RAIN: A mindfulness approach to living with and transforming our difficult emotions

By Nicholas Glassburn

Few would argue that difficult emotions are simply an unavoidable fact of life. But perhaps at no other time during the year does this become more painfully obvious than during the winter months.

While the winter season can be a source of fun, adventure and comfort, we may find ourselves becoming exasperated by those whom we love the most due to being inside because of the cold, or due to the lack of sun on grey days as well as by our daily hectic schedules. This can be every bit as true for children as it is for adults.

For situations such as these, many techniques exist for the processing of emotions and remaining calm in the face of potential turmoil. One such technique is RAIN which is based on the current movement of mindfulness that has become so embraced by spiritual seekers and practical self-improvement gurus alike. Additionally, mindfulness has become central to various therapeutic modalities and increasingly promoted by healthcare practitioners worldwide. Most importantly, RAIN is so useful due to its simplicity, making it a perfect exercise to practice with children and teens.

Rain is an acronym for a simple 4-step process that you have access to any time one feels turbulent, unwelcomed or overwhelming emotional states arising. Simply find a quiet place where you can take 5-10 minutes to relax. You then can begin to make your way through the process. For adults practicing this with their children or teens, become their guide using simple and straightforward language that helps them understand each step.

– Recognize

What are we feeling? What’s going on right now? Is it anger? Sadness? Anxiety? What is our experience in this moment? Precise recognition of emotion states is a crucial first step to mental health and wellness. The earlier we learn this skill, the better.

A – Accept

Can we accept what we are recognizing? Can we accept it without trying to push it away? Without wishing it wasn’t so? In order to transform our experience, we must start with accepting reality for what it is. Children and teens often benefit from reinforcement that their emotional states are not merely to be labeled as good or bad. Value judgments placed on our emotions can engender feelings of guilt or shame for what is arising naturally.

I – Investigation

Look deeper. What’s occurring in the body and mind? Tightness in the chest? Sweatiness of the palms? Racing thoughts? Are we resisting the act of feeling? Are we open? Are there feelings underneath the feelings? Loneliness under sadness? Judgment under anger? This is a more complex process in which we “think about our thinking”. This may be a more difficult task for a child, depending on developmental level, but an investigation into the feelings in the body is equally as useful, and capable of being practiced by all ages.

N – Non-Identification

What we are feeling is an experience. This is not us as people, but something we are presently going through. This is not who I truly am. My identity is not synonymous with my experience. With children, it may be helpful to practice phrases such as, “I am not my anger” or “I am not my sadness”.

Whether practicing RAIN alone in a traditional meditative practice, or with children and teens, as a method for developing a greater capability for addressing emotions, many have found this simple 4-word tool to be a profound method for cultivating self-compassion; The perfect medicine to alleviate the suffering associated with our most difficult experiences.