I have a confession to make, in all the years I've been meditating I find it's very hard for me to not control the breath and just observe it. I have to admit that I'm a control freak by nature, an introvert and analyst and have a very hard time letting go, of anything.
Today in meditation I had some interesting experiences, I usually lay down to meditate because I have a bad back and knees. However I don't when I'm housesitting at my folks when they're out of the country for about 35% of the year, because they have a giant couch which makes a great backrest. Because I'm nearly sure I fell asleep again this morning while meditating I wanted to sit up this evening in meditation, my sore shoulder is hurting so much I'm using a belt to support it so maybe laying down was better but I decided to be adventurous and sit up, with a pillow against my wall on my bed sitting on 3 pillows, with the thick blanket to support my knees so I was as comfortable as possible.
Before I moved into this position I first sat down on the edge of the bed and relaxed every muscle group consciously, then I stood up and did the Qabalistic Cross ritual found in the Tower of Alchemy book by David Goddard I have posted excerpts from recently. I had to improvise a little as I'm not able to raise my right arm above my head but I liked it as an opener very much.
I went into my position and performed ten minutes of a pranayama alternate nostril breathing exercise which I find is great for altering consciousness. This goes as follows, I place my index finger of my left hand on my third eye, and use my thumb to block out the left nostril. I breathe in for 4 counts, while I retain the breath for 2 counts I switch my thumb gently to the other nostril. I then exhale for 4 counts, pause, and inhale for 4 counts. Then again while retaining for 2 counts I switch my thumb gently to the other nostril and exhale for 4 counts, pause, and inhale for 4 counts, etc. You can replace the counting with a mantra if you want.
My custom made mp3 with some nature sounds rings a bell after ten minutes (I can't remember the program's name I made it with but I'm sure one is able to find one like this easily, or can easily add a ding to any mp3 after ten minutes), and then I proceeded to meditate. I was going to meditate with the mantra "I am", however having just watched some anime I had a great idea.
Meditating with "Imasu"
Imasu in Japanese means "to exist" or "to be" (for animate things, for inanimate things, it's arimasu.) Now in japanese a verb ending in masu is the polite form, and it's used for the present as well as for the future. So not only does it mean I am, it also means I will be. But it doesn't end there. In japanese a verb is not conjugated differently for a different pronoun, and the pronoun or the person(s) who does the action is mostly omitted and is deducted from the context. So when I say Imasu, I could be saying I am, you are, he/she is, we are, you are (plurar), they are. How spiritual! I found it was absolutely perfect as a mantra so I used it and it went great. Imasu is pronounced with a silent u, however you can hint at releasing the -u, personally I recited it as Imasu, Imas cause it made for a good rhythm.
Letting go of controlling the breath.
I also read in Goddard's book that if you simply expand the tummy or retract it, the air will sort of naturally flow in or out. So in another attempt to not control the breath I expanded my tummy for two Imasu's, pause and then retracted the tummy gently for two Imasu's and found the air went gently by itself. It's still not a complete letting go but I was not consciously inhaling and exhaling which felt very liberating.
This article has some other tips I just googled after this experience and I would love to hear other tips or links if you have them. Their tips are: focusing on the breath in the nostrils, this doesn't work well for me as my big nose is kind of numb, I don't have much sense of smell either btw. Another tip is to sense yourself floating on water and sense yourself going up and down with the breath so the mechanism for the breath is outside yourself. I don't know if these would work for me but I will give them a go tomorrow and if they don't work will just switch back to retracting and expanding the tummy. (update: as suspected the nostril thing didn't work, the floating does a little but I just stick to the tummy technique.)
After twenty minutes I hear the mp3 ending (it just goes silent), I rest a bit, then I come out of the position and stretch, and I did the closing Qabalistic cross exercise by Goddard.
I feel tons better then after meditating laying down and vow to not meditate laying down again as I'm not always sure if I went into samadhi or light sleep. When sitting up I can be sure as it's very hard for me to fall asleep anywhere else but laying down very relaxed. I hope sharing this may help some other meditators!