Mindfulness In The Rain
Updated: Sep 12, 2021
If you know me, then you know I can blather on about mindfulness an awful lot, in a way that is at least marginally useful, if not definitely useful. There is one little message that I repeat often, because it seems like we all need to be reminded of it, myself included: mindfulness isn't interchangeable with meditation.
Meditation is one (awesome) way to practice mindfulness. The big picture benefits of meditation is that we can be more mindful, moment to moment, in our day to day lives. Because… that’s what mindfulness is: paying attention, in an intentional way, to what is happening right now. That’s it. Simple but not easy.
And of course we do that during meditation, but that’s often not when we need it the most. When you expand your thinking of what mindfulness is, and start to see all the ample opportunities to practice daily, magical things start happening.
The other day was a beautiful, warm spring day, so I decided to go for a run of course. I was excited, because spring is my favourite running time, after fall, and together those two seasons equal about 6-8 weeks of the year where I live, the consequence of this fact being a two very intense short periods of “OMG I have to go run right now before it gets too hot / cold / humid / icy!” But since I’m me, I’m also in a perpetual state of “I’ll go run / swim / to the gym right after I do all these things on my to do list”.
That procrastination resulted in me getting outside precisely when a thunderstorm was starting to roll in. There is so much that can be said about a thunderstorm in April (such as: climate change is real), but I’ll just say this: It was unexpected.
My intuition said “You’ll definitely get caught in the rain if you go”. My stubbornness says “You want to run, so run already!”and colluded with my inner planner who added “Schedule says it’s time to run!”. The part of me that hates getting caught in the rain was just a mess of sentence fragments like “Wet socks!”, “Chafing!” and “Unpleasantness!”. All solid arguments, to be sure.
There was even a tiny, very quiet voice that was like “Maybe you’ll like running in the rain, other people seem to like it”, which was roundly shushed by all the other voices in my head, along with the suggestion that those people don’t really exist. (They do. I checked). Then my little mindfulness voice was like “It’s not raining now”.
And that word now really grabbed me. Here I was standing outside like a dumb ass, wasting my present moment thinking about potential (= likely) future rain. As I started my run I realized that my aversion to rain, which was based on my actual past experiences of unpleasantness, also betrayed a total lack of mindfulness. What if I could just be in the rain, instead of thinking about what could happen because of it? What if those things didn’t happen or what if they did, but I just let them happen without a big build up of worry beforehand? Would it change my experience?
I knew I would soon get a chance to answer these questions, because after I enjoyed all the pleasantly breezy first kilometre, I changed directions and found myself running uphill, into the wind, while many thousands of sand particles blew directly into my face. “I wonder if this is what a sandstorm is like?” I asked myself. I soon realized that 1. It was almost definitely not, 2. I hope I am never in a sandstorm, 3. Rain seemed like a pretty good option in this particular moment and 4. Oops! I lost my mindfulness again!
I mashed myself back into mindful modeI, tucked my head down and ran into that wind and sand. I just took it all in (though I admit I was actively trying not to literally take sand into my eyes and nostrils and I feel that was a good choice). And guess what? It changed, just like everything changes. I turned another corner right into some very horizontal rain, which was initially a relief. The slow, heavy, fat raindrops, and relief, quickly switched to full on downpour, and partial rain blindness. I kept running, and noticed that this particular moment was refreshing, completely free of sand, and, somewhat surprisingly, I was too wet to really care.
When I started my final kilometre, I was in the thick of the downpour, and since I am afraid of lightning (and quite frankly highly suspicious of anyone who isn’t at least a little concerned with electricity randomly shooting out of the sky and the related consequences), I did my best to say in the moment and not worry if I would be struck down by lightning, or think about all the good advice about staying inside during thunderstorms that I was presently ignoring.
Instead, I mindfully took in the scene around me, which was a much lovelier way to spend these soggy moments. I saw people running down the street, ducking under cover, and really dedicating themselves to their feeble attempts to stay dry. Those attempts were so ineffective that I also noticed a lot of giggling, which was awfully cute. Accepting my reality not only freed me from giving any craps about getting any more wet, but allowed me to observe all that interesting human behaviour.
At the exact moment that I stopped running and started walking (because it was time not because I gave up on running! Just saying!), I wondered whether I really did hate getting caught in the rain, or if I just disliked my past experiences. At that moment, I felt super refreshed, I didn’t care at all how disheveled I was (which was “very”, for your reference), and I felt warm and comfortable, which was a huge surprise to me (no chafing??). Had I focused on all the ways that being soaked was going to suck, then that’s what I would have been thinking at that moment. (Postscript: After, I let my hair air dry after it looked fantastic which was a lovely bonus).
This whole experience was a great reminder to me that mindfulness is anything for allowing us to be present in the moments that comprise our lives. Sometimes that’s as simple as choosing it. Being in that space makes it so much easier to experience life with an open mind and let go of prejudgments that close us off in so many ways. If you ever find yourself thinking about starting up a meditation practice or go take a mindfulness course, those are great ideas to explore. But what’s more accessible is choosing to pay attention, in an intentional way, to what is happening right now. That’s it. Simple, and perhaps a bit easier than you might think.