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Beyond the Cushion: Awakening our Highest Potential (Online)

June 15, 2020 - July 12, 2020

Beyond the Cushion: Awakening our Highest Potential

A Four Week Online Course | Starts June 15, 2020

We appreciate that many of you are at home with more discretionary time than usual. It’s a valuable opportunity to cultivate your spiritual practice. This will help you to navigate these changing times as a grounded, clear, and heart-centered being, just what the world needs more of. To support you, we’ve moved the online course we had planned for August up to June. Join us and grow your spiritual life, for the benefit of all beings.

One might equate the spiritual life with a cloistered contemplative life.  But few of us live that way today.  What spiritual methodologies actually work for busy, modern people living in a complex world?  In this online course we will share four pillars and five principles to take your practice beyond the meditation cushion.

The CourseRegistration

Beyond the Cushion

If you’re like most people who care about the planet and growing your self-awareness, you may have tried many practices to find deeper meaning and fulfillment in life, such as yoga, counseling, books, courses, meditation. If, after all these sincere efforts, your daily life still isn’t working as well as you’d like, there are reasons for this. And better yet, there are ways to address and transcend it.

In this four-week online course, Dharma Teachers Doug Duncan and Catherine Parawasarat share the essence of their spiritual training methodology. They describe four major training pillars and five principles for spiritual practice in the modern world.

Rooted in classical Buddhist training, these methods are adapted for Western seekers by incorporating modern psychology, therapy and philosophy. These practices support you to make changes in outdated views, limiting habits and conflicted emotions. In other words, this framework can help you take yourself to greater spiritual liberation.

Doug and Catherine emphasize practice both as individuals and in community. Changing all this takes courage and work and revolutionizes your personal status quo.

The results? More joy, more creativity, more compassion, more freedom, and a greater sense of the true wealth of a life of awakening.

The [Online] course went beyond my expectations, I feel I learned a lot of new things or new ways of seeing things. The teachers have an incredible way of presenting the themes in a way that makes it easy to understand. They also make the teachings fun and suggest exercises so that you can apply them in your life.

Irene Arriaza

I was expecting to get pearls of wisdom and I always get far far more. The  teachings always speak directly to me. It is uncanny. It is like hearing a language that I spoke in some other life-form and suddenly it rings a bell. And bell after bell. Like a universal language that we all used to speak but have forgotten, and now as if a new pathway in the brain has opened up and the signals coming in are making sense! Directly from the cosmos via Doug and Catherine Sensei.

Renata Drtinova

Psychotherapist (Gestalt therapist)

The teachers of Planet Dharma [Online course] aim to provide opportunities to learn from age old teachings while including modern information as they are examples of continuing to learn about the fascinating, yet troubled world we live in. They help one to develop ideas how to help out society, live in society and contribute to themselves and others.

Daniel O'Brien

Author, Japan Series

Course Schedule

Starts June 15, 2020

PLEASE NOTE to deepen and integrate your experience, we are offering three optional weekly Master Classes during the course and an at-home Flash Retreat at the end. See below for more details.  

MON, June 15

Class One

We start our journey with an introduction to the unique attributes of the modern day spiritual seeker – that’s you!  What are the challenges, strengths, talents and weaknesses for a 21st century person on this journey? Discover how and why we must walk a spiritual path that takes us beyond the meditation cushion, liberating all aspects of life via the intellect, sensing, intuition and feeling functions.

In class one, we will cover one of four important pillars of our spiritual training methodology – the intellect. In other words, how are you learning, studying and looking? Could you do so more deeply?  Applying your intellect means to examine your world more closely.  Are you actually paying attention or just sleepwalking through life?  

Wherever we have assumptions, mental models and fixed views, we have room to engage our intellect and go deeper.        It might just catapult us into a new way of looking, being, and experiencing – and that means more awakening.

MON, June 22

Class Two

In this class we ask how well you are really ‘doing? With a focus on the ‘do’ we’ll learn how to fully engage the sensing function. In the doing, the act of service, are you fully present with the experience itself?  Are you aware of your movements, the colour, the tactility, the sounds and smells of every moment?  

Karma yoga, or service, helps one live with increasing generosity.  It is about doing what needs to be done in the moment and practicing compassionate communication with the people you are with. It takes our practice beyond the meditation cushion and into a lived, real world experience.  It helps us embrace community, and contribute to something beyond ourselves — rather than just paying ‘lip-service’ to an idealised, intellectualised view of what we think community might be. 

Ultimately, we stretch our comfort zones to become more than our limited views of ourselves.

MON, June 29

Class Three

In week three, we dive into meditation, an indispensable practice of the intuitive function. Meditation is about attentiveness, concentration, calm, bliss and insight.  It may take the form of traditional buddhist meditation practices (tranquility meditations, insight practice, rituals and arising yoga) or, it might take the shape of meditations from the Western Mystical traditions (star group, creative visualisation and prayer). 

By studying with experienced meditation guides, the path of meditation is safer, more stable and reliable.  Immersing yourself with teachers in retreat settings becomes extremely powerful and liberative.  And at the same time, we also train to meditate on the fly, in our day-to-day activities.  

Meditation takes us below the ‘surface waves’ of our mind, and into the still waters below, where we can finally experience the unitive mind. This is a relief for our typically isolated ego views.  By learning to surrender in meditation, we realise we are one with everything and everyone.  It can’t get much better than that, can it?

MON, July 6

Class Four

To wrap up this series, we take you into the realms of the feeling function, via Therapy and integrating the ‘shadow’.  Shadow work integrates the ‘taboo’ aspects of the psyche, the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to look at, that we are afraid of, or have rejected.  Spiritual practice often focuses on re-discovering the light. With shadow work, we do the important work of bringing the light into the dark. 

On the spiritual path, the Teachers and community of practitioners supportively hold up a mirror for you to see the unconscious forces in your being.  

What are those unconscious forces?  Common themes in our collective shadow, relate to money, sex and power. If the spiritual path is about surrendering to the unitive state, can you surrender your feelings of power and control? Can you surrender your beliefs about sex? Can you surrender the security your ego ties to money? Or, at least, can you see how hard it is to surrender your views about these things?  By seeing the block, walls and the fixedity of the ego’s attitudes to certain taboo areas, we become more conscious and freer.

And, it is through shadow work, that we learn what a “good friend” actually means… don’t you wonder?

Study and Meditation Electives

Master Classes

Three Sundays

There are weekly Master Classes (akin to online Q&A Office Hours) during this online course to support your deepening learning and practice, on the following dates at 3pm MST:

  • Sun. June 21
  • Sun. June 28
  • Sun. July 5

You can elect to attend all three or individual dates.

Registration & Dana links for Master Classes will be accessible to you when you register for the course.

Flash Retreat

July 10-12, 2020

Elect to deepen your practice via a Flash Retreat during the last weekend of this course.  The retreat provides practitioners a valuable opportunity to integrate and seal the learnings from the online course, in a format well suited for our contemporary lives.

The retreat will include instructions, online check-ins, and a Master Class on Sunday, July 12.

Registration and Dana links for the Flash Retreat will be accessible to you when you register for the course.

Sangha power – consider organizing or joining regional in-person or online sangha groups to support one another during the online courses and Flash Retreats. 

Meet the Teachers

Catherine Pawasarat
Catherine Pawasarat
Doug Duncan
Doug Duncan
Doug Duncan and Catherine Pawasarat are Dharma and meditation teachers who founded Clear Sky Meditation Centre, BC, Canada.

Achariya Doug Duncan received lay ordination from Namgyal Rinpoche in 1978, and is a lineage holder in that teaching. Known for his direct, humourous and compassionate engagement with students, Doug embraces various traditions, contemporary psychology, and science, to mentor all beings to a more awakened state.

Catherine Pawasarat has trained daily with Acariya Doug Duncan since 1998 in an intensive spiritual apprenticeship that is rare in the modern West. She received lay ordination from Namgyal Rinpoche in 2003. In addition to Buddhist philosophy and its applications to daily life, Catherine also draws on generative living and the arts. With Doug she is co-founder of Clear Sky Retreat Center in the BC Rockies.

Course Details

Time and Location

Each of the four weekly classes in this online course will be video streamed live at 7:30pm MST. The recording will be available for one week after each class.

Study and Meditation Opportunities in addition to the classes include Master Classes on three Sundays at 3pm MST, and a Flash Retreat on July 10-12.

What does the Course Cost?

We offer this course on the basis of dāna (generosity) plus  an admin fee* of $100 (USD).  The admin fee is to cover the costs of running these online courses – for equipment and software to provide you the teachings online.
The teachers’ time and the teaching content itself is offered on the basis of dāna.  Dāna is a Sanskrit term meaning “generosity”, and is the traditional way in which Buddhist teachings are offered.  With dāna, we give as a mutual exchange of generosity. You may have come across this in the form of “pay from the heart”. It’s our joy to offer this course, and we trust you’ll match our time, energy, and passion by giving an amount of money that feels good and healthy to both you and us. We suggest a range between $120 and $500 for this four-week course. For more information on dāna click here.

Extra Electives:  Registration is for all four online classes in this series. Additionally there are three elective Sunday master classes you can opt to join, as well as a weekend flash retreat at the end of the four weeks. Registration & Dana links for these will be accessible to you when you have registered for the main course.

About the Admin Fee*

As an international organization that operates year round, Planet Dharma has a variety of ongoing costs. The admin fee for each online course is designed to help cover some of these expenses.

In a traditional model of in-person teachings, a retreat center or urban meditation center invites teachers to visit. In these cases the centers have infrastructure and organization costs to cover, which might be covered by an admin fee. For the teaching itself, dāna to the teachers is offered in a bowl. This honors both the sustainability of the teachers, and of the supporting center.

We’ve tried to recreate this approach online.
The teachers’ time and the teaching themselves are offered on the basis of dāna, separate to the admin fee. With our dāna offering we are making a direct gift of generosity to the teachers to support their teachings and livelihood. Learn more about the practice of dāna here.
The admin fee goes to support the infrastructure and organization necessary to support them to teach. As anyone with an online business will know, it can be surprising the costs of setting up a good infrastructure to support effective teaching and connection online.

Below are a few of the work and benefits that your admin fee payment is supporting:

  • high speed internet (to allow interviews and classes on-line)
  • online class systems (Zoom)
  • registration / admin systems (Eventbrite, Basecamp)
  • communication systems to keep everyone informed, share connection details, teachings and other resources (Mailchimp)
  • online storage (for example, Dropbox, to allow us to let students watch recordings, and to store and share selected teachings in other forms such as podcasts and video later, and Amazon cloud)
  • quality sound, video and editing equipment (both for live teachings and to provide good enough quality for later sharing as podcasts and video). We are regularly updating our equipment to improve your user experience.
  • online calendar booking system to allow students to book interviews
  • website hosting and maintenance for sharing upcoming courses, teachings, blogs and other resources.

May all our efforts be sustainable, abundant and for the benefit of all beings!
We welcome any questions. Please feel free to contact [email protected]

* It is a core part of our tradition that no one is excluded from hearing the teachings due to financial constraints. We recognize that the COVID-19 situation may have affected many people’s livelihoods. If this is your situation, please contact [email protected] to discuss options for reducing or waiving the admin fee.

It has been sheer joy to be a participant in the Foundations of Buddhist Philosophy online classes. They made the practice come alive for me and accessible and pertinent to my every-day life. And of course, I always enjoy Doug and Catherine’s unfailing good humour which put a lighter touch on what can sometimes be a very dry subject.

Ronda Clanfield

Resources Specialist, CBC National TV News (retired)

Fabulous mindfulness teachers, presenting a variety of accessible tools for unfolding, in a mutual, community inspired way. It’s great that classes can be watched in person, virtually, or within a week depending on one’s schedule. Increase the awareness, compassion, wisdom, strength, and joy in your life!

Brendan Ries

Life Coach, Teacher and Artist, Conscious Money

[The online classes] are a fantastic tool for me to not get completely lost in Samsara throughout the year, especially because I don’t live in Canada and cannot be with the teachers so often. I still felt very connected and supported by the Lamas and Sangha. As a result I became much more aware of my state of mind than I would ordinarily. 

Andrea Netscher

Physiotherapist, Germany

This Course is the third of four Online Courses in 2020.

The Diamond Realization

January 6

Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta: Four Foundations of Mindfulness

April 6

Beyond the Cushion: Awakening our Highest Potential

June 15

Eye of the Storm: Navigating the Modern World

October 12


June 15, 2020
July 12, 2020
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