The American way to start any new healthy habit is to scour the internet for the best gear. When it comes to meditation, this isn’t really necessary. As I have explained before, you can meditate in any position that makes you feel safe, supported, and comfortable.
This means you can meditate sitting, standing, lying down, or even walking. You can use a comfy chair, your bed, the floor, some nice cushions you have around the house, including some you use for restorative yoga, a porch swing or rocking chair, a parked car, or my personal favorite, the bath tub.
Though I have meditated in a variety of settings, it has been supportive to my practice to designate a particular spot as the one I use for regular practice. My spot is a little corner in my bedroom tucked away behind a large wardrobe. In it, I have my meditation cushion, a light blanket, and access to an outlet so that I can use my phone for guiding or sounds when I need it.
If you look on Pinterest, however, you can quickly overwhelm yourself with images of decked out meditation spots chock full of Mandalas, smiling Buddhas, incense, and LED lights. To the extent that this makes your practice more pleasant and you enjoy decorating, go for it. But a meditation space that would make an influencer blush is not really necessary, especially if nobody will see it but you.
Assuming you are into utility like me, what you really want from a meditation spot is something that offers support, creates comfort, and engenders focus. In general, then, you’ll want a large, flat layer to provide warmth and cushion for your ankles and knees in the sitting position. Then you will want something on top to lift the hips and support the natural curve of your back. This is to ensure that you have a clear airway to make breathing as easy and restful as possible.
This is the point of the meditation cushion, which commonly includes the zafu and zabuton. The zabuton is the large flat cushion, typically filled with a cotton-like substance and the zafu is a smaller pillow (often round or crescent-shaped) that is usually filled with seeds, beans, or buckwheat hulls. If you feel more comfortable in a kneeling position, you can get a similar result from using a meditation bench with a mat or blanket under your legs and knees.
These days, it is easy to find meditation cushions and benches online in a variety of colors, materials, and shapes. If, like me, you hate scouring the internet for products, I bought my zafu and zabuton from Still Sitting about 10 years ago and I can report that their name is accurate: I’m still using it. I went for the crescent-shaped zafu with a buckwheat fill because it fits my body better. Due to an old knee injury, I also added an extra mini zafu for some support under my right knee.
Can you achieve the same level of comfort with items you have around the house? Very likely. A few layers of old blankets, a folded yoga mat, or flat pillows could double for a zabuton. A sturdier and smaller cushion, a bolster, or yoga blocks could work for a zafu.
In short, you don’t truly need a meditation cushion or bench to start a meditation practice. Ideally, meditation is something you bring into your life and don’t only use in one spot in your home. Even so, a designated spot is a great way to turn meditation into a habit and a quality meditation cushion can support the body to help your mind focus and relax.
Thus, if you are really new to meditation, I would not recommend spending a lot of money on new gear. Once your practice becomes regular and you can sit for more than a few minutes each session, a cushion may be a great way to support your meditation practice and invest in it long-term.
Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, for a simple guide to creating a meditation practice of your own in 30 days. And to share mindfulness with your little one, check out my new children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute.
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