The RAIN Self-Compassion Practice

I first heard of the RAIN practice in some talks Tara Brach gave in 2014.  RAIN sounded like a first-rate self-compassion practice, but in life’s hubbub I never thought of it at times it might have helped. Then Tricycle published an article by Teah Strozer. It was in writing and succinct — clear, easy to refer back to quickly, and offering the freedom of going at your own pace — so I captured it on my phone.

A few days later, the handrail of a busy down-escalator in the Newark airport caught my backpack, yanking me sharply into the steps as I reached the bottom.  People started to pile up right behind me.  Fortunately the backpack ripped and came loose, but in those split seconds I was terrified.

Aside from my back hurting, it quickly became clear I was basically fine.  Nevertheless, I couldn’t snap out of it.

I was in shock, moving in slow motion, stunned by how suddenly normal life can be turned inside out — how terrible accidents and death can come at any moment.

An hour later, parked in a rental car with a few minutes to myself, I remembered the RAIN article and pulled out my phone.  I still wasn’t thinking clearly, and, as a result, was profoundly grateful for the clear simplicity of that article.  Here’s the gist of what I read:

  1. R – Recognize. What’s happening in this moment?
  2. A – Accept.  You’re not figuring it out nor are you avoiding. Rather you’re simply acknowledging and opening to it.
  3. I – Investigate.  Take some to time to really notice the changing sensations in the body.
  4. N – Non-Identification. Don’t take this as the self.

In my dazed state, I plodded dutifully through the first three steps.  Then I got to the fourth.  Out of nowhere, I felt a powerful release.  It was astonishing.  And it lasted.

In the intervening years, Tara Brach and others have updated the meaning of the letters R.A.I.N. — particularly the fourth — N — which they now interpret as “Nurture.”

  1. Recognize what’s happening.
  2. Allow life to be just as it is.
  3. Investigate with gentle attention.
  4. Nurture.
  5. After the RAIN realize freedom from narrow identity.

However, I had such a powerful experience using the original article, that I stick with the older version.  My sense, however, is that most people do better with the newer version, perhaps because it’s less Buddhist.

To my knowledge, Tara Brach remains the leading expert on this practice and so I commend to you both her website and a recent series she’s done for Insight Timer, plus, of course, the Tricycle article by Teah Strozer.

Finally, one note: RAIN generally seems to be classified by meditation teachers as a mindfulness practice.  Also, some use it for empathizing with others as well as one’s self.  However, I’ve found it most suited to self-compassion — and heaven knows Westerners like me can use more tried-and-true self-compassion practices.