If you’ve ended up here, it’s likely that you searched for ‘meditation gear for beginners’ or a similar term. Perhaps you’ve been to a couple of classes, or been using an app or a guided meditation. And it’s been going well for the most part, it’s something you’d like to explore in more depth. And most importantly in our consumer culture, you’re ready to show the world your commitment by spending some of your hard-earned – or let’s hope not ill-gotten — gains. Finally, a way to let go of attachment to material things! So let’s go shopping!

Of course I write with my tongue firmly in my cheek. Because there are the worldly desires that increase craving, and the “other worldly” (“spiritual”) desires, ones that work to decrease our attachment to material things, which unfortunately are impermanent, insubstantial, and not ultimately fulfilling.

As you probably are, I am also a product of our consumerist society. And so I have a fairly deep habit of thinking “Problem? Great! I’ll spend all my spare time researching different options and then develop an unhealthy fixation on what I believe will be the perfect item that will solve all my problems!”.

And I tell you what, I have spent a LOT of time thinking about meditation gear.

Because meditation gear is related to meditation posture. And especially when you’re a beginner, you may get very caught up in thoughts around posture. I certainly did!

And the irony is that posture IS important. And I personally believe that finding the right gear for meditation is also quite important. Because essentially you want gear that will “stay out of the way” and let you focus on the object of meditation.

What Do I Mean by Meditation Gear?

Essentially it’s the equipment that allows you to sit comfortably. Floor mats, cushions, bolsters, stools, shawls, blankets, chairs, and more cushions!

That’s what this post is about, at least. There’s a whole lot more that you could consider if you really wanted to - like incense, candles, a shrine, a rupa (figure) of Shakyamuni Buddha (the O.G. Buddha) or any of the bodhisattvas. But let’s not get carried away just yet!

Good meditation gear - speaking now of whatever helps you maintain a comfortable posture - will naturally depend on what is comfortable for our own body.

If you’ve done yoga all your life you’ll probably be quite flexible and sitting in a full lotus position - where both feet sit on top of the opposite thigh - won’t be a problem. You don’t even need a cushion! In my earlier years I practised a lot of yoga and sitting in full lotus wasn’t too much of a challenge… for maybe the first fifteen minutes. After that it usually became too painful. And please listen to me when I say that staying still in any position watching your thoughts can be a challenge in itself!

Though it does feel quite good, to sit as the Buddha sat. Full lotus does feel very steady. But after 10+ years of meditation, I can tell you what else feels very steady - sitting upright in a dining chair or garden chair.

And Buddhist legend (in the most positive sense of the word) has it that the NEXT Buddha, Maitreya, will be seated on a throne. Or perhaps a lawn chair! Maybe you’re the next Buddha. But the lotus must blossom when it’s ready, let’s not get too excited.

Meditation Cushions

In my experience these come in a few different varieties and sub-varieties. My personal favourite, which we just happen to sell, are the meditation cushions filled with buckwheat hulls. Buckwheat hulls are just that - the leftover product from buckwheat processing. This means that they are completely biodegradable and have zero environmental impact.

Buckwheat Hull Meditation Cushions

Windhorse and Bodhi have partnered with WEFTshop to produce ethically sourced cotton meditation cushion covers. This means that your purchase supports refugee and migrant families from Burma.

As your meditation practice deepens you might start to question the ethics of the goods that bring you comfort. So get your practice off on the right foot (or perhaps buttock cheek?) and go ethical from the beginning.

What I love about buckwheat hulls is that you can adjust the height of your cushion to what feels just right for you. Though whatever you do, don’t get too obsessed! I have unfortunately spent many hours on various cushions obsessively wondering if I’m a smidgeon too high or too low, and if that will stop the slight discomfort.

And please let me be frank, when you first start meditating, it’s probably going to be uncomfortable. The instructions will likely tell you to stay as still as possible, and only move if you’re in pain. Which really just begs the question - where exactly is the line between discomfort and pain? (Answer: there isn’t one! Just don’t stress about it).

In my experience, as a moderately reformed desk jockey, part of it was just building the muscles of good sitting posture.

Another benefit is that as the husks start to compress (which may happen after a year of hour plus long sessions), you can simply top them up. This isn’t possible with cotton-stuffed cushions - once they start to compress, it’s probably time to start looking for a new cushion.

In general, I rate buckwheat hull meditation cushions three out of four Dhyanas. And because our cushions help those in need, they get a bonus stage of dhyana!

Cotton-filled meditation cushions

These can work well too, and in my experience these are the ones found most commonly in Buddhist centres and meditation halls. However they tend to be thinner (“shorter” I suppose would be more accurate). So normally you might need two, or three (or four, or…) to achieve a comfortable sitting height.

If you’re still at the very early stages, these might be quite good, though I would suggest you can just use these at your meditation centre to experiment with posture. Because depending on how flexible you are, you can use cushions to sit “cross legged” - although ideally your legs won’t actually be crossed, because it won’t take long for that contact point to become painful.

But you can also stack four, or five or more and straddle them, so that rather than a sitting position, you’re essentially kneeling, but allowing the weight of the body to be supported evenly through the buttocks and knees / lower legs. If you do find this position more comfortable, you might be interested in the next option - a bench.

I rate cotton meditation cushions two out of four dhyanas.

Meditation Benches / Meditation Stools

Traditionally these are a fixed height, fixed angle. Which means they are supremely solid and steady, and a good foundation for a kneeling posture. However, the meditation bench that provided excellent stability at the start of your sit (that’s what experienced meditators say for a session, a “sit”) may at the end of the 30 or 40 minutes feel painful and unyielding.

A middle way can somewhat be achieved with either a folded blanket or cushion, but again this will trade off a small amount of stability.

Personally, I find I end up holding my pelvis to match the angle of the stool. And have noticed myself - and also other meditators - coming to a point in the sit where the pelvis suddenly, spontaneously changes position. This can sometimes happen if we’re drowsy, and will jolt us violently out of our torpor. Which sometimes is helpful, sometimes quite unpleasant. This one might be hard to make sense of until you’ve had it happen.

There are also adjustable height benches. I have used one that uses straps, and it means the pelvis is free to swing (slightly) backwards or forwards.

I used a meditation stool for many years, but found that I was putting too much pressure on my knees.

My rating: Three out of four dhyanas

Meditation Shawls

Apart from keeping us warm and cosy in the winter months, these are also very helpful if you’re using a meditation stool or meditation bench. You can sort of tie the shawl around your waist, a bit like a belt. This provides a nice place to hold your hands, and keep your arms relaxed but upright.

Because if you’re sitting on a cushion, you can keep your hands in your lap. Though I will generally use a small cushion to raise my forearms slightly to keep them in alignment.

But if you’re in more of a kneeling position, it can be difficult to know what to do with your hands and arms. For me I can't quite place them on my thighs, because it tends to make me lean forward - which further increases the weight of my arms and hands.

So with a meditation shawl, you can keep your shoulders back, which keeps the chest open, but with the upper arms aligned with the torso.

If you don’t have a meditation shawl, a hoodie with front pockets can do just as well!

Meditation Mats

I’m mainly familiar with the thinner types, I think usually it’s just a rubber or similar foam core. These are maybe 2cm thick and while better than nothing, are perhaps not ideal.

However we also sell meditation zabutons, which are thicker, and dare I say more luxurious?! It can feel a little like sitting on a cloud, or perhaps a magic rug! They’re cotton filled, so that means they’ll generally compress down a little to keep your posture steady. They work with both meditation cushions and meditation benches, but are more suited to cushions. For benches you would have to try it to see - the wooden “legs” of a meditation stool can feel unstable on top of roughly 6cm of cotton.

Meditation Chairs

Nothing particularly special, these are essentially just chairs. And I’m starting to think that a chair is potentially the best for people who’ve grown up in the west, people who don’t do yoga, and the biologically older (I’m young at heart!).

Though of course there are chairs that are well-suited to meditation, and those that are poorly suited. My current set-up is a white plastic garden chair that I salvaged from a neighbour’s verge on hard rubbish pickup day! I use that and a foam camping mat to act as a seat cushion. And I use an old bedspread to cover it all.

But - I also use what’s basically a plank of wood so that the back legs of the chair are a little higher. This allows the pelvis to tilt forward slightly, like it would with a meditation stool. But the advantage for westerners is that we can sit quite comfortably with almost all of the weight taken by the buttocks.

There is a caveat - in this Sahā world of difficulty and endurance, of course there is! And the caveat is that ideally we won’t be leaning back against the back of the chair. And at first this might seem like quite an effort - and perhaps it’s downplayed for me since I’ve already spent many years on cushion and stool first.

Perhaps counterintuitively, using your body and back to support itself can be the most comfortable. As your bodily awareness increases, it will become easier to find that subtle point of ease, where your head balances on top of your neck, and each vertebrae holds and supports the ones above it. The head can feel weightless.

Getting to this point can take some time though, and self-compassion is key. Don’t give yourself a hard time! If you need to lean back, lean back and let the chair support your back.

The massive advantage of learning to go deep in meditation in a chair is that it’s easier to do when you’re out and about and need a minute or 20 to decompress from the relentless fire-hose of perceptual input that the modern world sprays at us (and that we spray at ourselves!).

By meditating in a chair it becomes easier to meditate while waiting for public transport, or on public transport, or perhaps a park bench, or perhaps even your own office chair!

General Tips for Meditation Posture and Meditation Gear

Please, please, be kind to your body. We’re training our minds, and our hearts, and a large part of that is training the body. We’re not used to sitting still. But I would suggest sticking with a posture for as long as you can, as long as it’s pain free. If you’re shifting from posture to posture, or even continually adjusting your chosen position, you’re not going to get particularly deep. Keep the bodily awareness open, but let it fade into the background as you get more engaged with the object of your meditation (for example, the sensations of the breath at the tip of the nose).

If you try a meditation bench, stick with it, unless it becomes very painful as soon as you sit. The same goes for full lotus asana on hard tiles or a cushion, or a chair. Give the posture or the equipment time. Cushions and mats will conform more to your body, and there may be a breaking-in period. And of course all things are interrelated and arise and pass in co-dependence upon everything else. Which means your body will change, too!

My posture is certainly far from perfect, but I’ve found a greater sense of ease in my body. I’ve noticed that after periods of meditation where I’m sitting in alignment, that flows through to my posture standing and walking. My chest opens, my heart opens, and yet I feel more confident being vulnerable.

Summing up this beginner’s guide to meditation gear

Please accept it as it is, with its many faults. This is by no means comprehensive, and it’s definitely not concise. I hope I’ve written honestly and from my own experience. Meditation is an infinitely deep topic, and posture is important. But it’s also important to hold posture lightly - and I mean that both figuratively and literally. Don’t get too obsessed with posture. There’s no “perfect” posture, as like all things they are not “things” but processes of becoming. There is movement within stillness and stillness within movement. So whatever it is, don’t get attached, because it will change. No doubt I will at some point move from the chair back to a cushion, and maybe a bench too.

And of course you’re most welcome to contact us if you have any questions!