Shaila Catherine is the founder of Bodhi Courses (bodhicourses.org) an online Dhamma classroom, and Insight Meditation South Bay, a meditation center in Mountain View, California (imsb.org). She has been practicing meditation since 1980, with more than eight years of accumulated silent retreat experience, and has taught since 1996 in the USA, and internationally. Shaila has dedicated several years to studying with masters in India, Nepal and Thailand, completed a one year intensive meditation retreat with the focus on concentration and jhana, and authored Focused and Fearless: A Meditator's Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity, (Wisdom Publications, 2008). She has extensive experience practicing and teaching mindfulness, loving kindness, concentration, and a broad range of approaches to liberating insight. Since 2006, Shaila has continued her study of jhana and insight under the direction of Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw, and authored Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana (Wisdom Publications, 2011).
Mindfulness brings a powerful quality of presence to our encounter with experience. By cultivating deep presence we meet life below the level of superficial concepts. We disentangle the mind from the story of self. More than charisma or social skills, deep presence implies a profound way of being which brings our momentary encounters into the immediate present.
Boredom not a state of relaxation. It is a manifestation of aversion and restlessness that arises when we are not bringing enough mindfulness, interest, energy, or attention to what is actually happening. The habit of seeking happiness in external events and sensory pleasures is fundamentally unsatisfying. The restless seeking of more stimulating experiences ignores the First Noble Truth of dukkha—that there is suffering in conditioned experiences; that unpleasant feelings arise in our lives. Boredom arises because the quality of attention is not well direction; it arises with unwise attention. We can counter boredom with mindfulness. Make the effort to observe the changing nature of things. Appreciate and enjoy what is worthy. Notice moments in which there is no clinging. Reflect upon your purpose and goal—aim for the highest liberation, complete awakening, the peace of release, nibbana.
Awakening is the profound aim of the spiritual life. Awakening is not described as a mystical goal, we wake up to the four noble truths. We look squarely at the world and recognize that we cannot fix it, and through this clarity we realize the end of suffering. Enlightenment does not imply a separation from life, instead, it brings us to face the reality of lived experiences without resistance. Profound realization brings a deep equanimity and peace into every encounter; it is defined as the ending of greed, hatred, and delusion. Awakening is known through the result—the end of defilements, craving, and ignorance.
This talk teases out the meaning of several difficult "D" words: disenchantment, dispassion, detachment. These terms do not imply an aversive response to experience, instead they play a vital role in the process of awakening.
The talk explores profound spiritual experiences. It considers the danger of arrogance and conceit arising, clinging to, and corrupting enlightenment experiences. It discusses how to express, describe, and speak about our spiritual awakenings without identification.
Meditation can reveal the dynamic process of emotional life. In this talk, Shaila Catherine explores relationships between mind and body, between thoughts and emotions, and between present moment experience and concepts. Emotions are not avoided in meditation, instead we engage in a balanced and wise investigation of emotions and see their changing, impermanent, and empty nature. Transformative insight into impermanence may come through understanding the functioning of mental states, without worry about difficult emotions such as anger, grief, or fear. We will learn to respond, act, and speak with wisdom as we learn to open to the full range of emotional life.
This 15-minute recording by Shaila Catherine offers strategies and techniques for meditating on the mind. The acronym RAIN (Recognize, Accept, Investigate, Not-identify) can help us work skillfully with mental states.
How does suffering manifest in attachment to views? This talk explores right view and addresses the danger of attaching to a position, philosophy, belief, or opinion. Primary sources are the teachings from the Middle Length discourses numbers 72 and 74. Recognizing the dangers of attachment and clinging to beliefs and opinions, we directly investigate what can be known in the mind and body. This is a pragmatic path of mindful awareness that results in actions that are immediately liberating.
What do we need to know, understand, investigate, and realize through our meditation practice? In the Anguttara Nikaya. VI, 63, the Buddha described six things that should be known in six ways. The six things to be known include desires, feelings, perceptions, taints, kamma (actions of body speech and mind), and suffering. Each can be known through their presence, conditioned origin, diversity, outcome, cessation, and way to cessation. This talk explores the structure and details of this brief sutta teaching, and proposes a practical approach to investigating the mind and our relationship with life.
Our views, beliefs, and opinions affect our perception of events. To what extent do we assume that we are right and become attached to our opinions? With attachment to views we solidify a sense of self. Mindfulness meditation invites us to observe our relationship to views and opinions and see how it might be distorting perception by reinforcing a fixed sense of self. The term "right view" does not imply a more accurate or factual perspective; rather, right view describes a perspective beyond all attachment to views and opinions.
This talk explores the theme of right view or right understanding through a teaching found in the Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (MN 43). This sutta lists five factors that assist the development of right understanding when liberation is the aim and fruit of the path. These five supportive conditions include virtue / morality, wide learning / reflection, discussion of what was learned, tranquility / calmness, and insight. The talk considers each of these factors in turn.