This is part of a series of articles on aids to meditation, such as the meditation pillow or meditation cushion, and the meditation chair, meditation bench, or meditation stool. We hope you’ll find these pieces useful.
While the primary concern of meditation is not the practitioner’s physical comfort, a meditation pillow (also called a meditation cushion) is among those aids or props that many people find can help their practice, just like a meditation chair, bench, or stool.
We’re not used to sitting still in Western culture, and we’re particularly unused to sitting on the floor, in the classic lotus or half-lotus position. Many people thus don’t start off that way when they meditate. Such postures are ideals toward which some people may wish to work in their practice, while they will simply prove impossible or undesirable for other people. And that’s fine—as we’ve emphasized, there is no “right” way to meditate, and there certainly isn’t just one way.
If, for any reason at all, you’d like to sit on the floor to meditate, but you can’t or don’t wish to sit on a bare floor, you may wish to look at using a meditation pillow.
This could be any pillow or cushion, of course, including the pillow from your bed. But there are some advantages to using something that is designed specifically for the purpose.
A meditation cushion or pillow, called a zafu, is made specifically to support a sitting meditation posture, and to take a different kind of wear-and-tear from the pillows on which we lay our heads. These meditation pillows are often filled with buckwheat, giving them a robustness that feather or foam pillows may not have.
As well, having a dedicated meditation cushion means that when you see that cushion, you’ll think of meditation. It’s there solely for your practice; it’s not pinch-hitting. Like having a designated space for meditating, this can be part of devoting yourself to the buildup and refinement of your practice.
The zafu, the meditation pillow or cushion, is often used with a zabuton, a flat mat on which one places the zafu. Some people find it helpful to use both together as a way to define their meditation space.
As we’ve mentioned in earlier articles, there are various other options to help anyone who is having difficulty with sitting, who doesn’t care to sit in the traditional poses, or who is new to practice and wishes to take the move to the floor in stages.
Some people begin their practice using any simple, straight-backed chair in which they can sit for an extended period of time. When they wish to move on from that, some find that a meditation bench or stool made specifically for meditation practice is a good next step. These can work just as well as a meditation pillow, and may be easier to use than a pillow or cushion for some people with back problems, or whose hips are tight. Sitting with your knees below your hips is always a good way to ease your sitting posture, and to help with any lower-back issues that may be distracting you when you meditate. A meditation stool or bench will generally allow you to sit in this manner.
We at Spoko™ make a meditation bench that is designed to allow close-to-the-floor sitting while easing the lower back. Its distinctive design marks it as not just another piece of furniture, but something that is for dedicated use in your meditation practice. Like a meditation pillow, it can help you define your practice space, as should any meditation chair or stool.
Meditation is a very personal practice, and every meditator develops in a different way. Some people will, the very first day they begin meditating, sit down on a bare floor, fold themselves into the lotus position, and that’s the way they’ll continue to meditate for the rest of their lives. Many others, however, will sit differently, or vary their postures throughout the length of their practice. We can’t tell you what will be right for you. We encourage you to explore different options until you find one you know is right for you.