In this process, there are all kinds of lists: a list of things to pack, a list of documents for the visa application, to-do lists for before/during/after the flight, a goodbye list, a list of government paperwork, and so on. I am constantly planning what to do. Living in the moment is just a dream, because reality soon turns me back to the future. My mind swaps between the past and the future so quickly. On detaching myself from the circumstances, however, I feel so calm and relaxed. In these times, something almost miraculous happens to me. The situation continues like it’s someone else experiencing it, with me just watching it as I chew some gum.

Later on, in the middle of the first training period, I realize how I am able to manage this. In something like a flash-forward movie scene, I am sitting cross-legged, content to be surrounded by nature’s beautiful shades of green. We are in a Vedanta lecture, some 27 of us in yellow and white uniforms. I stare at this picture, and even as I stare at this group of people in yellow and white, it makes me ask myself, “Who am I?” and “What am I doing?

There, I am the one. I signify unity in yellow and white, but at the same time, I am nothing. This is where all the descriptions, labels, and answers to the question of “Who is Bahar?” disappear. In yellow, I become the symbol of knowledge, while I symbolize purity in white. I become detached from the old definitions and transform into knowledge and light. If a definition is needed, I say “This is it!”

At that moment, Swamiji (Swami is an ascetic or yogin who has been initiated into a religious monastic order founded by a religious teacher. The suffix “ji” indicates respect to the master.) explains that how the mind is like a drunken monkey, jumping back and forth between the past and future. He also adds that meditation is the only way to control an agitated mind.

In the pre-journey preparations, I fortunately realized how I was being limited by all these lists and a mind that wandered between the past and the future. I therefore simplified the process and restricted myself to one list: the dark side visit list. The “dark side” refers to the moments when I drift away from self-discipline and balance, when I get closer to losing control. What is there on this list? There is anything and everything. This list, which was updated right up to my departure date, transforms the serious pre-journey process into a comedy. The mind calls out, “Come to the dark side. We have cookies.” We go wherever the mind wants, and we do whatever the mind asks. The dark side is our master.

For example, I still have no idea what made me eat peanut butter with Nutella. That morning, I was planning to go swimming. Before leaving home, I suddenly opened the kitchen door, and all of a sudden, I opened a cupboard and started spooning it out of the jar. I ate half of the jar. Mario was staring at me, and I stared back. We did not even question it. Once, Mario ate a big plate of broccoli that my sister had left on the kitchen table. Was this any different? How lovely it is to have the same level of consciousness as Mario! By the way, maybe I should point out that Mario is my naughty but faithful friend, an eighteen-month-old Labrador.

As my departure  date approached, I passed to the dark side with more control. This was especially true on December 15, when I had a turning point as the dark side passed. Up until then, I had not put strict limitations on the mind, yet I did not set it totally free either. From that day onwards, I freed myself from all those excessive eating habits. Alcohol also left my life. I felt like one phase of my life was coming to an end as a new phase started. I had purified the self from the old. All this purification came from an awareness of the dark side passing. As I passed to the dark side, I realized there is also a bright side. As I observed myself in this dichotomy, I found a way to break free from the dark side.

As I returned to preparing my luggage, there was no passing to the dark side, and everything was in good order. I gathered all manner of necessary equipment, such as a water bottle and a flashlight. I scheduled some doctor appointments for some check-ups. The morning and evening meditation sessions had clearly provided me with self-discipline. However, when I reconsidered this in India, I found this strict self-discipline too much in a place with its own order in its chaos. I therefore set myself free from it.

And so there it is. For me, the spiritual journey starts during preparation. Deconstruction and reconstruction are there in the mind constantly. I put so much effort into living in balance, because something unexpected suddenly happening pushes me to work on a part of the mind that I’ve been avoiding for a long time. Even if I hunch my back or bend my neck, it doesn’t work. If I just want to put on my sunglasses and walk away from the issue, it absolutely does not work. Instead, it calls to me, “You should find the key and unlock the door, Bahar.”

I must confess that the biggest challenge to my patience was during the pre-journey period. I felt such awkward moments that I just had to shout, “Enough!”  I wanted to give up so badly. Every time I experience this, I inhale with awareness. Then, while exhaling, I repeat to myself, “All is well! All is well!” Even just being aware of the circumstances and repeating some positive phrases resolves the issue itself. Once I repeat the phrase and believe in the power of the words, all the issues blow away with the wind.

First of all, I keep calm and be patient with the mind. This is because the mind determines the criteria of patience. Every time I pass to the dark side, I remain patient with the dominance of the mind over the self. I actually detach myself from the situation and see what the mind would like me to do. However, I also hear the mind’s calling and allow it to be naughty. Most of the energy I preserve to keep a balance.

I start saying to my inner self, “You know what? You want to change your life. As soon as you see that it is changing, you create all those imitations of fear in the mind.

All kinds of possibilities and predictions arise in the mind. All those visits to the dark side are a consequence of building connections to the “old,” so I can avoid the unknown nature of the “new.” At a basic level, I remain patient with this. In time, I accept the entire process and surrender to it. The current situation then changes and the self is freed from all its ties one by one.

I continue walking guided by the mantra of the Jedi code:

There is no emotion, there is peace.

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

There is no passion, there is serenity.

There is no death, there is the Force.