Once you find a technique that resonates with you and you find effective, you may start looking at products to help make the experience more comfortable. It's true you don't actually need any special gear to be able to meditate. You may meditate in chair with couch cushions used for any support you might need. But specially-made gear can make the experience much more comfortable, especially if you'd like to meditate on the floor.
Why do people meditate on the floor?
Many people find that sitting on the floor helps them focus and stay centered. The traditional meditation postures have your legs tucked underneath you (like the position kept using a meditation bench) or cross-legged (which can be helped by using a meditation pillow). These positions are essentially Yoga postures and are particularly good at containing our restless energy and helping us stay calm and centered. Is it essential to sit on the floor in your meditation practice? No, but you may find that it helps you go deeper in to your practice.
Ok, so if I'm going to sit on the floor, what products do I need?
The essentials of good meditative posture are simply that the body can be kept still, upright, and relaxed. So things that help us achieve that are higher priority than any other products we might want. A meditation bench or a meditation pillow, such as a zafu, is a great place to start. They can help you keep a straight spine without tension.
A zabuton is a great companion to either a meditation bench or pillow. A zabuton goes underneath either a bench or pillow and provides padding under your knees and ankles especially. It also creates a mini oasis where your meditation can thrive. It has also been said since ancient times in India that wool and silk our energetic insulators, so our zabutons being filled with wool gives them an extra advantage in this area. Insulating energetically can be important as the meditator becomes more perceptive of the energies all around them. When we meditate we want to focus on uplifting our own consciousness rather than someone else's hopes and worries.
After that we come to products that aren't focused on posture, but ones that are used in order to help us dive deeper in to our practice.
A shawl. As we meditate our breath becomes more calm and our heartbeat generally slows down. There can be a corresponding cooling of the body as this happens. Some meditators will therefore use a shawl to help their body better maintain it's temperature. Our lovely Ahimsa Silk Shawls are a mid weight shawl that is amazingly a cruelty-free fabric. And again, the energetically-insulating silk is a great addition for the meditator.
Incense has been used for millennia in temples and churches all around the world. The association of the aroma of the incense and the feeling of the temple creates a link in the mind, which helps us get in to the right frame of mind whenever we smell that particular aroma. Just like a temple or church, we can use this principle by repeated use during or before our meditation practices. There are also particular energies associated with different smells. Some we may find energizing and some we may find calming, and so on. It's best to use an all-natural incense, so that we're not breathing in harmful chemicals in the smoke! Many people that get irritated with synthetic incense find that our natural incense doesn't upset their sinuses at all.
Candles (especially all-natural Beeswax Candles) can add a beautiful addition to your meditation practice. They can be reminder of the Infinite Light if you are inclined that way, or simply be a reminder of calmness as the soft glow of a candle seems to have more of that effect than an electrical light. Many people like salt lamps for this soft, warm glow as well. In addition ancient yogis also said it was best to not meditate in complete darkness.
An altar is a great place to put your candles and incense, as well as any other things you find uplifting. Perhaps you are inspired by a picture or statue of a particular saint or deity, or perhaps a crystal or things from nature. Whatever it is that inspires you, an altar can create a lovely focal point for your meditation space.
A mala is simply a tool to count repetitions of a prayer, mantra, or breathing technique that you practice. If they're made by hand by an experienced meditator, all the better!
Let us know if you have any questions or suggestions. Happy Meditating!