Finding Balance During the Pandemic Pandamonium

Finding Balance During the Pandemic Pandamonium

By Linsi Deyo

Last week I found myself lost mid-sentence several times. I noticed my breathing was shallow. I have committed to meditating 20 minutes each morning and it has been helping to relieve the my stress and fears about the future. Even as recently as yesterday, I felt too agitated to do sitting meditation and did walking meditation instead. As a long time meditator, I’ve been surprised by my own lack of balance. 

Perhaps we can view these stressful times as offering us a koan by these current times. A Zen koan is a teaching story. Generally, if one is working with a Zen teacher, the teacher selects a koan to look at together with the student. It is a collaborative effort based on friendship. The teacher sets out the koan and asks the student questions about the meaning of the koan.  The introspection of the koan, being with the teacher–talking, laughing, drinking tea, questioning each other is awakening itself. The answer to the koan emerges.


Meditation room showing Zafu, Smile and Sky Bench being used with a Zabuton sitting mat.

Our life and these times can serve as our natural koan. The Teacher is Life itself. As students we have an opportunity to work with what is presented, or perhaps, thrust upon us. We check in with the Teacher through introspection and questioning. Life reflects back its response.

The reality we’re finding ourselves in is basically the human condition. So long ago, Siddhartha Gautama meditated under the bodhi tree to reflect on this same koan of life. He awoke– as from a dream –with clarity about the illusions and delusions of this world. He realized the origins of samsara* and spent his life demonstrating what it means to be Awake. 

 It’s not that easy to think of this current political climate with so much fear and chaos as an opportunity to wake up.  Certainly most people, myself included, simply want things to go back to the way they used to be. We like our comforts. But it is our discomforts that force us to grow and evolve. 
Judith Lief writes, “Ironically it is only…disappointment with the world–with human beings and their stupidity, and with ourselves–that provides a powerful enough motivation to change. Traditionally reaching the point where you see the futility of samara is considered an essential breakthrough on the path.”**
When speaking about current world events, Mooji Baba, a modern day Jamaican teacher in the lineage of Papaji, says that all this mind chatter will wake us up. We certainly hope so. As we pray and meditate, let us remember the jewel hidden in the compost. 

May all beings live in peace and harmony.
May all beings be safe and have enough food.
May all beings Awaken. 

This is a time of great opportunity. Use it, don’t lose it.
                                                                  Eckhart Tolle

*Samsara in Buddhism is the beginning-less cycle of repeated birth, mundane existence and dying again. It’s considered to be unsatisfactory and painful, perpetuated by desire and ignorance, and the resulting karma. You don’t have to believe in rebirth to recognize this….just look at everyday desires, disappointments, and personal suffering. 
** Thought provoking article in Lion’s Roar Magazine online.   Staying Conscious in the Face of Adversity | A Special Message From Eckhart Tolle This talk is a healing balm in this troubled world. 


Isaac Galton Experiments With Meditation

Isaac Galton Experiments With Meditation

In high school I was often bored and lonely, but I kept myself motivated with the hope that life after graduation would be better. I longed for an environment where I could be intellectually challenged and find a strong supportive community. When I got to college, I gradually realized that I was probably not going to find the environment I craved there. I slowly became more and more depressed.

Late in my freshman year, the news-anchor Dan Harris came to our small college’s campus, to promote his book 10% Happier, which advocated introducing meditation into your daily routine. I was impressed, and from time to time would attempt to meditate for 5 minutes or so, but didn’t keep up with it because I found it so difficult to keep my mind from wandering. The following school year, I became even more unhappy and I ultimately decided to take time off from college and then later decided to switch colleges. At first, I wasn’t any happier at my new college and a therapist mentioned that maybe I should try meditation. A few friends of mine studied abroad in India and Nepal and they become very intrigued about Buddhist philosophy and meditation. Fortunately, my depression eventually subsided on its own, but my interest in meditation remained.  

I wanted to learn how to meditate, and even bought The Experience of Insight by Joseph Goldstein, but still never managed to get started on a consistent routine. Some of my favorite podcasts put out episodes extolling the benefits of daily Buddhist meditation and taking extended meditation retreats. I still never was able to set aside daily time for meditation. So when my housemate my senior year of college mentioned that she had taken a free 10 day course. I promised myself that I would try it someday.  Eventually, six months after graduating college, I found the time to register for a course on I was on the waiting list and received an email just days before the course was set to begin that I had been accepted off the waiting list. I accepted the, and a couple days later I packed up my car and drove the 7 hours to the nearest center in Southeast Georgia. I was armed with my zafu cushion, and a zabuton and peace bench lent to me by my generous neighbor who worked at Carolina Morning, but I didn’t really know how to even use them.


I went into the course knowing almost nothing. I came to learn that the promise of Vipassana meditation (at least as taught by S. N. Goenka, the man who founded the worldwide network of Vipassana meditation courses given free of charge) is that with hard work and dedication, anyone can liberate themselves from the miseries and dissatisfactions of life. The teaching dictates that misery and dissatisfaction stems from either craving things or having aversion towards things. Cravings and aversions stem from ignorance: everything is always changing and shifting. Any pleasant sensation or feeling that we crave will go away in time as will any unpleasant sensation that we dislike will do the same. If one can learn to accept and observe the ever-changing nature of reality with equanimity, then one has liberated oneself from the misery of unfulfilled cravings or the unpleasantness of manifested aversions. Vipassana meditation essentially consists of continuously scanning one’s body, observing the sensations without reacting.  One must observe an itch without scratching, observe soreness in the knees and keep them crossed, all the while merely observing and not wishing for the sensations to go away. Remembering that all sensations, good or bad, are impermanent and will come and go on their own.

 As maybe you can imagine (or perhaps you know already), practicing Vipassana meditation is very difficult. For the first 3 or 4 days, we practiced Anapana meditation (observing the breath) in order to sharpen our focus in preparation for Vipassana. My main challenge, even after the days of practice with Anapana, was that my mind would wander into daydreams and I would cease doing the body-scans. Other times I became frustrated or even angry that I could not observe sensations on multiple parts of the body at once. Our days essentially consisted of meditation all day with some longer breaks to eat, rest, and walk and shorter breaks between meditation sits to stretch and use the bathroom. In the evening we would watch a video recording of a lecture of Goenka’s in which he would explain the theory behind the meditation techniques we were practicing. Each day the meditation technique would get slightly more complex and so would the accompanying theory.

 In order to facilitate the environment where it is possible to practice the technique for 10-12 hours a day, the 60 students were expected to maintain “noble silence.” Starting on the first evening of the course until the final full day of the course, my classmates and I refrained from all verbal and nonverbal communication except for with the teacher and the course manager. The silence and other restrictions (which include no use of electronics, books, or eating snacks outside of mealtimes) help one not get distracted on the task at hand: the sharpening and purification of the mind.

I admit at times I longed for the days to move more quickly and for the course to end. I craved snacks. I wondered what was going on in the news. I worried I would miss an important email. It was impossible for me to maintain focus on the meditation practice for 12 hours each day. Sometimes, during an hour long sit, my mind wandered for 50 of those minutes, remembering places I had been and people I had met in the past few years. Sometimes my knees got stiff.  Sometimes I craved a chicken dinner or even a Google search. I just wanted the retreat to be over. I admit I rarely floss my teeth, but I flossed every day at the retreat because I wanted something more to do.

Other times I was focused. My mind only wandered for 10 minutes spaced out over an hour. I was able to observe sensations without wishing for them to stay or go. Part of the practice is learning not to get frustrated when you can’t maintain focus and not being happy when you can maintain focus. The objective is to merely observe what is going on without reacting.

Finally, on the last day, we were allowed to speak with the other students. It was a relief to be able to speak to the people I had been very physically close to for over a week but never even made eye contact with and in some cases, never heard their voice. It was amazing how different everyone’s experience had been. I thought I had had intense feelings at times, but compared to the anguish and fear some others mentioned they had felt at times, I realized that perhaps I had had an easy time of it. Everyone seemed in a very good mood on the last day, and ultimately I was a little sad to go just as I was making friends with the fellow students.

I learned a lot. I learned how difficult it is to control the mind. I learned that purifying the mind and reaching inner peace is a lifelong endeavor. And I learned that what kind of meditation cushions you use are super important. In order to sit still for an hour, you need some comfortable cushions! I especially liked the combination of the Carolina Morning Peace Bench with the Zabuton sitting mat. The sitting mats in the meditation hall were much thinner than my Zabuton was, but unfortunately the Zabuton would take up too much space to use in the hall, so I left it in my room to use when we were allowed meditate in there.

It had been more challenging than I expected, but I am so grateful that I was able to attend the course.

Vippassana Breath Meditation

Vippassana Breath Meditation

This is one of many ways to practice meditation. This is particularly effective in quietening the mind and grounding the body.

Once you have assumed a comfortable sitting position, take the first few moments to sweep through the body with the intention to relax. Soften and let go around areas of tightness and contraction.

Kneeling Meditation Bench on Sitting mats

Kneeling for meditation on a Peace Bench with Zabuton sitting mats

Let all the senses be awake…aware of physical sensations, mood, sounds and space in all directions.

Then, become aware in a very soft yet clear way of the movement of the breath. Your awareness can rest in the breath wherever the sensations of breathing are most predominant. For most people, this is either the inflow and outflow at the nose, or the rising and falling movement at the chest or abdomen.

Once you decide where to be with the breath, let this be an anchor, the place you return to again and again. Bring a full mindfulness to the breath: making no effort to control the breath, discover what it is actually like, moment to moment. If the attention gets too tight or tense, relax your body again, soften back into the breath. If the attention becomes spacy, difficult to focus, then intend to bring a real precision and clarity to the awareness of the breath.

The purpose of meditation practice is to bring a mindful attention to the changing flow of life, without either clinging to experience or resisting what is happening. Let your attention rest mindfully in the breath.

When a strong emotion or sensation arises let go of the breath as a primary area of attention and open the awareness to include the waves of experience that are arising. Notice what they are like as sensations in the body, feelings in the body/mind…and notice how they change. Let your intention be to neither resist what is painful or grasp at pleasure. Rather, bring an unconditional caring presence that allows life to unfold without interference.

Smile/Crescent Zafu meditation cushions

Crescent Zafu/Smile cushion on Zabuton sitting mats

To be truly present means to be aware of thinking, not lost in trains of thought. Typically the mind will contract and move off into thought forms repeatedly. This is natural, and when it occurs, simply recognize that thinking is happening by mentally noting “thinking, thinking”. Without any judgement, open out of thoughts and relax back into the breath. Often our thoughts are repetitive and strongly driven by emotions. When this happens, rather than returning to the breath, recognize and note the thinking and then open the awareness into the body and heart to sense what is asking for attention.

Often there is fear or longing that needs to be included in awareness. Until we touch this directly, the mind will keep contracting off into thought forms and disconnecting from the present moment.

A Few More Tips

For many people, noting or naming what is happening can be helpful in connecting the awareness directly with moment to moment experience. For instance, when a strong sensation arises you might note “tension”, “tightness”, “hot”, “cold”, “pressure”, “ache”, “tingling”…and if there is much pain or pleasure…”unpleasant” or “pleasant”. Similarly emotions can be labeled: “sadness”, “happiness”, “fear”, “grief”, etc. Let the noting be soft and in the background, with most of your attention directly experiencing what is happening.

The quality of care or friendliness (metta) towards our experience is an essential foundation for mindfulness. Kindness allows us to open, de conditioning the tendency of our minds to resist and contract away from life. It is helpful to reflect on the intention of relating to experience in a gentle and kind way at the beginning of each sitting (and day!)

For some people, listening to sounds is a useful alternative to using the breath as an anchor. Open the awareness to include the space within which sounds arise, and listen without controlling anything. Simply let sounds happen, noticing how they arise, change, dissolve. While you may find it valuable to use sounds as an anchor for attention in this way, it is important to also learn to concentrate and develop mindfulness around the breath.

So after the attention has opened and relaxed by resting in the awareness of sounds once again practice by being with the breath.

Remember that we can start our meditation fresh at any moment. Simply take a few conscious breaths, open out of thoughts, relax the body, and come back to rest in the breath or in listening to sounds. We all have preconceived notions and preferences regarding “good meditations”. It helps to recognize that this is a liberating but challenging path: Our nature is to be lost in thought, be reactive to our experience, get restless, sleepy, doubtful…Try not to judge you experience. Rather, trust that you are truly an awakening, loving being. Practice love by accepting whatever arises. Gradually the practice of mindfulness and compassion will free you to express your true nature and live each moment fully. A lotus bud for you!

Thanks to Tara Brach and the Insight Meditation Community of Washington for reprinting this guided meditation. Click here to find out about their weekly sittings in the Washington D.C. area and meditation retreats.

Meditation Basics: The Art Of Natural Sitting

Meditation Basics: The Art Of Natural Sitting

The iconic “Meditation Posture” seen in many publications is often misleading as a guide to real-life sitting for meditation. In advertising photographs the head is thrown back with neck jutting forward. The spine is sometimes shown as rigid. This position is neither healthy, nor sustainable. Sitting this way might be appropriate for a briefly-held Yoga pose, but should not represent the right posture for meditation. It takes so much effort to hold this pose that it won’t last much longer than the time it takes to click the shutter. This popularized image of what meditation is supposed to look like is conceived by those who have neither practiced meditation nor plan to.

Typical deceptive advertising showing sitting flat on floor. It is impossible to hold this pose for long unless you have grown up sitting this way.

Models are often shown sitting directly on the floor, though sitting in meditation on a flat surface is almost worse than sitting on a chair for work or a sofa. The musculature of the front torso has to strain to keep the body from collapsing backward. For meditation, we need to strive to sit as effortlessly as possible in order to increase the power of concentration, lower heart rate, decrease blood pressure, deepen breathing, and stimulate the ‘relaxation response.’

“Good posture” is not the military tightening of the shoulders with an erect back. In fact, ‘posture’ isn’t even the word to describe the activity of meditation. (Note that the Lotus Pose in Yoga is used for meditation by advanced Yoga practitioners. It can be done on a flat surface because the true Lotus tilts the pelvis mechanically by extreme force when the legs are stretched under the calves and the feet rest on top of the thighs. There are relatively few people who can achieve the true lotus without injury and even fewer who can maintain the pose comfortably for the purpose of meditation.)

Meditation is an activity rather than a static ‘holding’ of the body. In fact, holding the body creates a sensation of having ‘body armor,’ which is just what we are trying to dissolve with meditation. Meditation is a ‘neutral’ state.’ It is a state of repose, looseness, relaxation, melting, zero, reset. The goal in sitting is to provide a place for the physical body to ‘let go’ so the mind and spirit, or emotions, can work on whatever they have to, without being hindered or blocked by the body.

There is a koan or dichotomy using proper sitting techniques. By settling down the body in this consciously controlled way, the mind is freed from its constant distractedness. It now has to face itself. By stopping the body’s outward movement, the mind is now able to find new levels of awareness, which is a form of movement. The reason “posture” isn’t the best word to describe meditation is because there is very much movement inside the sitting. The body is in a state of “tonus” which means there is an equal balance of work between complimentary and opposing muscle groups. The muscles involved from the front are working with those of the back. There is a constant interchange.

When the weight of the body is balanced evenly front and back, there is very little work left to do, and so the body does not become tired quickly The only way these muscles can be balanced between the front and the back is by either standing, or by mimicking the angle of the spine by sitting on a sloped surface. This sloped surface tilts the pelvis almost as it would be when standing.

There are several obstacles to finding this state of perfect repose.

  • Improper technique or knowledge of how the body works.
  • The body may be out of alignment.
  • Muscles needed for proper sitting have weakened from years of sitting in chairs. Strengthen muscles by starting autonomous sitting in small bits and work your way to longer sits as you can. Practice plenty of stretching in-between sitting.
  • Your sitting equipment may not fit you or have some other technical issue.

Here is a very good video demonstrating the ideas in this article.

Read this website, read the books offered on this website, and find qualified instructors of the Feldenkrais Method. Yoga is very complimentary to a healthy back and can enhance meditation. Unfortunately, even yoga instructors usually do not understand the problems with chairs and the principles of wise body movement. They even use unhealthy backrests in the yoga classes for students to lean back on. These canvas floor seats are actually worse than chairs!

Alignment means the bones, joints and muscles are working smoothly together with symmetry and balance. It would be amazing if a person beginning this way of sitting wasn’t out of alignment. Our physical environment and the way we interact with it shapes our bodies. Chair sitting creates a condition known as “adaptive slumped posture” or “front loading”. The muscles in the front (shoulders, chest, abdominals) work harder than those in back, and sculpt a body that tends to pull itself unnaturally forward. This can then lead to problems in other areas of the body, like a domino effect. These problems can become severe and lead to joint degeneration from uneven wear. We have become adapted to chairs. Chairs support the status quo of a “front loaded” body. That’s why at first they may seem more comfortable and relaxing than autonomous sitting. It takes an open mind and a desire for balance, health, and the benefits of meditation for a person to want to change. The transition is not always easy. In order to make it work, other practices should be considered for increasing flexibility, balance and symmetry, such as yoga, chiropractic, rolfing, massage, craniosacral therapy, the Alexander Technique. Also, there are many self-therapies that are very useful, such as the Ma Rollerª, Miracle Ballsª, therapy balls. and others.

The seat must fit. If a seat is too tall, it may cut off circulation where the seat meets the thighs. If it’s too short, the pelvis isn’t tilted sufficiently and there will be slumping. In general, the wider the sitting surface, the easier it will be to sit, because the weight of the body is spread across more surface area to prevent bruising and circulation blocks. If your legs tingle and fall asleep, try another seat.

The principles of comfortable, healthy sitting can be applied to sitting in a chair. If the seat of a chair is tilted somehow, either by placing one inch blocks underneath the rear legs, or by placing a ‘wedge cushion’ (Tilt Seat™ cushion with stuffing pushed to the rear) on the seat, it becomes effective for autonomous sitting.

The floor cushions and benches have a few advantages–lower center of gravity, simple, easy for a large group, humble and ‘down to earth’– but some people have trouble getting up and down or assuming the positions which take greater flexibility. For this group, and others, we have created the Tilt Seat™. Also, somewhere between a Tilt Seat™ and a Zafu or Peace Bench is the “sky position”. The sitter is not as high as a chair or tilt seatª but not as low as a zafu or kneeling bench. The knees are lower than the hips, but still not touching the mat or floor. There is minimal stretch in the thighs and no pressure on the knees. Many have found the answer with this position, which can be achieved with either an extra large bench or a smile cushion or zafu with a support cushion under it.

Click here for illustrated instructions on the different sitting positions.

After checking out the illustrated instruction on different positions click here for Live & Dare’s list of best cushions to try those positions out on. It’s a list of the best cushions, and that’s why Carolina Morning Design’s zafus are on it.

Back, Head, Shoulders

“Wise Use” of the body starts with the head. The head should be positioned “forward and up”. That means the chin should be parallel with the floor, so you can easily look down at a 45 degree angle to the floor. (Many people make the mistake of bending the neck up. This throws the whole back out of alignment.) Correct positioning of the head should help you naturally align you back.

You should feel a slight arch in your lower back. Play with the balance until you find a place that feels comfortable. Do not strain. When done properly this way of sitting is comfortable and effortless. Your ears and your shoulders should be on one vertical line. Relax your shoulders, and push up towards the ceiling with the back of your head. Also to gain strength in your posture, press your diaphragm down towards your hara, or lower abdomen. This will help you maintain physical and mental balance.

Arms & Hands

You can place your hands on your thighs or on a small pillow on your lap. Hold your elbows freely and easily, and slightly away from your body. This helps keep your shoulders from slouching.

Which Meditation Cushion Is For You? How To Choose A Meditation Cushion Or Bench

Which Meditation Cushion Is For You? How To Choose A Meditation Cushion Or Bench

A meditation cushion or bench puts you in a relaxed but alert position where breathing, circulation, and life energy (a.k.a chi, prana, shakti or kundalini) flow optimally.

We recommend three basic positions:

1–Sukhasana (a.k.a Easy Pose and Perching)–usually using a Sky Bench™ or Tilt Seat™— is an asana similar to sitting in a simple cross-legged position.  While opening the hips and lengthening the spine, the posture’s relative ease on the knees makes it easier than Siddhasana or Vajrasana for people with physical difficulties or limited flexibility.

2–Siddhasana (a.k.a. Burmese)–traditional cross-legged position–usually using a Zafu or Smile Cushion™.

3–Vajrasana (a.k.a Seiza or Kneeling)–usually using a Peace Bench™.

However, other positions are appropriate for some situations. The lounge position or Shavasana (laying flat) can actually be better at times when you are too tired to sit. Eco Backrest™ can be the perfect lounge chair for those times.

The positions are not necessarily product-specific, although certain products lend themselves to specific sitting methods.

Each person is built differently and will find her or his own individual meditation seat or combination of seats. Many people prefer to alternate between different sitting positions and different seats.

Sukhasana (a.k.a. Burmese and Cross-legged)

The legs are crossed in front, with the knees on the mat, and one foot in front of the other. This position offers the most stability, with three points touching the ground or cushion, creating a tripod effect.

The Smile Cushion™ is the most popular–and most ergonomically suited–cushion for this position. However, the Zafu is the traditional cushion for this. A Peace Bench™ works well for this too, if the bench is one size smaller than the size used for kneeling. This position is similar to the ‘lotus position”, of yogic origin. However, the lotus position can create stress on the knee joints and cause damage from cumulative effect. Sidhasana generally requires more flexibility than the other two positions, but is also more stable. If you desire to sit this way but don’t yet have the flexibility, we recommend starting with the Sukhasana. Gradually your leg and hip muscles will loosen and you will be able to ease into the true Burmese Position, with knees all the way down on the mat. This process can be enhanced by starting a gentle stretching routine for legs, hips and back. If taking this approach, you will probably need a support cushion to provide extra height for the sky position.

Vijransana (a.k.a Kneeling and Seiza)

The Peace Bench™ is normally used for this. A zafu or smile cushion™ turned on the side also works. Some people even prefer placing a zafu on top of another zafu and kneeling like a saddle, or alternatively, a smile cushion placed with tips facing down, with a support cushion under it.

Generally, the Kneeling Position requires less flexibility than the Burmese Position.

Sukhasana (a.k.a Perching and Easy Pose)

The knees are in the air–yet lower than the hips. This is a hybrid between the cross-legged and kneeling positions. This position is useful especially for those of us with limited flexibility.

The sky position requires a higher seat. If using a Smile Cushion™ or Zafu, place a Support Cushion under it to raise the height. Some people place one Zafu on top of another and find a good height that way. Others use a Peace Bench™. For this, a person would need a bench one size taller than the one they would use when kneeling.

The Tilt Seat™ also achieves this perching effect, and has the advantage of being at the height of a regular chair.

The lounge position (Shavasana)

This position is used for complete relaxation and resting of the back. This position is excellent when one is too tired to meditate sitting up. It can also be used for eating, reading, and laptop computer.

Meditation Seats Compared

1–If you like sitting in the cross legged (Burmese) position then you are probably better off with a Smile Cushion™. The Smile Cushion™ provides more surface area for your tush, which helps alleviate legs falling to sleep. The weight extends beyond the buttocks down the thighs. The Smile also provides more height than any other cushion we offer–if you want it. (Remember the height is adjustable). See below for a discussion of the different stuffing options.

2–If you like sitting in a kneeling position, then the meditation bench (Peace Bench™) is most suited for that. Meditation Benches or Seiza Benches, provide a way to sit in meditation posture without sitting cross-legged. Some people have problems with the type of leg stretching and flexibility required for sitting cross-legged. We offer four sizes to help you customize your sit. (Note: if you fall on the size cusp and your legs are longer than average for your height, go with the next size up. You need enough room beneath the bench so your ankles do not touch it. A bench cushion is also available separately which velcros securely with straps. This makes the bench experience much more comfortable. Some people like to buy two Peace Benches™–a smaller size for the kneeling position and a size or two larger for the sky sitting position.

3–The “Sky” position is a hybrid between the kneeling and the cross-legged (Burmese) position. The knees are in the air a few inches off the ground, yet lower than the hips. The best seat for this position is either 1) a meditation bench larger than what you would use for kneeling or 2) a smile cushion™ with a smile support cushion under it (to raise the height). Since this position requires less bending of the knees and legs than any other position, it works very well for people with special needs which limit flexibility. It is a perfectly balanced position and can be used by anyone. The Tilt Seat™ puts you in a sky position that is the height of a chair, or a bit higher. This is great for working at a table or computer as or meditating when getting up and down to the floor is an issue.

4–The zabuton (or sitting mat) provides essential cushioning for the knees, legs, ankles and feet. It also holds the cushion or bench more securely which results in a more stable and grounded posture. Many people buy the cushion or bench alone and use a folded blanket or similar cushion beneath in place of a zabuton. This is a good way to test the waters, but is not the best permanent set up. When you are ready for your very own zabuton, it is simply a choice of size. People less than six feet fit on a medium; six feet to six feet two inches use a large; and over 6′ 2″ use our Jumbo version. If you want a little extra room for your knees, order the next size up.

5–The support cushion is placed under the zafu or Smile Cushion™ to provide more height. It also can be used under a knee or placed on the lap to rest the hands on. It is especially useful for larger people needing more height than the zafu or smile provides, or those practicing the sky position.

6–For travel, either by foot, airplane, canoe or camel, the inflatable zafu is by far the easiest way to go. Only six ounces and the size of a paperback book when deflated, this small anomaly has baffled sages for ages. It’s there, but it’s not. What better thing to meditate on? You can have an instant zafu, but can you have instant enlightenment? It can be used in Burmese or kneeling positions. It also is perfect for lumbar support in airplanes, car seats, and chairs, when just barely inflated. It also works as a “wedge cushion” in chairs when barely inflated.

7–Our Tilt Seat is great for those who prefer sitting off the floor, but still have the ergonomic benefits that the floor devices give., which helps extend the good practices of autonomous sitting to other activities like computer or desk work. The Tilt Seat™ also serves as a meditation study table, alter, or reading/writing table. If you sit on a zafu, smile cushion™, or peace bench™, place the tilt seat™ in front of you with the low angle toward you, and place your reading/writing material on the surface.


Organic buckwheat hull zafus and smiles are like firm beanbags. They move around a bit and conform to your shape, but offer a solid sit. Our buckwheat hulls are 2-3 sided, and each one has a slight spring or yielding quality. They also provide more height because they do not compress as much as kapok filled cushions. With a little effort, the hulls can be removed to machine wash the cover. Some people don’t like the extra weight (about twice as heavy as kapok) and there is a slight crunching sound when first sat on. It is a soft sound like someone walking on gravel and can be considered soothing, like gentle rain or leaves rustling.

Kapok stuffed zafus and smile cushions™ have the consistency of a sleeping bag stuffed into its stuff sack. Kapok is very fluffy when loose, but becomes firm, smooth, and solid when stuffed into a cushion. Kapok is the soft seed pod of the kapok tree and is harvested on plantations in Asia. Kapok fiber is naturally mold resistant and even floats (it is used to make aircraft seats and other flotation devices). Within a few months, a kapok zafu will loose some of its loft. But no problem–just add 1/2 pound of kapok to firm it up to its original height. Placing in the sun on a nice day or in a dryer on low will also fluff it up by extracting moisture.

Which stuffing creates a “softer”, or more comfortable sit? There is no answer to this, because there is no universally accepted definition of “comfort”. One big misconception of “soft” is that if it feels soft to the touch, it will feel soft when sitting on it. This is not true. When sitting, most of the body’s weight should be supported by the sit bones. If the cushion is too mushy, springy, (IE SOFT), there will be too much pressure on the leg muscles/buttocks and thus poor circulation and bruising.

Here is an incredible video demonstrating in detail some of the sitting techniques in this article.

In reality anything you sit on for a long period of time will eventually seem “hard”. Sitting or Standing or holding ANY POSITION too long can cause repetitive stress injuries. This technique of ‘natural sitting’ can make sitting more comfortable and possible for longer periods of time than a chair, but there are still limits. The reason for this is: the human body is designed for locomotion, not sitting. That’s why we offer so much information and instruction to help you get the most from your sitting experience. When it gets too hard, perhaps it’s time for a walking meditation, or a change of positions.

The good news is, with such a variety of options, we probably have a meditation seat just for you. And we have a great returns policy to help you fine tune your sitting environment.