In the last post, I introduced the RA in the acronym RAIN, a powerful tool to work with anxiety and difficult emotions. First, we learn to pause and recognize what’s happening in the body. Next, we accept and allow the experience to just be there without trying to change it.
The heart of the RAIN practice are the steps of Investigate and Nurture. It’s really in these steps that we train our minds to be curious and friendly about the experience of anxiety and other difficult emotions.
I- The I of RAIN involves actually investigating and getting curious about what the sensations of anxiety (or other emotions or pain) feel like in the body. If we are working with anxiety we can ask “Where do I feel anxiety in my body right now?” and get really curious. Investigate is not an intellectual inquiry, it’s actually a somatic inquiry. We bring our attention into the physical sensations of anxiety in the body and just explore them with a kind, open attention. Do the sensations of anxiety move or change? Where are they strongest? Are they hot or cold? Do they vibrate or pulse?
One tool that many people find helpful during this stage of RAIN is to incorporate mental noting into the investigation process. This means you notice what’s happening in your body and simply give it a one word label as you become aware of the changing internal experience. For example, you might note “pulsing, tingling, warmth, pain, burning, contraction, openness, etc.”
This keeps your mind focused on what’s actually happening in the body. Investigate means getting curious in a caring, non judgmental way. The caring attention actually brings a sense of safety and leads us into the final step of RAIN…
N-Nurturing means asking ourselves “what do I need right now?” and offering it to ourselves. It’s about learning to meet our own needs with the internal reward of self compassion. In other words, what gesture of care and comfort can we offer the anxious place inside us?
There is no script or right way to offer self compassion. It’s really about trial and error and what works and feels soothing and comforting to you. You can use your own mind to create phrases or images that bring up some pleasant sensations in the body. Then when those warm, soothing sensations stick around you can drop the images and phrases and just feel the felt sense of nurturing in the body.
Here are some ways of nurturing myself that I have found helpful:
-Caring phrases like“hey buddy, you’re doing great!”
-Images of loved ones or pets or spiritual beings
I often imagine these benefactors offering me some caring phrases like “I love you”, “I care about you”, “Your life matters”
-a special place
-A moment of appreciation
-an experience of gratitude or wonder
-physical caring touch like placing a hand on the heart
-a soothing self massage
RAIN does not have to be a linear process starting with R and ending with N. The way it’s structured is great, but if we are dealing with sensations that are really difficult and tough to contact then we can start the RAIN with nurturing. We can use the N of RAIN as our resource anchor to help us feel safe before we move to the I of Investigate.
Self compassion (nurturing) is the glue that ties the whole RAIN process together. As we let it infuse our lives we can start to see its effects. At any point in RAIN practice when we feel we need more resourcing we can move away from the investigation in the body and turn to our compassion practice. We can focus our attention on the images or the phrases we are using or we can bring our attention to the feelings these objects of meditation elicit in our bodies. As we feel safer we can allow in more and more of the anxiety (or other difficult) sensations into our awareness and begin to investigate them.