One of the more interesting things in my mindfulness practice is dealing with what could be called difficult emotions.
Being Irish it is easy to compare that with the changing weather. On the Atlantic coast nothing stays the same for long, and four seasons in the one day, even in summer, is not unusual.
These last few days I have been made aware of that in different ways, with the sad but common Geneva news of someone moving away, with questions on loyalty and closeness moving to distance.
These can give rise to strong emotions. and when that happens I try to simply allow them to take their own course in my body and in my mind. This afternoon, however, that was not so easy. I remind myself that mindfulness is a non-judging, receptive awareness, a respectful awareness. Unfortunately, sometimes I do not attend in this way. Sometimes the emotions are too strong to immediately allow it. I prefer to judge myself and others with a stream of criticism and commentary.
When that happens I try the practice which is presented under the acronym RAIN, which stands for Recognition, Acceptance, Investigation, and Non-Indentification.
Recognizing means pausing and acknowledging the reality of my experience, here and now. This meant today a heaviness in my chest, a certain tightness in the breath.
Acceptance asks me to relax and open to the facts before me. Often I prefer that things were not as they present themselves to me. Acceptance is realizing what Buddhist teacher Ajahn Sumedho said over and over again, “This moment is like this”. So I try to say, simply, in this moment I am feeling a tightness, numbness, heaviness and that is this moment as it presents itself. I try to say, may I accept this moment fully.
Investigation means looking deeply. Mindfulness teaches that whenever i feel stuck stuck, it is partly because I have not looked deeply enough into the nature of the experience. WHy is this affecting me in this way, what stories am I telling myself here, what am I adding on?
Finally, non-identification means I stop taking the experience as me or mine, not seeing it as saying everything about me, not giving my whole story over to it, not being completely bound by the fears that it brings up. Despite the loss I will still love, I will still look to my plans for the future. Non identifying means not feeding the energy, but creating space.
As a former elderly Irish Spiritual Director was fond of saying to me, When you are on a bicycle and it starts raining, you sometimes just put your head down and continue pedalling. I would add now, without wasting my energy complaining about the weather