Mindfulness for “Us Oldies”
Mindfulness combines thousands of years of insight from contemplative practice with modern breakthroughs in neuroscience. Rick Hanson, author of Buddha’s Brain and Hardwiring Happiness, writes about the practice with the acronym RAIN, which seems to me to be mindfulness for “us oldies” who have experienced a good few knocks along the way 🙂 I think it’s brilliant!
Rick says that by the time we reach the stage of mid-life, we tend to move into the gate house of our psyche. We go out from time to time but we lose our sense of the whole estate, the sense that we would have had when we were younger. We shut down our emotions, we cap our vitality, we set aside our deep longings and we bury deeply our old pain and troubles. In fact we bury them so deeply that we can’t get at them and so we end up living at odds with both the world around us and our true nature. We are no longer at home in our own skin or our own mind. Not only does this start to feel bad, it lowers our effectiveness at home and work, fuels interpersonal issues, and contributes to our health problems.
He asks “What can we do? How can we reclaim, use, enjoy, and be at peace with our whole estate — without being overwhelmed by its occasional swamps and fumes?” And suggests the practice of RAIN:
The Practice of RAIN
The acronym RAIN in connection with mindfulness was first coined about 20 years ago by Michele McDonald, is an easy-to-remember tool for practicing mindfulness and for uncovering some of that sense of ourselves that we have buried. It has been further refined by Rick Hanson.
It has four steps:
Recognise what is going on: This can be especially useful when you find yourself in a challenging situation either at work or at home. Rather than getting sucked into the story being played out, step into observation mode and simply name what is happening: “ I feel sad”, “my colleague is extremely stressed”, “my body feels tense”, “I feel like punching him”.
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is. Acknowledge that your experience is what it is, even if it’s unpleasant. Be with it without attempting to change it. Try to have self-compassion instead of self-criticism. Don’t add to the difficulty by being hard on yourself.
Investigate with kindness. Try to find an attitude of genuine interest, curiosity, and openness. Rick describes this as “ a gently engaged exploration, often with a sense of tenderness or friendliness toward what it finds.” Be as open as you can to other aspects of the experience, such as softer feelings of hurt under your non-penetrable armour of anger. NB don’t get sucked into psychoanalysing yourself!!!
Natural awareness (which comes from not identifying with the experience.) Have the feeling/thought/body sensation instead of being it. Remain aware that all the various parts of the experience are actually only small, fleeting aspects of your whole person. Thoughts and feelings come and go mainly to causes that have nothing to do with you. So be aware of the stress or pain that comes from claiming any part of this stream as “who I am” or “part of me” and sense the spaciousness and peace that comes when experiences simply flow.
So, a useful practice for all ages, but especially for “us oldies”!!
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An article by Rick Hanson on the practice of RAIN: