Meditation is all about finding a space where you can quiet your mind and focus on the present moment. The medical benefits speak for themselves but finding that space can be quiet difficult. Some use binaural audio to help them focus, others find a quiet spot. Others use specially designed seating to help improve the quiet space. One such method is the use of a zafu cushion.
Although ‘zafu’ is often translated as ‘sewn seat’ in American English, the meaning of the Japanese ‘kanji’ is different. ‘za’ means ‘seat’ and ‘fu’ means a seat stuffed with Typha (the fluffy, soft, downy fibres of the disintegrating Typha heads). The Japanese zafu originates in China, where these meditation seats were originally filled with Typha. Today, that is no longer the case in Japan or China. An alternate translation of zafu is ‘cushion for sitting’ or ‘sitting cushion’, where za means ‘sitting’ or ‘sit’ and fu means ‘cushion’. The words zabuton, zafuton and futon are closely linked. The word ‘zazen’ meaning ‘seated meditation’ or ‘sitting meditation’ is also closely linked. In western terms, colloquially speaking, ‘zafu’ refers to a meditation cushion, and ‘zabuton’ refers to the cushioned mat on which a zafu is placed.