Mallika Chopra — mom, media entrepreneur, public speaker on wellness, and author of the forthcoming children’s book Just Breathe: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement, and More, illustrated by Brenna Vaughan (Running Press Kids, August 28) — will be one of four keynote speakers at the American Booksellers Association’s sixth annual ABC Children’s Institute, to be held June 19–21 in New Orleans.
Children’s Institute will also feature keynote speeches by Chelsea Clinton, Angie Thomas, and Temple Grandin; educational sessions for booksellers on a range of topics; and networking events, author receptions, and parties. See the full program and register now.
Chopra’s most recent book for adults is Living With Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace and Joy (Harmony, 2015); her books 100 Promises to My Baby (Lotus Press) and 100 Questions From My Child (Rodale Books) have been translated and sold in dozens of countries worldwide. She is the founder of Intent.com, an online platform focused on personal, social, and global wellness, and has taught meditations to thousands of people. Chopra has spoken to audiences around the world, including at women’s conferences and during TEDx talks, as well as at companies like Coca-Cola, Disney, LinkedIn, and Google. Her writing has been featured in Self Magazine, Women’s Health, Prevention Magazine, Time.com, Oprah.com, the L.A. Times, and Huffington Post, among other publications.
Chopra’s book for kids, which contains a foreword by her father, New Age author, transcendental meditation expert, and alternative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra, is an accessible and fun meditation and mindfulness how-to book filled with full-color illustrations for kids ages eight to 12. Just Breathe contains specific exercises to help children deal with day-to-day challenges, including practical advice on breathing techniques and guided meditations for dealing with stress, getting to sleep, building self-confidence, focusing at school, and managing anxiety.
Here, Bookselling This Week speaks with Chopra about her new book and how meditation can help kids thrive.
Bookselling This Week: How did you come up with the idea for this book?
Mallika Chopra: I am a lifelong meditator. I learned when I was nine years old from my parents and it was just a wonderful tool that I’ve had throughout my life. I’m 46 now and I have two kids, who are 16 and almost 14, and while meditation has been one of those things that I have gone in and out of, when I have remembered and needed that tool it’s been really helpful. As a parent, I’ve used meditation and shared it with my kids. More and more as I started to teach in my community, the first question I would get every time from parents was, what about our kids? How can we teach our kids?
I think it took several years for me to figure out the right way to communicate and share that because, generally, I believe that we can’t force kids to do anything. Then the opportunity with Perseus Books came up to do this book, which is really an illustrated guide that’s written for kids, not a parenting book. The illustrator for this book brought it to life; it looks amazing. Dr. Cara Natterson, who did the American Girl body books (The Care and Keeping of You series), is one of my best friends. For many years, she and I had been talking about emotional wellness, so when this opportunity came up I jumped on it.
BTW: What age group is this book ideal for?
MC: The book is targeted to eight to 12-year-olds. When we decided to pursue this project, I did a lot of research on the books that were out there and didn’t really find much for this particular age group. I think there are yoga and breathing books for little kids, but there really was nothing for this particular age, and, having gone through this phase with my kids and with my nephew, I really felt like this was something that could contribute to the conversation.
BTW: Are you going to be doing any interactive meditation or mindfulness exercises with booksellers as part of your presentation at Children’s Institute?
MC: I definitely want to share practical tips. I speak often with both kids and adults, and generally my strategy is to make it easy and effortless and to show how simple these techniques are. I think many people get intimidated by the idea of meditation or mindfulness. They say, ‘Oh, I can’t quiet my mind,’ or ‘Every time I try to do it, I fall asleep.’ I want to take away the daunting mystique around meditation. I always feel, whether it’s adults or kids, that the best way to do that is to actually do a short, non-intimidating mediation with them.
BTW: How can booksellers use this book in their stores to create activities for kids?
MC: One thing I’m really excited about is the artwork in the book; the illustrator did a great job of taking these concepts and making them really relatable. The diversity of the children presented in the book was really important to me, so displaying the artwork in bookstores would be attractive.
As someone who has been doing it for 35+ years, in the last five years mediation and mindfulness have become really trendy, so people are intrigued, especially when it’s for their kids. Children today, unfortunately, experience a lot of anxiety and pressure, so this book is something that can help them get through their day and feel more in control of their lives. I would be so thrilled to see events at bookstores where kids learn some techniques, whether it’s a yoga class or some sort of meditation class.
When my father, Deepak Chopra, started talking about this stuff when I was growing up, it was seen as kind of crazy and kind of out there, but now it’s become more mainstream. There are many practitioners in communities all over the world who I know are excited to share what they have learned and the benefits of these practices for them. I think it’s always best to work with local people, so doing events like this at bookstores would be a great way to tap into the local community.
BTW: What was it like learning the skills of mindfulness and meditation as a child? How can kids best learn these skills today?
MC: I have a pretty strong point of view on this because of how I grew up. In my family, before my parents started meditating, my dad was stressed out and our family life wasn’t so great. Then my parents discovered meditation, and my brother and I saw the change and the shift in our family life because my parents were practicing. In my 30+ years of meditating, and also now being a parent and a teacher, my advice to parents has always been to focus on your own practice and then your kids will watch and be intrigued. Parents teach by example.
That being said, why I’m so excited about this book is that I feel like it will actually give kids the tools to explore, to learn, to try something; we’re giving them resources and telling them that we believe in them and they are smart and that they can do these sorts of things, and maybe it will be the kids who are guiding the parents through some of these practices. My goal was to create something that empowers kids, and I do believe children are curious and intrigued and they want to be happy, they want to be connected with friends, they want to be successful, so this is one more tool in their toolbox that can help them feel more empowered. Before I started the book, I actually sat down with my daughters and my nephew and said ok, what are you guys in interested in? What are some of the things that we’ve done that you would want to show other kids? So, really, the ideas in the book came from my kids and my nephew.
BTW: What are you looking forward to about Children’s Institute?
MC: I genuinely am super excited. I feel really lucky I was able to write this book and share this great gift that was given to me. I hope it helps not only kids and parents, but people in general, because the information is so easy and accessible, yet the techniques are really powerful.