With ‘Stillwater,’ Mallika Chopra brings mindfulness to kids

NEW YORK (AP) — When the producers of the new animated children’s series Stillwater asked Mallika Chopra to be the show’s “mindfulness consultant”, the meditation expert, author and speaker said she was immediately on board.

“What an amazing title to have, right?” Chopra recounted in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

Children’s television has evolved since the days of Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner smashing Wile E Coyote with a hammer. Stillwater — which started streaming on Apple TV+ last month — aims to teach subtle life lessons through a wise panda who forges a special friendship with the family next door. The stories are based on the character Stillwater from the beloved children’s book series Zen Stories by Jon J Muth.

With beautiful animation and a quiet approach, Stillwater organically teaches kids to meet disappointment and frustration with patience and kindness. Apple hired Chopra help translate the vibe and lessons of Zen Stories to a television audience.

Chopra has written several books geared toward children and has a new book coming out in March: Just Be You: Ask Questions, Set Intentions, Be Your Special Self and More. She’s also the daughter of alternative medicine and wellness expert Deepak Chopra, so meditation and wellness has dominated both her personal and professional lives.

Mallika Chopra. PHOTO: AP

The younger Chopra helped launch the show by reading scripts and offering her special expertise. “They have done the most incredible job of storytelling and building characters and then sharing the lessons in this way, which is just not kind of didactic or ‘how-to’. It’s joyful and really magical,” Chopra said.

The show’s executive producer and writer Rob Hoegee, said Chopra helps communicate the psychology of preschool children and their needs. “One of the great things Mallika has been able to do for us now that the show has launched is be able to better contextualise what mindfulness is, how it’s important to us and how the show can fit into that,” Hoegee said.

The producers incorporated coping skills like breathing deeply and the sound and calmness of nature into the storylines, which Chopra said is a great tool to emphasise experience in the moment.

“There’s a clip where they’re outside getting a new perspective on the rain. And it’s such a beautiful clip of changing perspective. But also, in that clip, there’s the sound of the rain. This is the experience you can have of imagining the smell of rain,” she said.

Aside from work on Stillwater, Chopra has been busy this year trying to help others cope in the pandemic. She’s been challenging people to get comfortable with uncertainty.

“What I can offer is just moments where we can connect through breaths, be accepting of anger, frustration, and fear with our kids. You know, they’re feeling that. But we, as parents, are feeling that as well. So a lot of what I’ve been talking to groups about this year is… accepting that it’s OK to feel angry, it’s OK to be fearful and sad,” Chopra said.

“The other thing is we haven’t had the ritual of mourning and grief. And that also isn’t anchoring us as a society,” she said. “That’s something we’re going to have to process over time because we’re not processing it right now. It’s just too overwhelming.”