In today’s talk, Doug Qapel Duncan and Catherine Pawasarat Sensei go over 4 secrets that make up a core part of how we orient ourselves in the world. Drawing on material from their bestselling book, Wasteland to Pureland, Sensei and Qapel explain each secret, how they operate in our lives and what possibilities open up when we integrate them into our conscious awareness.

Today’s episode covers ideas that Qapel and Sensei explore in detail in their bestselling book, Wasteland to Pureland. If you’d like to explore these ideas further, you can visit the Planet Dharma website to receive a free copy of the chapter entitled ‘Protecting Against Hurt Is What Hurts’. Podcast listeners can download this free chapter of the book by visiting


Podcast Transcription:



Welcome to “Dharma if You Dare.” I’m Christopher Lawley, Planet Dharma team member and producer of the podcast.  In today’s talk, Doug Qapel Duncan and Catherine Pawassarat Sensei go over four secrets that make up a core part of how we orient ourselves in the world.  Drawing on material from their best-selling book, “Wasteland to Pureland,” Sensei and Qapel explain each secret, how they operate in our lives, and what possibilities open up when we integrate them into our conscious awareness.   

Looking to engage with cutting-edge 21st-century Dharma in a way that’s right for you? Each year, Planet Dharma offers a variety of programs and retreats to catalyze awakening for spiritual seekers. In 2022, Planet Dharma will be offering a variety of in-person and online retreats of various lengths. This will be complemented by online courses and “Enlighten Up” dharma talks. There is also a dharma trip being planned for the fall (pending pandemic travel restrictions).  To learn more about these events and to see the diversity of material being offered, visit


And now here’s today’s recording. 

[Sensei] Okay, so we came up with four big secrets that we keep secret in the collective.

[Qapel] But we’re only telling you about the first one, right? 

[Sensei] But we’re only telling you one, because of the other three-year secret right? 

[Qapel] At least right now.  

[Sensei] Okay, so the secrets that we all hold in common. The first one is that the ego is always alone. That’s just the nature of the ego. 

[Qapel] How many are surprised by that statement?  The ego never acknowledges that it is absolutely and totally alone while it’s going around talking to people going, “I’m not alone, I’m talking to Cara.”  “Cara and I are talking, we’re having a nice time, I’m not alone.”  Yes, you are. The ego is always alone by definition. Nobody can get in there, you are alone in there. But if we accepted the fact that we’re totally and problems and difficulties with people because it wouldn’t be worth it.  Or if we did it, we would do it out of compassion because you can’t undo their aloneness.  I can’t get into Dave’s ego. Well, let’s say I can’t get into Dave’s ego and mess with the pieces. Only Dave can do that, right? Only Dave can change. Even if he was a slave, I can’t reach him, only he can reach himself.  

[Sensei] You mean he was a slave and you were the master?

[Qaple] Yes, only he can reach himself, right.  No matter what I do or what I don’t do or say or don’t say or beat him or whatever, right? Nevertheless, he is autonomous onto his own inner sense of himself. 

[Sensei] No matter what.   

[Qapel] And that self remembers that the sense of ego is how big relative to the iceberg?  Ten percent. So that means the ego is always terrified of the other 90% of its being because it’s hidden, it’s unconscious. Therefore the alone ego is a little, little bit of a thing, sitting on top of the iceberg all lonely going “fuck!”  But we hide it, we just skip right over it and we have ego parties.

[Sensei] Yeah, we spend a lot of time trying to hide that. Yeah ego parties, right?  Lots of popular music is dedicated to …

[Qapel] Yeah, popular music.  “I love you, I love you, I really, really, really …”

[Sensei] We’re describing the anguish of being alone. We expend a tremendous amount of energy trying to cover this up, trying to hide this truth from ourselves. But we have a resolution. The resolution is that the transcendental treat aloneness as a benefit.

[Qapel] A boon, s bliss, a paradise. 

[Sensei] If each of us is alone, we’re all alone together.  

[Qapel] Because the transcendental doesn’t live in the ego. The transcendental lives in the whole self. It is a very contented iceberg. It is not an isolated tip. Therefore, aloneness, from the point of view of the transcendental, there is no such thing as “alone” because the ego feels separate, where the iceberg feels the water.

[Sensei] The ocean.

[Qapel] Something like that.  Maybe not the best way to put it.

[Sensei] All the rest of the ice. So this reveals peace, bliss, spaciousness, and clarity and then the world is fascinating and joyful.  We might be alone, but we don’t feel lonely, which is kind of the opposite of the ego. 

[Qapel] So there’s another big secret we keep from ourselves which is that the self is an illusion.  There is no such thing as a “Dean.” We can put a label on Dean and call him Dean, but you can’t go find the Dean anywhere. There’s no such thing that makes a “Dave” a “Dave.”  It’s just a bunch of programs, just a bunch of thoughts and feelings and sensations thrown into a bowl and stirred around. And Dave goes “well, but I have to, I am me, I gotta be me!” There’s no such thing, it’s just ingredients. 

[Sensei] We write about this at some great length and with much humor, I like to think, in “Wasteland to Pureland.” So if you’d like to explore that topic further, it’s one of our favorites.  The self is a compost heap.

[Qapel] The self is compost.  And remember: “it’s an illusion” doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  It just doesn’t exist the way we think it does. So all the things that we get up tight about ourselves, all our states that we get uptight about, these are like storylines, it’s plot lines. But when we’re having them, we don’t see them that way, do we?  We don’t say, ”oh, I’m having, I’m pretending to have an anger state.” But we are, we’re just making it up.  Sorry.  “I’m pretending to feel overwhelmed.” You never say that.  “I’m pretending, I’m overwhelmed!” 

[Sensei] You’re taking on the appearance of being overwhelmed.

[Qapel] That means that when you get married, you’re marrying an illusion and you’re an illusion and the illusion is marrying an illusion. So don’t take marriage seriously. You want to do it, do it, fine, go ahead. But it’s a joke, doesn’t mean anything, right? What means something is how you feel inside your being and how you communicate that to others. That’s the important part, the whole organization of how the self puts itself together with other selves and the stories, they’re made up. So just recognize that. What’s the other one? 

[Sensei] So the third secret that we all love is “I’m getting old and I’m going to die.” 

[Qapel] Not a big surprise anyway. Right?

[Sensei] Right. Not rocket science.  

[Qapel] How do you mean this is a secret? How can this be a secret? I know I’m gonna die.   But on any given moment of time, you know, one good way to know that you don’t think you’re gonna die? One good way that you’re denying that you’re gonna die. You’re living this moment on gear down, turn down, volume down, energy down, worried down, problem down, yada, yada, yada … If you knew you were gonna die right there, you’d be wide awake right here. 

[Sensei] That’s really true.

[Qapel] So it’s a secret even though it’s in plain sight.

[Sensei] And if you don’t have a living will yet, we really highly recommend it.

[Qapel] Please get a living will.

[Sensei] Because nowadays you end up in the hospital and they just do whatever they do. So make your wishes clear, please. And relieve your loved ones of having to make those decisions. And another reason we sort of deny the fact that we are gonna die. 

[Qapel] And if you can, just drop dead real fast. Work for that.

[Sensei] That’s right, yeah, we pray to go quick.

[Qapel] Okay. And our last one.

[Sensei] We’re addicted to what’s being called nowadays “limbic capitalism.” It is capitalism designed to keep your limbic brain in a fight or flight modality as much as possible. Shop or drop mentality.

[Qapel] Addiction by design.  That’s the society we’re living in. They’re creating addictions for you by design. They’re designing the addictions so that you’ll get addicted to them. 

[Sensei] And one of the unintended consequences is something called “anomie.” You see this a lot on maybe social media. The definition is “a state or condition of individuals or society characterized by a breakdown or absence of social norms and values.”

[Qapel] So what is the social norm and value by which we live? What would you say is the overarching social norm that we sort of live by? “If I like it, I’ll do it; if I don’t like it, I won’t.” How do you decide what you like and what you don’t like? You don’t – it’s been decided for you.  Limbic capitalism.   What you’d like has been sold to you and you don’t know it. What you don’t like has been sold to you and sold to you and you don’t know it.  This is limbic capitalism.  Addiction by design in order to keep the system turning it out.

[Sensei] We’ll post a link about that on the Pureland forum so you can learn more about limbic capitalism and how can we be free of limbic capitalism. 

[Qapel] Ah. How can we be free of limbic capitalism? We have to see that it’s happening when it’s happening. Where does that desire come from? Why that desire? And do you question the desire that you have or do you just go chase it? Are you just following the road you’re being led down or do you step back and say hold it, hold it, hold it? This is a manufactured desire. This is a manufactured idea of what is valuable, what’s necessary, what I need, where I want to go, and what I want to do. Do I have present awareness and am I in a blissful, clear, present, spacious frame of mind? If not, don’t move until you are and you’ll break free.  There’s nothing wrong with any of the products, particularly.   There’s nothing wrong with any of the things being sold, particularly. The problem is is that you’re being possessed by it. That’s the issue. So meditation, meditation, meditation, meditation. 

[Sensei] Yeah, what a really kind of fortuitous thing that the whole spiritual path also frees us from limbic capitalism and liberation from all sorts of stuff. All sorts of not nice stuff. 

[Qapel] And we go back to the root problem. The desire is not the problem. The unreal expectation about what desire can fulfill is the problem. 

[Sensei] That’s right.

[Qapel] Desire itself is a passion for life, it’s “jivetindrea”. But focusing that jiventindrea, that life force onto an object that you transpose outside of yourself – that’s going to do it, it’s the beginning of insanity. So you gotta pull it back home, bring the energy back home. You don’t need anything and you don’t need anybody.  You’re now in a position to enjoy everything and communicate with everybody. 

[Sensei] That’s right. So liberate oneself from suffering. Help others get liberated from suffering. Practice diligently, support others to practice diligently.

[Qapel] And open those secret doors. 

[Sensei] Open those secret doors.

[Qapel] Enter the secret garden through the secret door. 


We hope you enjoyed this episode. Please rate and review “Dharma if you Dare” on your favorite podcast app to help more people find and benefit from these teachings, and don’t forget to subscribe to get episodes and bonus content sent directly to your device. 

Today’s episode covers ideas that Qapel and Sensei explore in detail in their best selling book, “Wasteland to Pureland.” If you’d like to explore these ideas further, you can visit the Planet Dharma website to receive a free copy of the chapter entitled “Protecting Against Hurt is What Hurts.”

Podcast listeners can download this free chapter of the book by visiting

See you next time and may all our efforts benefit all beings.