In a far off land, word spread far and wide of a holy man with magic so powerful it could relieve the most severe suffering.
After seekers of healing travelled through the wilderness to reach him, he’d swear them to secrecy about what was next to pass between them.
Once they took the vow, the holy man asked a single question: What are you unwilling to feel?
We all struggle with stress and anxiety but often we believe that we are alone with these kinds of painful feelings.
Yet anxiety and worry is commonplace and ordinary in our modern world.
We get bombarded with news about what is wrong around the world, with technology constantly demanding our attention, over and above the normal everyday demands.
Often when we feel anxious or afraid, which is totally normal and human, we go to all lengths to hide it so that others will not see us as vulnerable or weak.
This of course exacerbates feelings of anxiety and creates a nightmarish cycle of anxious thoughts and physiological sensations of often overwhelming proportions.
Learning to directly face anxiety and fear with the RAIN meditation – Recognise, Allow, Investigate, and Nurture – gives you a pathway to inner transformation and a fearless heart.
Recognising the trance
At a seminar on RAIN and stress, a workshop attendee, Mrs X, asked for some help with a personal situation.
She’d recently been hired as a marketing vice-president (VP) in a large corporation, but she felt intimidated by the CEO, who was very quick to cut off and humiliate anyone who he felt was wasting his time.
He ruled over the weekly staff meetings, which Mrs X described as “torture” that put her into a state of “brain freeze.”
“I shouldn’t be worried about my competence,” she said.
“I was recruited because I got an industry award at my last job. But the atmosphere here is totally different – really corporate, and the other VPs pretty much ignore me. I just go back to my office with my stomach churning and wonder how long I’ll last here.”
It was suggested that Mrs X practice RAIN for a few minutes right before each meeting and she was asked what was going on for her at that time.
“On those mornings I can really feel the anxiety building, and it lands me in a frenzy of busyness… reviewing reports, marking what I might need to comment on… nothing really productive.”
We can all recognise that feeling of being in a frenzy. Before she starts RAIN, she was told to imagine pressing the pause button on that frenzy. Mrs X closed her eyes and pictured herself at her desk, a half-hour before the weekly meeting.
As she paused, she was told that her first “invitation” was to Recognize (R) the anxiety and Allow (A) it to just be there. Next she was asked, what does she notice if she brings her attention and interest to how it feels in her body? Beginning to Investigate (I), she muttered, “dry mouth and wet palms really tight chest… heart hammering… and, my stomach in knots.”
It was suggested she place her hand on her abdomen and send her breath there with a long slow inflow and outflow of air. This would be to help her steady her attention and stay in contact with the fear.
Now she was guided to ask the scared place inside her what it needed most, a key inquiry in Investigating.
After a moment, she looked up, surprised, stating, “It said, ‘let it be okay that I’m here’.”
The Nurturing (N) which that scared place needed was to be accepted, and not to be made wrong, bad or useless.
Mrs X was asked how the wisest, kindest part of her wanted to respond. Could she find a way to acknowledge this very vulnerable part of herself with compassion?
She sat quietly, still breathing slowly, her hand on her belly. Then she nodded. “I just sent the message – it’s okay, this belongs. And… it does feel more okay. I’m actually a bit more relaxed.”
This became Mrs X’s RAIN practice each week before going to the staff meeting. And when she felt anxiety spiking during the meeting, she’d simply breathe into it and send the message – it’s okay.
About three months later, Mrs. X reported back that her tension around the CEO hadn’t disappeared, but her anxiety had lessened somewhat.
More important, it didn’t feel like such a big deal: “I’m not so alarmed when I get anxious,” she said.
“I was fighting it so hard, but now it’s okay that it’s there. That really does free me up.”
She also shared some real progress in making creative contributions and connecting with others.
Asking yourself “what am I unwilling to feel?” can open you to deep spiritual healing.
Fear is the feeling that something is wrong and that, rather than facing it, we need to act to protect ourselves.
When, instead, we have the courage to pause and meet fear with the mindfulness and compassion engendered by practising the RAIN meditation, our awareness and wisdom enlarges.
If we need to respond to a real threat, we’ll do so – with increased balance, presence and creativity.
But often we’ll see: It’s just anxiety, it’s okay… this belongs – and begin to unhook from a lifetime pattern of reactivity.
While fears continue to arise, we have access to a heart space that is open and free. Anxiety and fear, when worked with in this way can be a portal to greater self-awareness and insight. It has the potential to awaken us to living fully in the here and now and allows deeper connection to ourselves and others.
Carin-Lee Masters is a clinical psychologist. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a WhatsApp message or SMS to 082 264 7774.