Full Guide to Meditation
Meditation is an ancient practice that has grown in popularity in the Western world over the past few decades. Awareness of its benefits is becoming more widespread. As people learn that there are many ways to practice meditation, it becomes clear that there's a form of this practice for everyone.
However, as with almost all practices, meditation can be enhanced by using proper tools and accessories . So what do you use a meditation cushion for? And how do you choose one?
Here, we explain everything you need to know about learning meditation and choosing a meditation pillow that's right for you.
Why Use a Meditation Pillow?
A fundamental tenet of most forms of meditation and mindfulness is that you should be free to focus. For most forms of this practice, this means being comfortable. People use a meditation cushion to let them assume a healthy, comfortable position that frees their minds to focus on what's important rather than spending their time trying to get comfortable.
A cushion provides support that helps you maintain good posture while practicing mindfulness meditation. No mindfulness activity should be harmful to your body, but sitting with a bad posture can cause aches, pains, and long-term damage. Thankfully, you can avoid these problems with a meditation cushion. Avoiding this is essential if you're going to enjoy the true benefits of the practice.
How to Use a Meditation Pillow-Cushion
Perhaps the most common way to use a meditation pillow is to sit on it for support. However, this isn't the only way to use a meditation cushion. Here are some common methods for using a meditation pillow:
- Meditation cushions can be filled to a level that makes them comfortable, robust seats for meditation. This keeps your legs slightly raised from the floor, which is especially useful if you find sitting cross-legged on a hard floor uncomfortable. They can also help you maintain a healthy, upright sitting posture.
- Propping up your lower back up. If you choose to sit against a wall, you can put a meditation cushion between your back and the wall to support your lower back. While it's more comfortable for some people to have full back support while meditating, it's also essential to ensure your body has support in the proper places. A supple, comfortable meditation pillow is a great way to achieve this.
- Under your head. Many people practice mindfulness meditation and other forms while lying down. Resting your head on a comfortable meditation cushion can help prevent pressure from a hard floor from giving you a headache or distracting you while you're trying to focus and clear your mind.
- Between the legs. If you choose to practice sleep meditation or another form where you lie on your side, you can double a meditation cushion up as a knee pillow. A soft, supple filling will prevent your knees from pushing together and becoming sore. This is also helpful if lying on your side is the most comfortable position for you — pregnant women practicing meditation often find this.
- Under the stomach. A pillow under the abdomen can help with digestion, which is useful when trying to clear your mind — feeling “clogged up” isn't ideal when you're attempting to find focus. It can also help you achieve a more comfortable lying position.
- Behind the head. This is a popular method for people who practice 5-minute meditation or 10-minute meditation, especially while on the move. You can prop a comfortable meditation cushion behind your head, say, if you're on a plane, for a more comfortable berth and an improved ability to focus while in a distracting environment. It can also help shut out external noise.
- Under the knees. Kneeling meditation is common in cultures around the world. It can be made more comfortable using a meditation cushion such as a zafu or a zabuton (explored further below). Kneeling is popular because remaining upright helps regulate your blood flow, especially in the head. This allows you to keep a clear mind while meditating.
However you choose to use your meditation pillow, it should make you more comfortable and able to clear your thoughts. These are the primary goals for any items used as meditative aids.
Where Are Meditation Cushions Used?
Traditionally, many meditative practices around the world don't use cushions as we know them today. The modern meditation pillow is based on the zafu pillow or the zabuton, but this isn't to say that other cultures never used similar supports when meditating.
Traditional meditative activity is sometimes perceived as formalized — there's a misguided idea that different cultures followed fairly strict procedures in a sort of “monolith”. This isn't necessarily true.
Individuals from meditation-practicing cultures around the world have always used different techniques to help them concentrate and feel more comfortable. These may not be the same techniques you read about when discovering different meditative cultures.
For example, you might not find any mention of a meditation pillow when reading about traditional Kundalini meditation. This doesn't mean that ordinary people practicing Kundalini meditation haven't used cushions to provide support for centuries, whether at meditation retreats or in their homes.
Meditation Pillows in Japan
The zafu pillow is perhaps the best-known meditation cushion. Another form of cushion in Japan is the zabuton. In Japanese, zafu means “a round cushion”, meaning that calling it a “zafu pillow” or “zafu cushion” is technically a tautology. However, it's known as a zafu cushion across the world today.
A zafu pillow is a round cushion made from a comfortable material and filled in a way that provides supple support for the body. Despite its widespread use in Japan, the zafu cushion originates in China, where it was typically filled with fibers from reedmace, a native plant. Traditionally, it's used in Zen Buddhist meditation as a sitting pillow.
A zabuton is another type of meditation cushion associated with Japanese Zen Buddism. It's often used in conjunction with a zafu pillow. While the zafu cushion is used for a comfortable sitting position, the zabuton cushions the knees and ankles and is placed beneath the zafu pillow. This allows those practicing meditation while kneeling to achieve a comfortable position for more extended periods, as prolonged contact between the knees and the floor can be painful.
Worldwide Use of Meditation Cushions
The meditation cushion has become a staple item for practitioners across the world. As information about meditative practices becomes more accessible, people naturally search for the most comfortable ways to practice meditation. Items such as the zafu pillow and zabuton have now become central to many people's daily lives.
Meditation Pillow Types
So which type of meditation pillow should you choose? Let's look into the design differences of these pillows and how they can help you meditate more effectively.
The zafu pillow is round and usually filled with a material like organic buckwheat hulls. Due to its shape, it's incredibly versatile and can be used almost anywhere on the body. It's comfortable to sit or kneel on but can also go behind your head.
Zafu cushions are probably the most common types of meditation pillows you'll find on the market today. They're also highly recommended for meditation for beginners, as one cushion can help you learn the type of position that is most effective for you.
A zabuton is often square and is filled much less densely than a zafu pillow. It's fairly wide and is very well-suited to kneeling and sitting. It can be used alongside zafu cushions for additional support when kneeling.
You'll also find orthopedic pillows on the market. These are often filled with memory foam and aim to help reduce stress on your body when meditating.
Orthopedic pillows can be beneficial, although most people find that zafu cushions provide better long-term support when meditating. The organic buckwheat filling of high-quality zafu cushions is durable and easy to replenish compared to memory foam. Because of this durability, the more traditional meditation pillow can be used for years without needing a replacement.
There's an extra benefit here beyond saving money on new pillows. Rituals and familiar objects can be an essential part of meditative practice for many people. You won't need to part with your favorite meditation pillow when yours lasts so long.
What to Look for When Buying a Meditation Pillow
Our guide covers all the key factors you should consider when purchasing a meditation pillow.
The filling material is perhaps the most important feature. Zafu cushions were traditionally filled with reedmace down, a soft, fibrous, and naturally-occurring material. Reedmace is less common in the United States. However, organic, 100% U.S.-grown buckwheat hulls have proven an excellent alternative. They're long-lasting, affordable, and can easily be refilled whenever you need them.
You can also easily adjust the amount of filling your pillow contains when using buckwheat hulls. This enables you to find the most comfortable density and filling for your needs. Everyone looks for something different when using a meditation cushion, so you should experiment with different densities.
Memory foam is another popular filling but is harder to adjust than buckwheat hulls. It's also not an organic product, which some would consider a negative when meditating to help you connect more with the natural world around you.
The cover material for your pillow should be soft and pleasant to the touch. Cotton is a popular choice, as it's a natural fiber that is easy to take care of and can be styled in a variety of colors or patterns. It's also soft to the touch and hypoallergenic compared to many synthetic materials. This makes it especially popular for people practicing sleep meditation.
The cover should be removable — if you're using your cushion a lot, you'll need to wash the cover regularly. Cotton is extremely easy to care for and can be put on a normal washing cycle, which is why it's one of the most popular materials for a zafu pillow cover today.
Easy to Adjust
Your pillow should feature zippers on the inner cushion to help you adjust the number of buckwheat hulls the pillow contains. This makes it easier to moderate the amount of filling in the pillow and helps you find a density that suits your meditation needs.
Lower-quality pillows don't have an option to adjust the filling density, meaning that you'll have to put up with the manufacturer's design (often underfilled to save on costs). You should always choose a pillow that allows for easy adjustment.
How Was It Made?
Speaking of manufacturers, it's worth paying attention to how your meditation pillow was made. Items made using dubious practices or cheap labor tend to have a negative feeling emotionally, besides being lower-quality and less comfortable than handcrafted items.
Ensure that your meditation pillow is handmade and that the materials used in its construction were sourced sustainably. Mindfulness meditation and other practices are about clearing your mind and letting what's important come to you — if the first thing that comes to mind is whether the thing you're sitting on was made using ethical practices, that's a big problem.
Zafu cushions tend to measure around 14"-15" in width and around 6"-8" in height. This provides ample space for sitting or kneeling, but also means that the cushion is easy to store or transport and doesn't take up unnecessary space.
Of course, your comfort is the main priority. This means that you should find a zafu cushion or other type of meditation cushion that helps you feel comfortable. Larger options are available, and you can often speak with good retailers to find a bespoke solution for your needs.
Your comfort while practicing mindfulness and connecting with your self is the most important thing, so don't settle for a pillow that is too small or doesn't meet your needs.
Most zafu pillows are round. This is simply the most versatile shape for a meditation cushion. It can be used easily for sitting, kneeling, lying down, or propping behind your head. This means that if you're learning meditation for beginners, you can try out all different types of poses and find the one(s) that suit you best.
V-shaped cushions are another popular style, although they're markedly less versatile than a round zafu pillow. However, some people find this style suits certain types of mediation.
Trying out different models is never a bad idea. Whatever shape your meditation pillow is, it should be made from fine materials and use a high-quality filling.
Cotton is popular because it's easy to dye and style. This means that you can choose a pillow in your favorite color, or go with the theme of your meditation room. Aesthetics can be very important for promoting a sense of calm that helps you to relax and concentrate (e.g. you might theme your room and pillow in sea colors if you find the ocean calming). You should choose the color of your cushion to suit the type of mood you find helpful when meditating.
Neutral colors are often the most popular, even if your favorite color is more dynamic. This is because they can help create a sort of “blank” space that easily allows you to clear your mind. Check out the color options when purchasing a zafu pillow and consider how it might help you to focus.
Other Aesthetic Considerations
The shape of your pillow, its pattern, and the feeling of the fabric covering it are all important aesthetic considerations. Besides the utility value, a reason that round pillows are perhaps the most popular shape is that they have no corners or edges — this shape can be more comforting and less aggressive. This helps some people find focus more easily.
Any aesthetic considerations you'd like to take into account when purchasing a pillow are valid. From mindfulness to transcendental meditation, it should be a tranquil experience, and we design our meditation rooms carefully. Our pillows are no exception to this.
Pockets are a helpful accessory on a zafu pillow because they give you somewhere to store items such as your favorite crystals or helpful totems. Depending on the size of the pockets and the position you choose, you might also be able to put your hands in the pockets for comfort or support.
Check the depth of the pockets before you make a purchase and compare it to any items you'd like to store. A good meditation pillow will usually have pockets deep enough for crystals you can hold in your hand.
The pillow should be easy to store when you're not using it. This is another benefit of round zafu cushions — they're easy to store on top of other items, and don't look messy when stored on one side of a room. A round cushion always looks as if it's meant to be there, whereas v-shaped cushions can look somewhat like they've been forgotten. This can disrupt the energy of a room.
Another huge benefit of cushions that can be zipped open and filled with buckwheat hulls is that if they need to be stored away, you can simply remove the buckwheat filling. If you need to transport your pillow across a long distance with limited space, you can empty it, wrap it up, and even purchase more buckwheat hulls in your new destination — they're accessible and affordable. Retailers who sell high-quality pillows often also sell organic buckwheat hulls independently.
A carry handle is extremely helpful when traveling. This means that you can easily have your zafu pillow as a carry-on item if you're traveling by air or train. This is especially helpful for those who practice 5-minute meditation or other styles while on the move.
The Bottom Line of Finding the Perfect Pillow for You
When choosing a meditation cushion, you should always look for:
- Quality, handmade design
- Natural materials for the cover and filling
- Easy transportation and storage
- An attractive, pleasant design
- A meditation pillow that feels good to you!
Benefits of Practicing Meditation
The benefits of using meditation for anxiety, improved sleep, and self-awareness have been known by practitioners for millennia. However, resurgent interest in meditative practices has led to a growing body of scientific research backing up these claims. Here are some notable ways you can improve your life by trying out guided meditation or simply practicing by yourself at home.
1. Improves Emotional Well-Being
Among the most important benefits of practices like mindfulness meditation is that it can improve your emotional well-being. What does this mean in practice? Emotions are difficult to manage and deal with — from grief to anger, fear to love, we sometimes find it hard to process new emotions or even understand that we're having them.
Meditating provides a controlled space where you can clear your mind of the busy, conflicting thoughts of the day and find what comes to you first when all your small thoughts are gone. It allows you to ask open questions of your feelings — what is this feeling? Why am I feeling this? It can help you recognize your emotions for what they are and build a healthy response.
Emotional balance is essential for a happy, healthy life. Sometimes we don't realize that we're feeling certain emotions until we confront them directly. For example, your workplace could fill you with fear as an unsafe space. However, we're taught to simply accept things like “everyone hates work” when in fact, it's an unnatural response.
Practicing meditation allows you to recognize and process your emotions, and moderate feelings that aren't doing you any good. This is useful for daily life and helps clear your mind and more easily achieve your goals.
2. Decreases Stress
Modern life places a huge burden of stress upon us. Our jobs take up a huge amount of our time, leaving precious little for self-reflection. Smartphones mean that we're never fully switched off. Practicing morning meditation is an increasingly popular activity because it means you take control of an extremely important part of your day and use it to collect yourself.
Morning meditation is often done before work using a zafu pillow, after you wake up, and frequently before breakfast. This lets you reflect on the day's tasks and potential stresses and realize why these negative feelings aren't important to becoming who you want to be. One reason morning meditation is so popular is that it helps to deflate the bubble of stress before it accumulates throughout the day, leaving you free to perform more effectively and target your actions on goals that will help you move forward.
At the other end of the day, using sleep meditation music is an excellent way to deal with stress that would otherwise prevent you from getting high-quality rest. Getting good sleep is essential for maintaining your health and stress prevents this. Many people report that they don't get a good night's sleep simply because they're too stressed.
Sleep meditation allows people to process the nebulous things that keep them stressed and dismiss them before falling asleep. The idea of adding an extra activity before you sleep sounds counterintuitive when you're trying to get extra hours, but sleep meditation is part of falling asleep, not an “additional” activity like lying in bed stressing over things.
3. Builds Mental Self-Awareness
Reassessing our goals and learning who and where we are in life is a vital part of a positive journey. People who practice manifestation find that transcendental meditation or even short sessions of 5-minute meditation can be extremely useful to rediscovering the mental picture of where they know they're headed.
A short period of calm using zafu cushions to focus on what's truly important helps you observe what's been distracting you and how you might be straying from the path the universe has placed you on. 10-minute meditation can be practiced anywhere and allows you to reconnect throughout the day, ensuring that all your actions and behaviors are filled with positivity and targeted towards achieving your goals rather than treading water.
Mental self-awareness is so important — it helps us identify our conceits and weaknesses, but also focus on our strengths and see what can be achieved. Whether it's a short 5-minute meditation or a ritual after waking up using morning meditation music, this practice can help you keep what's most important at the forefront of your mind.
4. Increases Attention Span
Without guided meditation, many of us never realize how helpful it can be to simply do nothing. Our attention is perpetually diverted by minor things, whether it's a buzzing phone or someone speaking. Homemade meditation retreats are a great place to escape and learn how sitting and listening to gentle meditation music on a zafu pillow can build your mental skills such as your attention span.
A longer attention span is beneficial in many ways:
- Helps you focus on important tasks
- Allows you to listen more effectively to others
- Helps you devise a life plan without getting distracted by minor goals and focus on the main issue at hand
- Lets you appreciate the nuances of natural sounds and images when watching nature
Longer periods of transcendental meditation are especially good for this. Meditation music can offer you a natural timeframe for this activity — put on a soothing playlist that lasts for a couple of hours. This means that you're not wondering when you should stop, because the meditation music will let you know. This allows you to clear your mind and focus your attention wherever it's needed.
5. Reduces Anxiety
Using meditation for anxiety is so relevant in an age where a large number of U.S. adults and teenagers suffer from anxiety. We tend to think of anxiety as a somewhat modern illness, and there's little doubt that modern life exacerbates anxiety by refusing to let us switch off. However, people have used meditation for anxiety for thousands of years, and it's equally effective today.
You can use guided meditation for anxiety - some practitioners specialize in this area. However, anxiety meditation for beginners can be as simple as sitting down on your favorite meditation pillow and asking yourself what's eating you up, what you want to achieve in life, and see how these worries aren't obstacles, they're distractions.
Anxiety has a cruel way of persuading us that small concerns are central to our lives, while meditation for anxiety helps you understand that most concerns are blown out of proportion in our minds and are irrelevant to our future. Those concerns that do have relevance can then be prioritized and addressed without distraction.
6. Improves Quality of Sleep
We touched on sleep meditation earlier. However, it's not just meditating using a comfortable zafu pillow before you go to bed that can help your sleep. By meditating at any time of day, you're reducing your stress levels, potentially regulating your blood flow, and helping yourself process the things that would otherwise keep you awake at night.
Learning to be mindful of how your life isn't governed by your job or negative relationships is also an important way sleep meditation helps to improve the quality of your rest. It lets you realize that the time you sleep and wake should be governed by what feels good to you, rather than other people. This doesn't mean “sleep in and ignore your job”; rather, it means that you realize that the healthiest time to sleep (during the night) is good for you and lets you wake up in time for work.
Waking with the dawn and practicing morning meditation using a zabuton and/or zafu cushions gives you a fresh perspective while going to sleep before it's too late means you'll get a good night's rest.
The more important thing is knowing that you're going to sleep because it's good for you, and not because your boss demands that you sleep and wake at certain hours. Work is secondary to health, and when you put health first, you'll perform far better and feel more confident at work.
7. Heightens Empathy
We're more connected with other people than we've ever been in a practical sense. However, this is quite different from our ability to empathize with others, which some experts believe has declined in recent years.
Empathy is a crucial emotional ability. It allows us to see the world through the eyes of others, and to perceive our behavior as consequential to those around us. Without empathy, we're unable to make decisions that are beneficial to the world around us as well as ourselves.
Practices like transcendental meditation provide a tranquil space away from the noise. Getting away from the noise of thousands of voices speaking at once allows you to focus on the voices that you need to hear - those of people close to you, or those of people you could help. Rediscovering our ability to empathize with others is fundamental to our growth as individuals and also our ability to affect the world positively.
8. Strengthens Decision-Making
How often have you decided something in a rush, without thinking of its consequences or why you're making that choice? Sometimes we don't even realize we have to make decisions. Mindfulness meditation can help us with this.
Clearing your mind enables you to see the decisions before you, but also what their probable effects will be. You can consider the consequences of your actions calmly and understand why some decisions need to be made - and why others don't. Decisions can be a source of stress. But sometimes, things presented to us as choices are simply distractions.
5-minute meditation can help you make better decisions in your work life without taking much time. If you're presented with a choice, rather than making a snap judgment, simply take 5 minutes out and clear your mind while considering what to do. The time you take out of your workday for a 5-minute meditation session is negligible compared to the long-lasting consequences of making a poorly-considered decision.
9. Enhances Physical Self-Awareness
In addition to improving your mental relationship with yourself, practices like chakra meditation or Kundalini meditation focus on building your relationship with your body. Freeing up energy centers around your body, especially at the base of the spine, is important to helping you feel every part of yourself and appreciate its sensitivity.
Energy centers at the base of your spine are especially important, which is why a meditation cushion can be so helpful for chakra meditation and its variants. This is a popular form of meditation for beginners, as our relationship with our bodies is often neglected today. You don't realize how much sensation is in areas like your toes until you take a break and try to feel them deliberately with your mind.
Enhanced physical awareness can be helpful for activities like sporting performance or even improving balance. Some forms of chakra meditation can also let you focus on pleasure centers in your body, which many practitioners say can improve your relationship with sex and physical pleasure.
10. Helps with Self-Control
Many of us struggle with self-control. This could be:
- In our diets
- When purchasing items
- In our sex lives
- When trying to choose a productive activity over procrastination
In the same way that mindfulness meditation can enhance your attention span, learning to do nothing for prolonged periods builds your self-control. One of the first things you discover when trying out meditation for beginners is that you're going to feel an itch. Instead of wondering what happens if you don't scratch it, rather consider “I don't have an itch”. It's an incredible first lesson in how you don't have to do things that you believed were compulsions.
This lesson translates to so many areas of our lives. By learning better self-control when practicing even 10-minute meditation, let alone longer sessions timed by guided meditation music, you'll discover that you can better resist urges across all areas of your life.
11. Combats Memory Loss
It's been suggested that practicing healing meditation might help reduce the severity of diseases like Alzheimer's Disease. A study found that participants practicing or using meditation music exhibited significantly less breakdown of memory than those who didn't. This is one of the most exciting benefits in terms of how meditating can treat debilitating illnesses.
On a smaller scale, it can also help you remember things in your day-to-day life. Taking some time out, even a 10-minute meditation session, to think about what you might have forgotten to do today can be so beneficial. You can also have sessions dedicated to long-term memories - remembering the people who were present at your birthday 5 years ago, or thinking of the names of streets you used to live on. This practice can have long-term benefits for your memory.
12. Aids Healthy Blood Pressure
Sitting upright on a meditation pillow lets blood flow freely throughout your body. Regulating your thoughts and breathing means that your heart rate drops from when you're rushing around, and long periods of holding this position and becoming aware of your heart rate can help you maintain healthier blood pressure.
High blood pressure increases the risk of many illnesses and heart attacks. Regulating your blood pressure isn't just about eating a healthy diet. It's about developing a better relationship with your body and learning to keep your heart rate even.
13. Lets Creativity Flourish
Many famous artists and thinkers have benefited from meditating. Director David Lynch is a renowned advocate of transcendental meditation, stating that it helps his creative process as well as managing his everyday life. The legendary philosopher and mathematician, Renee Descartes, titled his most famous philosophical contribution “Meditations on First Philosophy”, and documented his meditative journey through questioning.
Perhaps through your practice you can discover your own creativity.
14. Allows You to Prioritize What's Important
Focusing on the things that matter most in your life is a huge benefit of mindfulness meditation. This can go hand-in-hand with the useful practice of manifesting or building your relationship with the universe and discovering the path you're supposed to be walking.
Taking some time out with a meditation pillow and meditation music can be the difference between a day that is focused on beneficial things that will help you achieve your goals, and wasting a day trying to satisfy things that will never be satisfied. This could be your job, your negative relationships, or urges you wish you could live without. Even a brief rest on a zafu pillow can help you re-assess and focus your activities on what will help you.
History of Meditation
Meditative practices have emerged around the world over the millennia. What's striking is how similar their focus is, despite arising thousands of miles apart.
Taoism has a significant focus on meditative practices. Meanwhile, Chinese and Japanese Buddhism have both developed effective and well-known transcendental meditation styles down the years, including the advent of the zafu pillow.
The Indian subcontinent has given us many of the best-known types of meditation, such as chakra meditation and Kundalini meditation. Its diverse religions have given birth to a huge variety of practices and learning styles. Many people travel to India to practice guided meditation even today.
Islamic and Judaic traditions have involved meditation as part of religious activity. Salah is practiced 5 times each day in Islam and constitutes a form of devoted meditation and communion. The Jewish Torah contains many ancient examples of meditative practices, right back to the story of Isaac.
Christian monks have meditated for centuries. Mount Athos in Greece is a holy site where monks fast andmeditate extensively to become closer to God.
Around the world, people have created meditation retreats for millennia, but have also practiced meditation as part of day-to-day life. The commonality of meditative practices around the world shows us that meditation is something that we need.
Why Practice Meditation?
What will you discover when you sit down on your meditation cushion? Benefits are always unique to the individual. However, they tend to follow a few key paths.
Improved health is a key reason to start practicing. From lower blood pressure to better sleep, the health benefits of meditating are well-known and relevant to so many of us. It's a natural remedy to the harmful stresses of modern life.
Connection with the Universe
Building a stronger connection with the universe is a great reason to practice. The universe lets us know what's most important and how to achieve it. Meditating as part of learning to manifest is considered highly effective.
Connection with the Self
Learning what makes us tick and what we're afraid of is a key part of healing meditation and other practices. So many of our thoughts are needless distractions. When these are stripped away, we're left with ourselves. That's something we need to learn more about.
Connection with Others
Meditation can enhance our ability to empathize and see the world from others' perspectives. This is important if we want to live in a way that benefits the world around us. We can better identify who needs our help and why we're well-placed to offer that help.
Styles of Meditation
This style is about moving beyond your physical body and connecting with the wider universe. It's practiced across the world and has been known for millennia under different monikers. It's one of the most popular and effective styles.
Translated from Japanese as “seated meditation”, this is the type that traditionally involves the use of zafu cushions and a zabuton. It's a Buddhist practice that has become increasingly well-known around the years - “zen meditation” is often used when people are talking about Zazen.
Mindfulness is the art of becoming more aware of your thought processes. It's popular in the West and has been described as effective for career success as well as achieving a well-balanced life. Mindfulness meditation is often adopted as a part of manifesting.
This means practicing under a teacher or leader. Different types of guided meditation have been used around the world for millennia. Today, you can visit a meditation center or meditation retreats to practice many meditative styles with a guide.
This is often accompanied by sleep meditation music and is a process of clearing and dealing with your thoughts before you rest. This can have significant benefits to your quality of sleep, which in turn promotes a healthier lifestyle.
5 or 10-Minute Meditation
5-minute meditation is popular among people with busy working lives. It can improve decision-making or help take a quick break during the working day.
Chakra meditation focuses on energy centers around the body. The concept of tantra is part of chakra meditation. By channeling energy between different parts of the body and opening up the flow, it can allow an individual to reach a heightened mental and physical state.
Kundalini meditation is based on the idea of chakra. It refers to divine, feminine energy emanating from the base of the spine. Kundalini yoga is practiced as part of this style, and it's become increasingly popular in the West recently.
Healing meditation is used to help treat issues like anxiety or PTSD. This style involves freeing up your mind to confront thoughts and feelings that are causing you harm. It's encouraged by many therapists and can have significant benefits to emotional health.
When is the Best Time During the Day to Practice Meditation?
There's no one best time of day. The most important thing is to find a time that suits you and achieves what you need. For example, if you're using meditation for anxiety, then it might be a good idea to try sleep meditation in the evening. If you're looking for better focus during your working day, then morning meditation is an excellent choice.
The time you choose should slot in naturally as part of a healthy lifestyle. It's also a good idea to place your meditative activity before meals rather than afterward, as it's harder to focus when your body is digesting food.
Should you visit a Meditation Center?
Meditation retreats are great places to practice guided meditation. You can learn from an expert teacher and meet like-minded people striving to improve their lives.
If you're thinking about visiting a meditation center, it's worth doing your research thoroughly. Find somewhere that sounds like it'll be transformative. Don't just go with the meditation center nearest to you.
An advantage of a zafu pillow with a handle is that you can easily take it with you on meditation retreats. Even if you're traveling across the world, a high-quality meditation pillow with a handle is easy to carry on a plane and provides some familiarity at the meditation center.
What Can You Do to Make Meditation More Effective?
So what can you use to make independent or guided meditation more effective? If you're practicing at home, here are some top suggestions.
Use Aromatherapy Products
Aromatherapy items such as scented candles or diffusers can create a pleasant, calming ambiance. Scents such as lavender or jasmine are soothing and therapeutic, helping you achieve a more relaxed state appropriate to transcendental meditation or other practices.
Listen to Natural Sounds
Some people prefer to practice healing meditation outdoors — nature is the great healer, after all. This also lets you listen to natural sounds, which are soothing and help refresh your connection with the world around you.
If you live in a built-up, densely populated area, consider taking a trip to a quiet place for a healing meditation session. It's important to take a break from city living and get out into nature every once in a while, and meditating while you're there is a great idea.
Meditation music has been used in cultures across the world for centuries. What's the best meditation music? That depends on your preference.
Some people prefer chants, although many people find that an absence of human voices (or especially words) helps them focus more effectively.
Sleep meditation music is especially popular today. You can find playlists of non-intrusive sleep meditation music that won't wake you up again during the night or that stop after a set time.
This is also a great chance to explore different musical styles from around the world. For example, if you want to try chakra meditation, you have a reason to find out more about the rich musical culture of India.
Keep a Clean and Organized Room
Arranging the objects in your room in an optimal pattern is well-known as part of Feng Shui, a Chinese practice that harmonizes energy levels in your room. However, it's also practiced in many other cultures around the globe and is a quintessential part of unguided and guided meditation.
The Japanese author Marie Kondo has written and spoken about the concept of objects that “spark joy” when decluttering. Removing items from your room that don't seem joyful or assistive to your healing meditation is good practice.
Let Fresh Air In
Whether you're meditating indoors or outside, fresh air is important. It's healthy and natural and lets you focus more effectively than stale air in a stagnant room.
Make sure the room you use to meditate has been well-aired for at least half an hour before you begin a session. If it's noisy outside, this means you can shut the window and still enjoy the benefits while you're practicing.
Meditate on an Empty Stomach
This is especially important for morning meditation but also sleep meditation. Practicing before your first meal of the day means that your body isn't focused on digestion.
Meanwhile, sleep meditation benefits from an empty stomach because you're not supposed to be busy digesting food when you're about to go to sleep. Active digestion reduces the quality of your sleep and can cause indigestion in the morning. Giving yourself space between a meal and your practice helps to approach sleep with a clear mind.
Crystals are an important part of meditating for many people, and a good meditation pillow typically includes pockets to store your favorite crystals.
Why are crystals important for transcendental meditation and other practices? The energy and vibrations of molecules inside crystals are sometimes considered to resonate with our own vibrations. Especially if you're practicing unguided or guided meditation as a part of manifesting, you'll be familiar with the importance of positive vibrations. We can sense the vibrations from crystals and raise our own vibration accordingly. Crystals can act as a sort of amplifier or conduit between ourselves and the universe in this way.
There's a reason crystals and gemstones have been a valued part of spiritualism around the world for millennia. On a basic level, they feel good to hold and to look at. Today we understand more about why crystals are such a great addition to your meditation pillow set-up and why they can assist with your practice.
Choose the Best Time of Day
Morning meditation is considered especially useful for those with busy working lives. It provides a necessary interval between sleeping and working and lets you approach your day in a structured, effective manner. This can help you perform better at work without feeling the stress — it's the best of both worlds.
In the evening, using sleep meditation music is beneficial for those who want to use meditation for anxiety. It helps to settle and focus your thoughts and dismiss distracting thoughts that aren't important to your journey.
Don't Force It — Feel It
When you take up meditation for beginners, you might feel slightly silly. This is natural if you're not attuned as it's an art form and takes time to learn. However, your response shouldn't be to “try doing it better”.
Don't think of it as a task. Think of it as sitting in front of a blank piece of paper and drawing whatever comes to your mind. The first time you might only end up with some odd doodles. However, if you do this enough times, you'll find that shapes begin to become more distinctive and identifiable. This is when you know you're making progress.
Don't force your sessions. Find the right meditation pillow and use the right items and meditation music to guide you. Learn what works for you, and the rest will come.
How to Start Meditation for Beginners
Here's a quick guide to meditation for beginners.
1. Choose a Meditation Pillow
Your meditation cushion should be comfortable for whatever position you're using it in. A zafu pillow is the most popular choice because its round shape is utilitarian. Make sure your meditation cushion can be filled to your desired firmness and is made of natural materials.
2. Try Different Places
Where should you meditate? Some people designate a room, while others go out into nature. Others practice 10-minute meditation on the train to work.
The most important thing is to find a spot that helps you feel calm. There's no “right” place - there's only the right feeling.
3. Find Your Style
You might have some idea of what you want when trying out meditation for beginners. Many people try transcendental meditation as a part of learning to manifest. Others practice Kundalini or chakra meditation to help them connect more with their bodies.
You should try out different meditative styles before settling on one. You might find that you're surprised at what best suits you.
4. Expect Nothing
It's important to never “demand”. Mindfulness meditation and other practices are about letting go of what's in your mind and allowing the most important things to assemble naturally. We're full of distracting thoughts, and expectations are some of these. Don't ask or expect; simply listen.
5. Be Open to Questions
Questions will come to you when they're ready. You already have the answers; practices like transcendental meditation are about allowing these questions to come from a deeper source so that you can address them without bias. Your waking thoughts are dominated by what the world tells you. Your deeper mind has the answers but won't provide them until you let the important questions come to you.
6. Discover Your Favorite Meditation Items
A meditation cushion is such a useful part of practicing for most people. It lets you rest comfortably in any position and lets you store your favorite items like crystals safely.
Set up your room as a healthy, healing place. If something seems to work, use it.
7. Keep Learning
We never truly “master” transcendental meditation or any other form. In the same way that there is no “perfect” work of art, there's always more to come when you learn to meditate. Meditation for beginners is about accepting your humble starting point and opening yourself up to the universe.
Your meditation cushion should be a comforting item that reflects the positive reasons you're taking up meditation for beginners. High-quality meditation pillows, like those from PineTales, are made from all-natural cotton and filled with home-grown buckwheat hulls. This means that they can easily be adjusted to suit your style and join you on your minfulness journey.
You can know everything about meditation and meditation cushions, but your journey is just beginning. Find the right meditation pillow for your needs. Try out different practices and learn which style benefits you the most. Through practice, you'll discover even more benefits to having the right meditation pillow than you ever imagined.