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Hi Community,

Winter's not quite over, and spring's not quite here, so it must be March ~ time to set the clocks ahead and (here in California, at least) welcome some much-needed rain. I hope you're well, and that you're finding ways to enjoy the gray skies ~ either by staying cozy indoors, or perhaps you're a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society? Their manifesto reads, in part, "We believe that clouds are unjustly maligned and life would be immeasurably poorer without them" and "We seek to remind people that clouds are expressions of the atmosphere's moods, and can be read like those of a person's countenance." Helpful reminders on those cloudy days when we long for blue sky. Or those days when we feel moody, and long for a sunnier disposition. 

The practice I'm sharing this month is called RAIN, and it comes from Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist Tara Brach. One of my rainy-day activities has been reading her second book, True Refuge, which offers many supportive practices for relieving suffering. The RAIN process is particularly helpful for cultivating awareness, which is key to self-compassion.

I'm also including some links to a series of blog posts I wrote recently on the three main aspects of self-compassion. My hope is that the series is a helpful starting place for those new to self-compassion, and a supportive reminder for those who are more familiar with it.

The next Self-Compassion Circle will meet on March 31. The group was especially rich last month, and I warmly welcome you to join us if you're looking to meditate and connect with a community of like-minded others. 
Be well and enjoy,
~ March 2014 Newsletter ~
RAIN is a four-step process that helps cultivate awareness and break the trance of self-judgment. It's also supportive in re-connecting you with your physical experience. While many Buddhist teachers have shared it, this offering is inspired by Tara Brach's way of teaching it in her book, True Refuge. You can practice this process during a formal meditation when a challenging emotional state arises, or on-the-spot, in your everyday life.

RAIN stands for: Recognizing, Allowing, Investigating with Kindness, and Not identifying.

To begin, pause in some way; maybe by taking a few breaths.

Recognizing means that you bring awareness to your experience and notice whatever is happening ~ maybe it's a feeling of tightness in your chest, or an increased heart rate that you identify as "anxiety." It might also include familiar, fearful thoughts about what might happen next. Or it might be a more subtle feeling ~ a quality of energy you notice in your body. Whatever is happening, see if you can recognize it and get as specific as possible.

When you are Allowing, you are relinquishing your argument with things as they are. It doesn't mean that 100% of you agrees with things as they are, though. It might mean that part of what wants to be allowed is the full spectrum of your experience: Can you accept that you are arguing with the way things are, and yet things are the way that they are? Tara Brach suggests that students experiment with whispering "yes" or "I consent" when an experience feels challenging. 
I see investigating with kindness as a way to practice re-training your inner critic. In this step you can acknowledge the strengths of the critic ~ specifically its attention to detail. You need that attention to notice the nuances of your experience. At the same time, when you investigate with kindness, you have a focused quality of attention that does not judge. Brach refers to it as a "kind, receptive, gentle attention." See if you can un-blend your attention to detail from the criticism that often goes along with it.

Finally, not identifying means that you begin to recognize that you are not your feelings, thoughts, beliefs or sensations. This is what arises as you practice recognizing, allowing and investigating with kindness. As we notice more, we identify less. There's an opportunity to rest more fully in your true nature ~ what Brach calls "natural presence" or "natural awareness."

I find that having an acronym makes a tool easier to remember, and I hope that is true for you and RAIN.
Upcoming Events
self-compassion circle
Monthly Meditation Group
Next Meeting: March 31
Recent Articles
“The more you try to fix it, the more you reinforce the belief that it’s broken.
This simple understanding will save your life.”
~ Jeff Foster
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~ Kurt Vonnegut
love who you are
“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.” ~ Mary Oliver.
Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me
by Mary Oliver

Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying, 
what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud, 
to be happy again
in a new way
on the earth! 
That’s what it said
as it dropped, 
smelling of iron, 
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches
and the grass below.
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing
under a tree.
The tree was a tree
with happy leaves, 
and I was myself, 
and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment
at which moment
my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars
and the soft rain –
imagine! imagine! 
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.
Lea Seigen Shinraku

I'm Lea Seigen Shinraku, a San Francisco-based therapist and writer, and my life is devoted to supporting people in loving themselves, no matter what. Through my writing, clinical experience, workshops and groups, I've helped hundreds of people live with greater ease and joy by guiding them to meet self-limiting beliefs with loving presence, and wake up from the trance of self-judgment. I draw on my professional training, client work, more than a decade of daily meditation practice, and my own experience of awakening and cultivating self-compassion. Learn more about me at 

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist: MFC51836
Copyright © 2014 Lea Seigen Shinraku, MFT, All rights reserved.

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