Bringing RAIN to Difficulty: A guided reflection from Tara Brach’s new book “True Refuge”
Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge, introduces a guided insight meditation to help people in managing difficult emotions. In her most recent book, True Refuge she explains how to use the RAIN meditation, developed by Vipassana teacher Michele McDonald. RAIN stands for:
Recognize what is happening
Allow life to be just as it is;
Investigate inner experience with kindness
Here’s a guided reflection for applying RAIN in your own life, excerpted from True Refuge.
Guided Reﬂection: Bringing RAIN to Difﬁculty
Sitting quietly, close your eyes and take a few full breaths. 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—visualizing 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 exploring the healing presence of RAIN.
R: Recognize What Is Happening
As you reﬂect on this situation, ask yourself, “What is happening inside me right now?” What sensations are you most aware of? What emotions? Is your mind ﬁlled with churning thoughts? Take a moment to become aware of your “ felt sense” of the situation as a whole. Can you feel how the experience is living in your heart and body, as well as in your mind?
A: Allow Life to Be Just 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,” “I consent,” or “let be.” You might ﬁnd yourself saying yes to a huge inner no, to a body and mind pain- fully 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 an Intimate Attention
Now begin to explore what you are experiencing more closely, calling on your natural interest and curiosity about your inner life. You might ask yourself, “What about this most wants my attention?” or, “What most wants my acceptance?” Pose your questions gently, with your inner voice kind and inviting. Notice where you feel the experience most distinctly in your body. Are you aware of heat, tightness, pressure, aches, squeezing? When you have found the most intense part of your physical experience, bring it into your face, letting your expression mirror, and even exaggerate, what you are feeling in your body. What emotions are you aware of as you do this? Fear? Anger? Grief? Shame?
As you continue to investigate, you might ﬁnd it helpful to ask, “What am I believing?” If this leads to a lot of thinking, drop it. But you might ﬁnd that a very distinct belief emerges almost as soon as you ask. Do you believe that you are failing in some way? That someone will reject you? That you will not be able to handle whatever is around the corner? That you really are ﬂawed? That you will never be happy? How does this belief live in your body? What are the sensations? Tightness? Soreness? Burning? Hollowness?
As before, send the message of “yes,” “I consent,” or “let be,” allowing yourself to feel the fullness or intensity of the difﬁcult experience. As you contact and allow what is happening, what do you notice? Is there any softening in your body and heart? Can you sense more openness or space? Or does the intention to allow bring up more tension, judgment, and fear? Does it intensify or change what you are feeling?
Now ask the place of most difﬁculty, “What do you want from me?” or “What do you need from me?” Does this suffering part of you want recognition? Acceptance? Forgiveness? Love? As you sense what is needed, what is your natural response? You might offer yourself a wise message, or an energetic, tender embrace. You might gently place your hand on your heart. Feel free to experiment with ways of befriending your inner life—whether through words or touch, images or energy. Discover how your attention might become more intimate and loving.
N: Non-identiﬁcation: Rest in Natural Awareness
As you offer this unconditional, kind presence to your inner life, sense the possibility of relaxing back and being that awareness. Like an ocean with waves on the surface, feel yourself as the tender, wakeful openness that includes arising and passing sensations, emotions, thoughts. Can you sense how who you are is not identiﬁed by or hitched to any particular wave of fear or anger or hurt? Can you sense how the waves on the surface belong to your experience, but cannot injure or alter the measureless depth and vastness of your being? Take some moments, as long as you’d like, to simply rest in this spacious and kind awareness, allowing whatever arises in your body or mind to freely come and go. Know this natural awareness as the innermost truth of what you are.
From the book TRUE REFUGE by Tara Brach. Copyright (c) 2013 by Tara Brach. Reprinted by arrangement with Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
Below is a video available on YouTube in which Tara Brach describes the practice of Vipassana meditation.