Thoughts are a product of the way the mind interacts with our environment to create a story.
Stressful thoughts originate in the amygdala, part of the limbic system. Thoughts are also called “stories” in the Buddhist teaching of the Five Skandhas (Five Conditions) that explains how our brain relates to the chain reaction of a stimulus.
The chains contain sense perception; reaction; interpretation and story. The story is when the mind creates meaning around a stimulus and an experience. A thought is the simplest level of conceptualization.
We can most definitely control our thoughts by using mindful meditation skills based on present moment awareness.
Firstly, I do not use the word “control” in my teaching and practice. I prefer using the concept of “allowing”, “acknowledging,” “investigating.”
Certainly, a thought gone wild (the “story”) may end up causing hurt, pain, misunderstanding, even violence. However, a thought by itself doesn’t need to be controlled; rather, we can be gentle and allow thought to come and go with equanimity.
Basically, when a person meditates using open awareness, which is a type of meditation practice wherein all thoughts and awarenesses are welcome and acknowledged, they are allowing whatever comes to mind at that moment.
During an open awareness practice, thoughts come and go and we choose whether to allow them to pervade our consciousness or we can do a variety of things to acknowledge them and let them go.
For example, “noting” or “labelling” is a powerful way to acknowledge our thoughts and let them go.
When a thought comes to mind, we recognize it, accept it, investigate where we feel it in the body and maybe even what is about.
Then, we label it as “past”, “future”, “pleasant”, “unpleasant”, and we send it on its way into a file in our mind with that label.
With practice, this kind of mindful meditation will allow us to be focused on the present moment, and not controlled by thoughts. We won’t ruminate about them, or let them take over our consciousness.