A month prior to my 40th birthday, I decided to gift myself attendance at Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance workshop
at Omega. My kind of gift: deepening my spiritual practice, being outside in beautiful upstate New York, and taking a weekend to unplug.
The week leading up to the event was full of a series of personal stressors and I wondered if I should cancel the trip. Like any spiritual practice, the teaching appeared just when I needed it.
I was able to look at my reaction to the stressors. My thoughts were supported by Tara’s timely podcast, “Stress and Everyday Nirvana.” I listened to it three times.
The lesson of stress
Stress is inevitable. It’s how we decide to react where we can make a difference or change.
I noticed that my sympathetic nervous system (SNS) was so heightened that I wasn’t sleeping. The SNS reaction is
My body doesn’t usually choose fight, but an example of that would to be short-tempered and snarky to people around me to dispel the frustration I was feeling.
I couldn’t really go into flight mode and run away, although perhaps the idea to cancel the trip was a type of flight.
My body chose freeze mode. I was amazed at how I would stop taking deep breaths and hold tension in my ribs and pelvic floor. I had to keep reminding myself to go back to the breath over and over.
Responding with RAIN
The other teaching I pondered through the week was Tara’s acronym RAIN. In her book Radical Acceptance, she describes RAIN as:
- R: Recognize what is happening
- A: Allow life to be just as it is
- I: Investigate inner experience with kindness
- N: Non-identification*
This was the gem of the practice:
- Recognize my body’s reaction to the perceived (but unreal) danger.
- Allow myself to feel uneasy, scared, and stressed.
- Investigate with self-compassion why I was feeling this way.
- Rest in the natural awareness of the process.
In Tara’s podcast on stress, she stated a problem can be a portal for growth. I was able to use the stressors of the week to deepen my ability to dive deeper with compassionate self-awareness and come out of the experience emotionally richer.
*Tara revised RAIN since the publication of Radical Acceptance and now uses “nourish” for the N.