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Using the ‘RAIN’ Practice to Stay Present


Cravings and anxiety sneak up on you, and before you know it, you’re completely sucked into one habit loop or another. But you don’t have to be slaves to those habit loops. The more you become aware that urges and cravings are just body sensations taking you for a ride, the more you can learn to ride them out.

Here’s an acronym that helps you stay present so that you don’t freak out when an anxiety loop hits. (Michele McDonald, an American meditation teacher, first came up with this decades ago. I’ve adapted it slightly, based on noting practice, which was popularized by the late Mahasi Sayadaw, a Burmese meditation teacher.)

RECOGNIZE/RELAX into what is arising (e.g., your craving).

ACCEPT/ ALLOW it to be there.

INVESTIGATE bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts.

NOTE what is happening from moment to moment.

The noting part is similar to the observer effect in the field of physics, in which the act of observation changes the phenomenon being observed. In other words, when we notice (and note) the physical sensations that are arising in our body that make up a craving, we are already less caught up in it, simply through that observation.

Here’s the basic RAIN practice:

First, RECOGNIZE that the stress is coming on and RELAX into it. Don’t grit your teeth and brace for impact! Just let go and feel it come on, since you have no control over it anyway. It’s even okay if you smile a little. Really.

ALLOW and ACCEPT this wave as it is. Don’t try to push it away or ignore it. Don’t distract yourself or try to do something about it. This is your experience. Here it comes.

To catch the wave of anxiety, you have to study it carefully, INVESTIGATING it as it builds. Be curious. Do this by asking, “What is going on in my body right now?” Don’t go looking for it. See what arises in your awareness most prominently. Let it come to you.

Get curious. Where does the feeling originate in your body?

What does it really feel like?

Is it tightness in your chest? Is it a burning feeling in your belly? Is it a restlessness that urges you to do something—like run away?

Finally, NOTE the experience. This keeps you here now, curious and focused, riding the wave. Keep it simple by using short phrases or single words. This helps you stay out of thinking or figuring-out mode, and instead will keep you in the direct experience of what is happening to you. For example, you might note clenching, rising, burning, heat, restlessness as the feelings come on and peak, and then vibration, tightness, tingling, lessening, relaxing, relief, and expanding as they subside. If thoughts arise, simply note “thinking” and don’t get caught up in analysis or fix‑it mode! Note your actual experience.

Follow that wave until it completely subsides. If you get distracted or your mind shifts to something else, simply return to the investigation. Be curious and ask, “What is going on in my body right now?” Ride the feeling until it is completely gone.

Investigating your feelings helps you focus and get curious about your moment‑to‑moment experience. As you tap into your curiosity and get better at this practice, you might find that it even can be a little fun (really!).

The next time you notice a habit loop wave building, see if you can try the RAIN practice.


Excerpted from UNWINDING ANXIETY by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2021, Dr. Judson Brewer


Judson Brewer MD, PhD, is an internationally renowned addiction psychiatrist and neuroscientist. He is an associate professor in the School of Public Health, and Medical School at Brown University. His 2016 TED talk, “A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit,” has been viewed over 16 million times. He has trained Olympic athletes and coaches, government ministers and business leaders. His first book, The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love, Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits, was published in over 16 languages. His latest book is Unwinding Anxiety. To learn more visit drjud.com.

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