Be the Water in the Sea of Emotions

Published on May 30, 2024

Emotions are Visitors


In the intricate tapestry of human experience, emotions play a profound role. Some, like love and joy, are welcomed with open, clingy arms, while others, such as fear and shame, are often met with resistance. However, it's crucial  to recognize that emotions, both pleasant and challenging, are mere visitors in the grand scheme of our lives. They come and go, weaving through the fabric of our existence.


Working skillfully with emotions involves a shift in attitude - an acceptance of their impermanent nature. Resistance only prolongs the visit, and in the process of embracing difficult emotions, we unearth profound insights about ourselves. As the Buddha noted, “Nothing really goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”


Acceptance and observation are key. Accept the presence of emotions without resistance, and observe them with mindful attention. In doing so, we unravel the stories we tell ourselves, recognizing that these stories only add fuel to the emotional fire and our suffering.


In the Sea of Emotions, Be the Water


For many of us, we first need to get familiar with feelings. Personally, I did not learn much about feelings at school. I grew up being taught that reason and logic are superior, and feelings are a sign of weakness. So, my journey started with three basic “feelings” of positive, neutral, and negative, and I started growing my feelings vocabulary from there. 


I invite you to try a visualization to help assimilate. Imagine yourself as a vast body of water, could be a lake or sea. Feel the water expanding and stretching through your extremities. 


From now on, think of yourself as the water. 


Within this water, there are fish of different sizes and colors. There might be many fish or few. The fish represent your emotions. Maybe a yellow fish reminds you of love. A red fish of anger. A blue dolphin of excitement. A turtle of calmness. Maybe some are bigger than others. Take a moment and notice what fish are present. Remember, let them all swim by, for you are the water!



Practicing awareness of our emotions is akin to identifying the fish in our emotional sea. What fish are swimming in your water now? Knowing what we feel is essential for releasing these emotions. The Buddha said: “Every hindrance is a case of unwise attention”. When faced with strong emotions, the mind tends to create elaborate stories and we shine the spotlight of our attention on these stories. The invitation is to bring the attention back to the feeling. The first step is to name the feeling. I am feeling angry, sad, happy, excited?

The second step is to remember that you are the water and let the fish swim by.





A fun practice is to draw a body of water, artist's choice, and keep the drawing somewhere close, maybe on the fridge or at your office. Mine was in my journal. Try to pick up the drawing several times a day, adding the type of fish (emotion) that is present in your day. With time, you can just identify with a fish if it's already drawn, or scribble a new one. Aim to do this exercise a few times a day for a week.


For each fish you draw, try noticing three things about the emotion it represents:

  1. How it feels in the body (the echo or sensation)
  2. The flavor in the mind (the mood)
  3. Underlying belief/story (mention it briefly with more focus on the essence rather than the details. For example, I am right/they are wrong)


No worries if not all three are easy to identify from the start. Maybe the stories are easiest to notice for some, for others the sensation. People are different. The starting point is knowing where we are. Remember, this is a catch-and-release practice!


In conclusion, navigating the waves of emotions involves embracing them as transient visitors, exploring the sea of emotions within, recognizing their physical manifestations, and engaging in a compassionate catch-and-release practice. By doing so, we embark on a transformative journey toward a more harmonious relationship with our inner world.


Category(s):Adjusting to Change / Life Transitions, Depression, Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness, Self-Care / Self Compassion

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