Known to many by her spiritual name Hari Darshan Kaur, Nancy Zabaneh is a Palestinian-Canadian pioneer of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual fitness in the Arab world as well as an active Kundalini Yoga Instructor with the Kundalini Research Institute (KRI). A new member of the KRI Aquarian Teacher Academy, Nancy has coordinated the Arabian Gulf’s first ever yoga teacher trainings, with plans to hold more in the coming years.

Nancy is a Compassionate Inquiry Therapist as per the psycho-therapeutic approach founded by renowned Canadian physician, Dr. Gabor Maté. She is also part of the Healthy Breast Foundations Program, designed to educate women about breast health and helps to facilitate community classes in Beyond Addiction, an internationally recognized recovery program for addiction. This year, she has plans to run wellness retreats in both Asia and Africa as well as teach in the less privileged communities of Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon. In addition, Nancy develops mindfulness initiatives for both public and private sector institutions as well as schools. 

Educated at both McGill University and the London School of Economics with an MA in International Relations, Nancy began her career in public affairs, then as a corporate banker, progressing into the world of communications and later becoming a mentor in the realm of emotional intelligence. A Certified Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (ABNLP), Timeline Therapy™ and Hypnotherapy, Nancy is a motivational speaker who has headlined at numerous region-wide events and been featured in both Arabic and English language media outlets across the Arab world.

How It All Started

The second of three children, Nancy grew up in Toronto with her grade school at one end of the street and high school at the other.

My friends came from a myriad of different cultures, and I had a huge, extended family, many of whom were a central part of my life in Canada. My parents were together, and I had a close relationship with both my brother and my sister. Outwardly, I had the makings of a very comfortable childhood.

The questioning around her identity began in the early 1980s, before her 7th birthday.

I remember overhearing late night conversations about my grandparents being trapped in Lebanon during the Israeli invasion of 1982 and watching the war there unravel on the evening news. I recall being terrified at the prospect of something happening to my grandparents. It was around this time that I would learn that they would once again be forced to flee their home. The first time they fled was from Palestine in 1948.

Taking In The Trauma

Nancy’s father traces his roots back to Ramleh, Palestine, about 20 kilometres inland from the coastal town of Jaffa. He was 11 years-old in 1948, during the Nakba, or Catastrophe, as it is known in Arabic. This was the year that he and his loved-ones became refugees and his family lost nearly every material possession they owned. Nancy’s mother on the other hand was just three-years-old when she and her parents escaped Haifa in 1948 to Jounieh in Lebanon. Originally from the town of Nazareth, Nancy’s maternal grandfather fled with his wife and two very small children, leaving behind his new Haifa home, his dental practice and several siblings, some of whom he would go for decades without seeing again.

Everything my parents and grandparents had ever known disappeared overnight. Family was dispersed, means were restricted and the challenges of life took on a new dimension. On many fronts, life became a struggle for survival.

Nancy’s parents understood that the situation in the Arab region was unlikely to improve and left to Canada for a better life. Their aim was to bring their children into the world free from the heavy baggage they carried and far from the trauma of loss. Little did they realize the degree to which the legacy of Palestine would linger.

Having understood how quickly material attachments could disappear, my parents put a heavy premium on education. I became a top student who attended some of the world’s best universities. I wanted to change the world and believed that a career in government and diplomacy could open the doors of truth and justice. The Canadian Foreign Service and the United Nations beckoned. I knew there was work to be done. I was determined to do something.

The Teachings of Kundalini Yoga

Nancy met her husband Cherif James Cordahi in 1998, a British-Lebanese journalist who had worked in some of the world’s toughest regions. He had covered countless conflicts globally and had lived through some of the worst years of the Lebanese civil war.

We came together in love, but it took us years to realize that through our incredibe union, we would be mirroring the other’s pain, whilst consistently shedding the light on our shadows and unfinished business. Marriage is a partnership of deep healing on the road to self-realization.

While in the Gulf, her career had taken her into the world of public affairs, finance, communications and emotional intelligence but it was the practice of Kundalini Yoga that truly transformed her life. She came across the teachings of Kundalini Yoga nearly a decade ago and began practicing it when hardly anyone had ever heard of the teachings in the Gulf Arab region.

As taught by Yogi Bhajan, Kundalini Yoga is an exquisite technology which offers tools to develop the grace and the endurance necessary to navigate the pressures of our time. It is a toolkit for awakening our latent potential, for self-crystallization and for self-actualization. The technology works deeply on the glands and the nervous system in such a way that we become more capable of inviting trajectory, sensitivity and productivity into our lives, all the while recognizing our interconnectedness on both micro and macro levels.

The teachings have taught me that my lifelong quest to make a difference in the world should no longer be focused on healing the pain of the other. The real work is in first consistently making my own heart a place of peace and integrity. I believe that surrendering to spirit and maintaining an unobstructed flow to one’s true nature is the only true vehicle for change.

Healing The Wounds Of The Region

My prayer is for the teachings to continue to serve through me and others that we may realize the one heartbeat we all share; that Spirit take away our swords, remove the walls that separate us and help us to forgive; that we resist the temptation to hold onto yesterday or to an obscured vision of tomorrow. Living a conscious life is about seeing the humanity in all, that mistakes and suffering are universal, and that forgiveness is the only true path to peace; peace of mind, peace of self, peace.

At the moment, Nancy is coordinating the third-ever Kundalini Yoga teacher-training in the Gulf Arab region with the support of her teacher, Shiv Charan Singh, founder of Karam Kriya school.

I have lived in this unique part of the world for nearly two decades and believe that the combination of my Palestinian roots and my Western education and upbringing allows me to navigate this region with a certain sensitivity and discernment. I am now part of the KRI Aquarian Teacher Academy and aspire to share the teachings with as many people from the region as possible. This year, I plan to return to my roots in Palestine, as a trainer in the first-ever Kundalini Yoga teacher-training in Bethlehem and to the refugee camps.

It is Nancy’s mission to continue to share her journey, her experience and the teachings to a much broader community in the Arab world and beyond.