In the field of Buddhist psychology, there’s a simple, but powerful tool known by the acronym RAIN. By fostering greater awareness, understanding and acceptance, this four-step practice in mindfulness can lead to states of inner peace and calm.
What is inner peace? Feeling ease in your body and mind. Being in the moment vs. obsessing over the past or future. Having thoughts that are creative and new.
What is the opposite of inner peace? Agitation, restlessness, frustration, and worry, are but a few qualities that come to mind. What all of these states of “dis-ease” have in common is a quality of “resistance” to whatever is occurring. An attitude of “acceptance,” on the other hand, is a key ingredient in the recipe for inner peace.
The RAIN tool outlined below is one useful way to work with difficult emotional states are inhibiting one’s ability to experience inner peace. I recommend spending a minimum of 5 minutes working through the steps and longer if you’d like.
1.) R = Recognize
Step one: recognize whatever you’re experiencing. Notice the feelings of agitation or worry, for example. Notice the thoughts and images surrounding your emotional state. Just pay attention to whatever it is that’s arising in you.
2.) A = Accept
Step two: bring an attitude of acceptance to your experience.
When we’re not feeling inner peace, our usual instinct is to fight or push away the negative emotions or thoughts we’re having, but oftentimes, this can just make things worse. In contrast, this step is about cultivating a tolerance for whatever is happening.
Keep in mind that this is an “attitude” in the moment; it doesn’t mean that you like with what is happening or can’t make changes to improve your situation down the road. For example, you can say to yourself, “This is what I’m feeling now, fear. I don’t like how it feels, but it’s simply what I’m experiencing and I accept it.”
3.) I = Investigate
Step three is about investigating your experience on a deeper level. You want to do this with an attitude of gentleness toward yourself, exploring the experience with a sense of curiosity and non-judgment.
You can ask yourself questions like “what thoughts are going through my mind right now as I notice this anxiety?” “What am I feeling on a physical level, in my body?” Perhaps you’re feeling things like tension, your heart racing, or a slight shortness of breath.
You can then ask yourself “What am I doing in response to what I’m noticing?” This refers to the behaviors that follow the emotional and physical sensations.
Notice what happens if you pay attention to what you’re noticing without trying to change anything? Alternatively, what happens when you try to push the unpleasantness away?
With this step, you are essentially bringing kindness to your experience by exploring it with compassion and curiosity. There is some type of pain driving the agitation or worry; meeting pain with compassion can be transformational and healing.
4.) N = Non-Identification
Non-identification is essentially how the Buddhists say: “don’t take anything personally.” That’s what this final step is about.
Emotional states like fear and agitation are universal experiences that come from conditioning. It’s important to recognize these as painful, but not defining experiences. Our true nature as human beings goes much deeper.
Using the ocean as a metaphor, this step provides an opportunity to notice the calm that’s below the surface of agitation. On top, there are waves moving about and lots of activity, but as you go deeper, the water is more still and peaceful. Try to distance yourself from the surface details, noticing they’re there, but not taking them on a personal.
In this fourth step of non-identification, remind yourself of the universal nature of things – that what you’re experiencing is something that many others on the planet have also contended with. Sometimes, just the process of recognizing that you’re not alone can transform the experience from one of discomfort to greater ease.
Like other mindfulness tools, the R-A-I-N practice can create a sense of spaciousness around the cause of your discord. While your particular circumstances may not have changed, your perspective likely will shift to one that feels less tight and more flexible. You can now relax into this new, broader outlook.
Note: since learning can be facilitated by reading about something from different perspectives, below are links to how other writers have described the RAIN tool. Enjoy!
Jack Kornfield, PhD: (toward bottom of page): http://www.jackkornfield.org/articles/dharmaandpolitics.php
Tara Brach, PhD: http://www.tarabrach.com/articles/RAIN-WorkingWithDifficulties.html
Rick Hanson, PhD: http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/let-it-r-a-i-n
You may also be interested in these other Inner Peace Tools: