RAIN: Four steps that help when we feel overwhelmed

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as we go about our daily activities, attempting to meet the expectations of our employers, our families, our friends, our communities, and ourselves.  When life’s challenges seem to be ganging up on us, we can remember to be mindful by “RAINing” some compassion and loving self-care on our lives.

RAIN is an easy-to-remember tool for practicing mindfulness. It has four steps:

Recognize what is going on;
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
Investigate with kindness;
Natural awareness, which comes from not identifying
with the experience.1

Awareness and kindness are keys to this process. Without them, we may begin to feel unworthy, falling into the trap of self-judgment and belief that something is fundamentally flawed within us. Most of us wouldn’t treat a dear friend so harshly, yet we will do it to ourselves.  This is when we may feel the “squeeze of anxiety or the weight of depression,” as Tara Brach observes in this month’s post on Mindful.org2.  Describing the RAIN concept, she explains that

Compassion fully blossoms when we actively offer care to ourselves. To help people address feelings of insecurity and unworthiness, I often introduce mindfulness and compassion through a meditation I call the RAIN of Self-Compassion.3

I encourage you to read Ms. Brach’s excellent article in its entirety. I especially like the way she describes recognition of the situation:

Like awakening from a dream, the first step out of the trance of unworthiness is simply to recognize that we are stuck, subject to painfully constricting beliefs, emotions, and physical sensations. Common signs of the trance include a critical inner voice, feelings of shame or fear, the squeeze of anxiety or the weight of depression in the body.4

She goes on to describe “allowing” as “taking a life-giving pause,” where we simply let the situation be, just as it is, rather than reacting in one of three typical ways: “piling on judgment; numbing ourselves to our feelings; or by focusing our attention elsewhere.”5 In that space of allowance we find freedom and power.

Investigating our feelings about a situation allows us to find truths that lead us to unconditional self care, healing, and resilience. We can develop “a heartspace where everything that is, is welcome.”6  This process can be difficult, bringing recognition of current suffering or memories of past suffering to the surface.  Brach shares a personal story of using RAIN to reach acceptance of her own chronic illness. She recognized that she felt trapped in both the symptoms of the illness and her own aversion to her reactions to the illness. She was able to allow those feelings to be and grieve the loss of her health, finding peace through compassion for herself.

When we’ve done the first three steps of RAIN, we’re rewarded with “N”: natural, loving awareness. Intentional recognition, allowance, and investigation allow us to simply rest in natural awareness, coming home to our true nature. As Brach concludes,

We each have the conditioning to live for long stretches of time imprisoned by a sense of deficiency, cut off from realizing our intrinsic intelligence, aliveness, and love. The greatest blessing we can give ourselves is to recognize the pain of this trance, and regularly offer a cleansing rain of self-compassion to our awakening hearts.7



Dr. Pamm

1Tara Brach, Feeling Overwhelmed? Remember “RAIN”, Mindful.org, August 2014.


3 Ibid.





Video Workshop: Mindfulness As Self Care with Dr. Pamela Cappetta

I taught this workshop on Mindfulness as Self Care to a group at the School of Education at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA on Jan. 25, 2014. We recorded the sessions and offer them to you here in three short sections totaling 45 minutes. I hope it will be 45 minutes well spent on your journey to greater calm and focus in your life.


Dr. Pamm

Mindfulness as Self Care, part 1

Mindfulness as Self Care, part 2

Mindfulness as Self Care, part 3

Mindfulness Is a Way of Life

I’m gratified by the peace and joy that I see in my Mindfulness Practice students as they learn to work with stress and their emotions. Through Mindfulness techniques they’re able to decrease their reactions to the stress and achieve tranquility in their lives. Mindfulness is gaining wide adoption in our society, as shown by many recent articles in the mainstream media. Why this growing focus on mindfulness?

Some supporters note the hectic pace of our daily lives, which tend to be overscheduled and rife with distractions and information overload.  More than ever before, it seems, we look for tools and skills to maintain our sense of self amidst the noise and demands for our attention. Ironically, the “time saving” devices we use can be part of the problem. As Kate Pickert says in the February 3, 2014 issue of Time Magazine (paywall):

“In a time when no one seems to have enough time, our devices allow us to be many places at once–but at the cost of being unable to fully inhabit the place where we actually want to be.”

That constant pull away from the place where we actually want to be can take a toll on our sense of wellbeing, draining our resilience and frustrating our intentions to live life fully. Mindfulness practice can help! As Pickert observes,

“If distraction is the pre-eminent condition of our age, then mindfulness, in the eyes of its enthusiasts, is the most logical response. Its strength lies in its universality. Though meditation is considered an essential means to achieving mindfulness, the ultimate goal is simply to give your attention fully to what you’re doing. One can work mindfully, parent mindfully and learn mindfully. One can exercise and even eat mindfully. The banking giant Chase now advises customers on how to spend mindfully.”

It’s true that whatever we’re doing, we can do it with intentional awareness. Even when we’re not “doing” something (maybe especially when we’re simply “being”), we can be intentionally aware of our own thoughts and feelings.

I like to describe Mindfulness as “waking up to what is.” It’s a non-judging awareness in the present moment. It’s possible to bring mindfulness into all activities of daily life, both internal and external. Practitioners enjoy lower stress and greater calmness, in the mind and the body. We gain insight and wisdom into the habits of judging, thinking and reacting that are at the core of stress reactions.

If the promises of improved wellness for mind and body seem too good to be true, consider the medical evidence that support these claims. In 1979 Jon Kabat-Zinn, the best-known proponent of mindfulness practice in this country, joined with three physicians to open a stress-reduction clinic at the University of Massachusetts that was based on meditation and mindfulness.

“Almost immediately, some of the clinic’s patients reported that their pain levels diminished. For others, the pain remained the same, but the mindfulness training made them better able to handle the stress of living with illness. They were able to separate their day-to-day experiences from their identity as pain patients.”[i]

Kabat-Zinn’s program eventually became the curriculum that’s now used by hundreds of Mindfulness teachers. Numerous studies have been funded by Congress and the NIH to evaluate the effectiveness of MBSR [Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction]:

“… scientists have been able to prove that meditation and rigorous mindfulness training can lower cortisol levels and blood pressure, increase immune response and possibly even affect gene expression. Scientific study is also showing that meditation can have an impact on the structure of the brain itself. Building on the discovery that brains can change based on experiences and are not, as previously believed, static masses that are set by the time a person reaches adulthood, a growing field of neuroscientists are now studying whether meditation–and the mindfulness that results from it–can counteract what happens to our minds because of stress, trauma and constant distraction. The research has fueled the rapid growth of MBSR and other mindfulness programs inside corporations and public institutions.”[ii]

Whether you’re seeking tools to cope with chronic pain, or to find clarity, or to restore your sense of balance and inner peace, I urge you to consider Mindfulness practice. There are many resources available to help you get started:


Dr. Pamm



[i] Pickert, Kate. “The Mindful Revolution,” TIME, Feb. 3, 2014.

[ii] Ibid.

Free Download: “5 Practices for a Mindful Day”

5 Practices for a Mindful Day is handy guide for developing this natural human ability – it’s not all in your head! Please download this free PDF—courtesy of Mindful.org—and begin to manage your stress with these simple and effective tips.