Meaghan Axel is a children’s librarian, a yoga teacher and the author of the children’s book, “The Power in Me.” The book speaks to a wide range of experiences and audiences with its focus on meditation, mindfulness techniques and self-empowerment. In an interview with The Daily Californian, Axel discussed her experience with mindfulness, meditation with children and how her book applies to a broad age range.
“The (writing) process really started after my daughter was born,” Axel stated, noting how after experiencing anxiety as a child, she wanted to give her daughter reliable tools to cope with the natural feelings of stress and self-doubt that she might experience. Working as a high school teacher at the time, Axel observed how stressed many of her students were and realized that all kids could benefit from learning about mindfulness.
Axel mentioned that although the project was originally so her daughter could “remember she has mindfulness tools and she always has her breath with her,” it then evolved into a published book.
“The Power in Me” molds childlike metaphors with informative direction, crafting an experience of entertainment and enlightenment. Following the experiences of a little girl, the reader watches as her powers grow stronger and her chest brighter, and as she learns that these powers are found within her. Axel explained, “She gets into details about how she uses her power, how she accesses it, by sitting and breathing mindfully. And then there’s actually detailed directions for how to meditate and she describes the feelings that she has while meditating.”
Axel said that although stress may manifest itself more outwardly in adults, children also experience it. She noted that since children are unfamiliar with these emotions, they rarely voice them and instead exhibit physical distress, such as stomachaches or becoming emotionally withdrawn. “They can really improve their state of being,” Axel said of the effect her book can have on children experiencing stress. “(They can) take a moment to really figure out what they’re feeling, why they are feeling and what they can do about that feeling.”
Axel already practices mindfulness techniques with her daughter, who is two years old. For example, the two have a “calm jar” filled with water, sparkles and corn syrup. When her daughter feels overwhelmed, “(We) focus and look at the sparkles,” Axel said.
In terms of breathing exercises, the two put stuffed animals on their bellies and watch them rise and fall with their breath. As a librarian, Axel uses mindfulness to guide her classes through breathing exercises when kids are struggling to focus. “You definitely see that release of energy after they take their first couple breaths, and it really leads to more productive time together,” Axel said.
Although “The Power in Me” is a children’s book, its impact is felt across a wide range of ages. With “The Power in Me,” both the child and the parent learn mindfulness techniques and breathing practices. “I think it’s really cool that a children’s book has two audiences most of the time. I’m hoping that as children learn a little more, they’ll remind their parents. Maybe it’s time for you to relax, sit down and take a breath and think about how you’re feeling right now,” Axel said.
Axel also believes that mindfulness techniques are incredibly important for college students.
“One thing with mindfulness is that when you focus on your breath, you can also focus on a mantra that might be something that’s empowering to you. Whether you’re saying to yourself, ‘I can do this,’ that might be a mantra you repeat, or … ‘I am unstoppable,’ ” Axel said. “Something that works for you … (will make) you feel you have control over the situation because stress most often is the sense that you don’t have control and (that) something is insurmountable.”
Axel believes in the flexible, individual nature of mindfulness; for her, meditation does not necessitate sitting still, and mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, anytime. “Mindfulness can help you focus on what you can accomplish and how you will break things down so you will be successful,” Axel said.
“The Power in Me” is a powerful tool for accessing feelings of stress and anxiety, and understanding and overcoming them. Its messages of mindfulness and self-empowerment are relevant and impactful to all people, not just children. Its format as a children’s story hopefully suggests a new standard for our culture, wherein we teach our children to know and care for themselves.
Axel quoted the last lines of “The Power in Me” to summarize her book’s message: “You don’t have to listen to your doubts any longer. Their voices are strong, but you are much stronger.”
Contact Nathalie Grogan at [email protected].