Aren Bahia is a Canadian entrepreneur who's lived a "full-spectrum life."
Growing up in a very rough area in Vancouver, Aren's seen his world shift from a life of fast cars, fast cash, and fast women to meditation and yoga in the Himalayas, where he learned to live a life of generosity, connection, and compassion.
Starting over in Bali in 2016, he's launched four businesses and raises tens of thousands of dollars every year for underprivileged and mentally disabled Balinese children.
Aren founded Karma House Bali, Conscious Arts Tattoos, and is a co-founder of YogiLab and UluLife.
February 20th, 2016. I'll never forget this date. I'm at the Vancouver International Airport, and I just got my ticket stamped. I'm feeling hopeful. I'm about to start my life over. I'm getting out. I'm leaving Vancouver. I'm moving to Bali. I'm starting over, starting fresh. It's my full reset.
See, for the last eight years, I had been getting sucked deeper and deeper into organized crime. I grew up in the area. It was normal, but I wasn't that type of guy. I was fucking my life up. And if I didn't get out then, I wasn't gonna make it out. I could feel it coming. I was with my girlfriend, Leah, at the time. We were making it out.
I got onto that passenger bridge, you know, that little weird walkway to get to the plane. And what I saw floored me. It was six border security agents and a police dog. What they saw? An inked out brown boy with a Louis Vuitton T-shirt, diamond earrings, and a Ferragamo man purse with a hot bombshell girlfriend. They looked right at me into my soul and said, "You. Come over here. We've got some questions for you." And I was like, Oh shit. You see, I was way too high to handle this situation.
My best friend gave me a bottle of THC weed oil to have a pleasant trip. And I took way too much by accident. He said, "Where are you going?" And I was like, "Ahhh, Bali?” I could barely speak English. He goes, "Okay. How long are you going for?" Meanwhile, while he was asking me questions, I was surrounded by the agents. And one of the agents was poking my pockets so the dog could sniff them. So I was trying to answer questions head-on with this dog sniffing in my pockets behind me. And I looked and was high as fuck.
So he goes, "How long are you going for?" And I'm like, "Uhh, two, three months." He goes, "How do you not know how long you're leaving for?" I was like, "Well . . ." He's like, "Are you running away from something?" I was, yeah, absolutely. See, for the last three months, I thought I was under investigation. Things were hot for me. I needed to leave. I was paranoid. I was freaking out, and I thought he could see right through me. I was bombing the situation, and he could smell fear. And I don't know what that dog could smell, but I had drugs on me. See, I was a drug-addicted drug dealer. This was the lowest moment of my life. I was addicted to opiates. I had eight oxycotton in my man purse right there. I had a bottle of methadone in my carry-on luggage.
I was going to Bali. I was getting clean. I was done, but I needed enough to get me to that detox center. I'd be sick on the plane if I didn't have it. I was, Can that dog smell this stuff? I don't know. But this guy said, "You're acting suspicious. Let's go to secondary questioning." We're going away from the plane now, off that little passenger plane, back into the terminal. And I'm like, Fuck, this is it. They're not gonna let you leave. This is a sting. This is where your worst fear is. You're done, buddy. You're going to jail. You're not passing Go.
So I get to that airport terminal, and that East Van punk kid in me, he was like, Take it like a man, bro. Don't look like a bitch in front of your girlfriend. So I go to that security agent and I go, "Look, man, if this is just for me, let's get this over with," as tough as I could. He looked back at me, and he is like, "Why would you say that? This is a routine check." They pulled over somebody else right beside me. I was like Fuck! Leah's like, "Shut the fuck up. You're ruining the situation." And I was. This other guy was some forty-year-old Vietnamese-looking dude, kind of sketchy looking. So he goes, "If I was to pull your suitcase, what would I find?" And I'm like, "Uhh, clothes." What he would find was more oxycotton and a set of fake identification that I used to rent work spots with. Add fraud to the charges, I would cop right then and there.
He reaches out for his walkie-talkie. He's gonna pull my suitcase off. Fuck! I see him reaching for it. If that suitcase comes off that plane, I'm fucked. I'm going to jail. I'm done. I'm not making that flight. No Eat, Prey, Love for me. Just as he is about to punch the numbers, I hear, "Fuck you! You're taking my liberty." The Vietnamese guy's freaking out. The entire airport stops and looks—international departures lounge of Vancouver airport. What the fuck? It's me—sketchy-looking brown guy. Sketchy-looking Vietnamese guy. Hot bombshell girlfriend, six border security agents, dog barking. "Sir, are you threatening me?" says the agent. The Vietnamese guy goes, "Fuuuck yooou!" I'm Damn!
The agent that's dealing with us is looking at the situation. This guy gets pounced on by the other cops. The other one's pulling back the dog. He's resisting arrest. The agent dealing with me is trying to figure out what to do. It is a scene. I'm there. "Hey man, we're just trying to go to Bali. Can you let us go?" The agent looks at me, looks at the scuffle in the corner. Looks at me. He goes, "Okay, go."
I get back on that passenger bridge. I look at Leah. She's like, "Shut the fuck up and get on that plane." I'm like, "Yes, ma'am." I'm walking back to that plane. The entire stewardess crew is waiting for us at the door. We are the last ones on the flight. Everyone on the plane is seated, ready to go. And what they heard outside was, "Fuck you. You're taking my liberty. Are you threatening me? Fuck you." A dog barking. I walk in.
The stewardess takes my ticket. My hand's trembling as I come in. She's like, "Yeah, 84 F all the way to the back in the middle." Fuck. I have to go past everyone looking at me. Holy shit, what the fuck just happened? I have to ask a little old lady to get outta my way cos I'm in the middle. I sit down. She looks at me. "What happened?" I'm like, "No, no, don't, not right now."
Waiting for that flight to take off was an eternity. Finally, we lift off. I'm sitting there having a panic attack in that seat. As soon as I hear ding from the seatbelt sign, I rushed to that bathroom. Locked the door behind me. And that's when I had a come to God moment. I almost didn't make it. I almost didn't get here. I was laughing and crying at the same time in a little airplane toilet. I couldn't process the emotions. I almost didn't get this life. I almost didn't get that second chance. I remember I made a promise right then and there on that toilet seat. It was a serious moment!
Fighting back tears and laughing, I went to thank the universe. This was divine intervention. This was guardian angels. This was something special that just came down and was like, "You're almost not gonna get it. Here you go." And I had to honor that. I had to thank that moment. "Okay. I get it. I promise I'm gonna be good. I promise I'll make a difference. I promise I'll help others. I promise." Right then and there, I'm gonna make a difference. Just I didn't really know how. I grew up in East Van around thugs. I didn't know what to do. How do I be a good guy?
So I spent the next ten months using that addictive personality I had to personal development, spiritual journeying. I did everything possible I could think of to try to get spiritual. I did the yoga teacher trainings. I did the tantra trainings. I did the meditation retreats. I danced ecstatically, really awkwardly. I did the cacao ceremonies, the plant medicines, the mushrooms. I did all sorts of weird spiritual things the guys in my hood would've kicked my ass for.
I traveled. I went through all over Southeast Asia, and I found myself in this random Bhutanese Himalayan Vajrayana Buddhism Conference, surrounded by monks. And I still had my Louis Vuitton T-shirt on and the same diamond earrings. I lost them now, thankfully.
I was at this conference, and I was still outta place. I locked eyes with a guy across the room. He wasn't really a guy. He was someone special. He had long salt and pepper hair. He wore a white robe. He had big Rudraksha beads. He looked like he could fly. I walked over to him. I sat in his presence, and it was different. He was radiating love. I felt so comfortable around him. He was an Indian guru known as Guruji. And when I connected with him, things shifted. He invited me back to his ashram in India and, when a guru invites you to his ashram, you go.
So I rock up at this ashram a few months later. It was a powerful time for me—around a bunch of other yogis. And one of the days, the staff had the day off, and Guruji asked us who could come with him to go buy vegetables. I was like, "Yo, me." I push all the yogis outta my way. “I'm going with Guruji. He picked me.” I was like, "Fuck yeah. Just, yeah. I mean, Namaste." Chill. So we get outside. Guruji has a car. I'm like, Guruji has a car? What did I expect? A carpet or something? I don't know. So we get into his car, and I'm in a fucking white compact car with a guru driving through the streets of India, watching him drive like, Yo Guruji just shifted gears. Guruji just used the turn signal. Guruji just merged into traffic. I was watching a spiritual dude do normal people things. That was cool.
We get to this Indian market, and it was hectic. Like ten thousand people, ducks, dogs, chickens, pigs, cows. It was a lot. When I got there, I saw how he acted and how I acted. See, in between dodging piles of cow shit and trying not to lose Guruji in this crowd, I had the most spiritual moment I ever had. See, the way that he rolled and the way that I rolled were different. His presence was that of love and compassion. It was radiating on everyone around him. And I had presence. I had intuition, but it was from the dope game. I was constantly surveying the area around me. Where are the exits? Who's behind me? I'd never have my back towards an entrance. I'd constantly be sizing everybody up. You a threat? You trying to rob me? What are you? A cop?
And it was tough. I was filled with anxiety. I was never safe. I didn't trust anybody. He was love. It was as if he floated through the crowd. He was buying cucumbers with love. He was buying eggplants with love. He bought oranges with love. Seeing him do normal people things with this presence, that was spirituality to me. That was the shift. Okay. That's what I want. Yeah. I want to be bringing that energy to people. See, I still had the paranoia in me. I still had the fear in me. I had left the dope game, but the dope game didn't leave me.
And it was from that moment I started to shift, and I asked him in his little white car on the way back to the ashram, "How are you so peaceful? How do you manage that? How do you have that presence? And he said, "Love." Okay. Okay. I thought about that for a while. Okay. What does that mean? I was still wrestling with so much from back in the past. And I realized, from then on, I had to bring that love to it. I was fighting demons within me that whole time. And when I brought that love within myself, into my own demons, into the shadows, things shifted. I was able to start creating again. I was able to start doing but from a place of love—loving my shadows, loving the parts of me I hated. From then on, I was able to create four businesses in four years. Start giving. It was a big part of me that just wanted to give. It was cos I found love and peace with myself. 'Cause behind all that fear, that paranoia, that wanting to take, when you send love to it, you end up just wanting to give.
So now I was coaching people how to integrate these shadows, but I'm still a hustler. I'm creating hustlers. But now we hustle with heart. See, loving my own demons and doing that work—that's what shifted for me. Our greatest faults, our deepest shadows, our darkest demons can become our greatest allies. The worst things that ever happen to us can be our greatest gifts. I'd be so embarrassed and ashamed to tell all of you that I was an addict until I integrated that. And it became one of my superpowers. If I didn't do that, if I didn't have an airplane toilet breakdown, I wouldn't be here on this stage with this presence, bringing you my love.