Recently a good friend confided in me that she was having a very rough day, when she got to work in the morning everything went wrong.
Things that usually seemed trivial and small seemed insurmountable. She yelled at another co-worker about missing a deadline. She was stressed and worried and did not know how to calm down.
We have all been there. Experiencing intense and difficult emotions about ourselves and others can be extremely difficult.
Mindfulness can help us become grounded in the midst of emotional turmoil.
Here is a 4-step mindfulness process that offers ‘in-the-trenches’ support for working with intense and difficult emotions.
The acronym R.A.I.N, first coined about 20 years ago by Michele McDonald, is an easy-to-remember tool for practicing mindfulness. This practice directs our attention in a systematic way and cuts through confusion.
You can use this R.A.I.N. method anytime you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or out of touch.
I like how Tara Brach explains the R.A.I.N practice: ‘Like the clear sky and clean air after a cooling rain, this mindfulness practice brings a new openness and calm to our daily lives.’
The R.A.I.N practice has four steps:
(R) Recognize what is happening
(A) Allow the experience to be there, just as it is
(I) Investigate the experience
(N) Practice Non-identification
Recognizing that you are experiencing a difficult emotion is the first step. It can be helpful to mentally name your emotion, for example, “I am feeling stressed” or “I am feeling overwhelmed.”
Then take a moment to allow the emotion to be, without pushing it away.
Be curious, and investigate the experience. What can you learn from this emotion?
Understand that you are not your emotion, you don’t need to identify with it.
Non-identification means that your sense of who you are is not defined by your thoughts and emotions.
Put It Into Practice
You can practice the steps of R.A.I.N during a formal meditation, whenever a difficult emotion arises, or you can use it in the midst of daily life.
Try practicing R.A.I.N with the ‘small stuff’ first. Each time you use R.A.I.N in a situation that usually causes you to react, you strengthen your capacity to stay calm as difficult emotions arise.
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