For more than a decade, meditation master and awakened teacher Doug Duncan Sensei has worked with his students to accelerate their personal and spiritual growth through a practice he calls ‘The Challenges’.
The concept is deceptively simple – undertake to challenge your comfort zone in systematic way – but there is no ambiguity about the transformational fruits of the practice. Done with the right intentionality and with the right supports, The Challenges can shift major limiting patterns in the practitioner’s life.
Christopher Lawley, co-founder and organizer at Awaken in Toronto, has been using this practice as a regular part of his unfoldment work as a student of Doug Sensei since 2007. He has experienced for himself the freedom that comes from meeting resistance head on in an intentional way. He is excited about creating space for a support group of people committed to the idea that, as Doug Sensei describes it, “to become more than we are we must become what we are not”.
Christopher hosts monthly meetings for those interested in doing this work. These gatherings offer an opportunity for practitioners to share their experiences and get inspired for future undertakings. There will also be the chance for people to organize group challenges or to get others to accompany them for their individual challenges. The structure of the meetings is grounded in the principles of mindful living and will focus on integrating the practice into practitioners’ lives and practice.
Please see the Meetup schedule on the right sidebar to see upcoming dates.
What do The Challenges look like?
Giving examples for each type of challenge can be difficult, since what is a big challenge for one person may not even register as a challenge for someone else. For example, striking up a conversation with a stranger might paralyze one person with fear, while for someone else it is something they do every day. For the latter person, a challenge might be to spend a day avoiding any interaction that isn’t purely functional.
In general, we can think about the type of challenge based on how much it challenges our sense of ourself.
Weekly Challenges: Break or change a small habit once or for one day in the week. In the moment, these might not really register. The fruit here is to watch carefully the fallout or how the ego works to integrate the change.
Monthly Challenges: Do something that seems very much unlike you. These should stir some serious butterflies in the stomach. There’s some definite resistance here.
Yearly Challenges: These should feel ‘impossible’. This is something ‘someone like you would never do’. There’s a major shakedown in the whole being, which is attempting to make sure you don’t do it because the action is so fundamentally challenging to the ego structure.
Rules: The Challenges can’t involve anything that breaks the law or causes harm or injury to anyone else. A quick check is to ask yourself, ‘If someone else did this, would I have a problem with that?’
Doug Sensei discusses the practice in Chapter 2 of his book Dharma If You Dare: Living Life With Abandon and as part of The Launch Pod podcast episode entitled, “Meditation and the Ego’s Needs (Part 1 of 2)“.