Category: Sitting On

Our New Nomad Folding Meditation Bench

Nomad Bench in black on zabuton meditation cushionWe are so excited to introduce our new Nomad Folding Meditation Bench. We launched this bench in 2017 and the feedback and reviews have been wonderful:

This is a beautiful seat. The design is ingenious and by the way it’s functional too! It’s small and light and comfortable.
This bench helped me sit through a 7 day Zen retreat. Adjustable and comfortable.
Sitting in lotus or half-lotus pose for more than 20 minutes is becoming challenging for me as I get older. Sitting seiza-style was my preference but I struggled finding the appropriate bench until now. This bench made it possible for me to extend my practice comfortably.

Woman holding folded Nomad Bench

We saw this folding meditation bench for the first time in Norway a few years ago. We got in touch with the designer, Åsmund Skard, and decided to team up to produce his unique design for Still Sitting. We are currently making it entirely in the Pacific Northwest. Åsmund co-founded the well-known Norwegian architectural firm 4B Arkitekter and has designed several types of meditation bench. With the Nomad, his goal was to design the perfect bench: lightweight, adjustable, easy to carry, economical and stable to sit on. We think he nailed it!
We are absolutely blown away by the comfort and design of the Nomad.

What Makes the Nomad Special

This folding meditation bench combines portability and comfort in a way we haven’t seen before.  It’s our lightest bench by far, folds flat and fits easily in any size luggage.

Nomad Meditation bench folds flat and fits in small suitcase

Lightweight: Under 2 lbs. makes it so easy to take anywhere.
Folds Flat: The small size when folded makes traveling with your meditation bench a breeze.
Adjustable Height: This is unique. The height is completely adjustable with the velcro closure on the seat. This feature allows the bench to be shared or used at meditation centers or retreat. Users can easily adjust it to their own height. The measure on the bottom of the bench helps you remember exactly where to set it back to.
Super comfortable: The hammock style cotton seat molds to your body. There is no need for a bench cushion, like with most benches.
Locally Made: Our custom woodworker at Salmon Bay Woodworking , here on Vashon Island, makes all of our wooden benches, including the wood parts of the Nomad.
Beautifully Simple Design: We fell in love with this design immediately and hope you do too!

Introducing our New Mini Zafu

Mini Zafu stack
When we started Still Sitting 14 years ago, our round zafu was the first cushion we designed. We spent a long time perfecting our zafu construction, choosing fabrics, and finding suppliers that met our needs for the highest quality materials and business practices.
Our traditional round zafu has continued to be our most popular item over the years. We later added our Travel Zafu and our Junior Zafu. The Junior Zafu is a small version of our traditional round zafu, perfect for younger kids. Our Travel Zafu is a favorite because it takes up very little space in a suitcase or backpack. The filler is a beach ball, which requires only blowing up to be ready for use.
Lately we had begun imagining a new, smaller zafu: one that could be easily thrown in a backpack or bag and used on the go.

Meet our New Mini Zafu


This is our smallest, most portable zafu yet. It is under 3 lbs and is exactly the zafu we envisioned, perfect for throwing in your bag and sitting anywhere. We love the rectangular shape, which gives it a modern look, and also makes it easy to store, or stack.
We tested several sizes and designs before we settled on  14″ x 9″ and about 4″ high. We found this to be an ideal sitting size. We were looking for a size that provided enough room to sit, while still maintaining the small size for portability.
Like our others, this zafu is very versatile. It works well in the flat position and on it’s side. For those who prefer a little higher sit, on the side might be perfect.
We are pleased to offer our Mini Zafu in time for Spring. We think it could be a great option for sitting outside as the weather starts to get warmer. So far, the customer feedback has been fantastic. We’d love to know what you think and where you might take this mini zafu.

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.

Sitting Up Straight

Sitting up Straight
We feel that it’s well worth paying attention to your posture during meditation. Meditation is more than just a mind exercise; it’s a mind-body exercise. Once you have a strong foundation, the next step is to sit up straight. Sitting up straight and relaxed allows your body to open to the world around it. Sitting up straight also helps you breathe deeply, which allows you to relax. Regularly opening like this can help us all move more fluidly through life.

Tips for Sitting up Straight

To sit up straight, sit on the front half of your zafu or cushion. This will help tilt your pelvis forward, allowing your torso to be straight and strong. There are two methods we often use to help maintain a straight, yet relaxed sitting posture. These could be called the String Method and the Sternum Method.

The String Method

With the String Method, imagine a string coming from the top of your head, pulling you straight up as you sit. With this imaginary string holding you up, you can then let the rest of your body relax. Check in with your body and consciously relax each part, especially the shoulders. Many of us have a tendency to hold tension in our shoulders. Try to let your belly, your back and your shoulders all relax.

The Sternum Method

The Sternum Method is another way to work towards a relaxed and straight sitting posture. To do this, start by breathing in and out naturally, and noticing how your rib cage rises and falls with your breath. You will notice that on the in-breaths, your sternum (the front and center of your rib cage) is slightly raised. Keep your chest in this same place as you exhale so that your sternum and chest remain slightly raised and energized. This will allow your shoulders, back, and belly to relax since your chest is carrying the load.

Relaxed Shoulders

Many of us have a tendency to pull ourselves up by the shoulders. This leads to a rigid posture and sore neck and shoulders. If you hold yourself up with your string or sternum, your shoulders can relax. If your shoulders get stiff, one trick is to pull them way up, level to your ears, hold them there for a few seconds, then let them drop naturally down around a strong sternum.
When sitting, your head should be relatively straight. Not tipped forward. The whole posture should feel open, and having your head straight helps you feel open rather than closed.
You may find our “How to Meditate” video helpful with this. Also see this post about setting up your meditation foundation.
As always, we love hearing how your sitting is going. Feel free to use the comments below to be in touch.

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.

Meditation Cushions: Choosing the Right Zabuton

red slim cropped larger
The zabuton is a Japanese sitting cushion. It’s long been used as a meditation cushion in the Zen tradition, and you’ll see it in many places where mindfulness is practiced.
The zabuton is humble yet essential, protecting your knees and ankles from the hard floor. Typically, you place it under your zafu, as such:

zafu and zabuton meditation cushions

round zafu in forest green and zabuton in louts flower


Traditionally, you’ll form a tripod with your seat on the zafu as one point and your knees as the other two points. For more about how to sit comfortably in the tripod position, check out our Sitting Tips. Or check out our guide to choosing the right zafu.
At Still Sitting, our zabutons are made locally using high quality cotton duck fabrics and cotton batting. Each one is finished in our Vashon Island workshop, where we put care into creating cushions that will serve you for years.

How to Choose the Right One?

You’ll notice that our zabutons come in three sizes (small, medium, and large), and two thicknesses (thick and slim). Choose the right size for your body, noting that the small is recommended for people under 5’6″ or if your practice is mostly kneeling; the large is for folks over 6’2″; and the medium is for everyone in between. We find that the medium works for most folks.

Slim or Thick?

Our slim zabuton has about 2″ loft. It provides plenty of support while being easy to carry back and forth to your meditation group or to retreats. It’s also a good option if the surface you sit on is already somewhat soft, for example, if you have carpeting.

slim bali

slim zabuton in bali blue


The thick zabuton has mitered corners to hold even more cotton batting – we pack ours to about 4″ loft. It’s thick, sturdy, and built to last with plenty of cushion for your knees. This zabuton is a good choice for anyone looking for a comfortable seat, as well as those with knee problems and those who sit in a kneeling position. All zabutons will flatten down over time, but this one will continue to offer a lot of cushion, even after frequent use over time.
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thick zabuton in bali blue

Standard or Deluxe?

There’s one last choice in selecting your Still Sitting zabuton – standard or deluxe.
Our deluxe cushions feature removable, machine-washable cushion covers. These are great for cushions that travel, those that get used heavily, or those exposed to pet hair or the stuff of everyday life.
The deluxe option is also a great way to bring a new color to old cushions – our covers fit over all current and vintage Still Sitting zabutons.
The standard option gives you a basic yet high quality meditation cushion. Without the removable cover, you’ll want to simply spot clean these as needed.
We hope you found this guide helpful. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email, give us a call, or visit us as stillsitting.com.  Our team is here to help you find the perfect meditation cushions for you!
 
Phone: (206) 463-1997 | (800) 433-0977
Email: office@stillsitting.com
Web: www.stillsitting.com

Meditation Cushions: Choosing the Right Zafu

“By establishing a stable base of support, the body naturally comes into alignment with the directional flow of gravity. The deeply purifying process of meditation has no choice but to begin.”

 – Will Johnson, The Posture of Meditation: A Practical Manual for Meditators of All Traditions

Will Johnson’s book on the postures of meditation—one of our favorites—tells us the base of support is the literal foundation of meditation practice. Johnson writes that meditation does not favor one body type over another—meditation is for every body— and finding a comfortable seat is key to developing a practice that you’ll return to day after day.
There are many options for creating your perfect base of support, including zafus, mediation benches and Tibetan seats. In this post, we’ll focus on the zafu.
IMG_2964
History                                                
The zafu originated in China and came to be associated with the Zen traditions of Japan. The word “zafu” speaks to the cushion’s original stuffing—cattails—while the seat itself has had many uses over time. The zafu has secured a place in Zen meditation for its size and shape, which enable optimal alignment of the knees, hips, pelvis, and spine.
Round or Crescent?
If you’d like to try a zafu, you’ll want to choose one of two shapes. The classic shape of a zafu is round, while the crescent shape is a more modern development. Each shape performs the key function of raising your pelvis above your knees.
The classic, round zafu ensures that your pelvis can tilt forward, preserving the natural curve of your spine, and freeing your knees to face downward. From here, your legs can adopt whichever folded position you find most comfortable, and your knees, along with the base of your seat, can support your weight in a tripod.
zafus
The crescent expands this tripod, supporting your weight not only from the base of your seat and your knees, but also through your hips. Practitioners who prefer the crescent zafu report a feeling of greater support through the hips and legs, and a broad, comfy foundation. The crescent may also help those who struggle with legs falling asleep during meditation.
IMG_0041
 
Buckwheat or Kapok?
Once you’ve chosen the shape of your zafu, it’s time to choose a filling. Buckwheat hulls and kapok have long been used to stuff cushions, and each has its own unique properties.
Buckwheat hulls come from one of the oldest cultivated grains in the world—the same buckwheat you might see ground into flour in your pancake mix also provides hulls for cushion stuffing. Buckwheat hulls are a popular filling because they keep cool and keep allergies at bay.
Buckwheat
In zafus, buckwheat acts as a sturdy but malleable support, ready to contour to your body. Most people are familiar with the feel of buckwheat stuffing from bean bags or travel pillows.
Kapok is a lightweight, luminescent fluff that comes from the seed pods of the formidable Ceiba tree. Found in tropical areas, the Ceiba grows spikes on its bark to keep predators away. Fully grown, it can reach a tremendous size, big enough for carving into family-sized canoes.
Kapok
Kapok floats, and has been used as stuffing in life preservers. In the zafu, kapok feels like a firm and buoyant pillow. At Still Sitting, we pack our kapok tightly, offering you maximum lift off the ground. With kapok as well as buckwheat, you have the option of customizing your zafu height by pulling some of the stuffing out.
Buckwheat versus kapok comes down to personal preference, and we stand behind both.
If you are a beginner, however, and asked us to choose, we’d steer you toward kapok. Not only does kapok offer a higher seat, but a softer one as well, which can be important in lessening the pressure on your sitting bones when you’re first starting out.
The kapok zafu also offers an additional seating position: place it on its side and sit with your legs folded on either side in seiza. For more information on sitting positions, check out our tips on How to Sit Comfortably.
Standard or Deluxe?
Once you have a handle on your zafu shape, fill, (and color!), you’ll want to choose between a standard or deluxe. The deluxe offers a removable, machine-washable cover. This makes for easy care over the long-term, and allows you to switch your outer cover to different colors or patterns when you’d like.
If you’d like to discuss these options, please give us a call at 800-433-0977 or email us at office@stillsitting.com. We stuff each of our zafus by hand here in our Vashon Island workshop, and we’d be happy to talk zafus with you!