The first question:
It feels that to be a witness is also a kind of thought. So what is the difference between the witness and a thought of the witness?
Witnessing is not a thought but you can start thinking about witnessing, you can make it a thought. The moment you make it a thought, it is no longer witnessing. Either it is witnessing or it is a thought, it cannot be both together.
When you are witnessing you are not thinking that you are witnessing. If you are thinking that you are witnessing, this is not witnessing at all, it is another kind of thought. If the witnessing is simple, there is no thought of witnessing at all. If the thoughts are just passing in front of your vision and you are witnessing them, and no idea arises in you that “I am witnessing,” then it is pure witnessing. It is not a thought at all, it is a state of no-thought, no-mind. You are simply reflecting whatsoever is passing by.
The moment you say, “Aha! This is witnessing. So I am witnessing. This is what meditation is. This is awareness,” you have missed the point. You have fallen back into the mud of the mind. You are no longer a witness. You have become identified. Witnessing cannot be reduced to a thought.
But your problem is significant. It is encountered by almost every meditator. We have become so habituated to witnessing in a wrong way. We think that we witness. We judge, we evaluate, but we think that we witness. We think that we witness, and it is not witnessing. We are associated with a wrong kind of witnessing, and that idea lingers for a long time.
Secondly: we have become so conditioned to immediately reducing every experience into a thought. We never allow any experience to remain just a pure experience, even for a few moments.
You come across a beautiful roseflower in the garden. The moment you see it, almost instantly you say inside, “How beautiful!” You can’t let that beauty sink in. The thought of beauty becomes a barrier. The moment you say, “How beautiful!” you have already started comparing it with other roses that you have seen in the past. You have started comparing with all that you have heard about roses. You are no longer seeing this rose. You are missing its suchness. You have gone into the past. You are searching in your memory: how many roses you have seen before, “and this is the best one.” But this rose is no longer there in your awareness. Your awareness has become very clouded. So much smoke has come from the past, so much dust has arisen; your mirror is no longer reflecting the beauty. You are not now-here.