A Mindful Moment in Beirut


Dear Diary,

I’m writing to you from Beirut. From a trendy seaside resort called “Le Sporting”. This is the place to be if you want to catch a tan and be seen. As for myself, I personally love coming here to people-watch, swim laps and relax in silence.

This is where I am right now.

And this is mindfulness.

A unique moment of existence in time and space. It can happen anywhere and at anytime. 

Lying on a chaise lounge, my copper-toned body glistens with a deep tanning oil blended with carrot and banana extracts. I accept humbly the few extra few kilos that have surreptitiously crept into my belly. The inside of my mouth is screaming for fresh water after doing laps in the dentist-worthy salt-water pool. Puffy white jelly fish dance in the sea below, as they dodge the lonely debris floating amongst the bubbles. Orange buoys bounce elegantly with the waves, connected by one rope... reminding me of the string of lights I use in my classes. The play of light on the rough surface of the water glitters.

I’m glad I’m painting this with words rather than with paint. Actually, I painted an ocean-view once when I was living in Vancouver. It came out pretty well, thanks to my art studies in college. I’m proud to say that it’s hanging in my husband’s den back home in Paris. But it was a “casse-tête” and I swore I would never paint again. 

I look out in the distance where the sea “ends”. The horizon creates a perfect line that connects the busy hills of Beirut on my left, to the umbrella-clad rocky resort where I am now.

I look above me into the clear light blue sky, moving my head backwards, stretching my neck and squinting my eyes to look at the sun. The sun’s powerful energy heats my face. The soft breeze dislodges a flock of blond hair, tickling my right cheek. It’s not comfortable so I close my eyes for a moment and straighten my head.

A drop of sweat mixed with oil on my upper lip just below my nose is questioning whether it should stay or just let go. I can’t resist. I wipe it away.

Opening my eyes, a sleek private yacht is now docked in the bay in front of me. It’s far enough away that I can’t see the details but a woman is sitting with her legs overboard as a man stands behind her. A scene familiar to me. It’s the same scene as in that photo taken of Lady Diana in the South of France in 1997. Tears come to my eyes. Am I still that sensitive to Diana’s death?

A small motor boat with three men and a Lebanese flag pass by. I look down at my iPhone to type and look up again. It’s already gone. I hear its engine reverberating in the distance.

Wiffs of cigarette smoke intertwined with the pigment aroma of fries, tanning oil and ocean air fill my nose as I take a breath in.

Disconnecting the sounds from the bigger picture, I hear incoming waves crash onto the rocks. It’s a constant in the picture. All day long the noise will be there. Permanent noise.

The roar of a plane too high to see has already faded away as I write this sentence. I can’t hear the boat anymore.

Two gorgeous women in skimpy bikinis are sitting to my right under a clean white umbrella. They chat passionately in Arabic.

I never took the time to learn Arabic despite being married to a Lebanese man and despite coming to Lebanon every year since 1993, but I love listening to Lebanese speak. Ooooh, they just threw in some French. “J’ai parlé avec Nayla hier soir et elle aimerait...” and now back to Arabic. Like most Lebanese, their conversation is a mix of different languages. What a luxury, if you can’t find a word in one language, find it in another. French, Arabic, English... I usually pick up a third of what goes on here and sometimes I get really frustrated. Whenever my friends start speaking only Arabic I’ll shout out the phrase “aboudabed”... a private joke. They look at me with a whimsical eye, remembering that I too am there, and dutifully go back to the story in French.

The Lebanese love to tell stories. My mother-in-law has the memory of an elephant and thrives in repeating over and over again stories of the past. My husband’s friends favorite pass-time is to hang out, eat and tell jokes and listen to stories about their lives. The past clings to their souls... vibrating within them like a bomb going off. But the difficult past and the years of ongoing war taught these “peuple” the gift of living in the present. 

Every time I come to Lebanon I’m reminded just how important it is to enjoy life. The art of the non-doing. Don’t get me wrong. Lebanese people bust their balls. They are hard workers and over-achievers. But they actually take the time to stop and enjoy life. I wasn’t brought up that way in Boston. Productivity won. Relaxation and doing nothing was just plain illegal. Over the years, because over-productivity was wearing myself thin, I learnt the value of slowing down. 

The power of mindful non-doing. It’s one of the underlying themes in all my classes. Thank you, Lebanese, for teaching me that. 

So, what about you? Look at yourself right now. Where are you? What is creating this moment? Use your senses. What do you see? The colors? The shapes? The space? What do you hear and smell? What taste is in your mouth? Move your tongue, take a swallow. What are you touching? Where is your body in all this? 

Try to connect with every detail of your being and of your awareness at this moment. Don’t change anything. Keep your eyes open and look around you. Feel the breath as it flows in and out of your nose. Feel your body expand and deflate. Just be in this moment. This beautiful moment of non-doing and pure consciousness.

A unique moment of existence in time and space. It can happen anywhere and at anytime. 



The view from our living room, West Vancouver, 2014. By Susan Oubari.

The view from our living room, West Vancouver, 2014. By Susan Oubari.