R.A.I.N. ~ D.R.O.P.
Michele McDonald first introduced this mindfulness practice in the early 2000s and it has since been adapted by many mindfulness teachers in the west. This is a valuable tool at any time in our vipassana practice. When difficult emotions arise, this practice can be a particularly powerful ally to helping you be in healthy insight-oriented relationship with whatever is present.
Just four steps are required for the initial method – R.A.I.N.:
R = Recognition
A = Acceptance
I = Interest
N = Not-identification
· The first step to working with a difficult emotion is to recognize when it is present. Pause and ask yourself, “What am I experiencing right now in my body, thoughts, emotions, and situation?”
· Recognizing prevents denial or avoidance because you are bringing what is unpleasant and perhaps unwholesome into your field of awareness so that it can be seen and dealt with.
· Brain imaging studies have demonstrated that recognizing and labeling emotions reduces activity in the emotionally reactive regions of our brain.
· The “A” in RAIN can stand for “accept,” “acknowledge,” and “allow.”
· Acceptance in this sense means to acknowledge what is present in this moment and to allow what is already here to be here.
o It is important to note that just because you accept or acknowledge something is present does not mean that you agree with or support it. You are simply acknowledging what is present right now.
o It is also important to be aware of any thoughts or emotions, such as resistance or aversion, that may arise when you recognize what you are experiencing.
o Notice any subtle or unconscious forms of resisting your emotions, such as trying to “accept” them so that they will go away. See if you can truly allow what is here to be here, and let the emotion(s) run its course and leave naturally.
· When practicing acceptance, it may be helpful to say to yourself phrases such as “Ah, this too,” or “allow,” or “let be.”
· After working with recognizing and accepting what is present for you, begin to investigate your internal experience.
· It is crucial to bring an attitude of kindness, curiosity and compassion to your investigation.
· Investigate three primary facets of your internal experience:
– Notice what sensations are present in your body, including their textures, layers, changing nature, and anything else that occurs.
– What is the basic feeling tone of your experience (positive, negative, neutral)?
– What emotions are present?
– Ask yourself, “What does this feeling want from me right now? What is it trying to tell me?”
– Notice what thoughts are passing through your mind.
– Perhaps ask yourself, “What stories am I believing right now?”
· Non-identification means not believing that your emotions “belong” to you, or labeling them as “me” or “mine.”
· It involves not taking emotions personally, and understanding that “your” emotions are not really yours. The emotions you experience are also not unique to you, but instead are shared and experienced by all humans.
· It can be helpful to label the emotion you are experiencing as something that is present in this moment but not enduring.
o EXAMPLE: Instead of saying, “I am an angry person,” you could reframe it more accurately by saying “Anger is present right now,” or “I am experiencing anger right now.”
WELCOMING THE D.R.O.P.
While we may aspire to have perfect relationship with each moment of experience no matter how challenging, but in reality we are going to encounter the opposites of R.A.I.N. How we related to these opposing forces of mind will entirely determine the capacity for R.A.I.N. to flourish and for our practice to deepen. These forces that feel like the opposite of R.A.I.N can be thought of as the D.R.O.P. and must be included whole-heartedly in our process of Recognition, Acceptance, Investigation, and Non-Identification.
D = Delusion
R = Resistance
O = Obliviousness
P = Personalization
Not seeing things as they are. Thinking that one thing is the problem when actually another thing entirely is what is really happening.
For example, we find ourselves repeatedly blaming someone in our minds, going over and over how we would berate them if they were in front of us. We think they are the problem but really AVERSION is the principle experience of our own minds and we don’t even see it clearly.
But we also need to accept delusion as an entirely legitimate defense mechanism of the heart-mind. The mind does not feel it has the capacity to be with something directly or in its fullness and so it looks away, looks elsewhere, finds something that feels more secure. If we can accept delusion, include it in our investigation, we have done more to overcome it than years of denial of it.
If we tell ourselves, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way” or “I shouldn’t be averse” or “I should care about this person and their pain because I am Buddhist” then we are resisting the reality of aversion that is present. But if we don’t accept the resistance itself, we are in the exact same predicament. We must ackowledge and feel the resistance. If we can understand it as a defense mechanism, a faulty but valid protection of the heart, we can accept the resistance, befriend it, and investigate it. In recognizing it as a valid experience we don’t banish it from our heart and we bring it into the fold of our understanding care.
Tuning-out, spacing-out, projecting, scape-goating, non-investigation are all forms of mental relationship to an object that keep us out of further understanding. If we respect and even find humor in the ways that the mind avoids direct connection, we can see that it is trying to protect itself. It is moving toward the familiar, the less evocative, the more stable, the more safe. If we can bring this numbness or lack-of-interest into the fold of our tender observation, it loses its power and is no longer an enemy – just a confused and scared friend.
Our sense of self, of me-ness and of mine, is the deepest place of security that our hearts and minds are committed to. In the world of constantly changing phenomena, solidifying around “me” is a relentless and powerful drive. It provides a temporary shelter and sense of security in all the uncontrollability of the universe and so if we can accept that the heart identifies, personifies, locks-in around self, than we recognize it as a place of safety the mind may need temporarily and we don’t punish ourselves for needing it. In this way, our deepest challenges become our doorways to the deepest insight.
We will soon offer a link here to an online talk of Michele’s about the topic of RAIN-DROP!
For more practical guidance on the method of R.A.I.N. ~ D.R.O.P check out Michele’s online course from Tricyle HERE
Here is a short description of the course:
RAIN: The Nourishing Art of Mindful Inquiry
RAIN stands for Recognition, Acceptance, Interest, and Non-Identification, the qualities that make up a moment of mindfulness. Because of its simplicity and power, RAIN has become recommended by meditation teachers worldwide as a helpful approach to steering us through challenging emotions and situations. This 6-part online course is an opportunity to learn and deepen this practice under the guidance of Vipassana teacher Michele McDonald, who first coined RAIN.