LET IT RAIN!
Mindfulness practice doesn't need to involve hours of formal sitting in meditation, although I would argue that, without a regular practice of stillness, you are never going to be properly equipped to put your mindfulness to daily use. However, it's important to have a toolbox of short practices that can can be used at particular times of difficulty. Even a pause for a single mindful breath can be a lifesaver in some situations. We teach a lot of these short practices in the 8-week course; the sorts of things that will give you the opportunity to step away from reactivity and give you the space to make a choice about how you are going to respond to a difficult situation. Here's a practice we particularly like.
This is something from Tara Brach’s excellent new book, “True Refuge”. RAIN is a practice that invites us to really investigate a difficult emotion and, by doing so, to stop identifying with it. The result can be truly liberating. You might want to visit here for a more comprehensive explanation of this practice but here are the basic elements of it:
R – Recognize the feeling. This is when we notice the difficulty and really pay attention to it. This means we pay attention to the sensations in the body, labelling the emotions if we can and trying to be aware of the “felt sense” of the situation.
A – Allow it to be as it is. This can be a bit more challenging but the basic instruction is to allow the emotion just to be without resisting it or clinging to it. We can use our breath to “let go” as we exhale; allowing ourselves to say “yes” to whatever is going on inside. Whatever we feel is ok. It’s even ok to be not ok.
I– Investigate the emotion just as it is, bringing an intimate attention to it. We’re not trying to work it out or analyse the situation here. Instead we’re really exploring this experience, particularly as it is felt in the body. Does it have shape? Does it change in intensity? In location? We don’t get caught up in thinking but perhaps we might recognise the core belief that is driving this emotion; beliefs about being flawed or inadequate or incomplete. Do these beliefs have a home in the body? If so, we bring our attention to that place. Ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” In this way you may be able to approach this part of you which is in pain with warmth and acceptance. If the feeling softens you may get a sense of what would be good to do next.
N – Non-identification is the natural state that arises from this process. We realise that the emotion is not US. It isn’t necessary to become so identified with it; it’s just the emotional weather. We can observe that the feeling as is changing and insubstantial; it comes up, it stays for a while and then it passes by. Just like the weather.
Now I know this sounds easier said than done and it does require a bit of practice. But the basic instruction of stopping and tuning in to the physical experience of an emotion, is really helpful in disarming its power. It puts you in control rather than being at the mercy of your feelings. And once you can accept it, rather than avoid or blindly react to it, and you consciously examine what is going on with a bit of kindness, your perception of what is happening can change quite a lot. Experiment with this practice. Practice with RAIN a few times during the day. Believe me, there will be plenty of opportunities to do so. Make it a long practice if you like, meditating on a particular intractable difficulty in your life, or make it a short pause in which you bring some perspective to some stressful situation. Whatever you do, let us know how you get on with it.