April 22, 2013

When the Bombs Hit Close to Home. ~ Betty Riaz

I love my son very much.

There is no love like a mother’s love. As you read on, you will see what I mean by a mother’s love.

I have been living in Boston for 13 years and have had many near frightening life experiences.

Twenty years ago, I was living in Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots. My street was looted and snipers were everywhere. The city was in mayhem as we tried to fight for our survival amongst angry citizens.

Eight years ago, while on holiday in Lebanon with friends, we decided to go to a night club after a wonderful dinner out in the chicest part of town. As we approached the club in our taxi, our driver informed us, that we wouldn’t be able to enter the club as a bomb had struck 10 minutes prior and the club was being evacuated. My trip to the restroom before we left the dinner saved us.

Four years ago, I was in Pakistan, on my way home to my family’s house, when riots broke out on the street from the death of Benazir Bhutto. As flaming pieces of furniture and angry men on the street flung burning object straight to my car, I was scared to say the least.

One year ago, on another visit to Pakistan, a bomb went off 1 mile from where our family was staying. No media sources mentioned the incident, but the tell tale signs of blown out windows, Army tanks, city barriers and whispering servants gave way that the bomb was much too close for comfort.

Last week, our city of Boston was bombed and a citywide manhunt was held looking for the bomber(s) that intended to destroy the home I have begun to love.

As a yoga teacher and studio owner, my job was to place no judgment or opinion on the matter. It was to provide a yoga studio space of serenity filled with positivity and compassion. It was important that our studio did not inflict a sensationalistic attitude of gossip or political opinions. We taught and practiced peace, love and compassion.

But then something happened—they released a photo of the remaining boy bomber at large and my heart skipped a beat.

Then, in that one moment, everything changed for me. My heart filled with love, compassion and a deep sadness for the current state of events.


He looked like a carbon copy of my 14-year-old son that I love from the bottom of my heart. My son that in his infinite boy wisdom who gives me strength and protection through his eyes. My calm, confident son, who exhibits an old soul and talks of inner strength and finding happiness from within.

Deep down, there was no fear in me.

I was not afraid for my safety. How could I be from a boy that looked like my son and seemingly scared shitless of what he had done? A boy on the brink of manhood-terrorist that is now forced to live with his own karma for his actions? I had no desire to judge him, to determine whether he should burn in hell or even to fathom what his future may hold.

A deep sadness came over me.

For the eight-year-old innocent boy that died in the bombing.

For the limbless victims and other deaths of officers and civilians as a result of the bomber’s actions.

Sadness for the impact that this bombing could have on our children living with fear, anxiety of what has become chasing bad guys and evoking a media frenzy.

In the day between when the bomber was caught and the manhunt was on to find this 19 year-old boy, I was immobilized with confusion. I contemplated whether I should take my son out of the house to a nearby café? What if someone thought he was the missing bomber? What if they accidentally reported him as the person-at-large and the police came to take him away from me?

Where did the humanity go last week?

Did it become more zoo-manity rather than humanity? Or, was this the definition of humanity? I cannot say, nor will I judge what our society is thinking. As a yogi, I can only observe, contemplate, stay calm and give compassion to all sentient beings.

During this time, I choose to remind myself of the  four reminders to Practice, which are the four fundamental practices  also called the four Preliminaries, written in the scriptures of Buddhism.

The first reminder is the Preciousness of Human life. That, as sentient beings, we must remind ourselves how lucky we are to be born in this lifetime as human beings. It is a reminder that we are so lucky that we have access to a healthy, prosperous life filled with the ability to learn wise teachings that have been carried down from the Buddha thousands of years ago.

The second reminder is that everything is Impermanent. For everything that lives, must eventually die. That we are living in this cyclical existence of birth, life and death and that ALL things are impermanent and ever changing.

The third reminder is the Truth of Karma. Karma in the Buddhist realm is the cause and effects of our actions. This reminder was important to me as I realized that I am not the lawmaker in this city/ nation, but Karma is the one that decides our future.  Everything we do, say or act has a cause and therefore an effect. Karma decides our fate.

Lastly, Samsara, the cyclical repeat of nature and existence. Recognizing that we ALL suffer in one-way or another. All beings suffer; some suffering translates in ways we cannot bear to comprehend. However, it exists in each and every one of us.

How do we go beyond this?

Maybe it’s the wakeup call of tragedy staring at you? Maybe it is through deep contemplation, mediation and our own self-awareness that we begin to see we are no different than others.

Maybe it’s the recognition of humanity in the guise of a face that looks so much like someone you love? Can we turn that feeling of hate and transform it into a feeling of compassion? It is a question that needs no answer—just observation and contemplation.

It is my wish to allow all events and circumstances turn it into an opportunity and a reminder to practice.

Practice Love and Compassion for all beings everywhere.

Betty Riaz is co-owner of Stil Studio (www.stilstudio.com) located in Greater Boston, MA.  Yoga has revolutionized Betty’s life.   She believes in the greater mission of helping others reach their greatest potential from both the inside and the outside.  You can find betty at bettyriaz.com or practice with her online at www.myyogaonline.com


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Ed: T. Lemieux/Kate Bartolotta



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