach to practicing self-compassion as the key ingredient to alleviating impacts of anxiety in a culture of ever-mounting stressors.
Among Brach’s thoughtful strategies for coming to know self-compassion, is a process known as RAIN.
What is RAIN?
In order to practice RAIN, we:
1) Recognize the discomfort we experience in any given moment, often as a reaction to another feeling or circumstance (“this is suffering”).
2) Allow for, or accept that this reaction is present in the body (“this is suffering, it’s OK”).
3) Investigate the origin of this feeling (“why do I feel the way I do?”).
4) Non-identification: “I am not my thoughts; my thoughts don’t have to be true.”
Brach reminds us that RAIN is a process that must be repeated, sometimes many times, before the brain forms new neural pathways that allow for greater feelings of calm, and overall positive thinking.
It might be difficult, Brach acknowledges. But with dedication, it’s possible.
What can anxiety look like?
Anxiety takes many forms, as we might know. I can attest to this, as I’ve struggled with heavy anxiety for much of my life. It was a psychologist several years ago that would suggest I turn to the powerful work of Tara Brach to find relief.
Brach has since then become a foundational guide for my own healing work through anxiety. I listened to one of her talks this morning entitled, “Part 1: Releasing Ourselves and Others from Aversive Blame.”
The talk referred to Buddhist teachings to protect us against our inherent nature to compare to others.
In the comparing, we end up blaming self for being imperfect. Acting out of fear, these blaming voices might bring up some of these questions in our minds:
Why don’t I have a higher paying job? Why can’t I afford a house like this friend or colleague, or that family member or acquaintance?
Does this sound familiar?
These hateful messages within can be exhausting. Or worse, debilitating.
The good news is through mindfulness, we have the ability to heal these limiting messages of blame. Through our practice, we can decrease anxiety through awareness.
Putting RAIN to good use
Let’s try now. Sit in a comfortable place. You might have a pen and paper handy. Close your eyes or reflect in writing about a time recently that you felt assaulted by your inner tapes.
What specifically did the voice say?
Now, Recognize the message as judgment. You might say to yourself or write, “that’s a judgment,” or “that’s anger.”
Allow for it to be there. You might say or write, “It’s OK. It’s judgment, but it’s only a feeling. I don’t need to identify with the feeling.”
Next, Investigate the feeling in your body. What does it feel like, physically, to carry around this judgment?
What might be below this judgment? For example, if you’ve been hard on yourself for doing a poor job at work, where might there be fear to find below that judgment?
An example of this could be: “Ah yes, I want to do a good job at work because I fear that if I am not valued, I will lose my job. If I lose my job, I will not be able to feed my children.”
Finally, we implement Nurturing. What might your body respond to as a means of inner support. You might remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can.
Try this affirmation on for size during RAIN. Can you see how RAIN might decrease anxiety through awareness?
Will the effects of RAIN be immediate?
To be sure, RAIN is not an easy practice to pursue. It takes courage, vulnerability, determination, and a great deal of patience.
I’ve been meditating and studying buddhist teachings for decades. I still struggle with anxiety.
Today, I observed judgment in my body for the impatience I feel when I teach writing technique to individuals who do not speak English as a first language.
Why can’t I just hurry up and be compassionate, the voices asked me.
Why don’t I quit this job; I have felt this way too long—when will I ever be able to make a good living doing something I am good at?
And so, these voices quickly descend with all of the intense energy of storm clouds. The negativity is debilitating, and it catches onto other negative ideations.
But when I return to thoughts of Tara Brach and the wonderful work she is doing in the world, I recall: my thoughts are a choice.
Your turn: give RAIN a try. Find more information on RAIN here.
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