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Everyday Heroes: Lama Rod Owens

Growing up in Rome, Georgia, and raised by a United Methodist Church minister, Lama Rod Owens always understood the importance of service and community.

“My mother was grounded in community and the belief that we had to be concerned with the health and welfare of the community we lived in,” he said. “Early on, I wanted to understand why people struggled and the factors in culture and society that played into how people were disenfranchised.”

Owens decided to get involved with the issues that directly impacted him. As a teen, he did service work and organizing, from homelessness advocacy to sexual health education, substance abuse, and recovery work. This work broadened in his 20s into HIV/AIDS awareness and activism around LGBTQIA issues.

Credit: Photo Courtesy of Lama Rod Owens

Credit: Photo Courtesy of Lama Rod Owens

Eventually, Owens moved to Boston. While there, he worked for Haley House, a non-profit organization that uses food to break down barriers and strengthen neighborhoods. He landed in a community filled with diverse faith traditions. Being surrounded by Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Christian Scientists, fed his curiosity about why people choose their spiritual paths.

“It was there that I began to ask even deeper questions about the nature of suffering,” he said. “Why do we suffer? Why do we have trauma? Why are we sad? Why are we hopeless?”

Owens ventured into meditation.

“I spent so much of my life trying to figure out about the mind and why we think and feel the way we do. Meditation became this first entry into understanding a way of getting free from trauma, despair, helplessness, and moving into a space of joy,” he said. “From there, my activism began to transform.”

Today, as an ordained lama, a venerated spiritual title given in Tibetan Buddhism, Owens pairs his well-being meditation work with his commitment to justice.

One example is the undoing patriarchy retreat he facilitates. Male-identified participants convene from the United States and the United Kingdom to investigate how patriarchy co-opts masculinity. By the end of the retreat, participants are equipped with the skills to practice sacred masculinity and embrace fluidity and connectivity.

“That kind of work can’t be done over just a weekend. Participants are provided an action plan they can follow beyond the retreat with awareness-based, meditative practices,” he said. “But it isn’t just individual work. A lot of the groups have formed communities afterward that help support holding the work beyond the retreat.”

But his work is more than retreat-based.

A few years ago, Owens partnered with the Calm app. Through the partnership, he helped develop three meditation series – self-care, grief, and coming out. He wanted to be creative and engaging while also providing practices that are accessible and relative. It was a challenge but enlightening for him.

“It’s really helped me to understand that I can bring a particular way of thinking and particular talents to help communities,” he said. “It challenged me to think more critically, to think more expansively about applying the work and supporting people in this work who are trying to survive.”

HOW TO HELP

To learn more about Lama Rod Owens, visit https://www.lamarod.com/.

For information on upcoming events, please click here.


WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER: A SPECIAL PROJECT

This place we call home is filled with ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary feats. Their selfless acts make this region so special – and they bring out the best in all of us. With the holidays upon us, we wanted to share their inspiring stories, celebrate their accomplishments, and offer ways that you can help.

Just as the 55 people we’re profiling can’t do it alone, nor can we. That’s why we worked closely with our partners to bring you this collection of uplifting stories.

We hope they leave you feeling inspired and ready to tackle the busy new year that lies ahead. We hope they make you feel more connected to your community or to your neighbors.

And maybe, just maybe, they will motivate you to come up with your own small way to make a big difference in the lives of others.

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