What Being Kidnapped at Gunpoint Taught Me About Fear

The circumstances of that night were mostly unremarkable, a normal Wednesday night where I had
gone up to Montecito, CA from Los Angeles to go out to a birthday dinner for a friend. We were in her ocean side home in the early evening waiting for her husband to arrive home before going to dinner, when the doorbell rang.

My friend proceeded down the hallway to answer the door. The way you remember the time preceding
a life-changing event is always curious. There exists in the memory of those moments an almost
bittersweet nostalgia for your own naivete. A reminiscence of your innocence. There is an almost
incredulity at what you did not premeditate or anticipate.

I could hear them speaking as I rooted through the cabinets in search of a snack, peripherally hearing their conversation about a lost dog. But I remember a moment, where I knew something was wrong. He hadn’t yet thrown her up against the wall, hadn’t yet put the gun to her head, but my instinctual mind picked up a tone in his voice, a desperation, an untruth and time slowed down.
I remember a very palpable stillness, a slow clicking of nanoseconds, when I just knew. I knew it was coming and I knew in that instant that I was powerless to it happening. There was an acceptance.
Spiritual Philosopher Eckhart Tolle states, “Pain arises when we resist what is.” As I heard her scream and the door slam closed there was an almost déjà vu familiarity as I thought,” Ah, here this is,” and I accepted the circumstances with a heightened surrealism as he led her at gunpoint to the kitchen where I stood.

When I looked into the eyes of the 23-year-old white, male, heroin addict strung out and shivering
before me, I didn’t feel a sense of fear in the way I would have expected. Instead, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of protection around me and I felt an immediate sense of compassion and understanding of his pain. I spoke to him very calmly and as I did, there was a sense that something higher was speaking through me. I felt a strange intimacy with him. When someone is looking at you with the intent to kill, as the potential cause of your end of life, there is an incredible intimacy that I would never have imagined.

There was an immediate clarity of the tenacity of the thin thread that separates each of us. In the
moments surrounding birth and death, that veil is lifted. I felt, if this is it, if you are going to kill me, I want to already forgive you. Perhaps it was a grander insight of the need to free myself from future life karma with his soul, but it felt more like transcendence from the negative energy of the immediate situation. The fear, if I had chosen it, would have made me play the role of prey to his role of predator. But what happened in forgiveness, in compassion and in acceptance, was actually a state of love. I felt love and it confounded me.

During the course of the experience, as he demanded money and a ride to a place he could get heroin, I found myself continually relaying a message to him. I told him how I knew he wasn’t evil and that he wasn’t going to hurt us. I said I understood his pain and knew that he didn’t want to be doing what he was doing. I continued this assurance that I knew he wouldn’t hurt us and I was so sorry for the pain of his addiction. My friend drove, I sat in the passenger seat and he sat in the back pointing the gun to our heads. There were moments that my friend looked at me with utter confusion, and honestly, I found the words coming out of my mouth strange as well.

Still holding the gun to us, as we drove along the freeway by the ocean, he broke down. He said he was not going to hurt us. That he was in so much pain and that he was so sorry for what he was doing. We drove him to the gas station where he wanted to be dropped off. He went to get out of the car. He stopped and looked back at me. ”God bless you,” I told him. The look in his eyes was one of gratitude and shame and heartbreak. He got out of the car, freeing us to drive away.

I was in therapy afterward, because fear has a funny way of creeping in residually and manifesting in the form of post-traumatic stress symptoms. I was fortunate to have a therapist who specialized in these types of situations. She had done her PhD dissertation on serial killers. After hearing my experience, she relayed to me some information from an interview she had done with a notorious serial killer. He told her there was one intended victim that he had spared. When he walked into her home with the intention of killing her, she looked at him with such kindness and compassion and instead of screaming and calling him a monster she said, “You poor man, what has happened to you.” He told my therapist that because she wasn’t afraid of him, he spared her life. She saw his humanity, and chose love over fear.

Years later when I was studying to become a Kundalini yoga teacher, my teacher told a yogic fable of a farmer who transformed a demon into a saint through the power of prayer. The demon had cursed the
farmer’s crop over and over, destroying what he was trying to grow. Until, heeding the advice of a wise yogi, every time the demon reappeared to destroy his livelihood, the farmer blessed him. The farmer blessed each time until finally the demon stopped mid–destruction and was transformed into a saint who blessed his crops with fertility from then on. The yogi’s believe that on an energetic level, love and fear are opposite vibrations and that in fact, all negative emotions; anger, hate, jealousy even sadness derive from the vibration of fear.

In what could be considered the “scariest” moment of my life, I feel I was given a profound spiritual gift. In the moments of facing ones mortality, there is an opportunity for understanding that what is transcendental to fear is compassion, acceptance and love. In the grand scope of a karmic reality, our experiences, even the most frightening, exist to teach us and to give us an opportunity to grow. They offer a chance where we may glimpse for a moment, the arc of the character of our soul and the interconnected web we all share.