Monday, April 12, 2010

Tasting The Magic Of Mindfulness

Inspirational Recipe Quote: "I am learning to be a good parent to myself (inner child). Shakti Gawain

Through the years, I’ve helped children alleviate the everyday stress, frustration and anxieties they face in order to help nurture their confidence and self-esteem. I do this with spiritual exercises that quiet their young minds, calm and center their bodies and help them navigate skillfully through emotional storms. I developed these inspirational and healing recipes with my 12- year-old daughter Grace.

We call it FunZen.
(Original Sprinkles Cupcakes right)

FunZen draws from the Buddhist concept of mindfulness,which is the ability to tune into the present moment to achieve nonjudgmental observation through coming home to the body's senses. My intention is to help kids of all ages,healers,parents,performers, teachers, and therapists, face the challenges of the 21st Century by cultivating their inner resilience and quiet strength. From my Zen Calendar; Lily Tomlin reminds us that "We are all in this together, by ourselves."

Many of my FunZen centering techniques were refined and tested when I was introduced to young Jani Schofield in early 2007. At that time, Jani was 5 years old, and newly diagnosed with childhood schizophrenia.
You may have heard of Jani. Her story went national after a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times in the summer of 2009 led to an appearance by Jani and her parents, Michael and Susan, on the Oprah Winfrey Show in October of last year. Jani’s problems are well-documented. She would have bouts of wild and vivid hallucinations that were often coupled with violent temper tantrums that her doctors attempted to control with a potent mix of anti-psychotic medications.

The other part of their treatment was to keep Jani constantly engaged with different activities in the hopes that would mediate her sometimes destructive impulses. Michael and Susan Schofield believed daughter Jani slipped into hallucinations and became delusional if she wasn’t constantly stimulated.

When I first met Jani, her parents were interested in seeing if meditation could be used as a tool for helping their daughter rather than the constant use of medication. It became my mission to help Jani find a bit of zenergized happy-calm in the zoo of life. Please understand, I have respect for the Western use of medication and the bio chemical aspect of Jani's treatment. I saw firsthand how drugs helped stabilize Jani’s frenetic energy and curb her psychosis. With her medication, Jani appeared able to follow the activities of daily living.

But, I also noted that Jani’s joyful spirit would vanish in a drug-induced haze when she needed more meds to handle her "out of control" behavior. That’s when I came to appreciate that medication is only one part of an approach to treating childhood mental illness.

Enter FunZen.

My goal in introducing Jani to FunZen meditation was to use it as a complement to her medical treatment in the hopes that gradually, over time she would require less drugs. At the heart of my FunZen exercises are mindful breathing techniques that when practiced correctly, help to alleviate stress and enable a child to find zenergized calm and peace in whatever storm they may be navigating. One FunZen exercise we used is something I call “The Miracle Diamond for Breath Alignment.” To employ this technique, I had Jani stand upright, focus inwardly, and slowly exhale with a long whoosh. Then, I asked her to slowly inhale, thinking of something sweet and calming, like the smell of lavender; ahhhhh (long breath out). After repeating this process slowly, and imagining the stress melting like heat applied to snow, Jani would begin to feel tall, light, firm in her diamond core…and zenergized!

Naturally, FunZen can used by any child that is feeling stressed. These spiritual exercises and mindfulness techniques will become second nature as you practice them and gain momentum by zenergizing the mind-body connection.

Jani proved to be very receptive to FunZen and showed great potential as a student. Her parents and I noticed the benefits of the spiritual exercises right away. Jani’s attention span increased, improving her ability to focus and we could see an overall sense of comfort and joy in her when she was in a peaceful surrounding. It was only when Jani was constantly busy; that is, following the Western approach as a human "doing" rather than the Eastern approach as a human "being in balance," that she appeared to lose touch with her heart's compass of inner wisdom. This Eastern Zen approach of using meditation to bring about dramatic change in behavior has been chronicled by many scholars. In Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa’s book "Meditation as Medicine" he states that by meditating we are "activating the healing force within us."

After working with Jani Schofield for more than two years, I’ve come to believe that Jani's spirit of pure being is not touched by her mental illness. This became very clear to my daughter Grace and I one day as we watched Jani listen to music by the Beatles and Michael Jackson. The tunes Jani enjoyed so much clearly had a meditative effect on her, and she was at peace as she
sung along.

Meditation techniques are ageless. They have been written about since the beginning of time. However, most of the focus has been on its use by adults. The success I’ve had using FunZen meditation techniques like Mindfulness to bring a clear mind, peaceful heart in stressful situations to Jani Schofield (and, for that matter, to my own daughter Grace) shows that children can embrace and use meditation too.

Most importantly, meditation and tools like Lori Lite's StressFreeKids breathing can be an effective complement to standard Western medical treatment employed by those suffering from mental disorders like childhood schizophrenia, autism or anxiety ADD, ADHD. It is a holistic alternative to heavy medication and constant engagement. I saw it help Jani Schofield, and I believe that other special needs children or any child can benefit from FunZen as well.


Michiko Rolek is a life coach and the author of Mental Fitness, a unique book that offers workouts for the mind, body and soul for peak performance available at Amazon She is now dedicated to helping children and serving the spirit of humanity with "ubuntu" (kindness) to exercise mindfulness, relieve stress, and shine from within through the use of her FunZen inspirational recipes. For more information stay tuned in at The FunZen Bakery where "Talk does not bake the cupcakes, Walking the talk does."


  1. Thank you so much for showing me the way to your blog article!! Loved it!!
    Debra @momsofamerica


  3. YES. We must be the change we want to see, as you would say. If we don't use the tools then nothing gets fixed. I will pray for this little girl.

  4. Hi Zen Mommie!
    Thanks for the Twitter follow. I love finding other zen mamas! We have to stick together!

    What a great website you have here. I'm going to read more...and recommend you in an upcoming post I'm going to put up soon.