By Naomi Rossow
I have been seeing my current therapist for about six months now. She is amazing, and we have been able to work through a lot together as well as explore some tools for me to use in my daily life. One of my favorites, and hers, is called the RAIN meditation. This is a self-compassion meditation created by Tara Brach, Ph. D. She walks through each step of the RAIN meditation in this blog as well as in multiple YouTube video guides, including this one my therapist and I frequently use.
I use the RAIN meditation most often when I am struggling with a strong emotion or need a way to look deeper into what I am feeling and why. I find it is a really helpful emotional processing tool and it has helped me practice better self-compassion. I have also had the opportunity to explore more of what the meditation means to me and how I can personalize this resource for myself. Through this exploration, I started practicing what I like to call “RAIN-ing with Jesus.” This process takes Brach’s RAIN meditation and invites Jesus to be a part of it. So, let’s walk through it together.
The RAIN meditation has four basic steps: Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Nurture. The first step is to (R)ecognize and name your emotions. The second is to (A)llow those emotions to be there without any attempt to change, fix, or judge them. The third step, (I)nvestigate, is meant as a place for you to explore an emotion and why it is there, what you believe about yourself because of it, and what other emotions are present. And the final step, (N)urture, is a place to ask that emotion what it needs to hear, and then give it that compassion. (Brach has multiple blogs and other resources related to this meditation on her webpage; you can get a more extensive understanding of each step there.)
Now that we know what each letter in RAIN stands for, we can explore how to invite Jesus into that process. When I first started thinking about this, I was thinking out loud in a brainstorming session with my dad. I mentioned this meditation and we started bouncing back ideas back and forth of how to invite Jesus into it.
My original idea was to add a second (I) to the acronym to indicate “invite” into the steps of the meditation, but we quickly realized that each person has their own preferences of how to invite Jesus into a processing moment and their own individual journeys with Jesus so we could not make a “one size fits all” way to invite Jesus into it. (Besides, “RAIIN” doesn’t work as well as an acronym.)
Because of his unique walk with Jesus, my dad would rather invite Jesus into the meditation at the very beginning and have Him intentionally included for all four steps. But I would rather invite Jesus into the process during the (I)nvestigate step because of my unique walk with Jesus.
Here is what a RAIN-ing with Jesus meditation might look like:
I like to do the meditation while sitting at my desk in a comfortable but upright position. This allows me to be focused and awake but not distracted by the TV or the temptation to lie down in bed and take a nap. It also allows me to have my computer in front of me. I like this because one way I process big emotions or experiences is journaling about it. So having my computer in front of me lets me journal as a part of the same meditation process.
After I am comfortable and able to focus, I allow myself to relax into my body. I take a few deep breaths and really notice how my body feels and let the sounds around me lull me into a focused mediation. (This is where I think my dad would like to invite Jesus into the meditation.) This process allows me to start to Recognize what my body is telling me and name the emotions present in the moment. The last time I did this those emotions were: anxiety, stress, and excitement.
After I name the emotions, I focus on where I can feel them in my body. I felt the anxiety in my chest, almost like a buzzing sensation. I could also feel very tiny bubbles of anxiety and excitement in my stomach. The stress made my chest and shoulders feel tight.
This noticing allows me to really get in tune with my body and emotions and helps me to Allow the emotions to be present. Sitting in the emotions, especially ones I perceive as bad, is the hardest step for me. My instinct for so long has been to put those emotions in the back closet of my mind and shut the door tight. I try to sit in the emotions until I feel like I am not pushing them away anymore or rushing through this step. Sometimes that can be only a minute and sometimes, mostly with more intense emotions, it can take a little while.
After I have allowed the emotion to be present and encouraged myself to sit in it, I invite Jesus into the mediation with a short prayer. That prayer for me is normally along the lines of: “Jesus, come into the experience with me. Bring Your Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts as I explore why this emotion is present and what it is telling me.” Like I said before, this step can be added in wherever, whenever, and however you feel it is best and most right for you. I can’t tell you when that is, only share my experience with it.
Next, I Investigate the emotion. I ask questions like “What else is here?”, “What experience triggered this emotion or is attached to it?”, “What do I believe about myself and this emotion?” This is the step I sit in the longest. I have lots of theories on why this is the step I take the most time on, but regardless of why, I find it most helpful to search underneath and beyond the surface emotion that I first named.
I kind of imagine I am walking through a tunnel, or cave, or library with lots of secret passages. I like to walk through those places in my head; as I go, I discover more things about myself and the emotion.
When I did this with anxiety a couple of days ago, I found a lot of that current anxiety stemmed from doubts about myself and my ability to succeed as a presenter at the National Youth Gathering. There was a lot of doubt about my credentials to be able to speak on the topic of emotions and faith. I mean, I am not a faith leader of any kind and I have no professional training in emotions, faith, or speaking. I also was very self-critical of the amount of work I put into the presentation because, while I have been putting a lot of work and time and thought and research into the presentation and what I wanted to say, I have also been in school and job hunting and maintaining a social life. My anxiety had latched onto these things and made me feel guilt and doubt in myself and the upcoming presentation.
This exploration leads into the fourth step: Nurture. After investigating my anxiety and diving deeper into that emotion with Jesus, I was able to identify some really tough things I had been subconsciously believing about myself and telling myself. To nurture this emotion and those thoughts I gave myself comfort and reassurance. I reminded myself that I was chosen out of who knows how many applicants to be a speaker. I wasn’t chosen because I have all the right credentials or letters after my name. I was chosen because they liked me and my pitch, because they want to include a more diverse population of speakers, including young women. I told myself that I had lots of people backing me up and supporting me and that I was not doing this alone. The purpose of this step is to tell that emotion what it needs to hear for you to move forward, even when moving forward doesn’t mean everything is okay. This can be a good place in the meditation to remember some promises from Jesus or maybe a Bible verse you hold onto.
After finishing the meditation, I like to take a few more deep breaths to center myself again and bring myself back to the present. I rejoin the world and get back to whatever work I need to do. I don’t formally thank or “dismiss” Jesus like how I formally invited Him into the meditation; I like to just go back to my day, keeping Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the calm from the meditation with me.
I encourage you to try this meditation out for yourself and explore ways in which you can personalize it to your faith walk with Jesus.