What can we do when we have those feelings of deep sadness and depression? How can we effectively combat outbursts of anger and frustration, or that craving for a drink or snack that we promised ourselves to forgo on this day? A powerful method that has succeeded for several of my different feelings, is to practice mindfulness and let it RAIN.
You can find several different definitions of this acronym, but I will give the one I recently read about in Robert Wright’s Why Buddhism is True. Indeed, the entirety of this post is based on material from chapter 9 in that book.
When the feeling is followed by some action of positive reinforcement of that feeling, we first must be able to catch ourselves before that positive reinforcement. I’m sure catching ourselves during would be OK in some circumstances, too (e.g. in the middle of an angry outburst).
Let’s work with a concrete example for which you can exchange other such feelings. You’ve just got off work (or finished a workout) and are settling down to enjoy yourself for the evening. As you sit down to read a book, play your guitar, or watch a video, you’re hit with a sudden urge to make yourself a gin and tonic. The urge is strong, but on this day (a Tuesday), you have promised yourself to not have any alcohol.
Rather than suppressing the urge and trying to forget about it, take a breath and Recognize the feeling of that craving and urge. There it is. It is strong. What next?
Accept the feeling. Again, do not try and suppress or forget about it like it isn’t there. Let it in.
Once you’ve let that feeling into your mind and body, letting it flow as it naturally does, begin to Investigate that feeling. Where in your body and mind is this feeling taking place? Do specific parts ache or knot up? Does anything seem to tremble?
Through a thorough investigation of the feeling, you may notice something odd happens. A Nonattachment or Nonidentification with the feeling occurs. Although this feeling has taken place inside your body, it is not who you really are.
This most likely will make it easier to not positively reinforce the feeling. By letting it RAIN, this urge will stop getting positively reinforced. Like a rat who had been trained to push a bar for a pellet of food, if the food pellets stop coming the rat will stop pushing the bar. Pushing the bar is the equivalent of the craving for a drink in this analogy.
Simply pushing the rat away from the bar, or trying to constantly keep it far away from the bar at all times is a path to ruin, because as soon as that rat gets within reach of that bar, it will push it. Stop the mechanism from producing the food pellet altogether. Make it RAIN, instead.