A short thought about meditation, products and conscious decisions
Thimo had the opportunity to try a mediation bench for the first time in his life. In the following blog you can learn more about the experience including the interview with the producer.
Sometimes there are simple objects that fascinate us. Products we actually know but didn’t notice before. Suddenly we met them in a random way and they attract attention. Because they are somehow special. They jump at us because we notice that despite their everyday nature, they have something that distinguishes them from other products of their kind. I am someone who is very enthusiastic about something like that. I like it when you notice that things are brought to life with passion, attitude, clarity, and lack of compromise. Things whose uniqueness is reflected in the design, the materials, and the manufacturing process, in the attitude towards the producers and partners.
For years, for example, I passed meditation benches without paying them any particular attention, or rather, I meditated past them. This is a good quality, not letting yourself be distracted by products and consumer goods in the meditation room.
Meditation benches could of course always be found in my meditation environment. Somehow they didn’t look particularly stable and certainly not comfortable. They were not really attractive to me. And that although I always had a difficult relationship with the conventional meditation cushions. Sometimes too high, sometimes too deep, sometimes too soft, sometimes too small, no matter how at the end or better in the middle of the mediation my legs fell asleep with greater certainty. I didn’t come up with the idea of trying out a bench until last June at the SOULfest NYC I got stuck at the Stoolyoga booth. Their mediation benches were characterized by a special selection of materials and a solid folding technique. Since I am currently traveling regularly to Europe to participate in longer meditation retreats with my teachers, I was wondering if this bench could be a useful one. I got into a conversation with the guys and they spontaneously decided to give me a bench for the next retreat for testing.
Meanwhile, I have spent my second retreat with it and I am really impressed. It is solidly worked, has a good look and feels and one can also survive longer meditations on it well. Surprisingly, my legs also decided not to fall asleep on the bench anymore. Of course, a bench is harder than a cushion and every now and then, if you don’t get the right angle while taking your seat, sitting on the bare wood also becomes a challenge, but I have the hope that Stoolyoga will certainly extend the accessories by an additional pad at some point. That would be a very useful addition.
By the way, the bench is also useful for space-efficient use in a New York apartment in addition to its use when traveling. It can be stored in a space-saving way, however, it is recommended to leave it more visible and in a certain place, so that it can also animate the daily meditation at home.
Also packed into a larger context is a conscious selection of the products we purchase and use to support our meditation practice, a step towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Cultivating such an attitude is certainly a helpful step in mitigating the effects of our throwaway society. And lo and behold, this can also be related to the early Buddhist teachings: Thus Buddha spoke in the four dimensions of the meditative unfolding of „kaya -bhavana“: our conscious relationship to the physical world. From our body to our responsibility to the planet we inhabit, everything is part of the cultivation of our presence of mind. And a clear intentional decision can make all the difference. In all matters.
And Since I am not only very impressed by the product but also by the people behind it, an interview with the founder of the company Cristiano follows. By the way, Cristiano was so generous to provide Land Yoga 10 stoolyoga benches for our meditation evenings. Thank you very much for that, Cristiano.
So come by and try it out.
Dear Cristiano, when visiting your site one gets a very short insight into your biography. Tell us a little bit more about yourself and what finally brought you to New York!
- Ever since I was young something about the United States was attractive to me, I still see it as the “freest” country in the world (though there is always a lot of room for improvement). It accords with my way of life. Like many others, my first encounter with the States was in Los Angeles around 1994. After a long period of transatlantic living… I finally settled in New York City in 2012. I actually came here to be a general manager in a small—believe it or not—corporate hospitality business where I worked six days a week fourteen hours a day. That period, combined with intense personal experiences, drove me to pursuit freedom on a more peaceful path. A more human kind of life.
When did you discover meditation for yourself? And how did it change your life?
- Meditation has actually found me. The first time was after a short period in Berlin, circa 2006. The city was beautiful but for some reason, it triggered a certain inner crisis in me: My plans did not work out, I found myself in a wonderful place with nowhere to go. Berlin forced me to face myself, and I was lucky enough to have around me an environment that was aware and raising awareness to yoga. My cousin, who to this day is a yoga instructor himself, taught me how to practice yoga at home. I was already back in Italy at the time. These yoga sessions ended with 15-minute meditations that were truly eye-opening. Today I am better equipped with meditation. In the midst of another wonderful and powerful city, I am able to detach from thoughts, problems, self, and body; it makes me conscious of and aware to the present moment. In these 30 minutes every day, I get to voluntarily face my Self. Rather than being forced on to me, this self-observance became my choice.
How did the idea of Stoolyoga come about?
- The concept of a meditation stool is nothing new. The first time I meditated with my cousin was actually on a very basic meditation stool. As soon as I saw it I realized that for me, as a beginner, the stool is perfect to enter as well as to maintain this amazing habit. However, some things were missing, and I wished to refine this tool – a dream that remained in the drawer for some time.
Your strong connection to nature since childhood and your passion for travel, how much has all this influenced the development of Stoolyoga?
- It was my passion for traveling that harbored with it the realization that nature is not being treated everywhere as it was in my childhood in Rimini. I realized, as many of us today do, that in order to love nature and live in it sustainably we must take our responsibility for it more seriously. In my travels, I could see beautiful landscapes, that up-close revealed human waste. The Stoolyoga is meant to prevent these experiences, by altering the wasteful-characteristic of our tools and materials. Eventually, it is meant to be a portable companion for when we travel this new beautiful world.
You attach particular importance to the production, the choice of the manufacturers, the materials and the design of stoolyoga. Tell us a little more about it. How did all this come together?
- The design was inspired by Danish style and oriental furniture design that I picked up during my travels and through reading. I built the very first and very rudimental Stoolyoga on my own, and right after a talented craftsman in Bushwick, Brooklyn (think Neukölln) made the firsts prototypes. I wanted this product to be something you sit on and not one of the products that sit on you. I wanted the material to be the most environmental and sustainable, while durable and fair, preventing waste from its inception. Bamboo answered these expectations. But that was not enough. The production itself cannot be exploitative of people just like the material cannot be exploitative of the earth. Therefore, the production happens in Amish country Pennsylvania, a collaboration with a family production in the area. I have entered this part of my life, much thanks to meditation and a renewed connection to spirituality, with a great amount of motivation. The love for the product, that I wish will pass on to the user, drove me to finish the whole process I just laid out in a little less than a year! That is: blueprints, prototype design, organizing production. It was a very fun year – filled with passion.
What is the specific challenge in the development of Stoolyoga?
- I wanted the Stoolyoga to answer challenges that may feel contradictory at times: A durable material, yet sustainable. A portable product, yet comfortable. A beautiful design, that pays its’ employees fairly, but remaining affordable. There were not a lot of examples of that in the market. An object for meditation, like the subject of meditation, cannot be disturbed by its past. Moreover, I wanted meditation to infiltrate the city – a space that was not designed for people to meditate in. I wanted to create a product that you can carry with you on the subway, on the metro, on a train going out of town… A product that will wait for you in your Yoga/Meditation studio, beautiful, and will not take too much space. It was a challenge to bring this dream to life.
What is particularly important to you in this project?
- The UN released a report recently, where they say that today 55% of the world lives in urban areas, and that by 2050 this proportion will expand to 68%. To me, essentially, it is important that people will meditate every day. Honestly, I cannot imagine these 68% as the same individual, with the same size apartment, the same public spaces, the same work environment. This project, this process… It wants to give people the comfortable, portable, environment in which they can enter the wonderful habit of meditation. If that is not the first step towards a better life. Towards a human kind of life… I don’t know what is.
To be honest, meditation benches have existed for some time. What is special about stoolyoga, especially in its application?
- I trust natural beauty. I put my trust in it and it repaid me in this product. The Stoolyoga is beautiful, it is pleasant to have in your surroundings, in your studio, in your house, in your room – open or closed. The design is simple, the bamboo speaks its beauty outwards, with relaxing paths around it. In design we must consider materials, we cannot take them lightly. The result of these considerations is a light, yet resistant, bamboo stool, with stainless steel hinges, quiet and resilient even to New York City’s weather. The name reminds you on both ends – this is a lifestyle, a light lifestyle that asks of you to take it seriously, so does the Stoolyoga. The hinges make the opening and closing of the stool a reminder of the end-goal. Slow, quiet, sustainable living. And with all of these features the Stoolyoga remains one of the most portable in the market. Take it to a retreat, take it to work, have it as your companion, a reminder of your lifestyle. It is not an object that should be hidden at home, just like meditation is not a habit that stays at home, it is a habit, and an object, to take with you and be proud of.
Who should use Stoolyoga?
- Since the first moments of production, I distributed Stoolys (personal nickname) to people around me. I was delighted by the results. Beginners found it easier to get in the habit, professionals felt refreshed with the beauty of the object which made it much more suiting to the soothing environment of their studios. People with hip problems, who were told to sit elevated when meditating, found it useful as well. I saw people using it for Yoga various yoga asanas. I’ve actually even seen it used in the same day for meditation, yoga, and even working with a computer on bed. It also makes the regular habit of meditation a continuous practice of aligning your back effortlessly. Eventually, like with meditation – it is for everyone. I think, in regards to your earlier comment on the existence of several meditation benches, that this would be the perfect bench for the urban dweller. Their dynamic schedule accords with the stools dynamic positions, their resilience compliments the stool’s resilience… It can stay in a studio and be in a small room of a shared apartment.
What is your vision for this exciting project?
- I cannot stress this enough. I saw during meditations, together with my Stoolyoga, the vision. I’ve seen meditation take as big a part as Yoga has in recent years – in the cities, with young people, with professionals. I’ve seen meditation able to change business models, life goals, personal habits. Eventually, when the Stoolyoga becomes a household object, I want it to become a step in the way to a more sustainable, mindful, way of life. Currently, I feel like the spaces most deficient in this way of life, for obvious reasons, are the Urban and Suburban areas.