Do you want it thick or thin? Walk amongst the cushions until you see one that seems to have the appropriate girth. Kneel down next to it.
Take your hands and place them flat on the center of the cushion, palm above palm, as if about to perform CPR.
Align your shoulders over your elbows over your palms. Press down firmly into the cushion’s center thirty times, to the beat of Another One Bites The Dust. Does the inside material feel stiff? Does it have too much give? A proper cushion will feel both forgiving and yet firm.
Stand and lift the cushion by its strap. Does it hang there like a scolded toddler, or does it hang there like a puppy picked up by its scruff? A proper cushion is somewhat adorable.
Give the cushion a few good whacks. Does the sound echo in the room or does it get absorbed by the cushion? Reassess how it looks. If the cushion now hangs like a scolded toddler, you have the wrong cushion.
Place the cushion on top of your head. Find the nearest mirror. If you squint just so, could the cushion be mistaken for a hat? If so, a beret or a bowler? If you answered beret, you have the wrong cushion.
Tell the cushion a secret. Not your deepest, darkest secret, but something semi-juicy. Does the secret seem safe with the cushion? A good cushion is trustworthy.
Go to the bathroom and draw a bath. Light a candle and put a decadent amount of bath salts in the tub. Make sure the water is steaming. Place the cushion near the bath. Leave and come back in five minutes. Does it seem like the cushion is closer to the bath than it was before? Cushions that yearn for baths are not up to the serious task of meditation. A good cushion is disciplined and dry.
Take a bath. It would be a shame to waste all that water. The cushion can wait.
Get dressed and bring the cushion out to your car. Buckle it into the passenger seat. Drive to the grocery store and blast Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody. Sing along, loudly. At the end of the song, and only when safely stopped at a traffic light, glance at the cushion. Do you feel judged? A proper cushion does not judge.
Do your grocery shopping. While in the store, are you thinking of the cushion? Are you worried about it? Do you kind of miss it?
Upon returning to the vehicle, do you get the sense that the cushion is bored and/or sulking?
On the drive home, repeat the musical test, only this time blast Angel by Sarah McLachlan. Does the cushion seem emotional? A good cushion is compassionate.
Unload the groceries. Did the cushion offer to help? Just kidding, cushions can’t talk.
If you think the cushion spoke, seek psychiatric assistance immediately.
Bring the cushion inside. Place it on the meditation mat. Light some incense. Follow the proper forms and take a seat on the cushion, exhaling and bowing forward, inhaling and finding your balance point, and exhaling again as you ease into the posture. Is the cushion cushioning you?
You are now ready to begin your practice.
Alex Tzelnic is a writer and Zen practitioner living in Cambridge, MA. He has the perfect meditation cushion; however he is still searching for the right brand of incense.
Image courtesy of Akuppa John Wigham / Flickr