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Question about not controlling the breath

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Hello all,

I have been going back to basics lately, trying to get a solid foundation for my practice. 

When focusing on the breath I experience the breath as a bit forced. I'm basically controlling it when zooming in on it. So my question is if there are any tips of just letting the breath come and go naturally without trying to control it?

Thanks 
Stefan
 

RE: Question about not controlling the breath
Answer
6/22/16 4:21 AM as a reply to stefan.
What helped me through this problem was a technique I was taught by a Rinzai zen teacher:

Focus only on the exhale, and breath through your abdomen (diaphragmatic breathing).  Control only the exhale, on the inhale, completely release, both physically and mentally.  Also, mentally count the exhales, throughout the entire breath (i.e. "onnnneeee, twooooo").  If you lose track, restart the count.

I know its not what you were asking (which was how to let go of the breath), but the only way I was able to get past the control/release dichotomy was to control only a part of it.  Best of luck.

RE: Question about not controlling the breath
Answer
6/22/16 5:52 AM as a reply to Noah.
This was my first lesson in letting go. As Noah said, if you focus on a part of the body that is not the actual inhale/exhale cycle you might have better luck. I used to use two things - my upper lip and my nose. There you can feel and observe the breath but not in a way that might entice you into a controlling mode.

Good luck!

RE: Question about not controlling the breath
Answer
6/22/16 6:21 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Thanks a lot Chris and Noah for your tips!

I will definitely apply your suggestions in my practice. 

Best regards
Stefan 

RE: Question about not controlling the breath
Answer
6/22/16 4:23 PM as a reply to stefan.
stefan:
When focusing on the breath I experience the breath as a bit forced. I'm basically controlling it when zooming in on it. So my question is if there are any tips of just letting the breath come and go naturally without trying to control it?

 

Hello Stefan

If the mind is free from distracting thoughts & hindrances, there is no need to 'zoom in' on the breath. Just sit with a quiet silent natural mind. Eventually, the breath will come into the awareness of the silent mind by itself. 

Best regards 

RE: Question about not controlling the breath
Answer
6/23/16 6:00 AM as a reply to stefan.
re: stefan (6/22/16 1:26 AM)

"So my question is if there are any tips of just letting the breath come and go naturally without trying to control it?"

There are a couple of different circumstances where different purpose and technique can come into play:

1) as Than-Geoff teaches, at first it may be helpful, in "getting the body into position to meditate", to simply try to make the breath as comfortable as possible, then spreading that comfort throughout the body. Perhaps experimenting -- shorter/longer, deeper/shallower, etc. – to see what works (i.e. using some gentil experimental "control"). Bodily comfort (with enough mindfulness to avoid falling asleep) helps free the mind from distraction; s/t subtle pre-occupation with discomfort can undermine concentration.

2) Then one can focus on this or that object (breath at the belly, at the nostrils, kasina, brahmavihara, etc.), with just enough pressure to simply hold attention there, rather than grit-the-teeth striving. I've found it takes a subtle interplay of holding attention (vitakka) and letting-go (letting mental "activity" go still), s/t back and forth, evaluating (vicara) to avoid extremes and find what works.

3) When it starts to click, the object (e.g. breath) involves less awareness of the motions, more a smooth, steady continuum, to the point where it matters less what the object is, but the mind knows only a deepening tranquil stillness. At first "access concentration" (free of distraction/hindrances); as gateway then to either absorption (jhana) or momentary (vipassana khanika) concentration (samadhi) – depending on how one finds it best to practice. Also one can move back and forth between the two modes – stilling/freshing and intently observing.

Variations on this basic process I've found taught in both Thai and Burmese traditions of Theravada.

RE: Question about not controlling the breath
Answer
7/12/16 3:44 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Thanks all for your input - really appreciate it!

Best regards
Stefan 

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