When we bury emotions we bury them alive.
Many of us never learned how to deal with our emotions. We might have hidden our most painful emotions deep inside, covered them up. Buried them. When we bury emotions we bury them alive but over time these emotions will arise and can come back in distorted ways.
This usually goes back to childhood and the examples of our caregivers. If the adults in your environment never showed emotion, never talked about their feelings, and shamed you for expressing your feelings, then they set you up for a life of repression.
Even worse, they might have told you your emotions were wrong and denied your inner truth. They did this unaware of how it would hurt you inside, but still, the damage was done.
Whether it was childhood trauma, teenage trials, betrayal by a friend, or a horrible humiliation at work last week, our instinct is to shy away from the pain and avoid it. It hurts, and we will do almost anything to stop feeling that shame, fear, or helplessness.
We wall the pain off. But it doesn’t really go away. It bonds itself right into our muscles, our bones, our soul.
Studies have shown that repressed emotions can affect your health big time. Studies have found that those who bottled up the negative feelings had a 30% higher chance of premature death, and the chance of a cancer diagnosis went up by 70%.
Do You Hold Your Emotions in Your Body?
Many psychotherapists believe that we store stress and negative emotions in our bodies. These manifest later in the body as mysterious soreness, aches, pains, stiff muscles or in the mind as depression and anxiety. Eventually, they might even lead to serious illnesses like heart disease or cancer.
Here are a few examples of where you might be carrying your pain.
Are you sitting on anger and frustration? It might be making your lower back into a mass of tight muscles, stressed knots, and painful inflammation.
Feel sick to your stomach with fear and anxiety? If your intestines are twisted up with anguished worry about the future, then your digestion will be affected.
When you feel betrayed or emotionally wounded by someone, this can hit you in the heart and chest area. These muscles can carry tension and stress that leads to severe problems.
Your massive responsibilities could be a pain in your neck, literally. If the world is on your shoulders, then you’ll be able to tell by your hunched and clenched neck and shoulder area.
This is just a glimpse of ways that we hold on to tension and emotions in the body.
However, when negative emotions persist and become overwhelming, they can start to affect your mental and physical health. Fortunately, there’s a simple meditation technique you can use to help you let go of negative emotions. This technique is called RAIN, and it can help alleviate anxiety, lessen the impact of negative feelings and reduce states of mind in which we feel unworthy or unwanted.
To be compassionate towards yourself, honesty is required. Direct contact with your vulnerability is also necessary. Mindfulness practice is about actively offering care to ourselves and therefore allowing compassion to fully blossom. The acronym RAIN refers to a specific technique within this broader spectrum, designed to help people deal with feelings of insecurity and unworthiness.
What is RAIN Meditation?
First coined around 20 years ago by Michele McDonald, RAIN is a form of meditation that consists of four steps—recognition, acceptance, investigation, and non-identification.
Many psychologists have adapted and expanded on RAIN, including my teacher Tara Brach, the author of True Refuge & Radical Compassion.
Within Tara Brach’s version of RAIN meditation, the N in RAIN stands for “nurture” rather than “non-identification” and the A stands for Allow rather than acceptance. And in my version that I teach I stands for Inquire.
Benefits of RAIN Meditation
RAIN meditation can have a number of positive effects. When you’re in a negative headspace and feel like you need to get centered, calm, or a little more confident, a moment of RAIN meditation can help.
Here are some of the main benefits of RAIN.
RAIN makes the difference between depression and resilience for many people. In moments of low self-esteem or crises in confidence, this form of meditation can be hugely beneficial. According to Tara Brach, “During the Covid-19 pandemic, many people said that RAIN saved their life. In the moments of uncertainty, when they would just pause, let it be, and breathe with it for a little bit, RAIN increased the feelings of confidence that they can handle what was going on.”
Rain helps improve feelings of self-esteem and self-satisfaction, as well as boosting your mood more generally. Most of us know that when we’re feeling down, we can become more inclined to be harsh on ourselves and escalate this period of suffering. Tara Brach says that RAIN can combat this by helping us “cultivate self-compassion and self-understanding, and when we have those things, we are much less judgmental especially of ourselves. RAIN can quieten our inner critic”.
One of the biggest benefits of bringing mindfulness meditation into your life is that it can make you listen better, pay closer attention during conversations, and thus build greater connections with others. Just like mindful communication, RAIN can have a positive impact on your relationships by enhancing your communicative skills. If you are going to encounter someone or something you feel anger toward, calming down with RAIN can help you to engage in a more understanding and less blaming way.
How to practice RAIN
RAIN Meditation can be done on your own, or with guidance from a mindfulness teacher if you’d prefer. If you’re attempting to overcome trauma, the latter is probably more appropriate. Thankfully, whichever approach you choose, RAIN doesn’t require any special equipment, much like most other meditation techniques. Creator Michele McDonald suggests that “All we need is already inside us. We just have to access it.”
So how does it work? Let’s go through what a typical session looks like, with reference to Tara Brach’s RAIN meditation approach.
First, find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Sit comfortably and relax. You don’t need to devote a whole lot of time to this meditation exercise; a short session with focused attention can be just as beneficial.
Start to recognize what you’re feeling in the moment. “It’s a mental naming of what is going on,” says Tara Brach. Maybe you’re feeling anxious, or maybe you feel like you are drowning in sadness, rage, or other difficult emotions. Perhaps you recognize that strong emotions are getting in your way.
When we realize how we feel, it can be tempting to distract from it or resist it. However, this is often not the best approach. Instead, try to resist the urge to do this, and tell yourself “I can make space for this” Embrace and welcome the feelings you’re experiencing, even if they’re uncomfortable.
Now, it’s time to go a bit deeper. Take the time to get to know your feelings with interest and care. Mentally ask yourself the question, “What am I believing?”
Offer the part of you that is distressed the things that it needs to feel comforted, once you’ve identified the source of certain problems. Nurture your mind and body until you feel soothed or the distress wanes.
This is where we can use Metta Affirmations which we can create for ourselves using the phrase “May I…” Example: Perhaps I’m believing I am not enough, a way to work with this belief that has been triggered would be to use the Metta Affirmation “May I know that I am enough”
Once you’ve completed the RAIN meditation process, take a moment to relax. Sense what has shifted or changed for you, and think about whether you feel more kindness or compassion, or less anger or fear.
RAIN in Daily Life
In the same way that mindfulness can be practised throughout the day, the RAIN acronym isn’t exclusively for formal meditation; it can be used in daily life too. When uncomfortable emotions or sensations arise, RAIN can help us deal with them in the moment, and stay connected to our inner experience rather than getting lost in reactivity or numbness. You can practice the RAIN method anytime you feel a difficult emotion arising, or you can use it in everyday life by checking in with yourself regularly.
Here are some good opportunities for using RAIN:
When you feel triggered by something someone has said.
When you notice you’re getting lost in rumination about the past or worrying about the future.
If you find yourself zoning out or numbing out with food, TV, social media, or substances.
To connect with and comfort yourself when you’re feeling sad, scared, or angry.
In these moments, the practice of RAIN can help us focus by directing our attention in a clear and systematic way that cuts through the clutter and stress. This allows us to get back to ourselves when we’re feeling lost, and strengthens our ability to return to a place of balance and clarity.
Every time you practice RAIN, you strengthen your capacity to use it in more challenging situations. So, start with small annoyances or discomforts to get the hang of it. For example, the next time you’re stuck in traffic, use RAIN to deal with your frustration. Identify certain feelings throughout your day, and bring your attention to your habitual ways of responding.
Try to be flexible, too. You have a unique body and mind, with a particular history and conditioning. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mindfulness or RAIN. Be patient with yourself and let the process unfold in its own time. If one strategy doesn’t work, try another.
When we have the courage to be with ourselves just as we are, a very powerful healing process occurs. We begin to connect with our own goodness, wisdom, and compassion — the best parts of ourselves that are always available but sometimes obscured by our difficult emotions.
What are the 4 steps of rain?
The four steps of RAIN are:
Learning to stay
What is real for me
Drop into the body
Sensations, emotions, thoughts patterns
Let go of judgement
Don’t attach a story
I can be with this
What does this need?
What is this trying to teach me?
What am I believing?
What most needs my attention right now?
What is the Rain method for anxiety?
R.A.I.N. is there to remind you how to deal with challenging feelings like anxiety.
Recognition – Notice your anxiety
Acceptance – Accept that your anxiety is present
Investigation – Investigate how you are reacting to your anxiety through your body or other emotions and thoughts
Non-Identification – Observe the anxiety as part of your experience but know that it is not who you are.RAIN Meditation