Thoughts and feelings. They are the content of our minds. They allow us to navigate through the chaos of daily existence. They allow us to plan for the future and ponder our past. They cheer us up with memories and bring us crashing down with fear and worry.
We usually consider them to be opposing concepts–almost the Yin and Yang of our mind's activity. But in truth they are the variations on the same theme. And as with the concept of Yin and Yang they are interconnected aspects of one whole.
All mental concepts are thoughts which may have more or less of an emotional content. Some thoughts have virtually no discernible emotional content– "what's for lunch ?", for example. But perhaps something on your lunch menu touches some distant memory about being with someone or having a powerful experience from your past–then emotion will accompany that thought as well.
Other contents of our mind are predominantly emotional. But even these feelings are tied to some thing, some person, some context which are thoughts.
In fact we may truly be driven more by emotions than thoughts. The poet Theodore Rothke wrote "We think by feeling, what is there to know?"
There may be times, however, when we can step out of the thought/feeling mode of being.
In mindfulness meditation we attempt to just "be" with the breath. We place our awareness there without thinking or feeling. We observe it. In that state of pure awareness our minds are at rest. In this mental state, there are no thoughts/feelings.
Of course that doesn't last very long. Without realizing it we are soon thinking/feeling about something or someone. Then we can return to the state of witnessing our breath. In that pure state we can escape the constant scanning of our mind.
It is a fascinating demonstration of the ability to rest our minds. We can learn to be "mindful" of what is happening to us. It is not easy because we evolved to be constantly aware of our environment–the external world as well as the internal content of our mind.
But by training ourselves to seek this state of awareness we can then begin to witness our thoughts and feelings without being swept away by them. This is known as nonattachment. It affords those practitioners who have developed it the ability to observe and even analyze the contents of their own minds.
This allows us to understand ourselves from a better perspective and to aquire a state of serenity which is all too rare.