Thursday, 19 May 2011

Product Review: The Mobile Meditator Zafu

The Mobile Meditator
provides monastic-
quality support.
One of the drawbacks of writing a hermit blog is you don't get to write many product reviews. As a rule, hermits don't "do" products; products mean materialism, which means consumerism, which means buying things, which means having money, which means valuing money. Which we also don't do. (Forget ice to Eskimos; the real test of salesmanship is selling anything to a hermit.)

But just as it's nice to eat out every so often, it's also fun to to review something you didn't make, find, or receive as a gift. And this is a good one, as it's something hermits need, and we can't really make.

The Mobile Meditator Inflatable Meditation Cushion is exactly what it says it is. But does it work? The only other product out there that seems to fill this description is widely held to be a piece of, well, karma. Although I've never used one, sangha brothers and sisters tell me it's underwhelming. And many Internet reviewers agree. So I was cautious about gambling my grubstake on an inflatable. Can you really buy a truly portable zafu, small and lightweight enough to carry into the woods, but serious enough to support your back and backside during prolonged sitting? And can you be sure it won't fall apart at a rate that would offend Pema Chödrön?

Yeah. It's called the Mobile Meditator.

Folded up and stuffed in its pouch.
I won't go into specs here, since the manufacturer's website is precise, but this zafu is small when deflated, full-sized when inflated, and almost frighteningly light in both states. Three-chamber design makes it fully adjustable. You know how one thigh is always higher than the other in half lotus, queering your balance? Well, on this zafu, you can tune half to feel almost like full.

Three chambers also mean it takes longer to blow up, especially since the valves have to be pinched just right while blowing into them; that's to prevent the air from coming back out. It also makes the zafu harder to deflate, which you have to do pretty thoroughly to get it back in the included protective pouch. But those hardcore valves also guarantee surprise-free sitting, and better yet, they make it possible to adjust posture on the fly: just reach down and pinch the one on the offending chamber, and your body descends, elevator-style, into proper position.

Mine looks like a giant burnt crescent roll.
Feels like one, too.
The Mobile Meditator is crescent-shaped, which lends itself to Western-style, on-cushion positions. Those who prefer the "Japanese wedge" might get it by inflating the Mobile Meditator hard and using it backward; I don't sit that way, so I can't say. I was initially afraid it would soap-bar out from under me, being vinyl and all, but the flocked surface clings to me militantly. In fact, it clings to everything militantly, making it a magnet for all manner of filth. But it's a small price to pay for a tight seal with the planet. (A light touch with an old-fashioned, bristled clothing brush does adequate clean-up.)

I have heard Brand X users complain of feeling like they were sitting inside a Moon Walk, unable to settle firmly on their inflatable base, but thanks to its shape and design, the Mobile Meditator provides positive purchase. It's not as solid as my beloved buckwheat, but I quickly became accustomed to the slight difference.

The zafu on its back.
To date, I've only come up with two criticisms of this otherwise excellent product. First, it's sweaty; after a long sit, my Enlightenment Base is wet and greasy. This is uncomfortable, but in all honesty, I can't imagine a way to make an inflatable zafu that doesn't do this. So I just place a folded towel on it before I sit, and that solves most of the problem. On the other hand, the company could easily do something about its limited colour choice. Right now the Mobile Meditator comes in two flashy Las Vegas versions (Very Red! and Very Orange!), as well as black. I'm happy; I like black. But they really ought to add a conservative blue, and maybe an earthy green and brown. Just sayin'.

I sure can't complain about the price. At $24.95, a person could be forgiven for assuming it's cheap junk. But it's not; it's cheap quality.

I don't really know exactly how tough this thing is yet, as I've only just got it. However, in a few days I'm going into the woods to meditate for a hundred days, which is why I bought the Mobile Meditator in the first place. Of course I won't do anything stupid, like jump on it or use it directly on the ground or shove it into a bear's mouth to save my life. But I think we can safely assume that this summer will be the Mobile Meditator equivalent of a Timex commercial.

I'll let you know how it goes.

UPDATE, September 2011:

Not well, as it happens. The zafu popped on the third day out, and I ended up rolling up my closed-cell sleeping pad each day to serve as a cushion. I wouldn't read too much into this, though; the conditions were extremely challenging for anything inflatable. By way of comparison, my Thermarest pad, which I used as a zabuton, also developed a leak, and the Mobile Meditator is nowhere near as sturdy as that is.

So the Mobile Meditator is not great for exterior hermitry, at least not as-is. I suspect you could make a cover for it of leather or some artificial material (the stuff they make industrial hoses out of comes to mind), and that would probably keep it alive in abrasive conditions.

Before I leave this topic, let me also say that I cut the side chambers out (only the big middle one popped) and used one for my pillow at night and the other as knee support with the rolled-mat zafu. Both served throughout the ango with no further complications, and are still perfectly airtight. The knee support was particularly welcome, since the little cushion could be adjusted with a pinch, and sitting on that hard foam roll increased joint stress rather a lot. 


  1. These are great for a while. Mine developed a slow leak after 4 months of use. Good idea, just not hardy enough.

  2. This post is from Scott, the inventor of Mobile Meditator: I want to note that all cushions come with a satisfaction guarantee and we will replace any leaking cushion at no cost to the customer. We are also working on a stronger design to prevent leaks. It will be available in August 2012.

  3. Thanks, Scott! During my research, before I bought your product, I read several reviews from other customers that mentioned getting excellent service from your company.

    And thanks for responding to our needs.


    1. From Scott: The new cushions have been delayed until September/October. We are doing our best to make sure the quality is improved.

      Also, we are looking for a distributor in Australia/NZ. If anyone is interested, feel free to contact me through our website.

  4. Thank you for this review. Much gratitude. It answered the questions I had in regards to longevity in outdoor use and I will purchase a different product. Peace and success to you. :)


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