Category: Sitting In

The Making of a Rakusu

Many weeks in our Vashon Island workshop, Lidunn handcrafts beautiful rakusu. In this case from a few years back, she re-purposed a Japanese obi into a custom rakusu for a customer. A shortened version of Buddha’s robe, the rakusu is a symbolic garment worn by Buddhist practitioners. Its form has evolved over centuries, incorporating elements from various traditions as it’s made its way across geography and time.
Buddhist Rakusu Sewing process

History

Each element of the rakusu has a story. The many individual panels recall robes in Buddha’s time, when mendicants scavenged used pieces of fabric, even burial cloth, to make their clothing. The straight lines and right angles resemble cultivated fields, and the wooden ring is a nod to how Chinese monks fastened their robes to keep their arms free for physical labor. Today’s rakusu is most visibly linked to the Zen traditions from Japan.
Making a rakusu process

Modern Use

Buddhist practitioners may begin wearing a rakusu to mark a milestone, such as receiving the precepts in a ceremony called jukai, or becoming a teacher. One’s lineage can inform certain aspects of the rakusu: Rinzai and Soto traditions each determine the number of strips of cloth, the pattern, and the color of the back panel. After receiving the rakusu, it becomes part of the ordained Buddhist’s robes, serving as a tactile reminder of one’s lineage and devotion.
Some practitioners sew their own rakusu, perhaps taking weeks to complete the task. They may also choose to request help from a seamstress experienced in crafting Buddhist garments, like Lidunn.

Process

How to make a Buddhist rakusu shown on tableLidunn started work on this obi by looking closely at the fabric’s print, color, and texture to see what patterns emerged organically, and how to make it fit the traditional Rinzai layout. Next, she cut the fabric into individual pieces and ironed. Her advice to practitioners doing it themselves? “Always iron. It makes life so much easier.”
Once each piece was set according to pattern, Lidunn sewed them into place. It’s meticulous, challenging work, each rakusu a puzzle to be solved. “It requires precision. And working with a fabric like this is very special.”

Lidunn made her first rakusu for her own ordination at Mt. Baldy Zen Center in 1999. Since then, she has made countless rakusu for practitioners all over the world.

Rakusu Finished from custom floral fabric for Buddhist clergy
At Still Sitting, we make each rakusu individually, so practitioners may choose one of our fabrics, or send in a fabric or a ring of their choosing. For more information, write to us at office@stillsitting.com

Samue Clothing

samue potterySamue is the traditional clothing worn during daily work by Japanese Buddhist monks. Samu refers to daily work that is done with mindfulness. This can include any work, such as gardening, cleaning or daily chores.
Samue Clothing
The pieces are typically made from cotton or linen in dark colors, such as brown or navy. The style is unisex with a kimono style jacket and loose fitting pants often with elastic or ties at the waist and ankles. Often there are large pockets in the jackets which can be used for small tools or other useful items.
Over the years, samue have
remained much the same, but many have adopted this style of clothing for use well beyond the Buddhist temple.Samue Pants Chickens
Samue clothing have long been worn as home-wear in Japan and elsewhere. Still as useful for daily work, today samue are also frequently worn as meditation clothing,  during meditation retreats or whenever comfort is a priority. Lately we’ve been hearing from more customers who are looking for samue jackets and pants. meditation samueNothing beats the comfort of loose fitting clothing, especially if you will be sitting for some time.
Still Sitting Samue Clothing
Our traditional samue jackets are made from a thick lush cotton, and will last for many years. We recently started also making lighter weight cotton samue jackets and pants. These are perfect for summer or warmer climates or anytime a lighter weight is preferable. You can take a look at our samue options here.
We love hearing from customers about how they are using samue clothing in their meditation practice or daily work. Let us know about your experience with samue clothing.
 

A Few Common Questions about Meditation

meditation questions
Recently we were asked to answer a few common questions on meditation for a local yoga conference. Many people are first introduced to meditation through yoga, so we took a few minutes in between making cushions to consider the questions. Below you will find the questions and our responses.

Four Questions About Meditation

1. Why is it important to have a regular time and space for a meditation practice?
When you have a regular time and space, it is simply easier to do it and not miss it.  Our lives are so busy that it is all too easy to skip meditation. With a regular place and a regular time, there is a better chance that we will actually meditate.
With a regular space and time, it becomes a part of our lives in a different way than if it’s irregular. It becomes woven into the fabric of our lives and it becomes a habit.
When we meditate regularly and not just when we feel like it, we get the opportunity to work with all of ourselves. When we meditate when we are sad, angry or distracted, all of it, we have a chance to work with our whole selves. Of course this can be frustrating, but this is part of the practice
2. Do I need to be spiritual or religious in some way in order to meditate?  Can I meditate if I am?
No, you do not have to be either. Yet, for some people meditation is a part of their spiritual or religious life. This is not required. Meditation in itself can help people in many ways. One example is in the field of mindfulness stress-reduction. Another is in the work of newscaster Dan Harris, who promotes meditation practice in a non-spiritual or religious way through his 10% Happier Meditations.
That said, meditation and silent prayer are part of just about every religious tradition in the world.
3. Is it normal to have a wandering mind, or unpleasant feelings come to the surface?
Yes! We human beings are special because we have learned to think and this has given us wonderful benefits. The only trouble is that we haven’t yet learned to stop thinking. And so it is natural that we will have a wandering mind at first.
Part of meditation is simply watching that wandering mind, allowing it, but also trying not to follow it unconsciously.
When we meditate, our minds start to slow down. Little by little and over time we feel less of a compulsion to follow wherever our mind leads.
In terms of unpleasant feelings, this is quite normal as well. Sometimes when we get still, feelings that we have long buried or covered up in the course of our busy lives, may rise to the surface. It can be helpful to know that this will most likely happen. Longer meditation retreats can be challenging for this reason. We open ourselves up to anything to come. Yet, by doing this, we have a chance to accept the difficult or broken aspects of ourselves and transform them into compassion.
4. How do I select a style that suits me and my stage of life best and most effectively? 
I think we learn what works for us by trying. There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. See what you are drawn to and try. There is no wrong place to start. For instance, you may want to try a meditation app or a guided meditation. There are many of these available.
At some point, I believe it is important to find a group, a congregation or a sangha. This social, communal aspect can be an essential support to an ongoing meditation practice.
For more meditation tips from our blog, see these: Meditation Foundation, Choosing Cushions, Starting New Practice, or LovingKindness Meditation.

Holiday Gift Guide

Candles
Thank you for considering giving the gift of meditation to your loved ones this year. This is a gift that can truly last a lifetime. For a little holiday inspiration, we’ve highlighted a few of our favorite gift ideas below. Wishing you a warm and peaceful holiday season.

Holiday Gift Guide

Our Meditation Starter Set is a great gift for anyone new to meditation. It includes a two piece cushion set, a book of your choice, and a lovely ceramic incense starter kit.

The 3 Piece Cushion Set can come in any of our fabrics with your choice of kapok or buckwheat zafu. You choose from our large variety of patterns and colors to create your own set.

The Mango Wood Oryoki Set comes with wood utensils, a set of cloths and 3 mango wood bowls in either natural or chestnut. This set makes a truly elegant gift.
oryoki-mw-chestnut-blue-large
Buddhas & Statues can be wonderful gifts for the meditator who has it all.

Samue Jackets are the traditional work jacket of Buddhist monks and nuns in Japan. They are great to wear to the dojo, for meditation, around town or working around the house because of their comfort and functionality. We are thrilled to have new lightweight pants and jackets in black cotton, in addition to our traditional thick cotton jacket.
Bells & Drums are wonderful additions to a meditation practice.  We carry a selection of our favorites, including gongs and clappers. You can listen to the sound each one makes on the website.

Stocking Stuffers

Happy Holidays!

Two New Products: Folding Zabuton & Rinzai Rakusu Kit

We are so excited about our latest new products. They have both been over a year in the making and it is such a joy to see them finally ready and on the website.

Our Folding Zabuton

The folding zabuton was inspired by the foam zabutons we used in Norway. These were very comfortable and easy to store. We then looked into how to make them even easier to carry and store and our folding zabuton was born. This is our first foam cushion and folds neatly in half. It is easily stored and even easier to carry around. This zabuton is intended to go with you on retreat or to create a spontaneous meditation space anywhere. We also find it to be very comfortable for such a thin cushion.

img_9551-copyRinzai Rakusu Kit

Our other new product is a response to requests we’ve gotten over the years. One of our popular custom items is the rakusu. A rakusu is a small version of the Buddha’s original robe. In some Buddhist traditions, it is customary to sew your own rakusu. This can be a daunting task without proper instruction and assistance. Our expert rakusu maker and seamstress has created and perfected a complete kit. It comes with a thorough instruction booklet that includes diagrams and step by step instructions, as well as all the fabric pieces already cut out. It even comes with over the phone support, should you have any questions along the way. Rakusu Kit

Making a rakusu is no simple task and it is our hope that this kit will allow more people to make their own. This post on the making of a rakusu is a great illustration of the process.

In the next month we will announce another new product: Black samue jackets and pants!

Sitting Tips: Your Meditation Foundation

Rooted

Rooted


We thought we’d go back to the basics and share a series of sitting tips. Whether you are completely new to meditation or are an old master, it can be helpful to revisit the foundations of the practice.
In order to sit comfortably and deeply in meditation, your posture is ideally relaxed and attentive. Finding a  position that works well for you is important. You may feel as rooted as the tree above sitting anywhere, but most of us need the help of a few cushions, or even a nice stiff chair. Your body will thank you for taking the time to find a supportive sitting position.

A Strong Meditation Foundation

Creating a good foundation is the first step. When sitting in meditation, it is recommended to make a tripod with your knees and bottom. This tripod allows you to sit upright while at the same time being relaxed and stable. If possible you want your knees to make contact with your zabuton or the floor. If you are just starting out, or not accustomed to sitting in this way, this may be tricky at first. This is where support cushions can come in handy. Most people find that it works best to sit on the front half of their cushion or zafu. This helps the knees touch and the pelvis to tilt forward.