It helps to organize a response to that question according to a technique called RAIN. RAIN-- an acronym that stands for Recognizing, Allowing, Investigating and Nurturing-- is the process of employing mindfulness and compassion in difficult situations.
The process is at the structural core of a new book, Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAIN, by Tara Brach, whose weekly podcast talk and meditation is downloaded more than a million and a half times each month. There's no way to know how many of those million and a half downloads are by entrepreneurs, but I can speak from the experience of being both an entrepreneur and Brach's student in MMTCP, or the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program.
Here are four ways that meditation and RAIN helps me every day of my entrepreneurial journey.
Usually I turn to meditation when I'm feeling stuck or triggered by a difficult situation at work, for example, or by troubling events in our larger society that exerts a negative impact on my industry as an entrepreneur. The individual act of recognizing that we're stuck or triggered is the first step in the process, because it indicates a shift away from knee-jerk responsiveness and toward a pause of consideration.
For most of us, caught up in the whirlwind of activity from morning to night, slowing down long enough to recognize this stage in the process is challenge enough; actually taking the time to pause and stop whatever it is we're doing may seem like "the bridge too far."
But if you're looking to be more responsive and less reactive, and more mindful and less on autopilot, the simple step of pausing to recognize feeling stuck or triggered sets us on the right path.
In this phase, we bring our attention to whatever feels most difficult about the situation where we're stuck or triggered. "Allowing" means staying present with the reality and letting it be.
This is particularly challenging when, for example, the reality of the trigger situation is that your most challenging colleague is reeling off yet another list of reasons why an idea won't or can't work. In that situation, the process really is to "allow" that negativity-- not for the intention of letting it fester but more for the subtler experience of opening to a sensation even when it's painful. This requires a gentleness that is often far outside the gamut of emotional awareness during a triggering moment.
For this step in the process, Brach emphasizes exploring what she calls the "felt sense" of the experience in our physical bodies rather than shifting to a cognitive or analytic process.
Notice where in our bodies we're feeling the emotions (fear, anger, grief) that have been brought up. It could be in your clenched jaw, for example, shallower breaths, dry mouth or throat. What do you notice when you assume the facial expression and body posture that best reflect those feelings and emotions?
In dealing with a negative colleague, for example, I feel exasperation behind my eyes (which I want to roll skyward). Rather than doing that, however, the idea at this step is to keep investigating the experience and also sense that you're asking and listening for compassionate presence.
N - Nurturing
At this stage, try shifting your posture to something more awake and alert to the compassion. For me, I find myself leaning toward my colleague as I express consideration for his concerns, and we make a plan to move forward. Sometimes that means adjusting timelines and demands into something he sees as more realistic, and sometimes the knots untie themselves as we clarify expectations.
It would be nice if any of us enjoyed the leisure of time to politely remove ourselves from a trigger situation, and go off to quietly meditate in solitude. The truth is that, in our day-to-day lives, we most likely will not be able to find that leisure and the process of RAIN ends up happening in expedited form. Rather than an extended meditation period, RAIN sometimes becomes a think-on-your-feet experience that, if we're lucky, is enhanced by a slowed-down response time supplemented by a few deeply-felt breaths.
I'll take it, honestly, as an entrepreneur and as a manager. An expedited RAIN is better than no RAIN, and some mindfulness at work is better than none at all.