Our emotions can be as fleeting and temporary as clouds drifting across the sky. Yet when we get caught up in them, they can feel solid and permanent, obscuring the light of awareness. Learning to let our emotions pass like clouds is a valuable skill for wellbeing.
Observe emotions without judgment
The first step in letting emotions pass is to observe them from a detached perspective, without getting wrapped up in their storyline. When we bring awareness to our emotions, we can see them clearly, just as they are.
Imagine sitting on a hilltop, watching the clouds float by. You don’t cling to a pleasant, fluffy cloud, grasping to hold it in place. Nor do you push away a dark storm cloud. You simply observe the procession of clouds, noticing their impermanence. Bring this same attitude of impartial observation to your emotions.
Name the emotion
Putting words to our emotions brings insight and helps diffuse their intensity. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now? Anger? Fear? Hurt?” Name the exact emotion rather than vague states like “bad” or “upset.” When we identify the emotion, we stop identifying with it so much. It becomes an experience we are having rather than who we are.
Investigate the causes
Looking into the reasons behind our emotions reveals that they often arise from automatic triggers like assumptions, expectations, and distorted ways of thinking. Peeling back those layers of mental stories around the emotion cuts it down to size. See if you can find the root cause of the emotion. Ask yourself, “What is really going on here? What am I interpreting this situation to mean?”
Focus on the present
Emotions often link to the past or future. Anger reruns old stories about the things people did to wrong you. Anxiety spins imaginary what-ifs about the future going horribly wrong. Notice when your emotion pulls you out of the present moment. Refocus your attention on your breath, bodily sensations, and the sights and sounds around you. The present is the only place you have the power to choose your response.
Feel it fully
Paradoxically, a key step in letting go of emotions is to move into them fully. Allow yourself to feel the emotion for a minute or two rather than resisting it. Where do you feel it in your body? Does it have a color, texture, or tempo? Naming the experience helps carry the energy through you. Trying to avoid or suppress emotions often backfires and gives them more power over us.
Breathe through it
Our breath is always available to help center and calm us when emotions surge like stormy seas. Try taking some long, full breaths into your belly. Breathe in patience, compassion, and detachment. Breathe out anger, fear, and hurt. Use visualization to imagine the breath dissolving and dispersing the emotional storm clouds. As you exhale, picture the clouds breaking apart and drifting away.
Know it will pass
Like a weather system moving across the sky, every emotion has its natural arc: birth, peak, and dissipation. Trust that your emotion is temporary, even if it feels overwhelming in the moment. Tell yourself, “This too shall pass.” Emotions come in waves that rise and fall when we stop clinging and resisting them. Surfing the waves requires leaning into flow and trusting in the passing nature of all states.
How we view a situation shapes our emotional response. Look for a more balanced perspective. Maybe what seemed like an attack was just someone’s clumsy way of asking for what they need. Does this problem really matter in the big picture? How might I learn and grow from this? Reframing puts space around emotions for greater wisdom.
Turn to self-care
When emotions run high, make time for centering self-care activities. Take a walk in nature, read an inspiring book, listen to uplifting music. Enjoy a warm cup of tea. Call a friend or write in a journal. Get grounded through mindful breathing, meditation, or yoga. Healthy distractions and rituals of self-nurturing help emotions subside naturally.
Emotions are ever-changing, ephemeral phenomena. With mindful awareness and intention, we can allow them to pass through consciousness like clouds moving across the sky. The peaceful blue sky of expansive awareness remains untouched by what floats through. Practice letting go and you’ll gain greater mastery in riding the waves of emotion.