In Radical Compassion, psychologist and mindfulness teacher Tara Brach offers the practice summarized with the acronym RAIN as a tool for navigating difficult experiences and emotions and to better engage in our relationships and social contexts. This builds on her earlier book, Radical Acceptance, which is one of the books I most often recommend. Here are four lessons from Radical Compassion I keep returning to.
1. Practicing RAIN
Brach and other mindfulness teachers like Jack Kornfield have offered the RAIN practice to help apply Buddhist psychology to modern life. After more than 15 years of working with and teaching RAIN in groups and individual sessions, Brach offers here an update on RAIN. The original approach outlined by Michele McDonald included; Recognizing, Accepting, Investigating, and Non-Identification. Brach updates the last part of RAIN from non-identification to nurture to highlight the compassionate aspects of RAIN and move it beyond the merely intellectual to an emotional and embodied practice.
- Recognizing – Using mindfulness (without judgment) to recognize the situation, experience, thoughts, and/or emotions.
- Accepting – Using mindfulness to allow the difficult thing to simply be.
- Investigating – Using compassion to investigate when the difficulty feels like – often exploring the feelings in the body.
- Nurture – Using compassion to offer yourself (or others) compassionate nurturing, such as a kind word to yourself, a hand on the heart, or an imagined embrace.
2. Practicing RAIN for Releasing Negative Self-Beliefs
This chapter (4) is one of the most helpful chapters I’ve ever read in any book. Brach illustrates so compassionately the negative self-beliefs we have, where they come from, and how they get in our way. She also discusses how the RAIN practice can help us begin to manage them when they show up in the moment and deeper work to heal and shift away from those negative self-beliefs. Helping others recognize, understand, handle, and heal from these negative self-beliefs is one of the most powerful paths toward transformation for many of my coaching clients.
3. Practicing RAIN for Forgiveness
I continue to be reminded of how powerful forgiveness of others and ourselves can be in moving forward in our lives and relationship. Forgiving others can help us release the anger and resentment we’ve been holding. We can also forgive others and renew the relationship or end the relationship. Forgiveness can also accompany accountability. Forgiving ourselves can release us from the consequences of a previous decision to help us be more present and available for others and ourselves. Brach explores forgiveness through several powerful examples from her clients and her own life. She outlines RAIN as a practice to help us move toward forgiveness.
4. Practicing RAIN for Justice
Brach devotes an entire chapter to utilizing RAIN to engage with our unconscious biases, navigate our mistakes and accountability, and help us avoid self-righteousness to be more effective and productive. This section explores RAIN as a helpful practice for a wide range of issues of injustice, and Brach specifically focuses on issues of racism, especially for white people like herself. Her modeling here was relatable, vulnerable, and helpful.