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Developing Community Intimacy

Developing Community Intimacy

Many of us experience a subtle fear of others. We bring our histories of wounded-ness into all our interactions in different ways.

It is often difficult to experience a sense of connection and openness with others when we feel limited by our discomfort in our own experience or struggle to protect ourselves and maintain boundaries.

There is a way for us to begin looking at this fear in order to move beyond it. The practice of intimacy is that of allowing our dharma practice to work with these fears, to encounter true closeness with ourselves and others.

Below is an interview with Lama Rod Owens covering his perspective on Buddhist practice and his chosen theme for this retreat.

Tell us about your Dharma background – what drew you to Buddhist practice?

I have been practising for about 15 years. After I finished university I moved to Boston to live in an intentional community called Haley House in Boston, which was a community in the spirit of the Catholic Worker Movement. All the people in the house were engaged in activism and social justice and a lot of them were either Buddhists and/or meditators. When I eventually started meditating it was just a very natural thing in the house to do. However, I started meditating to deal with severe depression. After I began moving out of my depression, I was reading a book, Cave in the Snow, about a woman, Tenzin Palmo, who did a 12-year solitary retreat, and I suddenly had the knowledge that “Oh, yes, I’m going to do that too.” It was as clear as daylight; a split-second download. I’d never thought about it before; had no aspirations; no discernment process. All of a sudden I understood that this was what I was going to do. I simply accepted it and started planning to do a long retreat, confounding everyone in my life.

What, for you, is the purpose and meaning of Buddhist practice?

The goal is to get free. To completely disrupt all the ways in which we create violence for ourselves and others. To illuminate deep ignorance with wisdom. To develop a basic relationship to our innermost goodness. When we begin to reduce violence through the basic technology of meditation, then we remember our true natures and that the belief in being bound was only an illusion.

The times we live in are very different from the time of the Buddha. How can Dharma teachings respond to the particular challenges of this time? Tell us more about your approach.

The Buddha only dealt with people of his own culture and race within a Hindu/contemplative context. We are living in a very diverse time and our culture is not contemplative. I think the radical teaching of the time is being vulnerable and authentic. That’s how Dharma will be communicated. It's not that we should become a copy of our teachers, but we should instead allow Dharma to move through who we are, including our particular identity locations.

My primary Dharma activity is actually just being myself. I can be in spaces that are really aggressive, violent and full of anxiety, and I don’t have to engage in it. I can use my awareness practice to erect barriers within which I can just be myself — happy and at ease. This is how I get so much attention in the world. People see me maintaining my presence in a toxic room and ask, “How do you do that? How can you go sit and talk about racism with all-white audiences?” And I say it’s because I don’t take on their work. I’m just showing up and expressing how I see things. I’m not trying to convince anyone else. I give the work back to them. That way, I don’t get drained and depleted. I’m just pointing out truths; it’s up to them to decide what to do. Afterwards, I’m going to go do something to have fun and I’m not going to think about it.

Your retreat is called Developing Community Intimacy. Can you tell us more about this theme and what you plan for the retreat?

During this retreat I will be guiding retreatants through many of the practices I have engaged in to work through many of the barriers I have experienced attempting to connect to those around me. So many of our retreats focus on silence, meditation, and Dharma talks. It’s hard for people, especially marginalised people, to feel safe in a retreat container when they have not developed trust for one another. So there will be balance of talks and meditation coupled with small group discussions, partner discussions, guided exercises, and movement practices. For me, feeling safe in a container lies at the heart of how I can practise in a way that this good for me. This is what I mean by community intimacy.


LAMA ROD OWENSLAMA ROD OWENS is the Guiding Teacher for the Radical Dharma Boston Collective, a teacher at Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme), a contributing teacher with Natural Dharma Fellowship, and a visiting teacher at the Brooklyn Zen Center. He completed his graduate studies at Harvard Divinity School and is the co-author of Radical Dharma.


Retreat Code = 18141

A = suitable for all

Friday 6 April - Sunday 8 April 2018 (2 nights)

Standard Rate:    £126 - Please pay this rate if you can
Sponsor Rate:        £151 - A benefactor rate, which helps others to come here on the Supported Rate
Supported Rate:     £107 - Available if the Standard Rate is too high for you
FAB Fund Rate:       £63 - For more details please see the Financial Assistance page
Young Persons Rate: £38 - For more details please see the Financial Assistance page

Extending Your Retreat = £44 per night - Conditions apply - please see box

Before you book, please read these guidelines regarding mental well-being and silent retreats

Intensive silent meditation retreats can be very nourishing; however, as they require sustained meditation practice, they also need some stability of psychological health. If you have recently (i.e. within the past year or so) experienced significant trauma or psychiatric illness, or if you are currently experiencing acute emotional distress such as serious depression or anxiety, it may not be the best time for you to attend an intensive retreat in silence. The teachers might not be able to give you the kind of individual or psychological care you might need at this time. It could possibly be more appropriate to practise in or seek out a setting where there are more opportunities for interpersonal engagement.

  • If you are currently under the care of a mental health professional, please discuss your attendance with them. You should be in a relatively stable period of mental well-being and have adequate psychological resilience to attend an intensive silent retreat.
  • Please be prepared to offer your mental health professional's contact information to the teachers on opening day if requested.
  • If you have any questions about the above please contact: retreatmanager@gaiahouse.co.uk


Note: If you are booking for yourself and someone else -
you must make a separate booking for each person.

Spaces Available

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Price: from £107.00

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