Lama Rod Owens: Trust, Refuge, & Gratitude

“I believe that we are being reintroduced to a culture of caring where we are being asked to think about the welfare of others. I believe this caring and concerning will outlast our current crisis.”

As the world grapples with the shift toward social isolation, managing pandemic-related stress, and an uncertain future, we at Wanderlust know that our greatest strengths are the wisdom of our leaders and the power of community.

We have reached out to the lighthouses in our teaching community to share some succinct, actionable insights with our community, as well as to call on us to be bold and envision how this shift can create a better world. Because extraordinary times call for extraordinary leadership. 


When people ask me how I’m doing these days and how my practice is holding up, I tell that these are the times I have practiced for, and what my practice is yielding is a deep experience of trust and spaciousness. My almost 20 years of practice has helped me to experience opening and space during struggles that seem to demand I shut down and contract.

These times are difficult. It has been difficult for many people well before Covid-19 or the current administration. These are times of severe contraction and shutting down. When we collapse like this, we lose space and our suffering intensifies. Spaciousness is crucial because it is from space that we experience happiness, joy, patience, and wisdom that informs how to make the best decisions.

Here are 4 ways I maintain my spaciousness during challenging periods:

  1. Lama Owens White HouseI trust my practice. Trusting my practice means that I trust that whatever qualities I’m aspiring to cultivate will be cultivated as long as I am putting in enough effort along with the intentions of wanting to reduce my suffering and the suffering of others.
  2. I trust myself. Trusting myself means that I trust that I have the capability to experience some level of spaciousness to reduce suffering and to experience happiness.
  3. I have found sources of refuge. We all need to be taken care of. We must find beings or things we can take refuge in, in order to be supported and cared for. My sources of refuge include my teachers, ancestors, deities, the Divine Mother, and the earth just to name a few.
  4. I give rise to gratitude. Giving rise to gratitude means that I often reflect on what I am grateful for and allow the energy of gratitude to inundate my mind and body.


My ancestors have taught me that beautiful things can arise out of great suffering. These times are no different. There are a few things that I see emerging from this period.

First the failings of capitalism are being highlighted. I believe as we move through and out of this period, we will do so inspired to figure out more anti-capitalist ways of arranging our lives and livelihoods.

Second, I believe that we are being reintroduced to a culture of caring where we are being asked to think about the welfare of others. I believe that many people are choosing self-quarantining not just because it is being forced, but because we want to reduce the harm of contracting the virus and passing it on to others that are more vulnerable. I believe this caring and concerning will outlast our current crisis.

Third, I believe that there are many talented and authentically trained folks in the spiritual and wellness field who will get more recognition and the resources to help more people. I hope that this period can help us discern between those really wanting to benefit folks opposed to those more interested in fame and wealth.

And lastly, I believe that we must use this time to understand that many of us are too busy and overwhelmed. Moving forward, I think we can make choices to have more rest and space for ourselves.

Lama Rod Owens

Lama Rod Owens is an author, activist, and authorized Lama (Buddhist Teacher) in the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism and is considered one of the leaders of his generation of Buddhist teachers. He holds a Master of Divinity degree in Buddhist Studies from Harvard Divinity School and is a co-author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation. Owens is the co-founder of Bhumisparsha, a Buddhist tantric practice and study community and has been published and featured in several publications including Buddhadharma, Lion’s Roar, Tricycle, The Harvard Divinity Bulletin and has offered talks, retreats, and workshops in over 7 countries. Lama Rod facilitates undoing patriarchy workshops for male identified practitioners in Brooklyn and Boston. Lama Rod’s next book project will explore transformative anger and rage and is due out June 2020.

Find him on the web, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.