Waking Bird is dedicated to holistic well-being and transformation through the art of qigong, yoga, meditation, martial arts, physical conditioning, nutrition and herbal medicine.



Waking Bird Healing Balm: Why it Works and How it’s Made

Jennifer Caravella : October 17, 2012 9:09 am : Blog

My whole apartment smells like a post-apocalyptic mint bomb explosion. I like it. It means that I just made a couple batches of Waking Bird Healing Balm. Awesome.

This stuff is amazing and works wonders when applied consistently. I use it almost daily to maintain healthy ligaments, joints and tendons, because when I’m 100 years old I plan to have serious ninja skills.

I spent about a year developing the Healing Balm while I was studying internal kung fu in a traditional southern shaolin system. Qigong and herbs are holistic aspects of the art and were integrated into my training. The Healing Balm was a kitchen experiment to see if dit da jow (traditionally prepared in liniment (liquid) form) could be made into a balm that shared both the analgesic (pain soothing) attributes of a minty, cooling rub, plus all the healing benefits of the dit da jow herbal formula.

I wanted to create a healing balm of such high quality that it was practically edible (some of the herbs are not meant to be ingested). This meant raw ingredients free of paraffin, menthol, waxes, perfume, chemicals, dyes, and anything genetically altered. These giant skin sacs in which we reside are living, breathing organs that absorb everything we put on them (nice thought, huh). From a holistic perspective it makes no sense to heal one part of the body while causing harm to another. This failure to see the entire picture quickly becomes a tedious merry-go-round of dog eat tail in which whole body health is rarely in balance.

I eventually came up with a recipe that consists of organic and wild-crafted herbs, raw shea and cocoa butters, as well as pure essential oils. It smells a little bit like mint chocolate, but do not eat it. Like I said some of the herbs are only meant for external use. This includes poking minty fingers in open wounds, eyes, ear holes or whatever other orifice you’d like to avoid torturing with an icy-hot sensation. I trust you have the common sense not to do this…unless of course you’re into that sort of thing.

The dit da jow recipe used in the Healing Balm was originally brought to the US during the 1800s while the railroads were being constructed (so the story goes). Some Western herbs were used in place of Chinese Herbs which were unavailable in the US at the time. This resulted in an improved formula. Due to its effectiveness, it flourished within the Bagua Zhang community of San Francisco.

This recipe has a very strong warming effect, which helps to heal the injury by drawing circulation (both oxygen and qi are transported through the circulatory system) to the area. It is particularly effective in healing the tendons and works well for chronic stages of severe injury once initial inflammation has subsided. It breaks stasis, creating energetic circulation and aids in the management of pain and arthritic stiffness, tissue strains, and soreness from over training.

The Healing Balm is ideal for anyone from martial artists to dancers, massage therapists, construction workers, athletes, yogis, rock climbers, stunt workers, extreme sports enthusiasts, as well as those who have undergone surgery or suffer from chronic pain. Frequent use will help extend the lifespan of your ligaments, muscles, tendons, bones, and fascia, helping you maintain an active lifestyle for many years to come (unless of course you plan on dying really soon).

Alright, so here’s what happens when I make the balm:

First I prep the herbs. This is a sample of what a jow recipe looks like before it is ground down to a fine powder:



Once ground, it looks like this:



Meanwhile I melt the oils together in a ceramic pot:



Then I add the herbs. Much simmering and stirring ensues:



Once the oils are infused with these potent healing herbs, I begin the process of straining and pouring…this part takes awhile:




I’m left with these remains…which will be made into poultices or tossed into what will be a very suspicious looking bathtub:



Then come the labels:



…and the final result: Waking Bird Healing Balm



I just finished making a small stock-pile, these batches came out really nice. Just remembered to mention that the balms are heat sensitive. Because I do not use wax, the oils will melt in the sun and heat. No big deal, the amber glass jars protect the integrity of the herbs and the jow still functions in melted form, it’s just messy. If this happens simply shake it up and put it in the fridge or freezer until it’s solid again.

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Sesame Ginger Salad Dressing

Jennifer Caravella : October 4, 2012 2:56 pm : Blog

This might just be the best salad dressing ever. Bar none (well, at least I think so). I’ve concocted this recipe a few times and every time I make it I’m reminded of how freakin’ amazeballs it is.

Alright, here goes… oh yeah, I should mention that I rarely ever measure anything when I cook. This is my best guestimation of the portions. I recommend that you stick your finger in the mix (not while blending obviously, unless you like the idea of eating your appendages) and make minor adjustments according to your taste buds.

Ingredients (everything organic). Click on the links if you’re curious to know the nutritional value and healing properties of each ingredient:

– 3″ sliced ginger
– 3 cloves crushed garlic
– 1 1/2 squeezed lemons  (No seeds! Unless you like bitterness.)
– 3 oz sesame oil
– 3 oz red wine vinegar
– A few splashes of soy sauce (to taste)
– 2 teaspoons of local raw honey
– 2 teaspoons turmeric powder

Toss everything into a blender until smooth then embark upon an awesome salad eating experience.


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A Holistic Approach to Creating a Healthy Body Image

Jennifer Caravella : April 4, 2012 3:02 pm : Blog

Body image is something that most people in the modern world grapple with on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter if you’re in great health, over or underweight, a super model, athlete, maimed or disfigured; the majority of people are not satisfied with what they see when they look in the mirror. Instead of focusing on what is awesome about one’s self, we tend to focus on what we perceive to be flaws and therein begins a downward spiral of low self esteem. We are programmed at a young age to believe that we must attain a perfect model of what the media and our cultural environment convinces us we should be; anything less is inferior. Seeing that the typical standards are practically non-human especially given technological advances in digital media, most people go about their daily lives believing that deep down on some level they are sub par and feel ashamed because of it. We are “Killing Ourselves Softly.” If this weren’t the case, plastic surgeons and the entire “beauty” industry would be out of business and the fear of aging would be obsolete.

I recall being around 8 yrs old and conversing with my best friend about hitting the gym so we (two perfectly healthy and highly energetic children leagues away from needing a gym membership) could lose a little weight…huh? In retrospect I see that this notion was ridiculous. I was already brainwashed, despite not having a TV and regardless of my hyper-aware and educated mother who refused to buy her daughters Barbie dolls, beauty magazines, or anything that perpetuated the objectification of women or the ever-so-popular stick figure with giant monster boobs.

3rd Grade

None of this mattered, the visual imprint of what a beautiful woman should look like was already branded in my mind. By the time I was in the 3rd grade I had developed an unhealthy awareness of my physical appearance. First it was the hair. It started out as a minor childhood habit and by the time I was in junior high I think I must have developed a routine of brushing my hair about 80 times a day (okay maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it was quite excessive). Then there were the “ponytail” days when I would spend outlandish amounts of time making sure that there were absolutely no bumps, pulling my hair back so tightly that I looked like an freakin’ Asian kid wearing a plastic hair helmet…ya know, as a safety precaution just in case I decided to crash into a wall with my skull or head plant into a moving school bus. I was not above throwing brushes at mirrors and other such nonsensical tantrum behavior when things didn’t look how I wanted them to. Now I sometimes forget I even own one of those bristle devices…thank god.

7th grade school pic, or as I call it, “welcome to my helmet, why is my head throbbing?” 

It was around this age that the weight obsession started to kick in despite the fact that I was a fit and active kid who was slimmer than the majority of my peers. I used to do that highly obnoxious thing which many females do, the “do I look fat?” nonsense, when clearly everyone in the room, including yourself, knows you are not fat. Now, I gotta say that fishing for compliments is far less flattering than a little junk in the trunk.

This negative self-image and body obsession continued on throughout high school, and again was bat shit crazy seeing that there was absolutely nothing wrong with my body at all. Instead of appreciating my attributes, I chose to search for flaws. I would stare in the mirror picking myself apart bit by bit on a daily basis. I was mortified over the idea of cellulite and used to gaze into my newly formed hips and butt with such dissatisfied intensity that I believe I actually created just enough fat to really set that ball of self-deprecation rolling.

Freshman year

By the time I hit 17, the manifestation of my negative thinking started to become a reality. Circumstances in my hormonal teenage life led to depression and I started to gain weight. The irony is that once I was a little heavier, I ceased to ask people if I looked fat, afraid they might agree. Unbeknownst to me, this was a step in the right direction. What I did not realize then was that I had come upon a transitional point in learning a lesson in self-confidence. It was during this cheerless time that I began to pick books up off my mother’s shelf about changing your body and creating what you want with visualization and positive thinking.

I dabbled in these exercises and thus began sowing seeds of positive change. That is not to say things shifted over night…haha not even close. In fact it took a few years during which my health and sanity suffered before I figured out how to nurture my body both physically and mentally.

The summer after high school, I was so determined to be bone thin that I made the “logical” decision to simply stop eating. Having no clue about the nature of the metabolism or concept as to how I could expect to maintain such habits and continue living; I went on a diet of caffeine pills, coffee, cigarettes, handfuls of Sudafed (works like an amphetamine if you take enough) oh, and the occasional carrot. This lasted a couple months and yeah, sure I lost some weight, but not much. How did I not waste away you ask? Well, perhaps my belief that I was fat was so strong that my body held onto the weight. We are mostly made of water. Water responds quite well to frequencies, and if every thought emits a frequency …well, you do the math. I shed 8-10 pounds tops over those 2 months, and of course as soon as I resumed eating real food the pounds came back with a vengeance.

To make matters worse I got a job at a coffee shop/bakery where they gave us leftover bread and pastries on a daily basis. I had no idea that my body doesn’t care for gluten, nor did I understand what a primarily carb-filled diet could do to an individual who functions best on protein, vegetables and fruit. I was 18 and living on the cheap. It didn’t matter that I rode my bike across town every day or that I was a vegan; suddenly at 5’4” I was 150-160 pounds of frustration (no, I was never obese just far more “thick” than I felt comfortable with). I loathed being in my body. I remember constantly wanting to violently rip myself out of my skin to escape my human prison cell, and in a way I did.

18 years old with my best friend…sorry about “the finger” it’s the only “hefty” pic I could find.

I submerged myself in metaphysical books and became more interested in meditation and my dream life than my waking life. I partook in excessive hallucinogenic drugs and for all intended purposes “lost my mind”. I was out of my gourd floating around in the ether, completely disconnected from the rest of the world. My friends used to joke about me being schizophrenic and quite frankly, I was crazy. Not because of “the voices” but because I was constantly working against myself, creating internal disharmony in a futile attempt to escape the uncomfortable aspects of the physical realm.

Now, herein lies the silver lining: Though I was practicing Houdini escapist acts from my own form, the means I used to detach were what eventually brought me back to my body. The worse I felt about myself, the more effort I put into visualization, journaling, positive thinking exercises, etc. Eventually it started to work. The first shift occurred when a new friend I had met suggested I cut wheat out from my diet because I was suffering from really awful allergies. I had never even heard of a wheat allergy, nevertheless I gave it a go. Not only did the allergies subside, I lost about 15 pounds. This resulted in a confidence boost. Though I wasn’t ready to bust out my bikini and prance about the streets, I was feeling tangibly better about my body image.

The next shift was a pivotal adventure that completely altered the way I operated. I inherited a little cash and made a decision to travel through Mexico by myself for a couple months. I still had my head in another galaxy and it took an experience like that to ground me. I had to pay close attention to my surroundings and therefore fully inhabit my body for my own safety and survival. This was not your average American binge drinking spring break in Cancun; I wandered all over the country with no plan other than to let my instincts guide me. I hardly knew Spanish nor had I ever traveled abroad. I carried no mace or weapons as to avoid attracting unwanted energy and would leave a town the moment I arrived simply because something didn’t feel right or flow well.

Palenque, Mexico 1996

Though I was still a little heavier than I cared to be, coming out of this experience unscathed and with new eyes gave me an incredible boost of self-esteem. I felt like I had my own little golden nugget of life experience nestled deep within me and it was something that no one could ever take away. It was an awesome feeling. Yet, even with my newfound confidence, I was still a mess when it came to my eating habits. I had no idea how to eat and had developed awful behavioral traits over the years: from anorexia to binge eating to the occasional finger down the throat.

It took my best friend, a recovering drug addict, to recognize that I was dealing with an addiction (simply defined as a behavior that one cannot stop). He dragged my butt to an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. I was about 19 or 20 then, and very reluctant to sit in a room with what I figured would be of a bunch of middle aged fat complainers who hid in their closets at night uncontrollably scarfing down slabs of greasy ham. I wanted no part in it.

When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised that these were nice people who were suffering the same psychological challenges as myself. Needless to say I continued going to meetings and worked a 12-step program for about a year. That was all I needed. I greatly benefited from it and eventually learned how to eat simply for the nourishment of my body. I stopped seeing food as the enemy and began using it for my health. I developed a conscious rapport with my physical being and let it tell me when and what it cared to eat. If I was hungry, I ate what my body really craved (not to be confused with an addictive craving for sugar or junk food). I had to go a step deeper and listen. I made a rule to only eat until my body felt content, as opposed to full, as well as some other great habits that I will share at the end of my story.

It was during my early 20s that I began shedding all the extra weight. It just started melting off without me really having to try. I no longer obsessed or punished myself for not living up to my insane standards and as it turns out my healthy, balanced body is naturally on slim side (just like my mother and sister…go figure). In fact if I’m not careful to eat whenever I feel hungry I have a tendency to get a little too skinny.

In conjunction with these new, healthy habits I practiced yoga regularly and spent my time at school, work, or with supportive friends whom I (quite literally) laughed my ass off with on a regular basis. Also, it’s important when breaking old behavioral patterns to fill that space with something constructive. In my case, I needed a positive environment and activities that stimulated me both physically and intellectually.

I now feel more vibrant and amazing than ever. I still practice yoga regularly and after discovering the awesomeness of kung fu about 8 years ago, it’s something I plan to train for the rest of my life. I make a point to find activities that are fun, interesting and ideally outdoors, as opposed to the old monotonous treadmill. Anything from mountain biking, to roller-skating, dancing, body surfing, rock climbing, hiking, etc.

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, I’m the one on the left wearing the ridiculous toe shoes.

Now, I’d like to share some tips to help you shift your body image to one of appreciation and beauty!

Knowing that our thoughts and perceptions ultimately create our reality, let’s start with the mind:

3-Steps to Positive Self-Perception

  1. Practice daily affirmations: When you look in the mirror, instead of focusing on what you don’t like about your appearance, take a few minutes to find all the parts of you that you love. It doesn’t matter if it’s just your freakin’ pinky nail or an earlobe. Stare at that thing every day and remind yourself of how great it is. The more you do this, the better. What happens when you begin to shift your thought patterns is a formation of new neurological pathways in the brain. Much like discovering a tiny little trail in the forest; the more you walk it, the more ingrained it becomes.
  1. Take immediate action: If you find yourself focusing on those big ol’ thighs you don’t want or the muffin top that’s hindering you from wearing your favorite jeans, take action immediately. This means if it’s your stomach, drop and do some sit-ups, never mind if the bathroom floor is cold and littered with stray hairs and man-pee sprinkles, put a towel down. If it’s that flabby butt you don’t like, bend your knees and do some squats. Right then, right there! Same thing goes for the skinny people who would like a few more curves. For every body part there is an exercise. The physical form is incredibly malleable and it’s all yours to use however you please. Own it! What this does is takes you out of a victim mentality and empowers you with a solution. Do this every single time you think a negative thought about a body part. If you’re missing a limb or have a handicap, do your best to accept the situation and shift your focus. Always end the exercise by focusing on what you DO like and walk away.
  1. Give thanks: Write a gratitude list on a daily basis. Give thanks for your body and all that it does for you. It is an amazing organism that wants nothing more than to thrive and be healthy. I am sometimes blown away at the incredible nature of self-healing. It doesn’t matter what you put your body through; it will strive to recover. Your body is on your side. It is your vessel. It is the foundation of your existence. I’d say that deserves a little love and appreciation. A daily gratitude list is one of the most powerful exercises I know of and will transform your life.

Next I’d like to address not what you eat, but how you eat. It’s our habits that shape us (both figuratively and literally).

Healthy Eating Habits

  1. Eat only when you feel hungry. That’s your body communicating with you. Listen to it and respect it’s needs.
  2. Stop eating when you feel content. Stuffing yourself hinders digestion.
  3. Don’t starve yourself. This throws the metabolism off balance and can eventually lead to weight gain.
  4. Chew your food thoroughly. Sit down, be present and enjoy your meal.
  5. Avoid cold beverages while eating; this hinders digestion.
  6. Eat in a calm and peaceful environment both externally and internally. Eating when emotionally distraught or while careening down the highway in your new sports car with the radio blaring is tough on the digestive system.
  7. Eat what your body truly craves. This may take some practice, but if you really stop and pay attention it becomes quite simple.
  8. Take a walk or move around when you finish your meal to aid digestion.
  9. Avoid diets and diet products. A diet should be something that you can maintain for a lifetime, otherwise what’s the point? They are hard on the metabolism and eventually lead to a fatter and more miserable you. Diet products that contain aspartame and other such sugar substitutes are poisonous and not meant for consumption.
  10. Eat at home more often and prepare your food with love. A little TLC goes a long way!
  11. Give thanks for the food that is nourishing your body. Your life depends on it.

Food for Health

We are all unique in regard to what foods work best for our bodies. Some people thrive off of protein while others function well after a plate of pasta. This is something that is easy to discover about yourself by paying attention and listening to your body.

Regardless of what foods work best for you; I cannot emphasize quality enough. I highly recommend an organic diet that is free of pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified organisms. Your local farmers market is a great place to start, or if you’re super motivated, plant your own garden.

The Alkaline/Acid Food Chart  is a fantastic guide to healthy eating. It’s based on the alkaline/acid theory which I personally attest to. I keep a roll ofPH tester strips on hand to gauge the alkalinity of my body.

What to avoid:

  1. High-fructose corn syrup (read ingredients carefully, it’s found in all sorts of foods you’d hardly expect).
  2. Agave
  3. Processed sugar (honey, raw sugar and stevia are good alternatives)
  4. Diet products (aspartame, saccharine, or any sugar alternative created in a lab)
  5. Soda
  6. Fast “food”
  7. Processed, fried, frozen and canned items
  8. Caffeine
  9. Alcohol (a little red wine or beer in moderation are much healthier than the hard stuff)
  10. Cigarettes


Pick a physical activity that is FUN for you and make it a minimal 3-day/week habit. Exercise releases endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ chemicals of the body, relieves stress, stimulates brain activity, increases vitality, relieves depression, keeps you young, strengthens libido, and the list goes on and on. Our bodies are meant to move and we thrive when we do!

Take the 3-Week Challenge!

You may have heard that it takes 21 days to make or break any habit. You’ll never know unless you put it to the test. I challenge you to give this holistic approach to positive body image a go for 21 days just to see what happens!

Oh yeah, one last thing. Spend more time naked. I’m not suggesting you join a nudist colony or take up streaking (though that can be fun), but whenever you get a chance, throw all your clothes off and relax. This is grounding and subconsciously trains you to feel more comfortable in your skin.

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Conscious Evolution

Jennifer Caravella : March 26, 2012 11:22 am : Blog

Imagine if the the whole world shared this mentality. Please watch this awesome video and share it!

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Mind Over Matter

Jennifer Caravella : February 2, 2012 10:33 am : Blog

It has been documented that many people who experience multiple personalities will actually change their physical features such as eye color, scars, etc. based upon which character/personality they are expressing. This is a fascinating  example of how mental beliefs dictate biology. This article is pretty interesting

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