Our Founding Teachers

“Most people think the spiritual life is what you do to get rid of negatives. Yet the most important thing in a spiritual life is developing the world of the future.

Your spiritual life blossoms when you’re not worried about yourself anymore. It becomes explorative, imaginative, creative, freedom.

-Qapel Doug Duncan & Catherine Pawasarat Sensei

Qapel Doug Duncan and Catherine Pawasarat Sensei (Chief Visionary Officer)

Dharma Teachers Qapel Doug Duncan and Catherine Pawasarat Sensei teach meditation and mentor students here at Clear Sky and internationally through their virtual monastery Planet Dharma.  Having lived overseas for many years and traveled extensively, Qapel and Sensei draw on intercultural and trans-cultural experience to broaden the range and depth of their understandings of liberation that they share with others. 

Achariya Doug Duncan Clear Sky Center

Qapel Doug Duncan – Co-Founding Teacher

Qapel studied with the Ven. Namgyal Rinpoche from 1974 until the latter’s passing in 2003. Qapel received lay ordination from Namgyal Rinpoche in 1978 and is a lineage holder in that teaching. He also received teachings from the 16th Karmapa and other Tibetan Rinpoches as well as from the Ven. Sayadaw U Thila Wunta and from a Master of the Western Mystery School. In addition, Qapel has undertaken numerous three-month solitary meditation retreats.

Qapel has been leading retreats, teaching and training in universal practices of spiritual unfoldment since 1985, helping thousands of students in numerous countries liberate themselves from suffering. His teaching also draws on contemporary psychology and science. In 2004 he co-founded Clear Sky Retreat Center in the BC Rockies where he is resident teacher along with Catherine Sensei.

Growing up in Saskatchewan was a pretty “flat” experience, so Qapel caught the travel bug early. As a small child he wandered, such that the local police often had to bring him home. This desire to see the world and understand it more fully has led him ever since.

Catherine Pawasarat Sensei - Clear Sky Center

Catherine Pawasarat Sensei – Co-Founding Teacher & Chief Visionary Officer

Catherine Sensei 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 Qapel Doug Duncan since 1998 in an intensive spiritual apprenticeship that is rare in the modern West.

With Qapel she is co-founder and resident teacher at 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. 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 GionFestival.org.

Since the early 2000s Sensei has provided dharma training and taught the path of awakening to hundreds of students, together with Qapel and on her own. In addition to Buddhist philosophy and its applications to daily life, Sensei also draws on generative living (a.k.a. sustainability) and the arts.

She published Gion Festival: Exploring its Mysteries in 2020 (see below) and contributed to an anthology Structures of Kyoto published in 2021.

Some Words from Qapel & Catherine Sensei

Life is a fascinating journey filled with discovery, exploration, and awesome experiences. It can also be fraught with suffering and sorrow, often unnecessarily. While a certain amount of struggle is inevitable in life, the unnecessary parts can be eliminated. Why wrestle with unnecessary suffering? It’s no fun and painful to experience oneself and similarly so to watch others do it.

Happiness is the original state that shines through after unnecessary suffering has been eliminated. We’re dedicated to sharing this path.

Life is short. It’s best when rich and joyful. The only thing that gets in our way are outmoded ways of being. Our lives are dedicated to engaging in and appreciating what an amazing journey we’re on. Come join us.

While Clear Sky is Qapel and Sensei’s physical monastery, they also lead retreats internationally and online through their virtual monastery, Planet Dharma. 

Visit Planet Dharma for podcasts, videos and more. 

Guided meditations

Books written by Qapel and Catherine Sensei

Wasteland to Pureland: Reflections on the Path to Awakening

“If happiness is a result, it begs the question: result of what? If objects don’t make us reliably happy, what does?”

In their first co-written book, Qapel and Catherine Sensei draw on decades of experience in this guide to awakening in the 21st Century.

Wasteland to Pureland is packed with straightforward, heartfelt, accessible teachings and truths that are explained in a way that is both engaging and fun. Rather than retreating from suffering, Duncan and Pawasarat dive into the heart of the uncertainty and busyness of our modern world, and provide clear steps to greater fulfillment and spiritual growth.

If you want to develop more meaningful relationships and establish a fulfilling career; if you want more freedom in both your work and personal life, and you want to lean into your unfoldment with a sense of humor, you simply can’t afford to miss this essential and deeply enjoyable guide to the Pureland.

Dharma if you Dare: Living Life with Abandon

“There was a point in your life when you needed to run. But you’ve done that already. You can’t keep running. Its time to stop, turn around, and meet whatever you’re afraid of.”

Are you looking for something more? Happiness? Meaning? Challenge? Transformation? 

Qapel’s pithy book, Dharma if you Dare, offers an empowering starting point for addressing these common desires. This humorous and accessible book allows you to explore how you contribute to your own feelings of longing and dissatisfaction while providing practical tools which help you to free your mind.

Dharma if you Dare offers concrete examples and illuminating metaphors compassionately intended to help you speedily reconnect with your real purpose for being here — awakening in this lifetime. 

The Gion Festival: Exploring its Mysteries

In the early 1990s, I (Catherine) won Japan’s bubble-era jackpot and lived in a beautiful traditional Japanese home with a gigantic garden. Remarkably it was right in downtown Kyoto.
One July morning I ran out my front door and nearly crashed into a gigantic wheel about the same height as me. “What the … ?!” I thought. Some Japanese men busily worked on wooden timbers around the wheels, ignoring me.
When I got home later that day, the wooden timbers had taken shape as a festival float. It was decorated with a wonderful variety of textiles, like nothing I’d ever seen.
I had no idea what any of it was or what it was doing there.
With my fat Japanese dictionary in hand, I started walking around the neighborhood and asking questions. I’ve been researching the Gion Festival ever since.
As its mysteries continue to unfold, it gets more interesting!