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).
This talk explores the practice meditation in silent retreats. What are the reasons and benefits for attending a meditation retreat? How can one undertake retreat most effectively. Retreats offer opportunities for deep relaxation; time to set down our worldly identities; let go of the pressures we place upon ourselves to produce and perform; and deeply rest. In the silence of retreat we meet ourselves as we are; we see our patterns, habits, and tendencies; and we discover the causes of suffering and can glimpse the potential to end suffering. We become aware of subtle internal dynamics and thought patterns; we get to know our own minds. Shaila shares that some of the happiest moments of her life have been on retreat, content with little, present and aware of the simple things happening around her. Having spent more than 7 years in silence, Shaila offers helpful tips about what to expect on retreats regarding schedule, instruction, and interaction with the teachers; how to prepare for a retreat including what to pack or not pack; and how to transition back home after the retreat has ended and integrate the insights gleaned through intensive meditation into the complex encounters of everyday life.