I recently read a book that is on the recommended reading list of the StreamEntry sub-reddit: Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s With Each and Every Breath. I thought it had some good things to say about meditation and is a good guide.
There are a lot of references to “breath energy” and many calls to “follow the energy”. That sounds a bit like woo to me.
It has a lot of good tips on dealing with problems you can encounter in meditation.
One tip that helped me is that when your mind wanders, just ask yourself if continuing to think about something other than your breath is helpful. The word he uses is “skillful”. I have used this tip to deal with other problems. A couple of issues that I have had are trying to control the breath (which sometimes leads to me being out of breath or getting dizzy), and falling asleep. I tell myself to “focus on observing the natural, awakening breath.” Over the past couple of months, it has helped quite a bit.
A few other tips to deal with drowsiness are: to change the meditation object (such as going to a mantra, or focusing on death), to change the length of the breath, to change the posture, to open your eyes for a few seconds, even to stand up. He also recommends walking meditation, but I do not like walking meditation.
When you have a comfortable focus on the breath, he recommends expanding awareness to different parts of the body. To me this sounds like body scan.
I have also found a way to deal with itches. I just tell myself that I can inhale and exhale one time without scratching. I do this two or three times. Sometimes, the itch goes away. If not, I just scratch the itch. Sometimes I don’t really have to scratch; I just put a finger on the spot that itches and that takes care of it. I know some people say you should not scratch an itch since it will make things worse, but this works for me.
Another thing that I do is I usually “warm up” with a few minutes of deep breathing/qigong exercises. This helps me settle a bit faster, and makes me less likely to try to control my breath.
Big Jim is focusing on the breath to improve his life.
“Pilgrim’s Visiting Album” from 18th century Japan; image from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, assumed allowed under Fair Use.