The achievement of stillness during meditation depends on your posture and breathing. Your choice of a zafu enhances your ability to keep your body aligned and your mind focused. Choosing meditation cushions that are correct for you depends on the posture you prefer, your height, and your need for support. Fill choices are kapok, buckwheat hull, and cotton.
Kapok is cultivated from a pod. Kapok trees are not bothered by pests so it thrives without the use of chemicals and naturally enhance the soil it inhabits. Kapok fill is lighter than cotton, its firmness supports at least 30 times its weight, it is a breathable fill so it allows air circulation, and is re-useable for generations. As a fill for your zafu, it will clump and compress less than cotton fiber. Benefits include extra height and width for taller, less flexible meditators and a more solid support for those who want firmer meditation cushions. Drawback to the use of this fiber is that it is highly flammable.
Buckwheat hull is a herbaceous plant also grown without fertilizers or pesticides. Hull is hypo-allergenic and enhances the soil where it is grown. The kernels used as a fill are a triangular irregularly shaped seed that is hard and sturdy. It is commonly used as a fill in zafus in Japan. The hull’s natural insulating properties mean that the hull is cool in the summer while warm in the winter. Meditation cushions filled with buckwheat hull conforms to the contour of your body and supports proper posture alignment. These meditation cushions will be heavier than the kapok and cotton zafus. The benefits of the buckwheat are its insulating properties and that it conforms to your particular posture immediately requiring no break-in period. Drawback is that unprocessed and poorly cleaned hulls have higher levels of potential allergens.
Cotton tends to compress more than kapok and buckwheat hulls and therefore is not commonly used as a fill. Cotton is more often used as a fabric to cover meditation cushions. It is a vegetable fiber from a subtropical shrubby plant that is vulnerable to insects and pest damage. Cotton is grown either by conventional or organic methods. The type of farming, processing, and storing methods defines conventionally grown cotton verses organic. For conventionally grown cotton, chemicals are used during these methods.
Confirm that the organic labels on the meditation cushions are certified. Standards vary between countries. Entities that establish organic standards are United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) and the European Commission No. 834/2007. Accreditation is the evaluation process that is implemented by a third party certifier. USDA has established three organic labels: 100 percent organic; organic; or made with organic ingredients. Regulations and standards only apply to businesses whose gross income of organic sales is above $5,000.
The choice of which zafus are best for you depends on your preferences and needs. Kapok and buckwheat hull are naturally organic and enrich the soil in which they are grown. Kapok is lighter than cotton and clumps less. Meditation cushions filled with buckwheat mold to your posture and will return to their original shape because of the fill’s mobility. Zafu that is filled with cotton will be heavier than kapok filled meditation cushion. Know what postures you prefer and what areas of support your body needs before making a purchase.
Susan Forte has 16 years of experience in the field of Human Services, which heightened her awareness of the need for stress management skills. Susan began practicing at local ashrams and Buddhist centers. She realized the importance of meditation cushions in quieting of the mind. Meditation Cushions For All’s mission is to provide information about zafus, so your selection enhances your practice. This article contains information gathered as she purchased meditation cushions.