Set Free: A Life-Changing Journey from Banking to Buddhism in Bhutan describes how the author, Emma Slade (Pema Deki) , went from being a financial high-flyer to a Buddhist nun. Emma now spends much of her time running a charitable organisation for rural and disabled children in Bhutan, and you can find out more about that charity – which will receive all proceeds from the sale of this book – by visiting Opening Your Heart to Bhutan.
The book opens – quite unusually for ‘a Buddhist book’ – with the words ‘I was feeling a little sexy’, and we are quickly introduced to Emma as she walks up the steps to her five-star room at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Jakarta. That was in September 1997, when Emma was at the height of her career as an investment analyst. She had gone to Indonesia on business, and after a long day she was looking forward to having a swim in the hotel pool. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out quite as planned.
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When answering her hotel room door, Emma found herself staring at a gunman, who quickly covered her mouth and forced her to the floor. The man wasted no time in ransacking her room, but the ordeal wasn’t short lived. On the contrary, Emma was held hostage for three long hours – hours that she believed would be her last.
Although Emma managed to escape with her life, the experience obviously left its mark on her. The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder soon began to make themselves known, and the quest to try and alleviate the condition eventually led to her leaving behind her successful career and begin travelling. Her exploration led her to discover yoga and meditation, then Buddhism, and eventually to seeking and receiving ordination as a Buddhist nun.
This is only a necessarily brief, broad-strokes summary of Emma’s incredible journey, but Set Free documents the whole of it in captivating detail, and if you have ever wanted to know what makes a Buddhist nun tick, there are plenty of answers in this volume. The writing is frank and bravely honest, and gives us a superb insight into how and why a successful financial analyst would choose to leave all of it behind to embrace a totally different life in the service of others.
As mentioned at the head of this review, all proceeds from this book will go to Opening Your Heart to Bhutan, and we have no hesitation in giving it our highest recommendation.