When I was three years old, I stopped going to Lebanon until I turned eight. When I was eight, we went to Lebanon from Cyprus by ship – we couldn’t fly to Lebanon. I remember seeing this land of misery and beauty, so mysterious, from the little window of my cabin.
We were living in Paris, before going to bed every night, we sat in front of the TV watching the 8pm news with my father. Every night, on the yellowish-beige TV screen, I watched bombs falling. My father was telling me it was “my country”, and my family was living there. I did not understand how they could live there. How could someone possibly live there? We were “French, but not really”. We were “Lebanese, but not really”.
After 21 years of the civil war in Lebanon, I moved there for a few years. I was 17 years old, I wanted to understand; what it meant to be “French, but not really”. At that time, I did not speak any Arabic; when I was growing up, my parents would speak French all the time, but they would fight in Arabic, Lebanese. So when I moved to Lebanon, I just knew how to curse in Arabic. When I was driving and had to stop at army checkpoints, I did not even know to say “may peace be with you” (“ma3 salam”), but I knew how to say “your mother’s a**, son of a b*” (“kess emak akho charmouta”).
At the university in Lebanon, I studied Art and Philosophy of Religion, Spirituality, and Mysticism. I was living in the christian quarters; at the time, the districts were still divided according to religions. But I fell in love with someone who lived on the other side of the demarcation line. I kept a scarf in my car to cover my shoulders, just out of respect for his neighbors, when I went to visit him. I lived for six years in Beirut, Lebanon. I was “Lebanese, but not really”.
In Lebanon, I met narcissistic people with oversized egos. However, I also met people of tremendous strength, with such incomparable wild joy, and with this special warm and open Mediterranean heart. The energy was intense and shifted constantly; too intense, too fragmented, too much – too much of everything. Even though the war brought destruction and disillusionment, people were hungry to finally live, live to the maximum. Out of death and destruction came rebirth and revival of the “phoenix”. We danced on graves, we were dreaming of a better world on the carcasses of the houses and parking areas, without taking the time to grieve the past, which was not really the past yet. We thought only about getting drunk of the present moment, forgetting those 21 years of war, and caring little for the future. Future? What does it mean, future?
A few years later, I came back to France and met one of my first yoga teacher. He sent me on a vision quest in the forest and told me to find “my” trees. I obeyed. I found three Mediterranean olive trees, in the middle of the French Alps, in the Vercors where olive trees had no reason to grow. But they were there; and they were blooming.
I was a pure “exported”product of war, disconnected from my roots. I was “French, but not really”. I was “Lebanese, but not really”. With time, through Yoga and my quest for my “real” identity, I came to realize that it’s not about choosing or identifying with one culture, one land, but finding and connecting with the roots within, and beyond.
Sat Nam – ultimate Truth I choose as my identity.
Life is a flirt and an endless dance with polarities. Embracing joy and sadness, happiness and sorrow, life and death, light and darkness, peace and war, beauty and ignorance (avidya)of the humankind.
Sat Nam Ek Ong Kar Sat Nam Siri Wahe Guru. (The creator and the creation are One. This is our true identity. The ecstasy of the experience of this wisdom is beyond all words and brings indescribable bliss.)
My spiritual name is Karing Kaur, the one who all-encompasses the creation, the creator, in all its aspects; bringing it back to Oneness. They say that the spiritual name is one’s gift, challenge, and mission at the same time. It is one’s path. The product of war, today, humbly serves others and Peace.
Bowing down to the Lotus feet of my parents, my divine Teachers, all my men who made me feel “home”, all my friends, all the holy beings in my Life; and Life itself, for what it is.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings everywhere be happy and free; and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own Life contribute in some way to that happiness and that Freedom for all. May we never Give Up, always Keep Up.
Carol Issa Karing Kaur, extract from “Décalage” (collage)