Think about the last time you had a stressful day. Maybe you snapped at someone you love. Or you rushed yourself and made a critical mistake.
Our knee-jerk responses to stress and difficulties often turn into reactions we regret . . .
. . . and that only compounds the problem.
But here’s one strategy that can allow you to act instead of react, courtesy of my friend and colleague Tara Brach, PhD.
Tara’s graciously shared this simple four-step exercise from her latest book, True Refuge. It’s a condensed version of her beloved RAIN practice, and it’s suitable for any moment when emotional reactivity threatens to overwhelm you:
- Recognize emotional reactivity.
- Pause by taking three full breaths, and allow your inner experience to be as it is.
- Investigate with kindness whatever feelings are most predominant.
- Resume activity, and notice if there is more natural presence.
A light RAIN starts by recognizing that you are caught in reactivity – to a perceived slight, unwashed dishes, misplaced eyeglasses, feelings of indigestion, something you regret saying. When you recognize you are stuck, stop everything and take three long, full breaths. These breaths help you disengage from the momentum of your thoughts and activity and make space for your inner experience. Investigate by asking yourself, ‘What am I feeling?’ and bring your attention to your body – primarily your throat, chest, and belly. Notice what sensations (tightness, heat, pressure) and emotions (angry, afraid, guilty) are predominant. Let your intention be to befriend what you notice. Try to stay in touch with your breath as you contact your felt sense of what is happening.
Sometimes it’s easy to locate your felt sense, but at other times it might be vague and hard to identify quickly. That’s fine. What is important is pausing and deepening your attention. See if it is possible to regard yourself with kindness.
You complete your moments of light RAIN by simply relaxing and reentering activity. As you move into what is next in your day, sense what might have shifted. Are you more aware? Open? Warmhearted? Are you taking things less personally? Is there more access to natural presence, the N of RAIN?”
(From the book TRUE REFUGE by Tara Brach. Copyright (c) 2013 by Tara Brach. Reprinted by arrangement with Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.)
With this exercise, we can quiet our brain’s reactive mode and find a place of solace amid the rigors of the day.
If you’re interested in more, you might want to check out True Refuge. It was just released on January 22nd. You can take a look for yourself.
We’ve talked with Tara before about how mindfulness meditation can help the mind and heart find peace. Tara is a psychotherapist, PhD in clinical psychology, and the founder of the Insight Meditation Community in Washington, DC.
She’s also a profoundly wise person, and one whom I treasure. I’m always glad to share her remarkable work with you.
How do you use mindfulness to find peace? Do you make it part of your work with clients? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.