A Guided RAIN Meditation to Cultivate Compassion

Michelle Maldonado guides us through a four-step practice to recognize, acknowledge, investigate, and sit with our natural awareness.

Romolo Tavani/Adobe Stock

Compassion is so powerful; sometimes it’s soft and cuddly, and other times, it is fierce. Paul Gilbert, the Compassionate Mind Foundation founder, says that compassion is one of the most important declarations of strength and courage known to humanity. We’re all at this moment where we get to choose how we show up next. With that, let’s turn our attention to the guided framework of RAIN. Each letter stands for something specific that can help support us in moments of anxiety and fear. The acronym was first coined by Michele McDonald 20 years ago and has since been adapted by Tara Brach to help us cultivate the capacity of our inner being and our inner work.  

“Compassion is one of the most important declarations of strength and courage known to humanity.”

A 20-Minute Guided Meditation for Compassion

1. Find a comfortable place to position your body. Whether that’s in a chair, seated on the floor, or even standing, allow your body to be elongated while being both relaxed and attentive. 

2. Allow for three gentle and full breaths in and out. Perhaps noticing the sensation of the breath as it travels through the nostrils. Down the throat. Into the lungs and belly. Back out again. With each inhale and exhale, allow the body to begin to settle. 

Perhaps you may be noticing as you check in that there are places where you might be holding tension. Give yourself the gift of relaxing in those spaces and areas. 

3. As you breathe naturally, perhaps even taking a full, deep breath. Allow the inhale of your belly to expand like a balloon and then gently exhale, allowing the belly to contract. The belly button is trying to touch the spine as you allow your breath to settle into its natural rhythm. Now, let’s practice the guided framework of RAIN.

R stands for Recognize

4. Turning our attention to the R in RAIN, take a moment to recognize what is going at this moment. As you begin to recognize, you may notice sensations arise—thoughts or feelings in the body. See if you can recognize those as we move to the next step in RAIN. 

A stands for Allow

5. Allow those experiences to be as they are, without judgment. Whether that judgment is righteousness, confirmation, or anything else that places the label of right or wrong. And what you were experiencing at this moment. The gift of allowing helps us to be curious and open. 

6. Simply taking a gentle full breath in as we take the next moment to be and allow. As we allow, we may be noticing thoughts or images that arise that feel aligned with our belief systems. Take each feeling as reflective of the spectrum of emotions and conditions present in our communities, homes, nation, and the world. 

I stands for Investigate Kindness

7. Taking another gentle but full breath in and out. This is where we often feel a little bit of tension. How do we meet things that we disagree with—with kindness and curiosity at this moment? Allowing and investigating with kindness isn’t just about how we perceive others but also about noticing what is present within ourselves. How do we recognize, allow, and investigate that part of our inner world that needs to be tended to and cultivated and nurtured? Just like any land or soil. As we prepare for a harvest that allows for every one of us to flourish.

N stands for Natural Awareness

This kind of loving awareness comes from not identifying with the experience, meeting it with stability, but not getting lost in it or overcome by it. Recognizing all that is present within and without. 

8. See if you can bring a natural, loving awareness without overidentification. That often can shift us into judgment and certainty, pulling us away from disarmament and curiosity, just allowing us to sit in natural awareness.

9. Next, I invite you to allow all of that to dissipate. Bringing your attention to the sound or sensation of your breath. And allowing your attention to settle the air for the next minute. In a moment, I’m going to ring the bell. And when I do, I advise you to shift your attention to the sound of the bell gently. Until it dissipates, I invite you to slowly begin to feel your bodies in the chair or your feet on the floor. If your eyes are closed, begin to open them and bring your attention back to your surroundings. Thank you for your practice.

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