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At one time or another, we will all want to learn how to use our meditation practice to work with pain. There is no literal, paint-by-numbers prescription for relating to pain; however, there are several important teachings and skillful awareness practices to consider when working with pain and unpleasant sensations.

The acronym RAIN is an easy-to-remember tool for practicing mindfulness and compassion using the following four steps:

Recognize what is happening;
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
Investigate with interest and care;
Nurture with self-compassion.
You can take your time and explore RAIN as a stand-alone meditation or move through the steps whenever challenging feelings arise.

Listening is more than a communications skill, it is a capacity that arises from receptive presence and awakens our awareness. As we learn to listen inwardly, we begin to understand and care for the life that is here. And as we listen to others, that same intimacy emerges.

One of the most powerful spiritual practices in the world is to reflect on your heart’s deepest intention. These resources look at the way that ego-based intentions perpetuate thoughts, feelings and actions that keep us imprisoned in feeling separate and limited. In contrast, remembering our deeper intentions calls us home to the freedom of our true nature.

There is an inner freedom that expresses as happiness and peace, and it is accessible when we arrive in openhearted presence. As the Buddha said, If it were not possible to find liberation, I would not teach about it.

Grieving loss consciously is at the center of the spiritual path. It is soul work — healthy, cleansing, and intelligent. The process allows us to metabolize the pain of loss and continue living. It lets us open to love. By honoring what has passed away, we are free to embrace the life that is here. Yet grief is so deeply painful, so hard to endure. A question I am often asked is: How do I find refuge in the midst? What can help me move through the pain of separation?

Gratitude is like breathing in – letting ourselves be touched by the goodness in others and in our world. Generosity is like breathing out – sensing our mutual belonging and offering our care. When we are awake and whole, breathing in and out happens naturally. But these beautiful expressions of our heart become blocked when we are dominated by the fear and grasping of our survival brain.

Forgiving means not pushing anyone, or any part of our own being, out of our heart. As we bring a full, compassionate presence to the wounds that we’ve been protecting, we release the armoring of hatred and blame that has been imprisoning our heart. We cannot will this process of forgiveness, but we can be willing. It is a challenging and courageous life practice that frees us to love without holding back.

In Buddhist teachings, compassion is described as a “quivering of the heart” in response to suffering. Compassion awakens as we allow ourselves to be touched by our shared vulnerability – our own, or that of another. It’s the medicine we most need to bring healing to our world.

Most of us, in some way, struggle with fear – instinctually tensing against it or becoming overwhelmed by it. Shifting our relationship with fear is central to the evolution of consciousness. While fear is a natural, intelligent emotion, when it goes into overdrive, we are in a trance that contracts our body, heart and mind. Our resistance to fear sustains this trance and perpetuates our suffering. As we learn to attend to fear with mindfulness and care, its grip loosens, and we reconnect with our full aliveness, wisdom and love.

Beliefs and thoughts are navigational maps that are not inherently true. Rather, some serve us and others cause feelings of separation, self-aversion and/or blame of others. We can free ourselves from harmful beliefs by investigating them with a dedicated, mindful and courageous presence.