A couple of days ago I was listening to Tara Brach as an intro to my morning meditation. In her talk, she referred to RAIN: Cultivating Mindfulness in Difficult Times; a four-step process we can use when we find ourselves in the grip of difficult emotions.
When we can’t see the forest for the trees, RAIN can help us cut through the stress and confusion by:
- Recognizing what is happening.
- Allowing what is to be.
- Investigating our experience, gently without judgment.
- Nurturing what needs to be nurtured, with kindness.
As I listened to Tara Brach walking me through the four steps, I found myself at a place of honest recognition and raw vulnerability. I was able to sit with whatever was triggering me and allow it to exist without trying to change the narrative and distract myself. It was a rewarding experience.
You can play with RAIN anytime and anywhere. Right now, as you’re sitting, just close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths, and scan your body. What comes up for you? Is it an event, an issue, a trigger … choose what you’d like to experiment with and follow the four steps. How did you feel at the end of this practice? If you wish, you can share with me either via the comments section or by emailing me via the contact page.
Approaching our days with mindfulness, and utilizing tools like RAIN can help us be more steady, kind, and gentle with ourselves and others.
We’re in the midst of extraordinary changes. When life altering events hit, we freeze in disbelief. We cry from the top of our lungs that we saw it coming but there wasn’t much we could have done. Either way, we’re left standing, knee-deep in mud, drudging along, trying to figure out what to do.
These days, I suspect most of us alternate between feeling paralyzed and wanting to jump out of our skin. Our monkey mind is working overtime. We feel helpless and inefficient. We blame others and we blame ourselves.
We grieve for what we’ve lost or are about to lose. We’re anxious and scared because nothing is certain anymore and we’ve lost whatever sense of control we thought we had. We’re angry at the forces pummeling our lives with seeming disregard. We scream and protest at the unfairness of it all. These feelings are of course normal and ours to feel. Even so, we can’t stay stuck in the whirlwind of emotions and anxiety.
The times we’re the most caught in reactivity are the times we’re least inclined to call on mindfulness.– Tara Brach
How can the practice of mindfulness help us when our sense of what is real or true is being challenged and undermined?
It’s true that the challenges we’re currently facing will not go away by practicing mindfulness and neither will our strong emotions. Then why do it?
Consider the following:
- Being able to navigate the waves of adversity and hardship requires clarity and composure. How can we possibly find solutions to problems when we’re drowning in a whirlwind of emotions?
- Each day brings its own set of challenges. With each cycle of news, we enter a new stage of the global trauma we’re experiencing. And then, there’s our own personal struggles. We’re caught in a hamster’s wheel.
- The practice of mindfulness can help us jump off the never ending cycle of intensity and reactivity and arrive to a place of peace with ourselves and others. The more we attempt to stay present with our thoughts and emotions, the less reactive we become. Therefore, when we decide to act, we come from a place of compassion, empathy, and kindness.
As we practice, we come to recognize and accept that our lives are awesome, beautiful, messy, and flawed, that nothing is as it appears, and outcomes are hardly ever what we expect. And that’s okay.
Make no mistake, for as good as this sounds, engaging with ourselves in a mindful way is not for the faint hearted. Yet again, neither are marriage, parenting, or any endeavor worth undertaking.
Getting up every day and starting anew is an act of courage. Our attachment to outcomes, our expectations and ideas of achieving perfection and resting on our laurels? They’re illusions. Failure becomes a friend and a mentor. It would be foolish to believe our work will ever finish. This is all about the journey and finding beauty and purpose in every day minutiae.
These days, many of us have come to recognize the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from doing the daily tasks that make life livable and comfortable. The repetitive tasks, that we don’t pay much attention to while living our busy, distracted lives, are now becoming a day’s anchors.
All of a sudden taking a shower, putting clean clothes on, making the bed, keeping the home clean and organized, and preparing nutritious meals for the family and ourselves, provide us with a much needed sense of rhythm, continuity, and certainty.
People are baking bread, growing vegetables and herbs, taking long walks outside, and reaching out to their loved ones, with care. We’re seeking inspiration and wisdom in nature, the written word, and each other.
Yes, there’s division, discord, and disagreement but through it all, we’re also seeking for ways to heal and be healed.
In the words of one of my favorite poets …
Somewhere in us a dignity presidesJohn O’Donohue from To Bless the Space Between Us
That is more gracious than the smallness
That fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.
I hope this finds you all well and strong. Don’t forget. I love hearing from you. Stay in touch. Drop a note, ask a question, let me know how you’re doing. I’m always one email or phone call away.