Urszula Sapeta, 1
Interview with Urszula Sapeta
What types of meditation-related products do you create and sell?
I make both zafu and zabuton– basic cushions one can use doing zazen practice or other sitting meditation, and several kinds of support cushions. Second types of products I make are robes for lay and ordained people in the Zen tradition.
I would like to focus on the cushions for now. Where did you learn to make these meditation cushions or pillows, and how long have you been making them?
The first zafu I have ever seen was in early seventies in Poland. Someone brought two of them from Germany. By taking apart one zafu I figured out the pattern and made several for our first zendo in Poland. A few years later I came to USA to practice in Rochester Zen Center. I learned how to make all cushions and I was put in charge of Endless Knot. At that time this was a center's business. I have been making cushions here for thirty years.
Is Endless Knot an extension of the Rochester Zen Center, or is it a separate business?
It was a part of Rochester Zen Center until the beginning of 1988. When my teacher retired, the staff became much smaller and there was no one who could manage Endless Knot. Community needed cushions and robes so I was asked if I could continue this as my private business, to which I agreed. Since 1988 it is a separate business and I am the owner.
The Zen Center has a residential training for Zen students, who live and practice together in a sort of semi-monastic environment. I was a resident at Zen Center until January 1988. This was a time when my teacher retired. After living there almost eight years it was time for change.
Do you currently meditate, and do you find the process of making these meditation cushions and pillows meditative?
I do zazen and consider the making of cushions, zazen in action. Sewing requires one pointed focus if I want to make a good quality product and as an activity it is very complementary to sitting zazen. I find it very helpful.
Are the cushions and pillows hand-made, and what materials are they made of?
The cushions are hand-made. I do not use electric cutting devices or other machines, except sewing machine, of course. The outer shell is made from medium weight strong fabric, usually twill. They are filled with kapok or buckwheat husk, accordingly.
I really appreciate your answers. Thank you. Do you use these cushions yourself? What is the value of these pillows? If I meditate often, and I have never used one, what difference would I experience?
You are welcome. Yes, I do use cushions myself. And you are right, it is possible to sit on the carpet or blanket and use any kind of pillow, but if one meditates often these cushions will make tremendous difference. They help to keep body in proper and stable position for longer periods of time. They are designed specifically to do this and are used in sesshin when people do meditate many hours a day for several days. Also, people do have different bodies and may sit in several different positions. They can choose appropriate cushion or several of them to be able to sit unmovable and more comfortable for longer period of time.