Aren Bahia, co-founder of personal development company Yogi Lab, embodies this truth. After falling into a life of drug dealing, corruption and gang-related crime from an early age, Bahia knew that a spiritual transformation was what he needed to find his purpose.
“I wasn’t happy with the impact I was making on the world,” Bahia says. “What good have I done? What legacy am I going to leave this planet? I was 27 years old, and these were questions I couldn’t answer. But I knew that I had the choice to be anybody I wanted to be. So I became somebody who made a positive impact on the world around me.”
After a life-changing, soul-searching visit to Bali, Canadian expat Bahia discovered the power of yoga and meditation. It was at this moment that he began fulfilling his new purpose in life – no longer spreading chaos and violence, but sharing peace, happiness and joy as far and wide as he could.
“While I was growing up, I had an excuse that I was a product of my environment,” he admits. “This was a story I didn’t want to tell anymore; I wanted to make my environment a product of me. I committed to making the world a better place and creating positive impact in my own way. I found my purpose through giving.” Now, Bahia helps people master their mind by delivering free meditation to the world, and uses his platform to give back to the place that saved his life.
Meditation in Society
Curiously, the benefits of meditation span far beyond a deeper knowing of one’s own self. In fact, above the innumerable physical, mental and emotional benefits, meditation can even enrich society. This is a phenomenon called the ‘Maharishi Effect’. It states that if even 1% of the world were to meditate, there would be immeasurable improvements to the quality of life for the entire population. One study observed a sharp drop in crime, accidents and sickness in four nearby cities caused by “sympathetic vibration”, which was then discovered to be emitted from the maharishi’s disciples meditating together.
These research findings are supported by experts in modern social science. Dr. David Edwards of the University of Austin, Texas shares that, “The claim can be plausibly made that the potential impact of this research exceeds that of any other ongoing social or psychological research program. It has survived a broader array of statistical tests than most research in the field of conflict resolution. This work and the theory that informs it deserve the most serious consideration by academics and policy makers alike.” Naturally, this assessment is difficult to ignore. With the many upsides that meditation has to offer, it comes as no surprise that it quickly became a huge part of Bahia’s life.
Finding Purpose in Giving
The ability to change the world around him has always been one of Bahia’s highest values. But during his youth, the spiritual practitioner felt lost on his path towards fulfillment. “For the longest time, I wasn’t connected to my Punjabi heritage and culture. I was always bullied at school, and told that I wasn’t brown enough or Punjabi enough. My dad never enforced the culture growing up, so I had no way to fit in. Later on in my life, I committed to going on a spiritual trip to India and visited many sacred places like the Golden Temple. In doing so, I reconnected with myself and discovered the beauty of my lineage.”
He left with more than just good memories. On this journey, Bahia found his calling. “I was trying to find some sort of meaning and purpose,” Bahia explains. “I wanted to be somebody who did something good. It took me a while to figure out how and what, but I realized that ultimately it didn’t matter as long as I was making a positive impact around me. During this trip, I got the idea to fund a school for children with mental disabilities. We’ve since partnered with that school and have been funding them for over four years,” Bahia proudly shares.
He continues: “A lot of people struggle with their purpose in life – they often ask themself about the reason for their own existence. It can easily devolve into an existential crisis. But you can quickly find meaning in your life. How? By finding a cause to give to. If you have somebody or something to take care of, that will give you purpose and keep you alive. It makes life a lot more worth living. I found that out because Gucci belts and Mercedes weren’t doing it for me. I wasn’t finding contentment in Louis Vuitton loafers. Showing off did nothing for me or for the world, and helping those kids get a proper education means more than any belt.”
The Power of Selflessness
Looking to accomplish his dream and help as many people as possible, Bahia traveled to Bali in search of answers. However, he found so much more. He found his ‘why’. “In our culture, we have something called ‘Seva’. It’s a Sanskrit word that means selfless giving. At its heart, Seva asks us to serve others without expecting anything in return. What I realized was that selflessness and giving makes me feel close and connected to where I’m from. It’s something that I’ve seen across many cultures because compassion, giving, and service makes people happy. So making that a big part of my life brought me contentment.”
Throughout his efforts to make a greater impact on the world, and to serve with the essence of Seva in mind, Bahia has led countless charity missions to rebuild Bali. “Last time, we set a goal of donating 100 beds to 100 less fortunate Balinese children. We smashed that goal, donating 141 beds in 21 days. This year, for my 33rd birthday, my team and I are committed to donating 333 beds in 33 days. I measure myself by how useful I am, and how much I can return to society. So my birthday present this year is not how much I can get, but how much I can give. Not only did Bali help me get away from a life of organized crime, but it helped me truly find myself. Without it, I wouldn’t be here. That’s why I’m fully committed to giving back to the island that saved my life. I’ll forever give back and be grateful.”
Right now, Bahia and his team are on track. “So far, I’ve raised $15,000 for that school in just three months. That money helped them build a brand new hydrotherapy pool for kids with serious physical disabilities and I couldn’t be happier with the progress that we’re making.”
How to Give Back
While Bahia has the means to give back, he understands that often people won’t have the resources to do the same. People can’t always donate thousands of dollars or give away hundreds of beds, but according to Bahia, this doesn’t disqualify you from serving your planet.
“We can all find a way to give in a way that works for us,” he says. “We’ve got to play to our strengths and leverage what we’re good at. For example, I’m a connector. I do it naturally. I was able to leverage my connection skills to help these kids out, spread the power of meditation, and inspire others to give. However, it goes without saying that a lot of people maybe don’t have a lot of cash right now. It’s hard out there, so do whatever you can to offer your skill set – a lot of people need the help.
If you’re rich but time poor, give money. If you’re not rich but have time, give time. If you don’t have either but you’re a networker or have unique skills, offer those skills. If you have nothing but a positive attitude, show up and make people happy. You can give presence – not gifts. As long as you’re given the opportunity to be empathetic, caring, and understanding, that’ll keep you coming back.”
Bahia firmly believes that giving to a worthy cause is the best way to reconnect with what’s inside of your heart and multiply the love you have to give. In doing so, you’ll find your reason for ‘being’. “A lot of people overlook the power of a positive presence, but your ability to show up and bring love to the occasion goes such a long way. Find your ‘why’, figure out how you can help, and give selflessly.”
Finding Your Why
While it may at first seem overwhelming to find your ‘why’, Bahia recommends taking it step by step and reflecting on what makes you ‘you’. Everybody is unique, and no two people will give and find fulfillment in the exact same way. It takes a moment of reflection to understand where your highest values lie.
“First, find out what you’re good at and what feels good to give within you. I like to give laughter and joy; I like to be the clown that I am. So do what’s going to be fun for you. I’ve started guiding one of my one-on-one coaching clients on this path, and as soon as she started giving, she found herself waking up with purpose every morning. She’s happier, fulfilled, and more motivated to build her business.”
He leaves us with his final thoughts. “Above all, remember that you have humanity inside of you to give. It warms you up and cultivates a sense of your self worth. Many can feel worthless at times but if you find a way to give, it trims down the noise on the negative self-talk that isn’t true. You definitely don’t make it true when you’re out there offering a service and helping people. One of my prescriptions for keeping out of depression and staying happy is to give.”
Bahia’s message is one of deep-seated wisdom, experience, and success despite the cards he was dealt. Despite a tumultuous upbringing, Bahia was able to forge a new path forward and leave his life of crime behind. In doing so, he built multiple successful businesses and afforded himself and his clients a lifetime of financial freedom.