We have reached the last part of our series on mindfulness at work. Let’s now look at another very concrete way of being more mindful and bringing peace in difficult work situations.
RAIN is an acronym for the four key principles of mindful transformation of difficulties. RAIN stands for Recognition, Acceptance, Investigation, and Non-identification and stems from Eastern spiritual practices. The short explanation below of the RAIN process is mostly taken from book excerpts from Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach.
RAIN directs our attention in a clear, systematic way that cuts through confusion and stress. The 4 steps give us somewhere to turn in any painful moment. Like the clear sky and clean air after a cooling rain, this mindfulness practice brings a new openness and calm to our daily lives.
Recognition is the first step of mindfulness. When we feel stuck, we must begin with a willingness to see what is so. It is as if someone asks us gently, “What is happening now?” Do we reply brusquely, “Nothing”? Or do we pause and acknowledge the reality of our experience, here and now? With recognition we step out of denial. Denial undermines our freedom.
The next step of RAIN is acceptance. Acceptance allows us to relax and open to the facts before us. It is necessary because with recognition there can come a subtle aversion, a resistance, a wish it weren’t so. Acceptance does not mean that we cannot work to improve things. But just now, this is what is so. Problems that seemed intractable often become now workable.
In recognition and acceptance we recognize our dilemma and accept the truth of the whole situation. But you may need to further awaken and strengthen mindful awareness with the I of RAIN.
Starting with investigation in the body, we mindfully locate where our difficulties are held.
In the second foundation of mindfulness, we can investigate what feelings are part of this difficulty. Is the primary feeling tone pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral? Are we meeting this feeling with mindfulness? Next comes the mind. What thoughts and images are associated with this difficulty? What stories, judgments, and beliefs are we holding? When we look more closely, we can discover that many of them are one-sided, fixed points of view or outmoded, habitual perspectives. When we see that they are only stories, they loosen their hold on us. We cling less to them.
And finally, N. Non-identification means that your sense of who you are is not fused with or defined by any limited set of emotions, sensations or stories. In non-identification we stop taking the experience as “mine” or part of “me.” We see how identification creates dependence, anxiety, and inauthenticity. This is the culmination of releasing difficulty through RAIN.
Let’ s now look at an example taken from a work situation to make it more concrete.
Say, Paul, has been hoping to get a new job which had just been opened within his company. But unfortunately, he is not getting it as it is given instead to someone more senior, although less experienced in that particular field. Paul goes through an intense emotional storm (denial, anger, hatred, sadness, guilt, blame, …). He is also entrenched in thoughts such as quitting, going to the hiring manager to take out his anger, looking at ways the hired person could fail, deciding on how he would ignore him the next time he meets with him, etc …I let you use your creativity here to complete the list!
In other words, Paul’s reptilian brain is fully at work!
Going through the RAIN process would allow him instead to find different response strategies to the painful and challenging situation.
R : Paul could start by fully acknowledging the reality of the situation. Despite his efforts, he is not getting the job and the potential salary increase he was counting on. That is the reality, now.
A : Accept the situation. It could be helpful to take a few deep breathes, in a silent environment, and let the reality sink. That step certainly could be difficult, but moving to acceptance is a key step. Which Paul might need to go through a few times.
I : This is the heart of the mindfulness practice. Simply observing the emotions and thoughts as well as bodily sensations. And be curious about what is at play ? Has he reacted similarly in the past ? Any alternative coping strategy emerging ?
N : Paul sees how the internal drama is happening automatically, almost without him being involved. As a result of old imprints. And can start to dissociate from it.
The workplace is very often the arena of difficulties such as the one above. RAIN can be of great help in those situations.