The origin of zafu goes back to Buddha Sakiamuni. It is said that before staying still in zazen, Buddha made himself a cushion made of dried herbs in order to swivel the pelvis to the front and be able to rest the knees on the floor with strength. This way, we can get a estable and balanced posture and a good lumbar curve. The zafu should never be hit with the foot, thrown or harmed.
As we are in front of the zafu, we greet with our palms together at the height of the chest (gassho). By doing this gesture, we show our respect for the place where we are going to become Buddha. Then, we are placed in front of our zafu, opposite the wall, once we have bordered the zafu by the left side.
We sit on the zafu in a calm way, with no hurry and not falling like a dead weight. We control the movement that goes from the standing position to the sit one. We sit just in the centre of the zafu, neither to the left, nor to the right, not even being too closed to the edge or at the back side of it. For zazen there are two possible positions: lotus and half lotus.
What is essential in zazen is that the knees are resting strongly on the floor and the buttocks on the zafu. This triangle is the basis of the zazen posture. If it is not possible to adopt these postures at the beginning, we should ask a master or an instructor which posture should be adopted instead to sit in zazen.
Once we have adopted properly that posture of our legs, we should stretch our spine completely, our nape too and the chin tucked downward. We put our thumbs inside the fists, place them on our knees upward and we swing them from left to right, seven or eight times. We start with a wide swaying and, little by little, we decrease the spaciousness, the same as a pendulum, until recovering the perfect vertical position.
Text taken from the book “¿Qué es el Zen? Introducción práctica a la meditación Zen”, by Dokushô Villalba. Ediciones Miraguano, ISBN: 978-84-7813-286-4. All rights reserved.