The teacher becomes your life, and life becomes a career ~ Doug Duncan &
My partner, Doug Duncan, and I have travelled a fulfilling journey this past year. We’ve co-authored our first book, “Wasteland to Pureland: Reflections on the Path to Awakening“, a map for individuals seeking spiritual reflection and transformation.
We’re also very excited about the ongoing development of our meditation center, Clear Sky, in the beautiful Canadian Rocky Mountains. Our center offers support, encouragement and a bit of ass-kicking to explorers as we continue on our spiritual path. Our connection with the teachings from the Authentic Leadership Center at Naropa University have helped our center and community learn to integrate the material requirements of running a center with our spiritual practices.
When we founded our center in 2004 we had a lot of dreams about the ideal crucible for spiritual awakening. But how did our passage from having a dream to creating a reality come about?
For 20 years, I was a writer specializing in sustainability, social justice and traditional Japanese culture in Kyoto. There are more than 2000 Buddhist temples in the ancient capital of Kyoto but, as a group of mostly expat meditation students of Doug Sensei, a Canadian-born teacher of awakening, we couldn’t find places to hold meditation retreats.
After a decade of searching, we were inspired to buy a beautiful property in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. We were enormously excited about our new 310-acre meditation cushion, and named it Clear Sky after the radiant, spacious state of mind.
Once the initial euphoria subsided, however, the challenge of repatriating to North America and learning how to successfully run a retreat center in rural Canada unfolded before us. In our enthusiasm, we hadn’t thought about what it would take to run a center. I felt shocked that my spiritual practices as I knew them didn’t seem to equip me well enough to do so.
What’s more, I didn’t know of any resources to help me learn how to do this in my new home, or what was available in the North American culture. Should I be looking at other meditation centers? At the world of business? Sustainability?
I surfed the internet for ways to learn how to combine my spiritual path with the art and science (and finances) of running a center, with all the human and logistical dynamics that entailed.
And that’s when I came across a website for an annual conference named Authentic Leadership in Action, or ALIA. It described all kinds of intriguing courses and methodologies: communication, embodiment, and organizational development were presented as vehicles for deep personal and group growth, and positive transformation of our lives and world.
After reading a bit, I thought, excitedly, “This sounds like applied dharma!” Clicking on the links and reading more deeply, I learned that ALIA had some connections to the spiritual teachings of the remarkable Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
This felt auspicious. My teacher’s teacher, Namgyal Rinpoche, and Trungpa had known one another in the 1960s. Years later when Namgyal and students invited the 16th Karmapa to Canada, collaborative efforts with Trungpa and his students made for a more extensive historical tour that also crossed the U.S. The prospect of going to ALIA felt like I might be going to meet cousins I didn’t know I’d had.
I loved my first ALIA, in 2015. It felt like a cornucopia of possibilities for my personal, professional and organizational learning. And it woke me up to the fact that, if I admired and valued this body of work, and wanted to support a healthy future for our center and community, I had a lot to learn. So I signed up for the semester-long Authentic Leadership Program at Naropa University.
My new journey had begun!
Catherine Pawasarat began her spiritual practices in earnest in her early 20s, when she struggled to make sense of and overcome personal suffering and international environmental and social justice challenges. She became a student of metaphysics, Western spiritual traditions, and the ayahuasca sacraments in the 1990s, and has trained daily with Acariya Doug Duncan since 1998 in an intensive spiritual apprenticeship that is rare in the modern West.
With Doug she is co-founder of Clear Sky Retreat Center in the BC Rockies and Planet Dharma, and a lineage holder for these teachings. She supports the spiritual underpinnings of social entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurship for spiritual practitioners with AkasaVision Consulting. She worked as an advocacy photojournalist and studied traditional Japanese arts (including koto, shamisen, kyogen) in Kyoto for 20 years, culminating in her landmark work at GionFestival.org.
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