Use the RAINDROP technique to weather life’s emotional storms

“Peace is this moment without thinking that it should be some other way, that you should feel some other thing, that your life should unfold according to your plans.”–Dorothy Hunt

Several months ago, during the fall of the year, I was walking on a local, circular path.  Suddenly, I heard the loud rev of an engine.  VROOM!  I saw a large SUV type vehicle, careening, plowing, and then swerving off the road, straight towards the path over which I walked.   

My heart began to race, and my thoughts quickened, trying to process what I was witnessing.  The SUV drove along the slope that forms a ditch line surrounding the path.  KREECH! The sound of metal collapsing was ear-splitting as the vehicle crashed into a heavily staked, metal line, thick and entwined like a rope, that supported a power line pole.  Fear raced through my veins as I ran towards the vehicle to see if the person inside was ok while grabbing my phone to call 911.

Photo by Mike B on

I find this event to be an excellent illustration of what it means to witness.  I was the bystander.  My senses heard, saw, and even felt this scene as it unfolded in a surreal manner.  This same skill of witnessing as a bystander is a tool we can use to help navigate difficult emotions/feelings when they come crashing into our life path.  And, let’s be honest, difficult emotions can be a regular occurrence at all stages of life.

From anxiety to depression to life event stressors and work stressors, I daresay none of us are immune to challenging emotions such as anger, insecurity, sadness, fear, and numerous other less-than-kind emotions.  This is where tapping into the bystander part of the brain can help us navigate through the mental storm clouds with a technique called RAIN and its counterpart DROP, acronyms first coined by Michele McDonald, a mindfulness teacher.

Photo by Ron Lach on

There are times when we may not initially recognize that our emotions/feelings are impacting our thinking, but with a bit of practice, we can begin to recognize that they are.  Actions such as, lack of focus/feeling distracted; binge eating/drinking/scrolling/watching; avoidance/procrastination, and so forth can be indicators that something is awry.  Even seemingly positive actions can be a side effect of not-so-great feelings trying to bubble to the surface, such as busyness; continuously working; over-exercising; frequent napping, and so on.

This is when the RAIN technique can be effective.  RAIN gently asks us to become a bystander in our minds to determine what we are feeling or perhaps trying to avoid feeling.  Then, it takes us through a process of reflection to bring us to a point of compassionate self-awareness.  Like all techniques, however, it takes practice, and it is not a one-stop-fix-all solution. However, it can be one more tool in life’s toolkit for managing difficulties and suffering.

Here are the steps, based upon my interpretation and personal application of the technique. However, it is worth noting that there are numerous free apps, videos, books, and websites that offer guided versions of this technique that can be quite helpful, especially in the beginning.

Recognize what is going on and name it. “I’m feeling angry, hurt, lonely, sad . . . .”  Then you might also notice if you’re judging those feelings or feeling guilty for having the feelings in the first place.

Acknowledge and Allow. Once you’ve named it, begin to witness your feelings as a bystander would at the scene of an accident. If thoughts pop up that tell you that “shouldn’t feel this way,” gently tell yourself that it is ok to have this feeling.  

Investigate your emotion/feeling with curiosity and interest minus judgment or blaming self or others. What are you feeling and where are you feeling? Similarly to the way I experienced the accident–first in my heart, next in my mind, and finally in my body–where in your body do you feel this emotion? How is it affecting you?  Do you want to cry, eat, move, hide, nap, and so on?

Natural Awareness, Non-identification and Nurture.  This is where you can tell yourself that just because you feel it, doesn’t mean it defines who you are.  Instead, use this as a lesson for how ________ (name the emotion) feels like, similar to the way you feel symptoms of a cold, the flu and so on. Then, take time to offer yourself compassion just as you do when experiencing a cold or flu. You could even place a hand on your heart center or gently pat your cheek as an act of self-compassion.

Contrastly, each stage (letter) of DROP to a corresponding, often knee-jerk, reaction to each step (letter) of the RAIN process.  It creates a greater understanding of those monkey mind tendencies that want to interrupt or impede the RAIN process in order to confuse the bystander role of our brain. 

Distraction and Delusion. Our brains would often rather distract or delude us from the truth of the matter instead of allowing us to recognize and name what we are really experiencing. 

Resistance. Sometimes, this means, we have to push past our mind’s initial resistance in order to allow and accept the emotion we are experiencing.

Obliviousness. When you take time to honestly investigate a so-called negative feeling, you are overcoming the self-obliviousness, the “I lie to myself all the time, but I never believe me” habit, so many of us unwittingly practice.

Personalization. Your feelings do not have to be the narrative of your life.  You might feel angry, but it doesn’t mean you’re an angry person. You might cry when you feel insecure, but it doesn’t mean you’re unworthy.  In other words, don’t make the emotion/feeling personal, it just is.

Raindrops are going to come and go in life, and some time periods are cloudier than others. There are times when it seems those rain-filled clouds will not leave.  And so it can be with our emotions.  We cannot always control the stormy feelings and thoughts that we encounter throughout life’s ups and downs, but we can choose to change our relationship to them. With the RAIN practice, we can tap into our brain’s ability to witness the impending storm clouds and offer ourselves an umbrella of self-compassion and understanding to help us weather the storms of life with a greater sense of resilient grace.  

Rain and Umbrella by Fu00e9lix Hilaire Buhot (French, 1847u20131898) is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s