It’s an acronym created by Michelle McDonald and popularized by Rick Hansen, Ph.D. in a 2014 article published by Psychology Today magazine.
According to Hansen, “R.A.I.N. and related practices of spacious awareness are fundamental to mental health, and always worth doing in their own right. Additionally, sometimes they enable painful or challenging contents of mind to dissipate and pass away”.
“R” is a reminder to “recognize”, or notice, that we are experiencing a particular feeling, or emotion. “Without getting into story, simply name what is present, such as annoyance”. First notice, then name it to tame it (as many therapists like to say).
“A” is a reminder to “accept”— to, “acknowledge that your experience is what it is, even if it’s unpleasant”. Don’t catastrophize. Don’t try to change anything. Whatever it is that you are feeling it’ll pass, in time — allow it to manifest itself, and try to be with it. Turn toward whatever you’re feeling, not away from it.
“I” is a reminder to “investigate”. Be curious about whatever it is that you’re feeling. Don’t try to break it down. Rather, allow yourself to explore and experience the emotion you are feeling. As Rick Hansen advises, “It’s OK for your inquiry to be guided by a bit of insight into your own history and personality, but try to stay close to the raw experience and out of psychoanalyzing yourself”.
“N” is a reminder to “not identify”. Not to attach a particular significance, meaning, or outcome to whatever it is that you’re feeling. Non-attachment is a biggie, in the meditation game —it provides some space or perspective, and allows our feelings to pass more freely without, “claiming any part of this stream as ‘I’ or ‘me’ or ‘mine'”.
If the planned focus of a meditation session is to sit with or experience our emotions, the R.A.I.N. acronym can be a particularly useful guide. A gentle reminder can sometimes be a very helpful thing!
So, the next time you feel like it’s “raining all over the world” (tip of the hat to Brook Benton), take the opportunity to sit quietly with whatever it is that you’re feeling, and remember the R.A.I.N. acronym.
Mindfulness, meditation, and a little bit of rain can go a long way!