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 fifth precept: the commitment to refrain from intoxicating the mind through the use of alcohol, drugs, or addictive desires. Originally this precept highlighted the dangers of home-brewed alcohol, but can be expanded to address the many ways we may seek to excite, dull, distort, or intoxicate our minds. By working with this precept, we not only strengthen our capacity for restraint, but importantly, we investigate how the force of craving may be affecting our decisions and actions.
This talk addresses the third ethical precept — refraining from sexual misconduct. Practicing with the precepts involves becoming mindful of our actions, recognizing the effects that our actions have on ourselves and others, learning to respond to our thoughts and feelings with wisdom, kindness, and restraint, and honoring our commitments. This precept provides opportunities to work with the movement of sexual desire and sensual lust. The views of sexuality that were prevalent in ancient India differ from contemporary norms, however, we can apply the underlying intention toward non-harming to contemplate and purify our own conduct. Shaila Catherine offers suggestions forgiving past unskillful actions, and strengthening our capacity for restraint.
Shaila Catherine discusses the importance of patience in our practice. This talk explores benefits, opportunities, and challenges that we experience when cultivating this often under appreciated virtue of patience.
In this talk, Shaila Catherine addresses the great teaching of the Buddha known as the four noble truths: 1) suffering, 2) the cause of suffering is craving, 3) the end of suffering, and 4) the path leading to the end of suffering. Shaila Catherine explores each of the four truths through inspiring sutta references and daily life examples that show how we can live our daily lives from the perspective of liberating wisdom. Rather than engage in endless philosophical speculations or become attached to views and opinions, the Buddha taught a practical path based on the recognition of the fundamental unsatisfactory characteristic of experience. When we recognize dukkha (suffering), we can realize the end of dukkha (suffering).
In this guided meditation, Shaila Catherine introduces a practice of mindfulness of the body by observing a sequence of touch sensations. This meditation guides practitioners to gradually move attention through a series of bodily locations where the feet, buttocks, hands, lips, and eye lids touch. At each location we pause to experience the present sensations that are known at that place of touching. After exploring touch points, we broader the field of attention to the whole body sitting. By alternating the focus of attention between precise and clear points of contact, and broad, restful, receptive awareness of the whole body, the meditator nurtures a clear bright balanced mind that can meet the present moment as it is.
In this talk, Shaila Catherine encourages practitioners to view illness and pain as opportunities to practice equanimity, patience, and mindfulness of the body. When we are sick or in pain, we can still practice being attentive to present conditions, and reflect that all beings are all also subject to illness and death. Illness is not wrong; it is inevitable. The more we resist this fact, the more mental suffering we add to our physical difficulties. When we learn to be present with both pleasant and unpleasant feelings, we will know an experience of profound peace.
How are we using our minds? Where do our thought incline? The Buddha's teachings focus on the practical application of intention and the power of thought, rather than ritual, as the potent force behind action. Working with thought, we see how habits and tendencies develop and form patterns known as kamma (karma). We must be honest with ourselves and see any conceit, agitation, anger, greed, or restlessness that might be lurking as tendencies of mind. We can learn to use our thought skillfully, and guard the mind with diligent mindfulness. Wholesome and unwholesome thoughts are explored. There is nothing to fear from wholesome thoughts such as intentions toward renunciation, letting go, loving kindness, compassion, and generosity, and yet a concentrated mind will bring deeper rest. The path of liberation and awakening includes the development of morality and virtue, and also calmness, concentration, and wisdom.
In this talk, Shaila Catherine explores the purpose of meditation practice. By knowing the goal of the Buddhist path, we can avoid becoming satisfied with deceptive attainments such as mere joy, calmness, and concentration. These pleasant states are not the aim of the liberating path. If we become attached to these temporary states and initial attainments, they become impediments on the path and can prevent the realization of the ultimate goal of awakening.
Shaila Catherine discusses the importance of developing mindfulness of emotions and mental states. Human beings have the capacity to experience a wide range of emotions—they may be subtle or intense, unwholesome or wholesome. Working with emotions requires energy and courage to be willing to face the raw fact that this mental state is present. We can become aware of, and work skillfully with, any emotional state including anger, hate, gratitude, fear, sadness, calmness, insecurity, contentment, grief, tranquility, lust, compassion, loneliness, jealousy, envy, restlessness, peacefulness, faith, love. Emotions are changing mental states that arise in conjunction with every perception. When we are mindful of emotions we drop the conceptual narrative of the story line and investigate how the mind operates. What conditions nourish each mental state, and what conditions cause them to end? How do these mental states affect the clarity of our perception? We can observe the dynamic interaction of emotions and the body, and learn to work with emotions in conjunction with their somatic manifestations. We might gather ideas for investigation by reviewing the detailed Abhidhamma categories of mental states and the factors that constitute each state, or we might simply observe the arising and ceasing of mental states in activity and our meditation.