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Lions Roar : September 2016
MINDFULNESS DOES NOT reject experience. It lets experi- ence be the teacher. With mindfulness, we can enter the difficul- ties in our life and find healing and freedom. There are four principles for mindful transformation of difficulties that are taught in Western mindfulness retreats with the acronym (coined by Michele McDonald) called RAIN. RAIN stands for Recognition, Acceptance, Investiga- tion, and Non-Identification. This acronym echoes the Zen poets who tell us “the rain falls equally on all things.” Like the nourishment of outer rain, the inner principles of RAIN can transform our difficulties. Recognition Recognition is the first step of mindfulness. When we are stuck in our life, we must begin with a willingness to see what is so. It is as if someone asks us gently, what is hap- pening now? Do we reply brusquely, “Nothing”? Or do we pause and acknowledge the reality of our experience, here and now? With recognition we step out of denial. Denial undermines our freedom. The diabetic who denies his body is not free. Nei- ther is the driven, stressed-out executive who denies the cost of her lifestyle, or the self-critical would-be painter who denies his love of making art. The society that denies its poverty and injustice has lost a part of its freedom as well. With recognition our awareness becomes like the dignified host. We name and inwardly bow to our experience: “Ah, sor- row; and now excitement; hmm, yes, conflict; and yes, tension. Oh, now pain, yes, and now, ah, the judging mind.” Recognition moves us from delusion and ignorance toward freedom. “We can light a lamp in the darkness,” says the Buddha. We can see what is so. Acceptance Acceptance allows us to relax and open to the facts before us. It is necessary because with recognition, there can come a subtle aversion, a resistance, a wish it weren’t so. Acceptance does not mean that we cannot work to improve things. But just now, this is what is so. In Zen they say, “If you understand, things are just as they are. And if you don’t understand, things are still just as they are.” Acceptance is not passivity. It is a courageous step in the pro- cess of transformation. It is a willing movement of the heart to include whatever is before it. Investigation In recognition and acceptance we recognize our dilemma and accept the truth of the whole situation. Now we must investi- gate more fully. Buddhism teaches that whenever we are stuck, it is because we have not looked deeply enough into the nature of the experience. Buddhism systematically directs our investigation to four areas that are critical for understanding and freedom. These are called the four foundations of mindfulness: body, feelings, mind, and dharma, the underlying principles of experience. Here is how we can apply them when working with a dif- ficult experience. Starting with investigation in the body, we mindfully locate where our difficulties are held. In the second foundation of mindfulness, we can investigate what feelings are part of this difficulty. Next comes the mind. What thoughts and images are associated with this difficulty? What stories, judg- ments, and beliefs are we holding? The fourth foundation to investigate is called mindfulness of the dharma. In mindfulness of the dharma we look into the principles and laws that are operating. We notice if it is self- constructed. We investigate whether we are clinging to it, resist- ing it, or simply letting it be. We see whether our relationship to it is a source of suffering or happiness. And finally, we notice how much we identify with it. This leads us to the last step of RAIN, non-identification. Nonidentification In nonidentification we stop taking the experience as me or mine. We see how our identification creates dependence, anxiety, and inauthenticity. In practicing non-identification, we inquire of every state, experience, and story, is this who we really are? We see the tentativeness of this identity. Instead of identification with this difficulty, we let go and rest in awareness itself. This is the culmination of releasing difficulty through RAIN. Buddhism calls non-identification the abode of the awakening, the end of clinging, true peace, nirvana. When we meet the world with recognition, acceptance, investigation and non-identification, we discover that wherever we are, freedom is possible, just as the rain falls on and nurtures all things equally. ♦ JACK KORNFIELD is a founding teacher of both Insight Meditation Society and Spirit Rock Meditation Center. His most recent book is Bring- ing Home the Dharma. How RAIN Can Nourish You JACK KORNFIELD teaches us a transformative mindfulness practice. LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2016 52