Shalini Bahl, Ph.D., is a mindful change agent, an award-winning researcher, and Certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Search Inside Yourself teacher. In 2011 Dr. Bahl founded Amherst, MA-based Know Your Mind LLC, a social business with the mission of making evidence-based mindfulness skills widely accessible and applicable to create thriving communities, workplaces, and educational institutions. Her understanding of neuroscience, psychology, and management allows her a deeper understanding of client’s habits and decisions. Dr. Bahl is also a keynote speaker, has two TEDx talks, and her research has been published in premier marketing and public policy journals and won the ‘Best Research Paper’ Award from The American Marketing Association in 2019. Her guided meditations and programs have had over 250,000 plays on the Insight Timer and Simple Habit app. Through her mindfulness training, Dr. Bahl is not only changing lives but is also shaping a better future.
During our conversation with Dr. Bahl, we learned how she empowers people with mindfulness skills to disrupt harmful ‘default patterns’ and live a life of empowered choice for personal and collective fulfillment.
Aspioneer (A): Please tell our readers a bit about your role at Know Your Mind LLC, your goals, and how your work impacts lives?
Dr. Bahl: “At Know Your Mind, we work with individuals, teams, and communities to develop a mindset to thrive in fast-changing environments. Using human-centered approaches to understand clients’ challenges, we create customized solutions drawing from mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and psychology. My services guide people in building habits of the mind to live and lead from a place of purpose, possibilities, and perspective that recognizes our interconnectedness and shared humanity. The idea is to teach evidence-based methodologies and practices that empower people to understand how their minds work and make space for clarity, creative insight, and choices that align with their intentions for individual and collective wellbeing. My goal is to make mindfulness—defined as a set of skills to see clearly and act intentionally—accessible and available to leaders and change agents as a foundation for bringing the change that they want to see without burning out in the process. My mission is to empower leaders in business, education, and politics to harness the power of their minds for their wellbeing and the wellbeing of all the stakeholders they serve.”
Aspioneer (A): How did you come up with the name “Know Your Mind?”
Dr. Bahl: “I chose the name Know Your Mind because understanding how our minds work gives us the power to use our minds to make choices that are aligned with our intentions, values, and goals. Our minds have the power to create and cause great harm. Research shows that up to 95% of our decisions are made on autopilot (acting without knowing the underlying motivations and emotions directing our actions), which leaves little room for choice and creativity. Once we can see our hidden motivations and what we really want, we can take action to align our thoughts and actions with our intentions and goals. By learning how to disrupt our default minds, we can live with empowered choices.”
Aspioneer (A): How did you decide to become a mindfulness teacher?
Dr. Bahl: “Having been a tenure track faculty member in a business school, I witnessed many students and faculty experience burnout and lack of fulfillment at work and in their communities. I was already researching self-awareness and mindfulness in business when I got married and moved to a different town. I didn’t find a job in academia. That forced me to recreate my career. When I asked myself, “What do you really want to do, if money wasn’t a criterion?” my immediate response was to teach mindfulness. I wanted to make mindfulness accessible to businesses, colleges, and communities. I had identified a need among business professionals for learning skills to find clarity and inner calm in the middle of uncertainty and changing environments.”
Aspioneer (A): Having realized what you wanted to do, what were your next steps?
Dr. Bahl: “I went through several years of training from the best centers in the USA including the Centre for Mindfulness at the UMass Medical School and the Search Inside Yourself Institute (the mindfulness-based emotional intelligence program that originated at Google). I started out by integrating mindfulness in executive MBA classes that I taught at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass where students used a mindful approach to build their personal brands and use social media. I started my own studio (which went online during COVID) to offer different kinds of trainings and used my networks to reach out to organizations that could benefit from mindfulness training.”
Aspioneer (A): What is the biggest problem you want to help solve through yourmindfulness?
Dr. Bahl: “One of the biggest challenges that we encounter is that we think we’re making the decisions, but it’s our defaults making most of our decisions, without our conscious awareness. Like I shared earlier, humans are wired to make up to 95% of our daily decisions on autopilot. I see this play out in my role as an elected official in Town Council and working with other leaders. We are trying to solve big problems like racism, climate change, and dealing with the pandemic from traumatized and reactive places in ourselves and our communities. In the absence of awareness of how our minds work, we stay stuck in reactive patterns that prevent us from seeing the big picture and creative possibilities of working together to solve our individual and shared problems. My services give change makers and leaders a toolbox with mindfulness-based practices and strategies to disrupt their default ways of doing things and regain control over their minds to stay open, listen, and act in alignment with their intentions, values, and goals. The more change makers understand their own minds, the easier it is for them to be empathetic, open, and supportive of others in creating the desired change. My way of helping to solve the world’s biggest problems is by giving change makers the tools to understand their minds so they can effectively work for change with more ease, creativity, and fulfillment along the way.”
Aspioneer (A): Who do you look up to and wish to meet?
Dr. Bahl: “I would like to meet with leaders like mindfulness teacher and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh because he’s inspired so many people around the world to intentionally live in harmony with each other and our environment. I would like to learn from them how to find clarity and act compassionately in challenging situations. One of the businesses that I deeply admire is Patagonia because they have been intentional about designing products that cause the least harm to the environment and grow their profits responsibly. Another leader that I respect is Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce, who has grown his company to be a top technology company while maximizing benefit to all stakeholders.”
Aspioneer (A): If you can make three changes in the world. What will they be and what’s on your future to-do list?
Dr. Bahl:“Everyone would have access to mindfulness training from childhood. Leaders would have the ability to see the interconnectedness of all stakeholders and make decisions after considering consequences for all stakeholders. Last but not least, everyone would have equal opportunities to live their highest potential.
I am writing a book called ‘Reset: 8 Mindfulness Skills to Disrupt Default Thinking and Make Decisions That Are Good for You and the World’ to go along with my online program to teach mindfulness as 8 habits of the mind to empower leaders and change agents to be mindful when it matters most. I gave a TEDx talk on this topic.”