Today I was teaching at a company here in Milan and the topic I chose for the lesson was: knowing that we can’t always change what life throws at us, but also that our attitude can change our experience of stress… how do we deal with a difficult emotion?
Truth is that dealing with a difficult emotion, not taking everything so personally, is not an easy process. It needs discipline, kindness, patience and bravery.
And bravery is above all staying with things as they are, fully. This is what meditation is about: it’s not just training our attention to come back, it’s not simply about improving concentration. Meditation is a training in living our lives fully. Fully staying with this breath, this step, this sound… And if you look closely at your everyday experience, you will notice how it’s relatively easy to stay with the beginning of a step, a breath, an activity, but it’s more challenging to stay with it from the beginning to the end.
And in practicing this training of being with our life fully, we also learn to fully stay with our emotions, as they are, from the beginning to the end. Staying with fear, anxiety, shame, anger…
Unfortunately we haven’t been educated to do so. We are not educated in connecting with reality as it is, with sensing it. We are trained to have a relationship with concepts, and concepts separe us from reality and from ourselves and, above all, from the possibility of feeling our life fully: feeling fear, anxiety, shame, anger, and also feeling joy fully.
Of course, our mind and our heart are sensitive, and we must treat them with kindness, but we are stronger than we think in staying with what’s difficult, if only we give ourselves the chance to discover it.
That’s why this morning I suggested we practice RAIN.
When it comes to dealing with difficulties, and you feel like it’s all getting a bit too much, RAIN can be a lifesaver. You’ll find the audio below, here is a written description what you might want to read and keep with you.
The first stage is RECOGNIZE. This is basic mindfulness, recognizing what is happening, not what you think is happening or should happen. This emotion that you are feeling, can you feel it in your body? If yes, what do you feel and where? Can you be with it fully? With one or two words, what would you call it?
The second stage is ALLOW (or ACCEPT). Even if it is hard, is there something in you that can just let what is happening happen? Allowig (or accepting) is very empowering! It makes you save your energy to see what counts, instead of getting lost in thoughts. Allowing i also relaxing. You feel what you feel. It’s the first step for any transformation, both inner and outer. So, whether you are feeling anger, sadness, fear, anxiety or any other emotion, recognize what you feel and relax with it. Can you feel the sense of peace that comes with it?
The third stage is INVESTIGATE. What else can you discover about the experience? Are there any more details to notice or any other sensations happening at the same time? Investigating is not about assuming an intellectual stance, but more about deciding to be a witness. Can you stop desiring for things to be different and start seeing them for what they are? Example: you feel anger. Maybe anger is a mixture of physical sensations and thoughts that tell you that you want revenge. Can you see that? Maybe, with anger there is also sadness, or fear. You can notice that too. Example: you feel joy? How does joy show itself in your body and mind? Do you feel excitement with it? Or maybe you have a sense that you don’t deserve it?
The fourth and final stage is NOT ME. Are you able to see that by observing the difficulty, it is not part of you? That you are more than what you are feeling right now? Can you see that there is a part of you that is calmer, and that from that stillness you can observe what’s happening without being carried away by thoughts? And can you see that everything changes, and what you are feeling won’t last forever?