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Five Stages of Emptiness

March 8 - March 17

The Five Stages of Emptiness

Meditation Retreat | March 8-17, 2024
Completely empty… completely full. Ironically, society gives the word “empty” a bad rap. Far from that commonly held emotional meaning, when we say “emptiness,” we mean something that’s considered a great—perhaps the greatest—gift. Are you ready to deepen your contact with it? In this retreat, we will learn how we construct reality from false views—and how to penetrate through this illusion. The results are greater clarity, freedom and joy. Join Qapel Doug Duncan & Catherine Pawasarat Sensei for this week of insight meditation.

Stages of emptiness is empty of stages. But to understand emptiness you need to study the five stages… We really should say that reality is an infinite universe of empty, but we need words to wrap our cognitive brains around it.

We are here in order to be compassionate. But who says anyone is here?

Qapel, on stages of emptiness.

Pre-requisites: Meditation experience and previous retreat work is highly recommended. For beginners to meditation, we recommend starting with the Breathing Retreat, a private cabin retreat with guidance, or our center’s meditation circle.



The Five Stages of Emptiness.

How deeply do you understand—and experience—emptiness? What’s this about “stages”? This retreat focuses on what are progressive stages of meditation on emptiness. There is always another door, until one reaches the final door, the state of total freedom with no state beyond it. We will study, reflect and meditate on the spacious potentiality behind all phenomena, which opens the door to greater freedom and creativity in all of our lives. We can only choose the road less traveled toward a future of better habits and more beautiful possibilities if we can see the actual space for such a road in the first place.

The aim here is to gain experiential, firsthand physiological contact with the descriptions of form and emptiness from Buddhist philosophy and quantum physics. The actual experience of these philosophies and scientific realities are the gateway to applied, practical wellbeing in our modern world.

This retreat is led by Qapel (Achariya Doug Duncan) and Catherine Pawasarat Sensei at Clear Sky Meditation Center in Eastern BC. The teachers founded this center to support students to awaken in this lifetime. We invite retreatants who wish to embark on a week of earnest study, meditation and reflection, and in doing so, welcome those who wish to transform the struggle in their lives.

While we believe any undertaking can be a vehicle for awakening, there’s no substitute for the power of one’s own profound experience of truth, gained through meditation. This is why meditation is one of thefour foundational practices of our teaching.

An online option is also available for those not in Western Canada, to make participation possible from anywhere in the world. However, online participants must attend in a retreat-like setting in their own locations—in silence and free from distractions, including work or family duties.

Texts for this course:

  • Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche (Author), Lama Shenpen Hookham (Translator) 

What’s Expected of Me?

  1. An open mind and heart, and a spirit of adventure are excellent things to bring!
  2. It’s human to have some apprehensions about doing something new, meeting new people, or going to a new placeparticularly when all three happen together. We try to make this as supportive as possible.
  3. When exploring our growth edges, it’s natural to feel uncertain and awkward. And it’s very fruitful to transform that emotional tension into creative energy by drawing on your own inner resourcessuch as inquiry, going with the flow, and self-reflection, just a few of the many kinds of constructive engagement.
  4. To maximize your retreat experience, we ask that you refrain from reading, using the internet, phone or listening to music during the course.
  5. Students are expected to be silent during the silent parts of the retreat, and participate in all classes, group meditations, activities, and discussions.
  6. We ask that you refrain from microdosing or consuming mind-altering substances before or during this retreat and in the days immediately following it.

The Location – Clear Sky Center

  • Located in the BC rocky mountains, Clear Sky offers over 300-acres to deepen your practice and reconnect with nature. Founded by Qapel (Achariya Doug Duncan) and Catherine Pawasarat Sensei, the center is home to students from around the globe who are dedicated to co-creating a supportive and innovative space for awakening in our modern world.

Retreat room beds
retreat Stages of Emptiness
CS Retreat Shrine Room Meditation Sangha

Meet the Teachers

Catherine Pawasarat
Catherine Pawasarat
Doug Duncan
Doug Duncan

Qapel 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.

What Do Previous Retreatants Say?

Jenai Lieu

These are ancient teachings that I feel are important to understand if someone is serious about meditation. I appreciate Qapel and Sensei’s unrelenting perseverance to teach about the roots and traditions of these life changing practices. They explore the rich history with us and also deliver the material in a very understandable and relevant way.

Jenai Lieu
Psychology student, Canada
Kira MacDuffee

Working with Qapel and Sensei at the five day hero’s journey workshop was deeply impactful and has clarified not only my deepest heart’s desire, but what I need to overcome to manifest it. They are extraordinary facilitators with a great depth of knowledge, wisdom and presence to share.

Kira MacDuffee
M.Ed / RCC
Dr. Duncan Cryle

Doing karma yoga, I watch how everyone gains new insights.  These many “a-ha moments” makes it clear to me that this type of active dharma training is a path that brings the modern spiritual explorer alive and moves them forward.

Dr. Duncan Cryle
Ph.D IBM executive, Clear Sky Accountability Officer
Evangelos Diavolitsis

Qapel and Sensei have consistently been honest, accurate and candid with me. It has sometimes taken me years to admit my self-sabotaging blind spots. Clear and radical self-honesty liberates my sticky parts. Thank you to my master teachers for helping me free up all the energy knots – especially the ones created from unconscious patterning around money, sex and power.

Evangelos Diavolitsis
Peter Ujlaki

Qapel and Sensei are always burning calories to get you back on a path that can lead toward greater self-awareness. When I am with these two very clear individuals, I am humbled by their dedication to others, and understand the every-waking-moment responsibility that comes with their calling.

Peter Ujlaki
Fine Art Dealer, Japan

Course Fees & Requirements

Arrivals and Departures

For those traveling short distances, please arrive by 3pm on March 8th. For those coming from international or longer distance travel, please plan to arrive 1-2 days early to allow time to rest and acclimatize before the start of retreat. 

Departures will begin on March 17th, however we also recommend adding some extra nights to your stay for a more easeful transition from retreat to daily life.

All Retreatants: A Dāna Based Retreat

This retreat is offered on the basis of dāna (generosity).

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.

You will be sent a link to offer “dana” to the teachers after registration.

For more information on dāna click here.

For Online Retreatants: Admin Fees & Requirements

In order to bring you this retreat at home, there is an additional admin fee* of $350 CAD. The admin fee is to cover the costs of running these online courses – for equipment and software to provide you the teachings online.

If you are taking this retreat online, we require that you devote your full attention to the retreat for the entire week.

Requirements include:

  • Block out the retreat duration and be focused on the retreat for this entire period, using this time and participating in the retreat as if you were at Clear Sky in person.  This includes a rigorous, full, daily meditation schedule.
  • Participate in all of the daily classes and group practices via online streaming.
  • Set up a quiet space or location where you can focus on the Meditation Retreat, and not need to engage in conversation or work with others.
  • Put away your phone, digital devices and other distractions.
  • If there are enough people in the same time zone as you, you could also make a cohort to meet to do a group practice throughout the retreat.
  • Note: full details/ requirements will be sent to you after registering


About the administrative fee*

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 videos after the Teachings)
  • 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 also do not wish to exclude anyone from the Teachings, so if you are not currently in a financial position to afford the admin fee, please contact us so we can support you to attend.

We welcome any questions. Please feel free to contact [email protected].

Retreatants at Clear Sky: Lodging Fees & Covid 19 Protocols

In addition to Dana to the Teacher, Clear Sky Meditation Centre provides an incredible space for your retreat.  Situated on a beautiful 310-acre property in the Rocky Mountains, the center and its karma yogis provide you nourishing daily meals and comfortable accomodation. Read more: Staying with us (Clear Sky Meditation Centre)

Please go to the retreat registration page for this retreat for details of the all inclusive fee for the retreat.

Covid-19 Protocols

Our retreats comply with current BC Covid-19 Health Orders.  Please refer to those provincial guidelines as well as the Canadian federal travel guidelines, especially if you are planning to travel to Clear Sky Center in person.

Detailed Daily Schedule

Specific times may change (MST)

6:30 – 7:30 AM Walk &/or Personal Practice
7:30 – 8:15 AM Breakfast: Prepare, eat, clean up
8:15 – 8:45 AM Walk &/or Personal Practice
9:00 – 10:00 AM Class with Teachers
10:00 – 10:30 AM Walk
10:30 – 11:30 AM Group Practice lead by Sangha
11:30 – 12:30 PM Personal Practice
12:30 – 1:30 PM Lunch: Prepare, eat, clean up
1:30 – 3:00 PM Personal Practice
3:00 – 4:00 PM Group Practice lead by Sangha
4:00 – 5:30 PM Personal Practice
5:30 – 7:00 PM  Dinner: prepare, eat, clean up
7:00 – 7:30 PM Walk &/or Personal Practice
7:30 – 8:30 PM Group Practice and Q & A with Teachers
8:30 – beyond Personal Practice & bed


Micro-Dosing / Psychedelics

We recognize and respect plant medicine as an important part of some people’s spiritual paths. Please note, the meditation practice on this retreat is very powerful.

Consuming mind-altering substances will detract from your experience and could cause negative side-effects.

We ask that you refrain from microdosing or consuming mind-altering substances during this retreat and in the days immediately following it.

Ready to Register?

Please click on the buttons to register for either retreat option. If you have questions about the retreat, please phone 250-429-3929, or contact [email protected].

Registration deadlines: 

  • In-Person Participants: February 23rd 2024
  • Online Participants: March 1st, 2024

Take advantage of early bird pricing by registering as early as possible.

Clear Sky Cabin/nature
12 Manjushri meditation retreat
Clear Sky residence;)