Natural breath in mindfulness of breathing


Ever mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out. Breathing in a long breath, he knows, "I am breathing in a long breath"; breathing out a long breath, he knows, "I am breathing out a long breath" Mahasatipathana Sutta

Long time ago, I had a conversation with a friend about meditation. It started by her:
'You said you like to meditate, how is your breath in meditation?'
'Just natural', I responded.
'Natural breath … '. I saw tension on her face. She slumped her arms slightly, held her breath for a moment and after a while said: 'Every time I try to focus on my "natural breath" I feel tense and I almost cannot breathe'.
I had to admit I had the same. Whenever someone told me: 'breathe normal', I thought about: 'Everyone pretend to be normal!' I often noticed I was breathing much deeper and faster than normally and feeling uneasy. Sometimes my sessions ended with a feeling of frustration. Still because of the benefits I experienced many times in my daily life, this didn't put me off. I adopted the technique of extending out-breath, for example by counting the length of each exhale. I was more grounded but sometimes my face was tensing.

When I focused on the position of the body: feeling my sitting bones on a hard surface, extending my spine with inhalation and relaxing with exhalation, or when I was aware of the fact I was thinking and repeating in my mind: 'thinking, thinking thinking', I felt far more relaxed.

One day, when I was in meditation a thought came to me: 'How is now my breathing? It is almost undetectable.' Gentle, almost undetectable breath, became my favourite practice. It felt blissful; my mind was calm and alert. I could finally let go of controlling it while watching it. Breath adjusted itself naturally, sometimes deepening, sometimes slowing down, or accelerating effortlessly. Subtle enthusiasm coming from being aware of this process felt pleasant and helped in keeping my focus.

Meditation is commonly associated with breath awareness and breathing deep is often seen as the most beneficial. But watching breath is not an easy task at all, particularly when we breathe to deep which causes agitation. Some meditation teachers put more focus on the body position as the main practice. I often start with walking meditation or any other physical practice.

Everyone's mind is unique, and mediation is an art where imagination and creativity are very important for it to be enjoyable.