Return to Mindfulness

Written by Shalini Bahl, Ph.D

Return to Mindfulness: Disrupting Default Habits for Personal Fulfillment, Effective Leadership, and Global Impact.

​Welum had the opportunity to interview the author of this book, Shalini Bahl, Ph.D. She is a mindfulness consultant, an award-winning researcher, and a certified mindfulness teacher. She has dedicated over 15 years researching and developing cross-disciplinary solutions to help businesses, educators, and political clients build essential mindfulness skills.

Why is Mindfulness so important for people’s well-being?

For over 15 years, I've witnessed firsthand the transformative power of mindfulness in businesses, schools, and even politics. But why is this simple practice so vital for our well-being? Imagine your brain as a prehistoric caveman. When danger lurked, it switched to "fight-or-flight" mode, a brilliant survival strategy back then. Yet, in our modern world, that constant stress response leaves us impulsive, reactive, and, ultimately, burnt out.

Here's the kicker: 95% of our reactions and decisions happen unconsciously on autopilot. We can't change what we don't see, and that's where the problem lies. From individual anxieties to societal conflicts, much of our suffering stems from this unaware state.

The solution? Mindfulness. It's like equipping your brain with a spotlight, illuminating your thoughts and habitual patterns. With awareness comes choice. We learn to respond, not react, aligning our actions with our values and intentions. This choice in how we think, speak, and act is what leads to most of the mindfulness benefits—physical, psychological, social, and behavioral.

You have lived and worked in three countries: India, Kuwait, and the United States, you work with diverse audiences, including CEOs and executives of Fortune 500 companies, educators, and students, are the challenges of mindfulness practice different because of the country or the role of the person?

We all share the same human wiring for survival and autopilot. Mindfulness training can benefit everyone, but our challenges vary based on our culture, upbringing, and environment. It's like having similar cars, but with different terrain to navigate.

Take cultural upbringing. A recent study showed that a simple breath awareness technique triggered different outcomes in participants from individualistic ("me-centric") and collectivistic ("we-centric") cultures. The individualists became more self-focused, while the collectivists expressed more compassionate behavior. This suggests that a "one size fits all" approach just won't work. To cultivate compassion in individualistic cultures, we need specific practices that highlight interconnectedness and empathy beyond immediate groups.

And it's not just culture. Our roles play a part too. My own journey is a testament to this diversity. As a mindfulness consultant, I was able to effortlessly extend compassion to my clients. But as a town councilor, facing heated debates, I realized I had to deliberately practice compassion to stay open to diverse perspectives and avoid judgment. While the core principles of mindfulness are universal, the practices and challenges we face to integrate them into our lives are deeply personal and influenced by our unique experiences. This is precisely what my book, Return to Mindfulness, explores.

Tell us more about your book: Back to Mindfulness: Disrupting Default Habits for Personal Fulfillment, Effective Leadership and Global Impact, what is it about, and what can people expect.

What are the first thoughts that come to mind when you hear “mindfulness”? For many people in my workshops and classes, mindfulness means meditation or awareness. However, meditation and awareness in themselves are not enough to be mindful in the real world. My book, Return to Mindfulness, is about returning to the power within us, in the middle of everyday life, to navigate life's challenges with clarity, purpose, and creative ease.

The Problem: We're all wired for autopilot, reacting with old habits that often hold us back. This book offers a fresh approach: skill development, not just meditation. The Solution: The key to being mindful in the real world is not more meditation but rather fostering skills that will detect and disrupt those default habits that prevent clarity and purposeful action in our daily lives.

Part I in the book explains the "why" behind the particular mindfulness approach offered in this book and how to integrate it seamlessly into our daily lives. Part II dives deep into eight key skills, each paired with real-world practices to disrupt our default habits and empower us to:

  1. Bring awareness when we find ourselves automatically reacting.
  2. Seek understanding with compassion when we’re feeling judgy.
  3. Seek new information with curiosity when stuck in our echo chambers.
  4. Tap into mindful energy to take actions aligned with our goals, even when it’s uncomfortable to change old ways of thinking and acting.
  5. Choose appreciative joy over negativity.
  6. Let go of attachments to achieve inner calm.
  7. Focus on what is important when we feel distracted and overwhelmed.
  8. Respond in a balanced way with equanimity instead of biased impulsivity.

Forget rigid routines: These practices fit into our busy lives, whether it's a mindful commute or a five-minute pause before a meeting. Each chapter offers daily reminders and practical tools to:

  • Identify our default habits.
  • Develop targeted mindfulness skills.
  • Become more present, engaged, and empowered.

Return to Mindfulness is a systematic (and playful) roadmap to authentic success and actions for a better, brighter world, starting from within.

Many books talk about mindfulness What value does yours bring in this field?

A quick search for “mindfulness” on Amazon results in 60,000 books and there are so many other apps and products to develop mindfulness. So yes, the world of mindfulness is vast and with good reason. There are many benefits of mindfulness and many paths to benefit from mindfulness. What makes Return to Mindfulness stand out?

Beyond the Cushion: The book offers a fresh perspective that goes beyond traditional meditation techniques and focuses on strengthening habits of the mind to disrupt our default habits and biases that get in the way of us returning to mindfulness in everyday life. Eight Mindfulness Skills: Return to Mindfulness empowers readers with eight essential skills. Each skill disrupts a specific default habit, offering practical tools to break free at the moment. Here’s a table from the book to remember the eight mindfulness skills and the default habits they disrupt.

Backed by Science and Playful: Return to Mindfulness is a systematic (and playful) guide to remind us that we already have what it takes to be present, connected with what matters, and to discern what is getting in the way of our inner knowing so we can do something about it. The invitation is to practice the mindfulness skills not just in the middle of challenging situations but also in playful ways like reading and writing poetry, dance, music, in nature, alone, and with each other.

The book draws on original research including a free assessment of the eight mindfulness skills that readers can take on my website. The same study confirms that we need different mindfulness skills for different contexts. For example, for dealing with stress, self-compassion is most important and for life satisfaction, energy is the biggest contributor. I hope that Return to Mindfulness, like a mindful friend, is always there to support readers and celebrate them on their journey to live and lead with more clarity, integrity, and care.

 Anything else you want to add?

The book is accompanied by other resources that can be used independently or in combination to support us in strengthening the eight mindfulness skills and returning to our clarity, purpose, and ease in the middle of our everyday lives, especially when we need it most.

Practice and play with the Return to Mindfulness cards on the Deckible app that you can