A person with grey hair wearing yoga clothes stretches next to a pond after completing a mindfulness meditation exercise.

What Is the Be the Pond Meditation?

August 28, 2023

6 min.

Mindful meditation can improve your mental health and well-being. Read on to learn about the “Be the Pond” meditation to get started with mindful meditation.

By: Ashley Laderer

Clinically Reviewed By: Dr. Don Gasparini

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In today’s world, it’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of everyday life. With constant stressors from school or work, relationships, and social media, it’s normal to get swept up by a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that leave you feeling overwhelmed and maybe even disconnected from yourself. 

One way to combat this is to practice mindfulness. When you cultivate a mindfulness practice, you can drop into the here and now, be present in the moment, and connect to your feelings. Meditation is a popular form of mindfulness. One specific meditation that’s great for kids, teens, and adults alike is the “Be the Pond” meditation or mindfulness exercise. 

Here’s what you need to know about the Be the Pond meditation and how it can benefit you.

What is the Be the Pond mindfulness exercise?

Like any other mindfulness technique, Be the Pond aims to help you learn to be present in the moment, noticing all feelings, thoughts, and sensations. Mindfulness isn’t just about noticing all of this; it’s about noticing it in a non-judgemental, non-attached way. The goal of this mindfulness practice is to refrain from labeling thoughts or feelings as “good,” “bad,” “right,” or “wrong” –– just notice them as they come and go. 

There are countless types of mindfulness meditations, and it may take some trial and error to figure out what works for you. One technique you can try is Be the Pond, which utilizes mental imagery of –– you guessed it –– a pond. 

The Be the Pond meditation is a meditation that encourages the embodiment of calmness and serenity. It’s a way to cultivate mindfulness, inner stillness, and non-reactivity,” says licensed mental health counselor Hui Ting Kok. “The imagery of a pond can help you visualize and experience a sense of tranquility even in the midst of life’s challenges.”

How to practice the “Be the Pond” mindfulness meditation

If you’re ready to try this mindfulness meditation, Kok recommends following these steps:

  1. Get in a comfortable position, either seated or lying down.
  2. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths.
  3. Start to imagine yourself as a big pond.
  4. Imagine that there are many different types of fish swimming in this pond. These fish symbolize all of your feelings swimming around inside of you. You can be as specific as you’d like—maybe imagine a koi pond, a pond filled with trout, or a pond with fish and other pond plants like algae. 
  5. Notice what kinds of different fish are swimming around your pond. There may be happy fish, angry fish, sad fish, worried fish, calm fish, and more. 
  6. Simply notice and watch all the different fish swimming through the pond water. “All the fish are okay. Every feeling is welcome. Let the fish be the fish, and you be the pond,” Kok says.
  7. Remember to maintain a non-attached and non-judgemental attitude while watching the different fish. “You might notice that sometimes it’s hard to let the fish swim by, that you might hold on to a feeling and become that fish,” Kok says. “When you notice that, gently remind yourself that you are the pond.” 
  8. Remain in this place of stillness, noticing the fish (and thus, feelings) swim by. 
  9. When you are ready to finish the mindfulness meditation, open your eyes to return to the present moment. 

If the thought of fish isn’t quite cutting it for you, you can try an alternate version of the “Be the Pond” meditation. Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Benson Munyan says you can imagine yourself as the pond and think about ripples in the pond water instead of fish. 

“In this exercise, we imagine ourselves as the pond and our thoughts and emotions as the ripples. The goal is to observe these ripples without getting carried away by them,” Dr. Munyan says. “We let them come and go, just like the ripples on the pond, while remaining calm and centered.”

The general process is the same as the fish version –– starting out by getting comfortable, closing your eyes, bringing awareness to your breath, and engaging in mindful breathing. Then, when any thought or emotion pops up, see them as ripples on the pond’s surface. “Observe them without getting attached to or judging them,” Dr. Munyan says.

This practice is easier said than done for many people, especially those who have not meditated before. It’s called a mindfulness practice for a reason –– it takes consistent work to truly cultivate the skill. The more you practice, the better you will get at noticing thoughts (or fish or ripples) passing by with the ability to just let them go without getting attached to them, judging them, or assigning meaning to them.

You can think of mindfulness as a muscle you have to work out to see results. “It’s like training our minds to be calm and focused, which is often in opposition to how we usually use our brains –– multitasking,” says Dr. Munyan. 

So if you find yourself struggling to stay focused the first time you practice this mindfulness meditation, don’t get discouraged. Remember that it’s a practice, and stick with it. 

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The benefits of mindfulness for mental health 

There are many benefits of practicing mindfulness for mental health. In fact, research shows that practicing mindfulness can positively affect your mental health (and, in turn, your life) in many ways. If you aren’t already sold on a meditation practice, here are a few proven benefits of mindfulness for mental health that may encourage you to get mindful.

Reduces stress

A mindfulness practice can help you not only become more aware of stress and less likely to get carried away by it, but it may also create biological changes, too. Kok says that researchers have found that meditation can lower cortisol levels –– a hormone linked to stress. When you lower cortisol levels, you can minimize feelings of anxiety and promote calmness, she says. This can be especially helpful for people in stressful situations or those with anxiety disorders

Improves emotional regulation

If you find yourself being very emotionally reactive, mindfulness can help improve emotional regulation. Meditation can help you gain control over your reactions to emotions, Kok says. With regular practice, you will be able to take a step back and choose how you respond to your emotions rather than just immediately reacting to them.

Two turtles climb on a rock in a pond. In the background a person wearing black clothing sits cross legged and practices a mindfulness meditation exercise for stress reduction.

Improves focus

“By training our minds to stay present, mindfulness enhances our ability to concentrate and stay focused on a task,” Dr. Munyan says. This can benefit all aspects of life, including performance at work or school. 

Boosts self-awareness

Mindfulness helps you get in touch with how you’re really feeling rather than brushing it all under the rug. Dr. Munyan says, “Having a mindfulness practice helps us become more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, leading to a better understanding of ourselves.” This is helpful in day-to-day life as one navigates their mental health journey. 

Mindfulness and mental healthcare at Charlie Health

If you or someone you know is a teen or young adult struggling with their mental health, Charlie Health is here to help. Our virtual intensive outpatient program (IOP) provides personalized services for teens, young adults, and families coping with a wide range of mental health concerns. Charlie Health providers use many treatment modalities in both individual and group settings, including mindfulness training, yoga, and meditation

Whether you’re exploring treatment options for the first time or seeking extra support, Charlie Health provides individualized, evidence-based mental health care in a safe, supportive space. Complete this short form to learn more today.

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