Shambhala Sun | September 2014
RAIN Cools the Flames of Anger
EMILY HORN teaches us how to recognize, accept,
investigate, and not identify with our anger.
The best way
to transform anger and other strong emotions is to befriend them. As
with any relationship, it takes time to become intimate with the inner workings
of our minds. To do it we need courage and strength. And we need the help of an
Peeling away the layers of anger moves us closer to life and
empowers us to stand up for justice. One of the most effective ways to deepen
and transform our relationship with anger is a four-step mindfulness-based
practice known by the acronym RAIN: Recognize, Accept, Investigate,
Non-Identify. Here’s how it works.
1. Recognize Anger
The first step of the practice is to recognize the many
forms that anger takes. The energy of
anger can move from irritation to resentment to rage. One form can fuel another
in a fiery chain reaction that takes just seconds to explode.
We must be willing to face the demons that lie inside us so
we are not controlled by them. There are many moments when anger arises without
being recognized. Because we fear the intensity of anger, we allow it to build
up over time, but pushing anger away or denying it only causes unconscious
Anger doesn’t just disappear when we start to meditate. But
with mindfulness practice and the support of others, we can recognize it more
quickly when it arises and have the presence to respond appropriately.
2. Accept Anger
Learning to accept anger is the second aspect of RAIN.
Nonjudgmental acceptance melts the frozen and unconscious aspects of anger and
cools the heat of active anger.
It is natural for our protective instincts to arise in
certain circumstances. These are an important part of our evolutionary history.
Befriending anger requires us to welcome our survival instincts as they arise.
You don’t need to judge or condemn them.
We must learn to accept not only our personal anger but also
the collective anger that permeates our world. Patience and forgiveness, for
both ourselves and others, are important practices to help cool the flames of
3. Investigate Anger
The third step is to investigate the nature of anger. What
is this energy that morphs and changes? That can burn like fire and harden like
When you recognize anger is arising, you can use your
attention to zoom into all the different layers and forms of anger. This
includes bodily sensations, thoughts, and the whole range of feelings on the
Is the anger light, dark, murky, or hot? Where is it felt in
the body? What happens to your breath when you’re angry? What are the themes of
By applying your curiosity directly to the feeling of anger,
you can change a potential damaging moment into a powerful experience of
energy. This will create wise change.
By investigating anger you begin to notice how anger morphs
into other emotions. You see the subtle ways you identify with your anger, and
how the intensity of anger is like a glue that sticks you to your storylines.
This leads to the final step of RAIN practice.
4. Not Identify with Anger
When we practice non-identification, we set aside the
stories we tell ourselves about our anger. Focusing on the movement of the
breath softens our identification with these stories so we can simply be with
When we move beyond our personal story, we open into
awareness. Non-identification brings the understanding that anger arises and
passes away. In that moment we become even more intimate with anger.
We burn out quickly when we identify with our anger, when we
don’t recognize how it is driving us, when lack curiosity and investigation.
But when we befriend anger, it fuels empowerment, resilience, and change. It
deepens into non-separation and living in less harmful ways. Learning to use
RAIN—recognizing, accepting, investigating, and non-identifying—turns the
suffering of anger into a conscious and workable energy. Through the art of
mindfulness, we see the harm that our anger has caused and use it instead to
power our lives for the benefit of all.
Emily Horn is an Insight Meditation teacher and the
community director of Buddhist Geeks, which explores what it means to be a
Buddhist in this high-tech world. She lives with her husband in Asheville,