Coussin de méditation: on cushions and spiritual materialism

To sit or not to sit is not a question. I wake up unnecessary early and sit still. Technically it is morning, but it would be pitch black if the city lights went off. No bird chirping, only a street sweeper chipping ice from sidewalks. Light snoring sounds from bedroom.

The dark and early mornings remind me of my first silent retreat in a Thailand monastery. On the first morning the large bell rang, I woke up and fell asleep again. 4:00 in the morning definitely is unnecessary early especially if all you do is meditate all day long. A few minutes later I jumped up again and started to talk in a panic attack to my neighbour next door because I thought they are going to lock the gates before I get out of the dorm. Short after that I remembered that this is a silent retreat. Embarrassed I dressed up and hurried to my cushion.

Now I have trained myself to get out of the bed promptly when the alarm goes on. As if someone would lock the gates soon. To wake up or not is not a question. I stretch and exchange my fluffy pillow for my meditation cushion and sit still. Breathing in, breathing out, count to one. Breathing in, breathing out, count to two. Just sitting still and being with the breath.

Beginning of a daily practice

Starting a daily practice and continuing it is a matter of overall organisation. And dedication. Mornings are extremely sleepy moments, but it is a time frame before the thoughts and to do lists have taken over. And morning cushion is always there. For starters I woke up every day and just sat on the cushion for few long breaths. Someone would call it no practice at all, but with the right intention any simple activity can be your practice. Chögyam Trungpa in his book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism tells that even lightning a candle and blowing it out every day with the intention of that being your practice can be good enough to develop a good daily routine. Just sit down on your cushion every day with the confidence that this is all you need to walk your spiritual path. Most importantly, it works. One step at a time.

“Simply stopping, just allowing a gap, is the first step in the practice of meditation..”

– Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

Take a look at your busy planner and decide which time of the day is more likely to be repeatedly emptier and book a gap session for yourself. When my kid was an infant, for a continuous period I used his second nap-time as the gap-time. Promptly at two o’clock I would sit on the cushion. It worked. And kept my sanity. Find the right timing and grab a cushion.

mediatation cushion, mediatation pillow, zafu, cousin de mediation

How to choose the perfect cushion

Actually, the cushion might be not needed unless you decide to anchor your intention of the daily practice that way. But I must admit that it helps your sitting even if you do only five long breaths. Unless you are a flexible yogi. The slightly elevated hip position improves your back alignment and lets the blood circulate down to your legs. Sounds trivial, but the impact is profound. I have made the zafu cushion myself and filled it with buckwheat hull. If you really want, I can make one for you too. But you can simply order yours through Amazon Prime, it will do the same trick. The cushion will be there. And you might even start sitting daily.

The REEHUT meditation cushion has 80% positive five star reviews and the other 20% reviewers seem really needing the meditation to work on their fault finding mind. REEHUT cushion is simple cotton fabric filled with buckwheat like mine. Three sizes are available – measure your butt before ordering so you don’t have to complain it is too small or big. Actually, you do not sit on the whole cushion, better create an incline and only support your tail bone. They are supposed to adjust to your body form so add (you can buy extra hulls) or remove the hulls if you need more modification, it has zippers. Empty the cushion and dry out the hulls if any moisture got inside.

Do not freak out if the color is slightly different from what you thought, your monitor might be not properly calibrated. Don’t be so attached to the material fabrications, you are about to enter mediation practice, the world is not perfect. If the color fades and the hulls sink after a while, rejoice – everything is impermanent, that is the only truth and you have already witnessed that. Now sit.

Ok, ok, you have some quality standards and aesthetic preferences as well, I feel you. Get the Dharma Crafts handmade pillow, they know what they are doing. I love their story, how it all started with 10$ for a fabric and a first flyer on a pole in Harward Square. Dyan Eagles started making meditation supplies after a solo meditation retreat back in 1979. And there must be a reason why countless mediation centers in America since that have chosen Dharma Crafts meditation cushions – they are durable, visually appealing and made by meditators serving their own community. Even His Holiness the Dalai Lama has sat on their pillows. I know, it does not matter. A pillow is just a pillow. Your concentration and wisdom matters.

More important than cushion

Feeling like McMindfulness has fogged your clear seeing? You can ditch the whole idea of a meditation cushion. Get a chair or fold a blanket and sit. No need to be rebellious. Ditch that also. But if you ever consider a cushion again, make it yourself – leave a comment if you need a pattern!

My little monkey on a tree stump. Why not?

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