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“The only impossible journey is the one you never begin” ~ Anthony Robbins ~

When I first attended ALIA in 2015, I enjoyed tremendously the fresh learnings and community that I encountered. So much so that enrolling in the semester-long Authentic Leadership Program through Naropa University felt like a wise investment.

I have a confession: I wasn’t especially interested in leadership. Wasn’t that one of those things that you either did or didn’t do? Had a natural capacity for or not?

Besides, through co-teaching Buddhist philosophy and awakening practices with my partner, Doug Duncan, and helping develop and run our retreat center Clear Sky, I thought I was already practicing leadership. And it seemed to be going as well as the ups and downs of human existence could allow for.

But ALIA was cool, and thought-provoking. And I wanted more of where that came from.

The teachings that the Authentic Leadership Center team shared with my spring 2016 cohort and me about all the different ways a leader can be, and things we can do, were enlightening. It hadn’t occurred to me before that leadership was something that I could actually get better at. And that this could make a profound difference, in my own life, in others’ lives, and in the world.


The teachings that Susan Skjei, Jim Marsden, Gaylen Ferguson, Mary McHenry and other ALC staff shared also helped me bridge what sometimes seemed like a knotty dichotomy between the worldly needs of developing a successful retreat center and my spiritual practice. The Authentic Leadership program helped me reframe leadership and organizational development as potential ways to benefit beings.

I felt fortunate to be able to take teachings or homework from the course and immediately try them out at Clear Sky and with our community, sometimes in the same day. I was amazed and delighted to find out that the practices and frameworks they shared did indeed work! And my community seemed as thirsty as I was for these new perspectives and approaches.

It’s been a pleasure to continue this journey beyond the semester-long program, as I explore Authentic Leadership with the ALC, ALIA and my spiritual community, both in North America and in Asia. I feel grateful to the ALIA and the ALC for developing and growing a hospitable community so committed to walking its talk and exploring together.

ALIA’s teachings were in our minds and hearts when Doug and I wrote our first book, “Wasteland to Pureland: Reflections on the Path to Awakening“, over the last year. I felt fulfilled and enriched to be able to see some of what I’ve learned emerging in the pages, and hope my path will benefit readers on their own spiritual journeys.

Part one, “An Unfolding Journey”

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

Catherine Pawasarat


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