Hiking on a brisk winter morning in the American southwest desert. Topping a ridge we see a line of low trees about half mile away – we investigate. We first hear a gurgle of water and as we near a small seasonal flow, then see the gently flowing water, at times spilling through a riffle of stones, at other times forming small eddies with golden leaves floating in gentle circles, sometimes moving slightly and losing a few leaves downstream while capturing others in its new spiraling location. Dappled light, water gurgling over a lichen and moss covered log, the smell of recently dry vegetation, now musty with the new moisture. A large flat igneous rock just above the stream, still cold from the recent near freezing dawn, offers a fine venue for immersing oneself in these wonders.
Opportunities like this for meditation in a perfect venue happen often during our primary outdoor activities of hiking and biking. In our packs or panniers, we each usually carried a small piece of foam gardening mat from which, with the addition of a few rocks or perhaps a small dead log for support, we fashion a spot to sit and practice as Ram Dass suggests “Be Here Now.”
Outdoor meditation comes with plenty of challenges such as heat, cold, wind, rain, insects that we can’t control, why not control those factors that we can (don’t set up on an ant nest).
Given a choice, we like to sit on a Zafu with a heel cutout in the Burmese position, you know, the position with one heel drawn up under the groin and the other heel drawn up to the first. We find it very stable and easy to maintain an erect posture. The two main issues outdoors are temperature of the ground surface and the surface texture. In the example above, the rocks were probably about 40 degrees F and the volcanic surface was, though reasonably flat, had a very sharp texture but, the good news, was dry.
The other criteria for outdoor, portable meditation seating are that it must be lightweight, moisture and abrasion resistant, provide a stable platform for sitting, and provide cushioning for the feet. Ankles and insteps did not evolve to be comfortable on cold rough rocks or hot sand.
With these criteria in mind and the goal of making two cushions that addressed these needs.
After many iterations, more foam (foam cuts made with an electric carving knife from the resale shop), assembly of the foam laminations done with spray glue from hardware store, and the folding parts held together with gaffer tape hinges I had developed a cushion that was near meeting all my criteria.
Finding a place to sit and getting comfortable should never be a barrier to meditation. It should never be about the cushion or other seating. The GoZafu is a means to an end. The common exhortation, “Just get your butt on the cushion” assumes that you have a cushion designed to withstand the outdoor challenges, designed for comfort and posture, and light and compact enough so you can make it your constant companion outdoors.
With your thumbs, push the magnetic latches of the GoZafu to the outsides of the cushion releasing the pad. Put GoZafu on that cold sharp rock. Put butt on GoZafu. Set Insight imer. Bells. Attend to breath …..(there is a Koan about that little swirling eddy … and the one how it’s never the same stream.) Breathe.
The Go Zafu meditation cushion was designed to enable you to be present. Anywhere.