Very often people ask monks if they are allowed this or allowed that. It is not this easy to describe what is freedom, what are choices and what are rules... and so, to answer this question is sometimes tricky. In the practice of zen, monks receive rules and life ideals. That they follow it or not is their personal business... considering the fact that many monks and nuns live outside monasteries nowadays, there is no police checking what they do constantly. The equilibrium in between rules and freedoms is balanced by choice. There are no mistakes nor failure, but you can eventually go wrong in your choices.
In the life of a monk who practices, it is said that his only choice is his zafu.
The zafu is the meditation pillow in which one sits to practice zazen and eventually other meditative exercises. Commonly black to not be disturbing with bright colours in the dojo, it is up to the meditator to choose its shape, size, thickness, stiffness and so on. So to choose it well is sometimes difficult.
a limited edition of beautiful zafus with japanese fabric
Personally, i like to say that one should choose a zafu which is in harmony with their butt. If you have a big and soft butt, choose a big and soft zafu, if you have a small and hard butt, go for a small and hard zafu. That is definitely not a rule but a simple advice. You may change your zafu many times in your life. Try different models. One thing that i consider important is that your zafu should not be way to much fluffy. The posture of zazen needs stability and so your zafu should be firm.
Nowadays, many people have understood the need of a zafu. Sitting straight on the ground is not good for your heap position and it will be difficult to erect your spine vertically. Also, sitting on the ground without zafu, except being uncomfortable,you may constrict your blood circulation to intensively in your legs. So choose well, choose the right zafu.
Again, nowadays, people are sometimes not this keen to head to a zen dojo to learn how to practice zazen and often start practising at home. Of course, at home, no monks will make remarks about your beautiful but very fancy zafu. So go for something you really wish for.
My friend and sponsor Fabrice Genevois has made his job out of sewing zafus. He proposes all sizes, almost all colours and all fillings. Traditionally, zafu are filled with kapok and along your zafu's life, you'll need to add a hand of it sometimes. He proposes also zafus that are filled with seeds, making the sit pretty comfortable. Me, it's simple, i have a zafu for the formal practice, daily zazen and retreats, and another one for informal practice. A big and pretty hard kapok one for formal practice and a more soft one, filled with seeds, for my informal practices. I also have a very small one for travel that he sweetly designed thinking about those like me who needs to travel often packed with loads of materials.
Https://zafus-shop.com is his website. He does everything himself and proposes loads of different zafus (and more cool stuffs for practice life zafutons and else). He will make customs ones if you wish... he's definitly good at what he does. Located in France, he is a dedicated small business that you can trust for quality and craftmanship.
colourful collection of zafus for groups and individual practice
The choice is now yours ! Just remember, zazen without zafu is not really zazen. Get one, or some, and contact me if you need explanation how to sit properly on it, breath and meditate.