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).
Shaila Catherine gave the fourth talk in the five-week series "Four Noble Truths." This talk discusses the Fourth Noble Truth, the path leading to the cessation of suffering and known as the Noble Eightfold Path. We must know this path and actually travel it. This practice allows us to live a life that is noble and upright, and helps us distinguish between that which is wholesome (which leads to ending of suffering) and that which is unwholesome (which leads to more suffering).
Shaila Catherine gave the second talk in the five-week series "Four Noble Truths." This talk explores the causes of suffering (in Pali dukkha), and explains how conditioned mental and sensory experiences are unsatisfactory and stressful. Craving causes suffering when our perceptions are accompanied by delight and lust. Practicing mindfulness reduces suffering, because when we are present we experience things as they actually are, and do not crave something different.
Shaila Catherine gave the fourth talk in a six-week series titled "Ethics, Action and the Five Precepts." Speech is given particular importance in the Buddhist path because wrong speech can cause tremendous harm, and right speech can be profoundly beneficial. Practicing right speech is given emphasis because it's a very vivid way of applying our practice to daily life. When we lie based on delusion and greed, our intention usually is to benefit ourselves. When we lie based on delusion and hatred, our intention is usually to harm others. Even when we lie to cause less harm than would be caused if we spoke the truth, we should be aware of the potential karmic consequences.
Shaila Catherine gave the second talk in a six-week series titled "Ethics, Action and the Five Precepts." When we undertake the training of refraining from taking that which is not given and practice generosity, we are improving our mind. More specifically, we are purifying our mind of greed. In fact, not stealing and giving are conditions that contribute to the realization of nibbana.
Shaila Catherine gave the second talk in a four-week series titled "Cultivating Mindfulness." Shaila explored a number of ways to practice mindfulness of the body according to the Buddhist teachings. These methods include (1) using the body as a way of grounding our attention in the present moment, (2) working with mindfulness of the breath as an aspect of the body, (3) working with sensory experiences, (4) reflecting upon death, (5) seeing the body in terms of the four elements (earth, fire, wind and water) and (6) observing the body as anatomical parts. Methods 5 and 6 allow us to view the body as material constructions. From this perspective we no longer conceive our body as "I" or "mine;" thereby, attachment and ignorance dissolve.
Shaila Catherine gave the first talk in a four-week series titled "Cultivating Mindfulness." This talk focused on using the breath as the meditation object. When we observe our breath, our mind is free from unwholesome states, such as anger, greed, or doubt, because we are simply connecting with the very ordinary experience of breathing. We are not being pushed or pulled by desire or aversion. In fact, when we connect with the breath, we experience ease and happiness.
Shaila Catherine gave the seventh talk in a eight-week series titled "Seven Factors of Awakening." This talk explores how the stability and the balance provided by equanimity can make our mind our friend, something that we can trust. When equanimity is strong, if there is pain we won't tend to react with aversion; if there is pleasure, we won't tend to react with grasping and clinging. The mind will be balanced, present, and aware of experience as it unfolds.
Shaila Catherine gave the seventh talk in a seven-week series on lesser known Buddhist teachings titled "Thus Have I Heard." This talk revolves around a teaching in the Anuttara Nikaya (AN 4:255) that expresses the Buddha's very practical advice for protecting one's material goods and wealth. He recommends that people 1) look for things that are lost, 2) repair things that are broken, 3) be moderate in consuming food and drink, and 4) place a virtuous person in the position of authority.
Shaila Catherine gave this talk on planning tendencies of the mind. Papanca is a Pali term that means proliferation. A lot of our planning is not preparation for action. Rather, it's a form of dukkha: chronic planning may be a manifestation of anxiety, restlessness, worry, or obsessive thinking about "who I will be." Planning is fuel for self-becoming, self-grasping; restless planning perpetuates the fantasy of a future we think we can control or predict, but such future may never happen. Instead of habitually indulging in planning tendencies, we can train our attention to be mindful of life as it actually unfolds. We can thus learn to calm fantasies that distract the mind, let go of expectations, and gradually strengthen concentration to be more fully present. We can also curb the tendency to become lost in imagined scenarios of hope and fear about life's events.
Shaila Catherine gave the sixth talk in a series on Recollective Meditations. This talk explores the practice of devanusatti — contemplating the good qualities that lead to happiness in this life and future lives. This practice emphasizes five specific qualities: faith, virtue, learning, generosity, and wisdom. One first reflects on the superior qualities of the devas, and then contemplates those same qualities within oneself. By contemplating the success of celestial beings, we might realize that success is also possible for us. This practice can inspire us to develop those beautiful qualities of heart and mind.