Last week, I attended the Mindfulness and Compassion Global Summit 2020. The organisers decided to hold it as a virtual meeting and even waived the registration fees for the 3-day summit when I signed up in April. What a treat it was! I learnt so much and deepened my understanding and practice of mindfulness and compassion, which I think are key approaches to the challenges we face. I hope I can share more of the key ideas and knowledge I learnt here.
The training by Tara Brach stood out for me when she shared a simple tool called RAIN for practising mindfulness and compassion. It can be easily applied when we start to notice difficult feelings rise and it does not require much time. I often work with clients and guide them to lean in to their emotions and when I heard from Tara Brach about the RAIN meditation, I was sold: the steps she shared helped crystallise what we say when we encourage ourselves to pay attention to what our emotions could be telling us.
Her website offers a rich selection of resources that she has generously put up for free and I would strongly encourage you to start exploring them here.
I will briefly go through RAIN here, applied to the emotions I have been experiencing recently, with the context of the global pandemic and the anti-racism movement.
Recognise what is happening
I was feeling overwhelmed and restless after seeing countless posts on my social media. I was starting to notice that I couldn’t keep to a task and was easily distracted and felt a compulsive need to check my social media accounts again to find out what was going on. My mind felt foggy.
For the R in RAIN, we are encouraged to begin it with whatever that is most calling our attention. I decided to go with restlessness and I mentally named it: “I’m experiencing restlessness”.
Mindfulness begins when we can label what we are feeling.
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is.
For the A in RAIN, we make space. We accept the experience and pause with it.
Restlessness is uncomfortable but I did not push away this discomfort. I let it be. In the greater scheme of things, I know that restlessness is one part of the countless emotions I will experience. It comes and goes, and it is welcomed when it comes knocking. I sat with it. It did not define me, although it was what I was experiencing then.
Investigate with interest and care
Rather than justifying and explaining why our emotions are there, the I in RAIN encourages us to investigate the experience with a gentle curiosity and to observe where the feeling is presenting in the body.
I noticed restlessness in my limbs. My arms and legs were tensed, my body was energised, and it wanted to move, wanted to “DO SOMETHING!” My heart had seemed to be beating at a faster rate. I noticed a frown on my face.
With these discoveries, I asked myself what the sensations and experiences were asking of me. “What do I need?” As I investigated what restlessness was asking of me, I found a sense of helplessness residing in my body and with that anxiety as well.
Nurture with self-compassion
Here lies the opportunity to practise self-kindness and self-care. Restlessness was accompanied by helplessness and anxiety and they are seeking comfort and assurance.
Tara Brach suggests that “self-compassion begins to naturally arise in the moments that you recognise you are suffering”.
I offered myself some words in my mind: “It’s okay. I’m here. My feelings are normal, after witnessing so much pain and suffering in the social media space. I’m okay. I have time to figure out what to do. It’s okay.” It was like I was comforting a wounded child.
After the RAIN
After doing this, I noticed that my body was relaxed and my mind was clearer. Honestly, I sat with restlessness, and helplessness and anxiety for a few days; they were there but I never felt hijacked by them and they got lesser in intensity over the days as I continued to nurture myself. This mindfulness practice also gave me the language to be able to communicate my feelings with my loved ones and friends.
Leaning into my emotions – being mindful and paying attention to my emotions and exercising self-compassion – is an ongoing practice. It requires patience and a commitment to be more aware. We may not be used to doing it and we may not be good at it. As with all skills we learn, it takes practice. Some of us may have difficulty noticing our feelings or may be a little awkward at nurturing ourselves from within and get stuck. This is normal. If you find yourself needing a little help, practise with guided meditations on different websites or apps or speak to a mental health practitioner who incorporates these into their sessions. We can learn to do it independently after getting some assistance and guidance.
Let me know how it goes for you!