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Buddhadharma : Fall 2016
30 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 1 6 A bout a year after I finished the traditional three- year retreat program and had begun my work as a dharma teacher, I experienced a kind of breakdown, a severe sense of being stuck and uninspired. I reached out to my dharma teachers, mentors, and other spiritual guides, and it quickly became clear that my identity as a lama and resident teacher had somehow choked my identity as a queer Black man. I was privileging the lama over Rod. Rod was the person I had earned the right to be; Rod had gone through years of working directly with self-hate, depression, and low self-esteem to emerge fierce, fabulous, edgy, and beautiful. Meeting the dharma had furthered my personal and interpersonal transformation, but now I was trying to fit into the mold of being a lama, a role largely informed by tradition and by other people’s expectations of me. To heal, I needed to bring Rod back into cen- ter and place him in dialogue with Lama Rod. This approach dras- tically shifted my teaching style and my role as a teacher; when I regrounded myself in my many identities, I came to embrace that I was teaching from a place of intersectionality. “Intersectionality” speaks to the reality that we are influenced by any number of identities, all of which are informed further still by our social and political locations. We are not just white or Black or gay or transgendered. We are an expression of a Do You Know Your True Face? lama rod owens says we need to look honestly at who we are, in all our complexity. This is especially vital for those who teach the dharma. ILLUSTRATION By Kyle mosher