Fear itself
Words by Emma Slade



“When I found myself with a gun at my head in a hotel room in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1997, I thought I would die.

The realisation that I might be about to lose my life snapped many things into sharp focus. Suddenly I knew the value of my life in a different way. I could feel my mind clinging desperately to the wish to live. I did not want to go yet.

My life felt valuable simply because it existed. And if it existed then anything was still possible. Death would mean no more choices, no more chances to make my life into something. Something meaningful, something I would be ready in the end to say, “OK, I did my best, it’s OK to go now”. I was 30 years old. I was nowhere near this point.

Of course I also felt intense fear. Fear of blood and my head being splattered over the wall. Fear of feeling intense physical pain.

Now here I am, I am 50 years old, and I am able to  look back at these feelings, share them with you.

I survived. No, I did more than that — I changed. The many intense emotions which seized me in the experience of being held hostage have slowly led to an ability to appreciate life and its impermanence and also to help me question what matters to me. To ask from this place of fear, “What will allow me to go easily when the time comes?”

I know now that I do not want to waste the time I have — time that seemed, after Jakarta, like the most precious gift. Simply the beauty of time stretching forwards.

At the time I was an investment banker. Now I am a Buddhist nun. From thinking of myself and my own concerns I have grown into someone who is trying hard to think of others and of their concerns. There is a kind of courage in this; a fearlessness I learnt which arose from being in the depths of fear itself.


Emma is an ordained Buddhist nun and the author of Set Free, published by Summersdale. For more information on Emma and her charity work please visit emmaslade.com


These words were first published in Issue Two of SATORI. To explore issue one further click here.

Created by Duncan Woods & Seb Camilleri