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Thread: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

  1. #1

    What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    I have been practicing zazen for a little while now. Because of there being no stores in my town, or more importantly because money is tight right now, I do not have the ability to get a zafu or bench (which I would actually prefer). In it's place I have been using a pillow, bent in half, but this is of course not the greatest support for my back. I know that I won't be a "proper" practitioner or not be able to zazen without one, but it helps in being comfortable when "just sitting".

    My question is what could I use or do, in place of a zafu or bench until I can acquire one.

    Gassho

  2. #2

    Re: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    A pillow is fine. I used to use a large floor pillow with two throw pillows sitting on top of it as a zafu. Even your regular bed pillow folded in half works well. There are also plans for both zafu and benches online. I recently just finished making myself a bench from these plans:
    http://www.westernchanfellowship.org/me ... bench.html

    It was actually quite simple. It took three cuts with the saw to make, and the wooden plank I used cost $1.19 at Lowes. I had the hinges on hand, but I'm sure those are only a couple bucks as well. If you don't have tools, many of the home improvement stores will cut your wood to the proper length for free or for a small fee.

    As for being a 'proper' practitioner, was the Buddha improper? He had neither zafu or bench as far as I can tell!

  3. #3

    Re: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    Hiya!
    I used to use a doubled up thicker bed pillow like you said. Failing that some stacked up blankets or quilts.
    There are lots of good suggestions in other posts on this topic too.

    One thing I was pointed to here that was very helpful was this:
    http://www.enabling.org/ia/vipassana...tructions.html
    Make ur own

    Gassho
    Shohei

  4. #4

    Re: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jen
    A pillow is fine. I used to use a large floor pillow with two throw pillows sitting on top of it as a zafu. Even your regular bed pillow folded in half works well. There are also plans for both zafu and benches online. I recently just finished making myself a bench from these plans:
    http://www.westernchanfellowship.org/me ... bench.html

    It was actually quite simple. It took three cuts with the saw to make, and the wooden plank I used cost $1.19 at Lowes. I had the hinges on hand, but I'm sure those are only a couple bucks as well. If you don't have tools, many of the home improvement stores will cut your wood to the proper length for free or for a small fee.

    As for being a 'proper' practitioner, was the Buddha improper? He had neither zafu or bench as far as I can tell!
    Thank you. I have been thinking about making my own bench. Have to also look into making my own zafu too. As for the "proper" practitioner, I said that because sometimes people think that if you don't do it a certain way or the like that your not doing it "properly". I am not worried that if I don't use one I'm not a proper Buddhist, but I've used them before in meditation groups and their just so comfortable, especially on my back. 8)

  5. #5

    Re: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    My back and my knees are why I switched to a bench. Sitting Burmese-style was causing some veins to burst near my knees, and the seiza bench seems to have cured that issue for now.

    I posted up a thread showing pics of the bench I made for inspiration:
    viewtopic.php?f=9&t=2433

    As for making a zafu, I've made quite a few of those. Unless you are using buckwheat, you have to stuff them with filling until you think no more can possible fit, then stuff with a bit more. This goes for both kapok and cotton stuffing. If you don't, within a few days the zafu will be a limp, unsupportive throw pillow type thing!

    Gassho,
    Joshin

  6. #6

    Re: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jen
    My back and my knees are why I switched to a bench. Sitting Burmese-style was causing some veins to burst near my knees, and the seiza bench seems to have cured that issue for now.

    I posted up a thread showing pics of the bench I made for inspiration:
    viewtopic.php?f=9&t=2433

    As for making a zafu, I've made quite a few of those. Unless you are using buckwheat, you have to stuff them with filling until you think no more can possible fit, then stuff with a bit more. This goes for both kapok and cotton stuffing. If you don't, within a few days the zafu will be a limp, unsupportive throw pillow type thing!

    Gassho,
    Joshin
    I like that bench you made, very nice. Good thing you said something about making it right for height reasons cause I'm 6'1 as well :P . And about stuffing the zafu too. Thank you again Jen and Shohei.

    Gassho,
    -David

  7. #7
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Re: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    When I started sitting and was looking for something to sit on, one of those floor-chair things did great in a pinch. (What do you call those things? The stuffed things with a back and arms that you use to sit on the floor or bed comfortably.)

    After a while, though, I discovered that I never got over my legs falling asleep so badly -- I thought it was just a matter of getting used to it. I sat on said chair-thingy anyway, until one time that my daughter was using it. So I sat on a low, folded blanket...and discovered that caused much less of that pins-and-needles feeling. I guess it's a height thing, I just needed something a few inches thick.

    I guess then if I wanted to buy something "official", I would just need the zabuton.
    Gassho
    Julia

  8. #8

    Re: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    I guess it's a height thing
    As you can see from my zaf, it's not great height wise. I use a cushion underneath. Otherwise my knees don't touch the ground that great.

    Gassho

  9. #9
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Re: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    I'm one of those weirdos whose knees touch the floor even when I'm sitting (Burmese or half-lotus) on the floor directly. I need the blanket for the comfort of my sit-bones. Your zafu alone would still be too high for me - I don't really understand why, but the higher up I sit, the more pins and needles. It would be interesting to talk to a kinesiologist about the body mechanics of sitting zazen, wouldn't it?

    I would say that my floor-chair thingy would be about the thickness of a zafu on part of it, and slightly thicker on another side (I used to flip it back so the arms were sticking up). So it would work for a number of people with more normal hip joints than mine. It's stuffed tightly, too, I would say almost as much as a real zafu.

  10. #10

    Re: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    Well, if it works...

    Gassho

  11. #11

    Re: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    I do the throw pillow thing -- two of them stacked on each other. Works ok, and you can adjust the height by adding or removing pillows

    Gassho,
    Rob

  12. #12
    Stephanie
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    Re: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    A good basic guideline: if it's thick, firm, and stiff, it should work.

    :mrgreen:

  13. #13

    Re: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    what to use when a zafu is unavailable....


    your head!

  14. #14
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    A good basic guideline: if it's thick, firm, and stiff, it should work.

    :mrgreen:
    Truer words may never have been spoken. :lol:

  15. #15
    Senior Member bayamo's Avatar
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    Re: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    I use a folded up quilt under a pillow. Somedays I need a very small, baby type pillow under my ankles.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Silva's Avatar
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    Re: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    Hi jen

    Thanks for the link for the bench. I printed the plans and showed my husband who made me a bench this week-end. I'm so grateful as it is a great improvement and relief for my legs and I can now serenely prolong zazen for longer as I was having terrible trouble with cramps in my feet. Even kinhin at regular intervals didn't help.

    gassho

    Sylvie

  17. #17
    Senior Member pinoybuddhist's Avatar
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    Re: What to use when a zafu is unavailable...

    I have two thick hard-bound books wrapped up in a bath towel for a zafu and another folded up towel for a zabuton. That's for when I'm sitting during my break from work. In the bedroom at home, I use a folded up pillow (not very stable though). I have also experimented using my wife's Minnie Mouse footstool and her stuffed panda ('cause it's flattened enough to be used as a zabuton) :mrgreen: .

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