It can be very hard to catch this but it is so: most thoughts arise from agitation beneath, and preceding, thoughts. That agitation or stirring could be called feeling.
Since most thoughts arise from agitation beneath, and preceding, thoughts, we are already in a quandary. For this thought goes off in hopes of resolving the matter at the level of thought. Essentially, this thought is a form of seeking; it seeks until it believes that it can rest with some resolution.
But, oh, no. In actuality, that from which the thought arose in the first place–what I am calling here an agitation–went unobserved. Of course, it may appear as if the matter was put to rest just because the agitation itself subsided. But it just so happens that the agitation subsided temporarily because all agitations subside temporarily. That is the very nature of anicca–or impermanence! In other words, our cognitive approaches to dissolving our dis-ease will not do, cannot do.
In time and so long as we seek at the level of thought alone, an agitation, which is a kind of contraction, shall return every time something–a perception, say, leading to a memory–reactivates it. And so dukkha, or our dis-ease, will continue on and on and on, appearing and disappearing and reappearing…
Therefore, we must, through meditations of different kinds, sharpen our powers of attention to the point at which the agitation can itself be observed. We may find the agitation as it makes its presence felt or we may notice a thought and then go back from the thought to the agitation. When we arrive at the agitation, we need to lovingly observe it, be with it, and merge with it.
What I’m describing here is rather like seeing a spring open up out of a scar and lend its energy to the river above. The trouble is that we get fascinated by the fresh spring water bubbling up–which, on this analogy, are the thoughts. Yet it would be wise for us to ask what is beneath the river. What is that from which the bubbles come? If we ask this question, then soon shall we go down and down and down into the spring as if we were scuba divers. There do we find the agitations and it is with them that we should lovingly be.