Important note on Dāna :
Our teaching and Clear Sky operate based on the ancient tradition of dāna or generosity.
Please learn more about this profound practice before you register.
Action as a Spiritual Path
Who this retreat is for
What’s expected of me if I come to this retreat?
Who are the leaders of this retreat & how do we work?
Karma Yoga and is it for you?
What does a typical day look like
What kinds of meditation will we do?
Why come to Clear Sky?
Costs & Registration
How can we become more self-aware and/or make spiritual progress when we spend the majority of our waking hours at a job, or figuring out how to make my business successful? To make spiritual progress, do I need to meditate for months at a time like the Buddha and his monks and nuns? That was 2500 years ago, so how does it relate to my modern life?
These are questions every contemporary practitioner asks. We believe that for many people, one solution lies in the path of Karma Yoga: yoga means “union through discipline,” and karma means “action.”
We call it Awakening Through Action.
This path presents a vehicle for us to grow increasingly self-aware as we go about our daily tasks and functions.
A monastery or convent represented the ultimate example of this, with their cooks and accountants and traders and artists. However we don’t have to live in a monastery or convent to practice Karma Yoga; we can undertake it wherever we work, including virtually.
Traditionally, meditators were meditation professionals: it was a job, a role, a responsibility based on predisposition and talent. As mentioned, other monks and nuns had other predispositions, and so undertook the other roles and responsibilities that every functioning organization needs: procuring necessities, training members of the organization, cleaning, teaching and studying, finances, etc.
Do you have an image that meditators were the elite cadre of the center? Well, maybe, but remember that Deepak Chopra was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s assistant, which must have involved a wide variety of activities besides meditating.
The purpose of the monastery or convent and the teachers and trainees therein was to ensure that all these activities took place with moment-to-moment awareness. Moreover, flexibility and adaptability was an important element: everyone had experience doing every kind of position. The meditators also served and practitioners doing service also did meditation practice.
As you can see, Karma Yoga is the practice of action or service as a spiritual path, a path as valid as that of meditation practice. The former is practiced while being active, and the later while being more passive.
Karma Yoga involves day-to-day activities that are performed with as much attention to our states, revealing our assumptions, feelings and attitudes as to the job itself. The idea is to purify the negatives that arise in situ by replacing them with kindness and incisive awareness.
Dharma Training is the actual learning that happens in the context of Karma Yoga. With the help of mentors we learn how our conditioning colors our work and attitudes, affecting how we relate and work, and how we interact with those around us.
Dharma Training serves to eliminate inevitable blind spots (we all have them – it’s part of being human) and suboptimal conditioned habits acquired from when we were small children.
With this greater self-knowledge, we naturally become kinder and more compassionate, with better energy and functionality. This makes us more enjoyable to be with, more effective, more tolerant of others and more capable in stressful situations.
By calling it “service,” we instill the idea that we do it with and for others, helping each other get greater clarity and more contentment through our daily activities. You’ll note that we also thereby benefit ourselves! By putting others first, we give the ego a chance to relax. This greatly increases our odds of being effective and more successful, and also having a better time and enjoying our work more.
We feel this approach is eminently applicable to the Western lifestyle in the 21st century. This is the practice we undertake with our organizations: Planet Dharma and the Clear Sky Retreat Center. This course offers you the opportunity to learn from our experience, and take it back home and to work with you.
In this course, we’ll draw on traditional meditation and yogic practices and philosophy. We’ll also utilize exercises drawn from Namgyal Rinpoche’s Holistic Clearing practice, Theory U, Fifth Discipline, Five Dysfunctions of a Team and original exercises we’ve created expressly for Karma Yoga and Dharma Training development.
The objective of the course is to empower you to carry at least a taste, or more than a taste, of the Karma Yoga practice for Awakening in Action into your daily life.
Clear Sky Retreat Center has operated on the basis of Karma Yoga for more than a decade. We’ve studied the patterns of what works (and what doesn’t) to accelerate our learning and spiritual unfoldment.
We’ll share these patterns and the tools to overcome obstacles and strengthen good practices, so that you can apply them to your daily life and work as well.
The result? A more direct connection between your spiritual practice and what you spend most of your waking hours doing (ie., your job and your relationships).
That is, accelerating your own Awakening in Action, and supporting the same for others.
We’re excited about supporting you this way! How about you?
An open mind, heart and will and a spirit of adventure are excellent things to bring!
Seriously, though, it’s human to have some apprehensions about doing something new, or meeting new people, or going to a new place. Particularly if and when all three happen together. We try to make this as supportive an experience as possible. And changes – including positive ones – require movement, and movement requires engaged energy.
So we ask you to engage with us around the teachings and activities that will support your learning and unfoldment around Awakening in Action.
Particularly when we are exploring our growth edges, it’s natural to feel uncertain and awkward. And it’s very fruitful to transform that tension into creative energy by drawing on your own inner resources – such as inquiry, going with the flow and self-reflection, just a few of the many different kinds of constructive engagement.
To maximize the most of the learning and integration of that learning, we ask that you refrain from reading, using the internet or listening to music during the course. We make an exception for journaling, course assignments and the dancing we sometimes do during exercises or group celebration – all great resources for integration and growth.
Lastly, we mentioned that Clear Sky has run for a decade on the practice of Karma Yoga.* Our teaching and Clear Sky also operate based on the ancient tradition of dāna or generosity. Please learn more about this profound practice before you register.
Combined, Doug Duncan and Catherine Pawasarat have been practicing Karma Yoga and meditation for more than 60 years. They both received lay ordination from the Canadian-born Ven. Namgyal Rinpoche, and have shared teachings of liberation from their Western Canada-based retreat center, Clear Sky, and worldwide for decades.
They’re well versed in Theravadin, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist philosophy and practices, as well as contemporary psychology, consciousness studies and art. They are pioneering Karma Yoga and generosity practices in the West, and feel proud to base their teachings and retreat center on these radical and profound practices.
Join them to be skillfully supported towards greater empowerment through this straightforward, dynamic and insightful program. Join this retreat for the valuable opportunity to help share these unique teachings in the contemporary world.
Life is impermanent and unpredictable – everything is always in flux. Developing our practice of Karma Yoga means that we learn to recognize the potential for our spiritual development in anything and everything. In fact, this kind of flexibility of mind and body comprises one of the benefits of spiritual attainment.
As a natural result, we respond to the people present and our emerging learning by deliberately changing and moving the exercises around.
This keeps the program fresh, somewhat spontaneous and therefore a bit unpredictable. Like life. Our goal is to make our ability to practice Karma Yoga and Dharma Training sustainable throughout the ups and downs of our day-to-day.
To this end, we’ll be teaching about Karma Yoga and Dharma Training in class, describing them in context and discussing them in group. Outside of classes, we’ll practice and develop Karma Yoga and Dharma Training in various contexts, including during our Karma Yoga activities (which most closely simulates how they might be used in daily life) and also through assigned exercises.
After the first week of introduction and overview, we’ll shift into deeper exploration and practice. As part of this, the second week will include the option of private interviews with Doug and/or Catherine, to pursue more personalized inquiries if desired.
Yes, we’ve explained a bit about Karma Yoga above, now let’s give you a little more detail about what it looks like.
Karma Yoga is the path of applied awareness engaged in activity. When performed mindfully, Karma Yoga reveals and liberates our sense of isolation and separateness, while enriching our individuality and creativity.
The activities of Karma Yoga are engaged in the context of community or virtually, on one’s own or in teams, but usually both. With mentors and trained professionals in the field of Karma Yoga, we learn how to be more effective as an individual and in teams.
Among other things, through Karma Yoga we learn how to:
One of the huge advantages of doing Karma Yoga and being a Karma Yogi is that it benefits everyone, including the planet and the environment. We learn to transcend the need for recognition, and abide in the satisfaction of a job well done, and even more so in dedicating the merit to the benefit of all beings.
A Karma Yogi is a person dedicated to spiritually supporting oneself and other people. S/he trains and practices to purify emotional conflicts and self-limiting views, yielding greater freedom, clarity, joy and peace in our own and others’ lives. In other words, we become more loving and more compassionate.
A Karma Yogi is like a superhero. The superhero helps others physically, with superhuman powers. But unlike the superhero whose powers result from an accident or aberration, the Karma Yogi builds them through consciously training. The superhero is an entertaining fiction; Karma Yogis are real, with skillsets and special abilities that any of us can learn. Karma Yogis make the world a beautiful place to be.
We have four aspects operative in our lives: our bodies (the physical), our feelings (emotional), our minds (cognitive) and our integrated, multi-dimensional being (spiritual). The training is focused on “purifying” and transforming the first three areas, so that we may have ongoing, real-time access to the fourth.
By “purifying,” we mean that Karma Yoga helps us to remove blocks that may manifest in painful physical, emotional or psychological patterns from our conditioning.
This is a normal part of the human condition, which is why the Buddha’s First Ennobling Truth is “Life is struggle.” And we can learn how to move beyond the struggle, by liberating these blocks. The results are less hurt, anxiety, worry or depression and a more open mind and heart, meaning more friendliness, love, compassion and joy. That’s a life worth living!
Here are some examples of how we approach Karma Yoga:
A lot of meditation and consciousness training focus on this. It’s powerful and important, but not so useful unless it’s conjoined with additional types of training (see below).
We are shaped by our environment and culture, and the messages of what’s true and what isn’t appear early in the molding of our psyches. The mind is the habitat, and habit, of views, opinions and beliefs.
Generally speaking, these “positions” go unexamined in most of our lives, and therefore can create havoc with our wellbeing. For instance, racism, sexism and species-ism (“humans have the right to do whatever they want to the planet and other species”) are all mental positions that have done so much harm, because they were not properly investigated as mere views, rather than “truths” or presumptions.
While the superhero fights against “evil,” the Karma Yogi struggles with limiting views of who they can be. To prevail, s/he must sacrifice old views of himself. As part of our mind training, we see what views arise during different situations. We examine these views, what they’re based on, and the results of having them.
And our mind is so influenced by our body, and vice versa!
Classically yoga, prostrations and other similar activities were used to make us more aware of our bodies. Meditation allows us to see how the body responds to stimuli when still. We use these methods, and also extend them to activities like movement/dance and different kinds of service.
During this physically-oriented training, we focus on our bodies and note any tensions or blocks that disturb our energy fields. Anyone can do this anywhere, but usually the demands of our jobs or families tend to make us forget to pay attention to how the body is reacting.
The idea is to learn how to do this in a retreat context, and cultivate the spiritual connection explicitly in a safe environment. Then we’re more able to do it implicitly or discreetly, as appropriate, at work and at home.
In other words, at Clear Sky we get better at doing this without the pressures of daily life. Then we can take it to the “battlefront” of life, where the Karma Yogi (as the superhero in disguise as you) gets to show her stuff!
In some ways this can be the most challenging training. One reason for this is because we think of ourselves as separate beings. Consequently, we always feel alone and vulnerable to some degree, so we protect ourselves and we armor our hearts for safety.
The results include hypersensitivity to criticism, anxiousness, depression or worry when things aren’t going our way. This is the superhero’s Kryptonite or Achilles’ heel, neutralizing their superpowers. For the Karma Yogi, it’s any of the array of painful feelings that are part of the human experience.
The feeling training aspect of Karma Yoga helps us to observe our reactions to these feelings more objectively. The result is that we gain the freedom of choice, to move from pain-based reaction to conscious response.
How’s that for exciting?
Our daily schedule includes:
Meal times conducted in silence, with awareness directed towards the nature of “nourishment” and the act of serving oneself and others, and eating.
The proverbial – and actual – chop wood, carry water, cleaning dishes will be an active, enlivening experience. You’ve never had this experience cleaning dishes!
We have three meals a day.
Daily group meditations allow us to gather and reflect as a group in silence, on a theme related to the other activities of the day. We will also use the meditation to raise inquiries for ourselves, and to yield insights about what we’re learning. Some meditations will include time for Q & A and discussion.
Talks on Karma Yoga will address principles, theory, and various exercises to practice, or Karma Yoga activities* to follow. We will also have sessions for facilitated discussion and time for Q & A. We’ll also take advantage of group review, such as regarding lessons learned, challenges that may arise, how to adapt what we learn to use at home, etc.
Applications: Practice makes perfect, so we’ll build on each day’s new discoveries to apply what we’re learning, using more engaged exercises* or a Karma Yoga activity. This helps ensure you’ll be able to replicate what you’ve learned in your life back home.
Integration time: We respect the importance of this modality! You may use it to take walks around the exquisite Clear Sky property, engage in your own movement practices, rest, reflect, journal, etc.
Based on the emerging group dynamic the schedule may change from day to day, excepting the group meditations and meal times, which anchor our practice.
As mentioned above, the first week will introduce basic principles, theory and practice and overview. The second week will allow us to work more specifically on patterns we’ve identified we’d like to shift, with deeper exploration and practice. As part of this, the second week will include the option of private interviews with Doug and/or Catherine, so that participants have the opportunity to make more specific inquiries pertaining to their particular situation.
There are many kinds of meditation, each one useful for a different purpose. Typically, they fall into one of two categories: calming bliss, or insight.
Within the first category, there are meditations such as movement, visualization, mantra, devotion, energy (i.e., chakras) and breathing.
In the insight category, there are meditations such as vipassana (insight), mahamudra, Dzogchen, Zen and breathing.
Notice that breathing falls in both groups! This is one good reason why it is a popular and useful meditation for many.
In this course we will draw on various meditation techniques. One that we are especially pleased to share with you for this course is the Holistic Clearing Meditation, an original creation by our teacher, Namgyal Rinpoche. The Holistic Clearing meditation represents a new and unique stream in spiritual practices that is especially suited for modern life.
The Holistic Clearing meditation bridges the gap between our own strengths, weaknesses, and lacks, and then balances us to be more effective in our personal and interpersonal lives.
The Clear Sky community:
© B. Fung
Other points about the retreat:
Invest in your growth and unfoldment with master Dharma teachers Doug Duncan and Catherine Pawasarat this summer. Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, beautiful Clear Sky meditation centre offers the perfect locale for deep learning. Receive hands-on training in mind, body and feeling as Doug & Catherine guide you through Karma Yoga and Dharma Training via classes, assigned exercises and practice in community. You will also discover the powerful holistic clearing technique and other forms of meditation.
Stay for the full two week ‘deeper dive’ to take advantage of the option of private interviews with Doug and/or Catherine in the second week, to pursue more personalized inquiries if desired.
Doug & Catherine teach by the ancient practice of dāna or generosity.
Please learn more about this profound practice before you register.
What does it cost to stay at the centre?
Early bird price (Register by July 9): $1625 / Regular price: $1745
Early bird price (Register by July 9: $949 / Regular price: $999