"When we lose the ability to genuinely connect with others at a basic level through the most nourishing emotions of love, compassion, empathy, and joy," writes author and alternative-medicine advocate Deepak Chopra in his afterword to this book by his daughter Mallika, "we literally lose touch with our innermost being." Just Feel serves as a network of threads to draw young people ages 8 - 12 into connection with their inner depths.
The book's straightforward style makes it accessible whether a reader is in emotional crisis or simply humming along, wanting to understand life and their responses to it better. The first section — "Know" — offers guidance and practices for understanding what makes you feel good, what you control, what your body need, how you spend your time, what makes you happy and sad, and more ways to tune into your own identity.
The middle section — "Choose" — includes topics such as taking responsibility, embracing your feelings, apologizing, empathizing, forgiving, letting go, and experiencing pride in a job well done. An exercise on "Why Am I Hurting?" gives nuanced advice not only about how to identify the source of the hurt and clear up feelings, but also when it is safe to share the outcome of your reflections with the person who caused the hurt. When it is not safe, the exercise gives alternatives, like talking to a trusted adult or writing down your feelings on paper and then tearing it up.
The final section — "Take Action" — brings this wealth of inner perception fully into the world, with an emphasis on staying grounded, getting organized, doing nice things for others, and being part of something bigger. It includes a small selection of yoga postures particularly associated with feelings, a how-to for creating a planner, instructions for journaling, and other practical tips.
Exercises in each section teach a combination of breathing practices, self-awareness, and affirmations to aid in self-discovery, all tailored for this age group. The exercise called "Tell Me a Story," for instance, helps you learn to listen to a story meaningful to someone you love by letting go of worry about the time, experiencing what the person describes as if you were there with them, and noticing shifts in your emotions as you listen.
Brenna Vaughan's inviting full-color pictures convey acceptance, inclusion, and depths of internal reflection that spills over into outward relationship and service. A tween girl kneels on a bed carefully holding her ukulele on her lap so that her younger sibling can safely pluck its strings as an illustration of being proactive by helping care for others.
Mallika Chopra has become a trusted voice as an author and public speaker. She and Vaughan make an excellent team. Their two joint offerings so far, Just Breathe and Just Feel, provide a stable basis for children to face into a challenging world with plenty of creativity, flexibility, caring, and self-understanding.