In the vast ocean of human experience, emotions are like the wind that fills the sails of our lives. Just as wind propels a sailboat forward, emotions propel us through our daily encounters and interactions. At the heart of our emotional responses lies a small but powerful structure in the brain known as the amygdala. The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure located right next to the hippocampus. The main function of the amygdala is in emotional responses, including feelings of happiness, fear, anger, and anxiety.

Often associated with the fight-or-flight response, the amygdala can be likened to the sail of a boat, while emotions are the winds that dictate its course. When a person feels stressed or afraid, the amygdala releases stress hormones that prepare the body to fight the threat or flee from the danger.  However, it’s important to recognize that neither wind nor emotions are inherently good or bad. Just as a sail is merely a tool for the skilled navigator, the amygdala is also just a tool in the hands of an expert at managing emotions and sailing through life’s challenges.  Without a skilled navigator, however, both the sail and the amygdala can lead to a phenomenon known as “amygdala hijack.”

The Sail and the Amygdala

Consider a sailboat on the open sea. Its sail, meticulously designed and expertly adjusted, harnesses the power of the wind to propel the vessel forward. Similarly, the amygdala serves as a vital tool within our brain, responding to emotional cues and triggering the appropriate responses to protect us from potential threats. It acts as our brain’s early warning system, alerting us to danger and activating the fight-or-flight response when necessary. Just as a sail catches the wind, the amygdala catches the currents of our emotions, ready to guide our actions. However, when a skilled navigator is absent, both the sail and the amygdala can be overwhelmed by intense and uncontrolled forces.

Amygdala Hijack and Uncontrolled Winds: 

In the absence of a skilled navigator, a sailboat can fall victim to the whims of unpredictable winds. Similarly, when the amygdala is not managed effectively, it can lead to what is known as “amygdala hijack.” Amygdala hijack occurs when intense emotions, such as fear or anger, take over our rational thinking, overriding our ability to make clear and balanced decisions. In this state, our actions become reactive rather than deliberate, and we may find ourselves caught in a cycle of impulsive behavior. Just as a sailboat without a skilled navigator is at the mercy of the wind, our actions under the influence of amygdala hijack are driven by uncontrolled emotions, often leading to regrettable outcomes.

The concept of amygdala hijack and its implications in emotional regulation were introduced by renowned psychologist and science journalist Dr. Daniel Goleman. In his groundbreaking book, “Emotional Intelligence,” Dr. Goleman highlighted the crucial role of emotional intelligence in managing our responses to emotional stimuli. He described how the amygdala, as the emotional center of the brain, can override the prefrontal cortex—the region responsible for rational thinking—during moments of intense emotions, leading to irrational and impulsive behavior.

The Role of the Prefrontal Cortex: Restoring Balance

When the winds of emotion blow, the amygdala captures their intensity and influence, triggering a cascade of physiological and cognitive responses. It sets off a rapid chain reaction, releasing hormones that prepare us for fight or flight, heightening our senses, and sharpening our focus. In moments of danger or high-stress situations, this response can be crucial for our survival.

Fortunately, we have an ally in our journey through the seas of emotion—the prefrontal cortex. Situated just behind our forehead, this region of the brain is responsible for higher-order cognitive functions, including decision-making, problem-solving, and self-regulation. It acts as the captain, the one who can regain control of the sail and steer the boat back on course.

The prefrontal cortex plays a crucial role in managing amygdala hijack. It acts as a counterbalance, helping us regulate our emotions and restore rationality in the face of intense emotional arousal. By engaging the prefrontal cortex through mindfulness, self-awareness, and cognitive reappraisal techniques, we can regain control over our emotional responses.

The Ancient Wisdom of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita

In the timeless wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 67, a profound analogy is presented: “Just as a strong wind sweeps a boat off its chartered course on the water, even one of the senses on which the mind focuses can lead the intellect astray.” This verse beautifully captures the essence of amygdala hijack, illustrating how external stimuli, much like the forceful winds, have the power to divert our attention and sway our emotions. It highlights the susceptibility of our senses and the mind’s tendency to lose its intended direction when captivated by the allure of sensory experiences.

This verse serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of cultivating self-awareness and practicing mindfulness to prevent the winds of external influences from hijacking our amygdala and steering us off course. By recognizing the profound wisdom encapsulated in this verse, we gain valuable insights into the dynamics of our emotions and the need for conscious navigation of our internal seas.

Navigating the Seas of Emotion: 

The Skilled Navigator Just as a skilled sailor maneuvers their sail to navigate the ever-changing winds, we too can become masters of our emotional seas. The key lies in developing emotional intelligence—an understanding and awareness of our own emotions and their impact on our thoughts, behaviors, and relationships.

By cultivating emotional intelligence through the practice of mindfulness, intermittent silence  and meditation, we become skilled navigators, adept at steering our ship through calm waters and stormy seas alike. We learn to recognize the winds of emotion, acknowledging their presence without being at their mercy. We understand that emotions are not inherently good or bad—they are simply part of the human experience.

Finding Harmony in the Seas of Emotion: 

Just as a skilled navigator maintains a delicate balance between the sail and the wind, we too can find equilibrium amidst the fluctuations of our emotions. By honing our self-awareness and practicing emotional regulation techniques, we can develop the skills necessary to navigate the seas of emotion with grace and resilience. Through techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and cognitive reframing, we can calm the amygdala’s response, allowing the prefrontal cortex—the region responsible for rational thinking—to regain control.

While Dr. Daniel Goleman’s research sheds light on the scientific understanding of amygdala hijack and emotional intelligence, the wisdom found in ancient texts like the Bhagavad Gita adds another layer of insight. Lord Krishna’s teachings highlight the significance of self-mastery and the ability to control the mind, drawing parallels to the management of emotions and the amygdala. By acknowledging our emotions as valuable indicators of our inner experiences, we can learn to navigate them skillfully, just as a seasoned sailor uses the wind to propel their boat forward.

In conclusion, the amygdala, like a sail, is a tool in the hands of an expert navigator. Both the sail and the amygdala can either be instruments of smooth navigation or susceptible to hijack when left uncontrolled. Emotions, akin to the winds, are not inherently good or bad; it is our ability to manage them that determines the course of our lives. By cultivating emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and mindfulness, we can become the skilled navigators of our own emotional landscapes.

Just as a skilled sailor harnesses the wind’s power to sail in perfect harmony, we too can cultivate the wisdom and skills to manage our amygdala and emotions with balance and poise. Through practice, patience, and self-reflection, we can navigate the seas of emotion with grace, allowing our emotions to guide us while maintaining the helm of rationality. As we embark on this journey of self-discovery, let us embrace the power of emotions, understanding that, like the wind and sail, they are an integral part of our human experience. By becoming masters of our emotional seas, we can navigate the vast ocean of life with resilience, purpose, and fulfillment.


  • Krishna Bhatta


    Relax LLC

    Krishna Bhatta, MD, FRCS is an author, surgeon and an inventor, currently working as chief of urology at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine.  Dr. Bhatta began his life in a small Indian village, attended Patna Medical College in India, continued his education in the UK, and then completed his research & medical training at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School.

    Dr. Bhatta is equal parts practical and spiritual. Born in a small village in India to a father, PhD from London School of Economics, who knew the 700-verse Gita by heart, he developed an early fascination with spiritual studies. His lectures, writings, podcasts, songs, and video talks on Gita, Krishna, and other spiritual topics are based on his personal journey and experiences, as well as a lifetime of exploring spiritual texts, giving him a unique understanding and perspective.

    He is founder CEO of a wellness and meditation app - Relax Infinity (formerly Relaxx) which strives to be the wellness destination of the world. It connects Patanjali's science of consciousness with Einstein's art of swimming in silence.  Wellness is an infinite journey and a life long pursuit.