I love encountering an author for the first time. There are those rare times that, within the first few sentences, you know this person will become an influential voice in your life. Like they just get it. This happened to me the first time I heard the immortal voice of John O’Donohue, and it happened when I first read Tara Brach.
The senior teacher at the Insight Meditation Community of Washington D.C., Tara shares a weekly Podcast on key Buddhist teachings and practices. Her voice is clear, compassionate, and very approachable. I highly recommend listening if you have an hour to spare: Tara Brach Podcasts.
One of my favorite teachings of Tara’s is called RAIN: a simple technique to help us deal with difficult times or emotions.
RAIN is a technique that you can call upon at any place or situation. It gives us a refuge during the truly dark times (dealing with deep loss, sickness, pain) as well as times that are simply frustrating or uncomfortable (you’re running late for an important meeting; your child is having another tantrum; you just -woops!- ate an entire pint of ice cream).
The four steps of RAIN are:
Recognize what is happening.
Allow life to be just as it is.
Investigate inner experience with kindness.
Non-Identification with your experience.
This technique helps us deal directly with our current situation by choosing to lean into whatever is occurring in the present moment. We don’t push anything away. Instead of reaching for a cig/wine/chips, or lashing out in anger, or letting our thoughts spiral out of control, we can gently unlearn these habits by rewiring our response. The more often we practice, the easier it becomes to call upon the technique when we need it most.
Check in with yoself! What are the thoughts, emotions, feelings, and sensations you are experiencing, right now? OK- you may notice that you feel sad. Where in your body do you feel this sadness? Is your heart heavy? Is your breathing shallow? Be curious, and (always) be kind to yourself.
Whatever you’ve recognized in yourself, just let it be. If you’re sad, be sad. Before we can heal ourselves, we need to be open to all the colors and shades of our experience (even those that are darkest and coldest).
Tara offers the analogy of your child coming home upset from school. How would you treat him or her? Most likely, you’d give your child your warm, loving attention. You would gently ask what happened. Take this same gentle inquiry and turn it towards yourself: “what does this feeling want from me?”
(This one is my favorite.) Remember that you are not these emotions, these thoughts, these feelings. It’s liberating to remember that everyone experiences these passing states; they do not define us but simply color our world for a period of time.
You can do these steps in any order, for any length of time. It can take 30 seconds as you wait in line at the grocery store or at your desk before a big meeting. And no one around you will be the wiser! For more on this technique, check out the following Dharma talk given by Tara in April 2014: