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

The key to being mindful in the real world is not more meditation but rather fostering skills to disrupt default habits that get in the way of clarity and purposeful action in our daily lives.

Do you wish you had a roadmap to live and lead with more clarity, purpose, and impact?

You’re not alone. Our modern world is full of constant pressures that disconnect us from what matters most. In the rush of busy lives, it’s easy to get swept up in chasing quick fixes, making reactive choices, and feeling hopeless in the face of global challenges.

But what if there was another way?

Return to Mindfulness offers a systematic yet playful blueprint for integrating mindfulness into our daily routine.

Mindfulness is commonly described as non-judging awareness, but when tough decisions arise, suspending judgment can confuse more than clarify. Dr. Bahl proposes that the way to be mindful in the real world beyond meditation and non-judging awareness is to foster eight mindfulness skills that disrupt habits that have been shaped by evolution and our environment. These default habits are what keep us rushing and reacting instead of seeing clearly and acting intentionally.

Each chapter is dedicated to one mindfulness skill and includes six exercises to practice and play with during the day so we can replace default habits with mindful habits.

Look out for the book on Amazon on January 18, 2024

Please use this link to receive a free chapter on Mindful Energy, including the Energy Matrix to assess what nurtures and depletes your energy in four domains and six daily reminders to practice and play with energy in your day.

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Beyond Meditation, Mindfulness in the Real World

Hi, I am Shalini Bahl. I wrote this book because after a decade of daily meditation practice, publishing award winning research, and teaching mindfulness to thousands of people, I still struggled to walk the talk.

Sure, meditation brought profound stillness. But in the real world, I found it challenging to be mindful or know what it means to be mindful—in the middle of difficult conversations, making complex decisions, starting new habits. This struggle became more apparent when I entered the world of politics as an elected town councilor. I discovered that my med­itation self could handle anything, but my politician self was easily hijacked by self-doubt and fear.

There had to be more.

So, I dove into ancient mindfulness texts, examining 2,500-year-old teachings of the Buddha—the Satipatthana Sutta—through a modern lens. Could this age-old wisdom help disrupt today’s defaults?

The answer was a resounding “yes!”

Now, after refining these skills through integrating them in my political work, research projects, and complex decisions, I’m excited to share what transformed my life and that of many of my clients. So it can transform yours too.

This book offers a road map to return to your inner wisdom, especially when it matters most. I invite you to see for yourself, how the 48 daily reminders can help you to break free from old habits that don’t serve you and instead return to your innate capacity to see clearly and act intentionally.

Ten Things You Will Gain from This Book

  1. Trust in your innate capacity for mindfulness, even in the middle of chaos
  2. A systematic and playful path to master essential skills for real-world change
  3. An understanding of how 8 mindfulness skills disrupt 8 outdated defaults blocking your vision
  4. More than 50 daily reminders and practices to develop a mindset of openness, inquiry, and reframing for clarity
  5. Essential skills and strategies to overcome decision fatigue
  6. An ability to transform challenging emotions into opportunities for insight and growth
  7. Relief from self-judgment through self-understanding
  8. Skills to lead boldly, without burning out or burning bridges
  9. Courage and Inspiration to shift from “me” to “we” by recognizing our interconnected ecosystem
  10. An unshakeable knowing that you are enough and delighting in this one wild and precious life.

…and much more.

Mindful Trailblazers’ Testimonials

This book is like sitting next to a kind teacher who guides you through the many distractions of your mind and shows you ways to return to mindfulness, to non-judging awareness. It is full of practical, playful steps to systematically integrate mindfulness into your daily life, ways that Shalini herself has learned while practicing mindfulness as teacher and governmental leader. Whether you are new to mindfulness or have been practicing for decades, you’ll benefit from her guidance toward a calmer, clearer, more loving and compassionate life.

Mirabai Bush, Author (with Ram Dass), Walking Each Other Home, Co-creator of Search Inside Yourself: Mindfulness-Based Emotional Intelligence at Google

Return to Mindfulness is a delightful read that will open your heart and mind. Shalini Bahl shares profound yet practical wisdom that will inspire you to live with more meaning, compassion, and joy. This book is like having a wise friend gently guide you home to your best self.

Acharya Shunya, Author Sovereign Self, Claim Your Inner Joy and Freedom with the Empowering Wisdom of the Vedas, Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita

Once or twice in a lifetime, you may come across a book that can change you in a most positive way. Return has this magic and more. I have often wondered why my mind operates like a pinball machine (monkey mind?) and what to do about it. As a teacher, scholar, and public speaker, I now recognize the multiple selves that arise from my past to hijack what I am trying to accomplish in any given moment. This volume not only helps the reader understand the process, but it also shows how to mindfully, successfully, and playfully change reactions into pro-actions that serve our individual and interpersonal needs. My plan is to use the 50 options until they become a part of who I am across situations. Of course, the process never ends and will revisit the 8 skill chapters over-and-over, seeking to mine every nugget of mindfulness gold in the foreseeable future.

Ron Hill, Dean’s Professor of Marketing and Public Policy, Kogod School of Business, Marketing Department Chair, Editor-in-Chief, Responsible Research in Business and Management

“Return to Mindfulness” is a mindful companion for navigating the complexities of life. Shalini offers a refreshing and practical approach to mindfulness. Whether you’re seeking clarity with the eight mindfulness skills or embarking on a systematic journey to build your capacity for real-world mindfulness, this book is your trusted guide for joyful living and empowered leadership.

Chade-Meng Tan, International bestselling author of Search Inside Yourself and Buddhism for All.

A Return to Mindfulness is what we need in this moment. Shalini offers a profoundly thoughtful guide and reminder for us to be and see one another as deeply human.

The 8 mindfulness skills – awareness, compassion, curiosity, energy, appreciative joy, inner calm, focus, and equanimity – are shared with ease and clarity so that each of us as leaders can more skillfully navigate division, conflict, and competing needs as we extend compassion and take wise action that inspires new ways of being and thinking that inform how we do what we do. Return calls us to co-create the conditions and solutions that help bring people together, find common ground, and flourish.

The beauty of Return is that it applies to all that we do at home, at school, in business, in politics, and more. Everywhere we are, Return should be.

Michelle Lopes Maldonado, Virginia State Representative and Founder of Lucenscia

Diving into Return to Mindfulnessby Shalini Bahl, PhD is a refreshing journey back home to inner wisdom. This elegant guidebook not only illuminates the transformative power of mindfulness in everyday life but also shares eight practical, real-world skills to disrupt unhelpful patterns and integrate awareful presence in any moment. Rooted in timeless Buddhist teachings and informed by modern research, Dr. Milne’s clear explanations, relatable stories, and accessible applications enliven mindfulness practice. An indispensable companion for anyone seeking to connect more deeply with life, this book embodies compassionate self-exploration and mindful leadership with authenticity and grace.

Rashmi Bismark, MD, MPH, Preventive Medicine physician, certified yoga and mindfulness meditation teacher, and author of Finding Om

With amazing openness and clarity, Shalini Bahl shares about her notable personal successes *and* failures, bringing them together for an insightful awareness of how mindfulness can make a pragmatic difference. Her journey weaves the different aspects of herself together through mindfulness, integrating them while neither judging nor watering down any aspect of who she is, but welcoming them. Shalini’s skillful crafting of the process of coming together reflects much of the tensions of present-day life, showing readers how to work with the joys and difficulties inevitable in life.

Ted Meissner, Senior Mindfulness Teacher, Podcast Host, Mindfulness Voyage

One of the most remarkable aspects of Return to Mindfulness is its ability to seamlessly integrate mindfulness into one’s daily routines. It’s not a practice reserved for special moments; it’s a way of life that becomes a natural part of how one lives. The book offers practical exercises and insights that can effortlessly be incorporated into one’s day, helping to find clarity and self-awareness amid life’s overwhelmingly busy moments. Shalini Bahl’s expertise shines through as she demystifies the practice making it accessible to anyone, regardless of their prior experience.

This guide equipped me with the tools to lead my company and staff with greater empathy, clarity, and authenticity. By integrating mindfulness into leadership practices, Return to Mindfulness not only fosters personal growth but also transforms organizations and communities, creating a ripple effect of positive change on a global scale.

Return is an essential companion for those seeking a more balanced, mindful, and meaningful existence. With its gentle guidance and profound insights, this book has the power to transform your life, making mindfulness not just a practice but a way of being.

Caroline Aller, Founder and Clinical Director, Amherst Cognitive Therapy

Return to Mindfulness is a wonderful book. A mix of real-life examples and practical applications. Good for both the newcomer to mindfulness as well as the person who practices daily. A reader can read straight through or skip to the different practices. I felt like Shalini was in the room leading me as I read the pages. This has been a wonderful book to read as I enter a new chapter in my life. A reminder to return to my center and take time to just breathe. A must have by your bedside or desk.

Cristi Stroud-Downey, wife/mom/sister and Managing Director, Guardian Life

“Return to Mindfulness is a beautiful guide to finding moments of awareness during days filled with multiple demands and expectations. Shalini’s honest reflections sharing her journey with mindfulness are relatable to all of us who struggle to pause in the moment and be with what is present.  The eight mindfulness skills taught in the context of daily work and life routines will help readers further their mindfulness practice and grow as leaders bringing positive change to the world.

I was fortunate to study with Shalini as I began my mindfulness journey.  Return to Mindfulness is a lovely reminder of the compassionate and gentle guidance she provided.”

Greg Runyan, Director, Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative

How many town councilors do you know who practice and teach mindfulness—and bring it into their day-to-day life? Not enough! Shalini Bahl has done just that. And this book is a testament to both the practical and profound impact of the practice of mindfulness and the way of life it promotes. Return to Mindfulness is a rich treasury of insights, methods, and playful illustrations, and also an honest account of a real journey to openness that all of us can relate to.

Barry Boyce, Founding Editor of Mindful magazine and

Return to Mindfulness masterfully articulates the barriers we all face in being mindful during our everyday lives. Whether you’re a leader or seeker, this book will serve you as a wise guide—a calm, clear whisper in a noisy, distracted world.

Amishi Jha, PhD, Neuroscientist and best-selling author of Peak Mind.



Note to the Reader: The Path to Fulfillment Begins Within

Chapter 1. A Wake-Up Call

Chapter 2. Mindfulness Is Easier than You Think

Chapter 3. What Gets in the Way Is the Way

Chapter 4. A Roadmap for Real-World Mindfulness


Skill Chapter 1. Awareness: See with Fresh Eyes

Skill Chapter 2. Compassion: Seek to Understand and Interbe

Skill Chapter 3. Curiosity: Ask What, Not Why

Skill Chapter 4. Energy: Chop Wood, Carry Water

Skill Chapter 5. Appreciative Joy: Meet Life with Love and Gratitude

Skill Chapter 6. Inner Calm: Empty the Cup

Skill Chapter 7. Focus: Choose Which Wolf to Feed

Skill Chapter 8. Equanimity: Ride the Waves of Change with Grace




A Note of Gratitude

About the Author

Click here to download a copy of the chapter on Energy.