1. Whenever I try to become aware of my breath, I always end up struggeling to let it continue naturally. After I've settled down and bring my awareness towards my breath, I seem to unintentionally control it like a robot..
If I try to just let it go and work on it's own I tend to just end up holding my breath.. I've heard a correct way to begin practice is to "Watch your breath like a parent watches a baby sleep, don't try to interfere" I feel like what I end up doing is taking an emergency breathing device and then I start using it the "sleeping baby" If I relax my attention on my breath to just let it happen naturally my mind just wanders around anyways.
Your description of overcontrol vs undercontrol/wandering mind is perfectly natural. You may be familiar with the Buddha's famous story of the stringed lute being not too tight, not too loose. The struggles you are having is just naturally part of anapanasati. Stay with it and continue to develop relaxed focus. The key is gentleness. People get so frustrated when the mind becomes distracted and wanders. What they don't realize is that to have any mindfulness at all is major progress! You are working with a mind that has been distracted from time immemorial. Every time you come back from being distracted, you train yourself in freshness of mindful presence. Also, working with the frustation/impatience you feel is wonderful practice in equanimity.
1. This ones easy, I'm just plain TERRIBLE at visualization practices. It's not that I can't manifest an image in my mind, It's that I can't keep it stable. Thats a pretty gross understatement too. My mind runs wild with uncontrollable imagery, colors, patterns and movements. Sometimes, I can keep a "stabelish" Idea on imagining my skeleton, "beginning with my left big toe", and then my skeleton is usually a slick, brackish black, brown or yellowish color" instead of a dazzling white that It's supposed to be visualized as. I've read that i'm supposed to repent, if this is the case. I can honestly say I haven't commited any serious crimes in my life, and I'd like to think I'm a good person in general. I'm not a saint by any means either though... I Imagine it's past Karma that makes this process so frustrating. The saying about trying to bake a cake using sand comes to mind.
I don't have much to say about this particular practice since I haven't done it myself. But generally, maintaining focus can't be forced. Think of it like exercising a muscle. You can work on strength and/or endurance. The same principle works with the mind. You can work on vividness and detail and/or you can work on sustained imagery. Start with where you are, and work with your mind patiently. Something I've noticed over the years is that I have no problems sustaining visualization if the image is of something I care deeply about. It may be that the skeleton practice is not the best one to start with for you. I don't know anything about your path or practice lineage, but I would suggest visualizing something you can put some emotional/devotional energy into. Perhaps the Buddha, a guru, a deity, a sacred symbol. Something that you have a positive connection with.