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Zafu Cushions

Zafu Cushions

Zafu Cushion on a mattMeditation is all about finding a space where you can quiet your mind and focus on the present moment. The medical benefits speak for themselves but finding that space can be quiet difficult. Some use binaural audio to help them focus, others find a quiet spot. Others use specially designed seating to help improve the quiet space. One such method is the use of a zafu cushion.

Although ‘zafu’ is often translated as ‘sewn seat’ in American English, the meaning of the Japanese ‘kanji’ is different. ‘za’ means ‘seat’ and ‘fu’ means a seat stuffed with Typha (the fluffy, soft, downy fibres of the disintegrating Typha heads). The Japanese zafu originates in China, where these meditation seats were originally filled with Typha. Today, that is no longer the case in Japan or China. An alternate translation of zafu is ‘cushion for sitting’ or ‘sitting cushion’, where za means ‘sitting’ or ‘sit’ and fu means ‘cushion’. The words zabuton, zafuton and futon are closely linked. The word ‘zazen’ meaning ‘seated meditation’ or ‘sitting meditation’ is also closely linked. In western terms, colloquially speaking, ‘zafu’ refers to a meditation cushion, and ‘zabuton’ refers to the cushioned mat on which a zafu is placed.

Binaural Audio Brain Training

Binaural Audio Brain Training

Someone suggested in a recent post about meditation that I look into the effects of Binaural Beats. I had researched the subject several years ago and had good results but the technology for generating the audio was still in its proprietary phase and so the (free) tools that I was using required C compilers and building your own waveforms in text files. Today, there are binaural sound production application all over the mobile market as well as for home usage.

Brain with headphones with binaural hertzFor those unfamiliar with binaural audio (or binaural beats), the basic premise is that playing two different frequencies, one in the left ear and the other in the right, results in a perceived third frequency. Scientific research has shown that the aural effects are measurable and actually do create these audio frequency hallucinations as well as physical responses to the hallucinated sound as if the listener was actually “hearing” the sound. Further research has shown that brainwave patterns will begin to move closer to the frequency of continual sound. This process is called entrainment and it is this process that has lead to the study and use of binaural beats to change brainwave patterns to reach a desired mental state. The table below lists observed brainwave frequencies and what they are associated with when observing them:

Frequency rangeNameUsually associated with:
> 40 HzGamma wavesHigher mental activity, including perception, problem solving, fear, and consciousness
13-39 HzBeta wavesActive, busy or anxious thinking and active concentration, arousal, cognition, and or paranoia
7-13 HzAlpha wavesRelaxation (while awake), pre-sleep and pre-wake drowsiness, REM sleep, Dreams
4-€“7 HzTheta wavesdeep meditation/relaxation, NREM sleep
< 4 HzDelta wavesDeep dreamless sleep, loss of body awareness

Binaural beat stimulation has been used fairly extensively to induce a variety of states of consciousness, and there has been some work done in regards to the effects of these stimuli on relaxation, focus, attention, and states of consciousness. Studies have shown that with repeated training to distinguish close frequency sounds that a plastic reorganization of the brain occurs for the trained frequencies. So, in theory, those that have trouble quieting the mind or sitting still long enough to focus for meditation could use this method to train the mind to be able to enter into these brainwave states.

Kidney Cleanse

Kidney Cleanse

A kidney cleanse is a great way to avoid kidney stones, but how do they form? If you are dehydrated or have consumed lots of toxic substances, the urine that passes through the kidney can crystallize, forming mineral deposits or kidney stones. Drinking lots of sugary sodas adds to the stress of your system. If the stones become too big they can block urine flow, causing extreme pain in your lower back. A kidney cleanse helps these stones to dissolve, easing your pain, and can also prevent them from forming in the first place.

How the Kidney Works

Diagram of Kidney and NephronThe duties of the kidneys are best described by calling them the filters of the blood. Your blood flows constantly through your kidneys to be purified or filtered. You might be surprised to learn that more than 500 grains of waste matter, acids and poisons have to be moved from the blood through the kidneys every 24 hours. You can easily see, therefore, that on this filtering and eliminating depends your health, to a very great extent. Let the kidneys fail to function properly and nature will call your attention to it right away. When your kidneys fail to function correctly you will feel depressed and tired, restless at night, and pains in the back will show up. There might be scanty urine or a desire to urinate frequently. Your head will ache and many other aches and pains will be making their appearance. You really cannot be surprised that you do not feel well. Just figure your kidneys would do only half the work and eliminate only 250 grains of waste, what will become of the other 250 grains? They will be carried back into your blood and poison your system. Watch, therefore, your kidneys and deal with even minor irregularity promptly.To avoid trouble be careful with your diet. Americans consume daily 80 grams of meat or nearly 3 ounces more of proteinthus attempting to dispose of about 35 grams more than we have capacity for. This overload gradually smashes the kidneys and throws them out of commission.

How to do the Kidney Cleanse

Blood Vessels in a KidneyThe kidney cleanse is a 3-day fast during which you must drink large quantities of distilled water and apple juice. You can drink up to a gallon of each, separately or mixed together. If you haven’t tried a fast before, don’t worry this cleanse is perfectly healthy. You may be a little hungry, but the apple juice will give you energy and help you feel more full. You can start checking for kidney stones immediately after your first drink of apple juice. Use a simple tea strainer to look for them – they might be very small so look carefully. Not everyone passes kidney stones on this cleanse, but even if you don’t its very healthy and will prevent any future problems.

Herbs for Kidney Cleansing

Try the following herbs before or after your kidney cleanse.

Uva Ursi (Bearberry)

When taken orally, Uva Ursi transforms in the stomach into a compound with antimicrobial and disinfectant properties. It then passes down through the urinary system and so can also aid with urinary infections.


Parsley detoxifies the kidney by flushing toxins out, and is beneficial in the treatment and prevention of kidney stones. Parsley contains a compound named Apoil, which has now been isolated and used in medication to treat kidney ailments and kidney stones. To make a Parsley tea, place 2 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley into a pot with the lid on. Heat the water to almost boiling, then turn off the heat. Let it sit for fifteen minutes, then strain the parsley out and enjoy the tea.


Nettles are effective diuretics and anti-bacterials that can help to treat and prevent kidney stones. They are available as a tea or in capsules.

Kidney Cleanser Recipes

Here are two great kidney cleanse recipes. Just throw it all together in the juicer, then drink! You can also use a blender if you want it to be more like a smoothie.

First Recipe:

  • 4 Stalks Celery
  • 3 Sprigs Parsley
  • 1 Cucumber
  • Half a lemon
  • Water

Second Recipe

  • 2 Apples
  • 4-6 slices Watermelon
  • Water

Kidney Cleansing Tea

A variety of teas are available that can help with a Kidney Cleanse. Watermelon seed tea and Celery seed tea are both powerful diuretics that increase your water intake and flush water more quickly through the kidneys.

How to Make Bath Salts

How to Make Bath Salts

Variety of Bath Salts in a PileWalking down the bath salts aisle (yes an entire aisle), you will notice an array of various concoctions to add to your bath to make it more soothing or better for your skin. The prices of these additives can be beyond belief, if you know of what they are actually made. Bath Salts are by far one of the easiest things to make. You probably have all of the ingredients to make a very simple unscented bath salt right now.

Really all you need to make bath salts is salt of any kind. A good simple recipe is combining 1 cup of Kosher Salt with 3 tablespoons of Baking Soda. For a cheaper Bath Salt that actually soothes the muscles even more, combine 3 cups of Epsom Salts with 2 cup Kosher Salt and 4 tablespoons of Baking Soda. If you would like to add fragrance to the mixture you can just add about 20 or so drops of some essential oil or even your own handmade fragrance oil to the salt mixture. You can experiment with exactly what combination of salts you have on hand or prefer. The basic recipe I have provided is a 3:2 ratio of Epsom salt and salt. Really that is all there is to the basic salt recipe. In more posts I will talk about more advanced techniques including the use of colors and Dendritic salt.

Meditation Techniques Overview

Meditation Techniques Overview

As I indicated in my previous post Meditation Changes the Brain, there is scientific evidence that meditation has beneficial effects not only on your mood and outlook on life but actual physical changes in your brain that increase your capacity to think and reason. Then question then becomes, “How do I meditate?” or even, “What is meditation?” Merriam-Webster defines the act of meditating as engaging in contemplation, reflection or a similar mental exercise. Some of the simplest exercises can be considered meditation. Many people subscribe to the simple 5-10 minute breathing meditation where you simply focus all of your attention on the act of breathing (usually focusing on the breath entering and leaving your nose) and counting those breaths with one count being an inhale and an exhale. Another meditation for those that have trouble sitting still is paying attention to the act of walkingCandle surrounded by pink flowers—when your foot hits the ground; what parts hit first, next and last. Another meditation technique that helps those that are easily distracted is lighting a candle and focusing on the flame. A good addition to this exercise is to have a paper and pen ready and just mark down each time your mind wanders. When your mind wanders, simple put the mark on the paper and refocus on the flame. Do this for as long as you can muster. With this technique you can keep track of your focusing progress and how disciplined your mind has become.

These practices can help us understand our own minds. With the fast paced nature of modern western culture, often times we don’t have time to examine who we are as human beings and our relationships with others around us. As you grow in your meditation practices, more advanced techniques can be employed involving mantras and focusing on ideas instead of physical objects. You might even find you can meditate on your morning commute (if you don’t drive and take a train!) filled with the hussle and bussle of people. Outside distractions will no longer bother you. Good luck on your practice!

Honey Mask

Honey Mask

Bees on a box honeycombHoney has a long history in human societies around the world. It is used in various foods and beverages as a sweetener and flavoring. What is more interesting is that it also has a role in religion and symbolism sometimes being called the nectar of the gods. It is also used in various medicinal traditions to treat ailments. In fact recent studies of honey have indicated that these traditional uses actually have scientific merit. Antibacterial properties of honey are the result of the low water activity causing osmosis, hydrogen peroxide effect, high acidity, and the antibacterial activity of methylglyoxal. Because of all of that honey makes an excellent face mask.

Golden Honey in a jarTo get the most out of your honey mask, you will want to add an exfolient to the honey. I have always found that adding sugar to the honey is ideal because of the small size of the sugar grains and the fact that the sugar dissolves and washes away cleanly with just simple water. The ratio is up to you but a nice ratio of honey to sugar is 2-1. You want to wait to make the honey-sugar mix until you are ready to scrub your face as some of the sugar will dissolve in the honey if you put it in beforehand. Once you have scrubbed you face with the honey-sugar mix, let the honey sit on your face and go to work on your pours and any acne you might have. When you are done a simple wash of water will clean off the goopy mess and you will be left with a radient face.

Meditation Changes the Brain

Meditation Changes the Brain

Mindful Leap in a Zen Rock GardenPractitioners of meditation have long believed that the centering and calming ways of their life were directly related to their mindful meditations. A recent scientific study published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging shows that subjects who meditated 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable increases in the amount of grey matter in regions of the brain associated with learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking. The other surprising aspect is that the meditation not only increased grey matter in areas of the brain associated with positive aspects of our society but it also showed that grey matter was reduced in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress. A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes.

What we can find from this study is that mindfulness as slowing one’s self down, while not necessary to life, would improve brain function. Who knows to what limits we could achieve if we just spent 30 minutes a day meditating?

Liver and Gallbladder Flush

Liver and Gallbladder Flush

I guess wanting to put information about the structure and function of the liver and gallbladder comes from my high school AP biology teacher. We always learned the–in this order–structure, function, malfunction, disease and treatment of any type of organ or system in the body. I’m not going to go into too much detail but if you want to skip to the liver flush just jump below

Getting to know your hepatic-biliary system

Liver and Biliary TreeThe liver is also directly connected to the small intestine via the common hepatic duct. This tube makes a stop off along the way to a small pear shape sac called the gallbladder. The gallbladder’s main function in humans is to store up bile until a meal with fat or protein is consumed and pushed into the small intestine after the stomach is finished with it. The bile is a very alkaline and not only used to help break down oils but also used to neutralize your stomach acid when it enters the duodenum (the first part of your small intestine. You can remember the parts of the small intestine by remembering the phrase “[D]igestive [J]uices [I]nside” which stands for Duodenum, Jejunum, Ileum). The gallbladder can store almost 2 oz of bile when it and the liver are functioning properly.

Problems that can occur

With all systems of the body, balance is the key to health. If something becomes out of balance–like eating too much fat or consuming too many toxins–the flawless functioning of the system breaks down. Many diseases that involve a slowing or breakdown of liver function are accompanied by jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) because the liver is unable to flush out a byproduct of breaking down old red blood cell. Another problem that can occur is gallstones which is closely associated with a thickening of bile into biliary sludge. This thickening of bile is caused by particles precipitating out in the bile itself. Most often these precipitates are cholesterol crystals and calcium salts though the make-up is unique to each individual and cause of the problem. You can have biliary sludge and not even know it as this condition is often asymptotic. This sludge and the gallstones are what we are attempting to flush.

Liver Gallbladder Flush

Before you do the actual flush, you need to take a few things into consideration. If the thought of not eating 24-36 hours does not sound appealing to you or if you have a medical condition like diabetes that would risk further injury from not eating, this flush is not for you. Also, even though most epsom salts packaging give you a suggestion for recipes to take internally, some people are unable filter the Magnesium sulfate from their bodies and can become very ill. As always, if you are concerned about the effects on you that this flush will have, you will need to check with a licensed medical professional.

To prepare for the liver flush it is suggested that you do a colon and parasite cleanse the week before. These are not necessary if you have a healthy digestive tract but it never hurts to eat a little extra fiber and cut down on sugar–at least for a week. If don’t plan on doing either of these be sure to eat as healthy as you can–don’t over eat–before the flush so that your body is well prepared to fast.

You will need the following things to do a liver cleanse.

Epsom salts4 tablespoons
Water and/or Apple Juice3 cups
Olive oil1/2 cup
Fresh pink/red grapefruit1 large or 2 small, 2/3 cup juice.
Plastic strawFor drinking the olive oil and grapefruit mixture.
Pint jar with lid1 jar
Black Walnut, Wormwood Tincture  4 eye droppers full (about 15 drops)

The weekend or any 2 day period you have free is best for this flush. On the first day of the flush, start your day as normal except only have maybe some apple cider for breakfast. For sure you do not want to eat anything with fat in it because you are trying to build up bile pressure. Drinking water throughout the day is encouraged as you don’t want to become dehydrated when your body starts to evacuate.

During the day you will want to prepare your epsom salts solution so that you can cool it down to make it a more tolerable drink. Combine 4 Tablespoons of epsom salts with 2 cups of warm water and 1 cup of apple juice or cider. You can use all water or all juice if you like but make sure the ratio is 4 tablespoons epsom salts to 3 cups of liquid. Mix the liquid until the epsom salts are completely dissolved. Place this solution in the refrigerator at let it get really cold.

By 2:00 pm you will want to stop all consumption of any juices (or food) you may have been drinking. You are trying to flush out your intestines and eating food only hinders this process and can make you feel ill when you start the process.

At 6:00 pm drink 3/4 of a cup of the epsom salts solution you prepared earlier in the day. There is nothing really that will completely kill the taste of epsom salts at this concentration so you are just going to have to buck up and drink it. Try to drink it within 10 to 15 min. After you have finished drinking the solution, you will want to get the olive oil and grapefruit out to allow them to warm up to room temperature.

At 8:00 pm drink another 3/4 of a cup of the epsom salts solution. After finishing off this drink you are going to want to prepare the olive oil and grapefruit drink. Pour 1/2 cup olive oil into your jar. You can add 2 drops of oregano oil if you are also looking to flush out yeast from your body but this is optional. Wash grapefruit twice in hot water and dry. Squeeze the fruit and remove any pulp from the juice. You should get at least 1/2 cup but you are really looking for 3/4 cup of juice. If you don’t make it to 3/4 of a cup top the juice off with some lemon juice. Add the juice as well as your black walnut and wormwood tincture to the olive oil. Close the jar tightly with the lid and shake hard until it emulsifies.

At 10:00 pm (notice the 2 hour intervals.. you can adjust to your schedule but make sure you leave plenty of lead time where you do not eat) drink the olive oil and grapefruit juice drink. You can take some melatonin or ornithine if you think you will have trouble sleeping. I suggest using a straw, placing the tip as far back in your mouth as possible, to drink the olive oil and grapefruit quickly. Try to get it down within 5 minutes.

As soon as you are finished go to bed and lie down flat on your back for at least 20 minutes to half an hour. Don’t get up just stay in bed and go to sleep.

On the second day of your flush (at least 8-9 hours after you drank the olive oil) in the morning drink 3/4 cup of your epsom salts solution. This will start your body flushing all the bile pebbles it has created as well as any gallstones that have been flushed out. Take this morning easy or go back to bed and rest.

2 hours after your first morning epsom salts take the last 3/4 of a cup of the solution congratulating yourself on finishing off 3 cups of that nasty tasting solution. The solution should run right through you and allow for your final voiding of bile pebbles and gallstones. If you intestines were relatively clear (they should have been) all you will see are these bile pebbles and gallstones. Most of the bile pebbles were created during the night when your liver and gallbladder shot out bile to deal with the 1/2 cup of oil you drank. Some of the pebbles will look different, they will be yellow or look harder. These are most likely real stones you have flushed from your gallbladder and hepatic duct system.

2 hours after your last epsom salts drink you can start eating again. At this point you may not feel like you need to eat and you could fast for the rest of your life. That well may be true but you should begin at least drinking water. To break your fast slowly start to add foods to what you are consuming. I suggest starting with juices as well as a good pro-biotic. Move your way up to unsweetened yogurt with active live cultures. You have just flushed most of the good, bad, and benign bacteria and yeast from your body. You will want to restore the good bacteria as soon as possible so that something else doesn’t take residence in your intestines. After your yogurt solid fruits are good to eat. Take it slow, your body needs time to readjust to eating again.

Congratulations you just finished a liver and gallbladder flush. You may feel the need to do this flush again but it is recommended that you wait at least 2 weeks between flushes. The more important thing to remember after your flush is that you want to keep your liver healthy by watching what you eat and limiting your exposure to toxins. This flush in not a cure it is merely a way to get a fresh start with your liver. The real cure will be a sustained effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle.