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Buddhadharma : Fall 2017
32 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2017 the path Do You Know Your True Face? by Lama Rod Owens About 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 teach- ers, 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 fur- thered 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 center and place him in dialogue with Lama Rod. This approach drastically 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 num- ber of identities, all of which are informed further still by our social and politi- cal locations. We are not just white or Black or gay or transgender. We are an expression of a community of identities and influences that may not be appar- ent to those around us—or even to us. In my experience, authenticity as a dharma teacher requires a kind of radi- cal presence. “Radical” speaks to a sense of remembering and returning to a simple and basic way of being in the world, one that reduces the violence to oneself and others; it honors one’s own passions and aspirations and relates to the world from a place of equanimity. When we choose this way of being in the world, we feel at home in our own body, with no desire to leave it; because we feel at home in the body, we feel at home in the world. That is radical presence. And at its heart is an awareness of one’s own intersectionality. Fall 2016