Shaila Catherine, has been practicing meditation since 1980, with more than eight years of accumulated silent retreat experience. She 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. Shaila Catherine has practiced under the guidance of Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw since 2006; she authored Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana to help make this traditional approach to meditative training accessible to western practitioners. She is the founder of Insight Meditation South Bay, a Buddhist meditation center in Silicon Valley.
We make many decisions and choices in our lives. To choose one option, we inevitably sacrifice other possibilities. Beliefs and personal standpoints limit the range of our options. What are your priorities in life? What are your strongest intentions and aspirations? The Kalama Sutta offers recommendations for making decisions—consider what leads to happiness and what leads to harm. The ten unwholesome and ten wholesome actions, and ethical precepts are explored in this talk as guidelines for wise decision making.
This talk introduces the Four Elements Meditation as a systematic method for developing mindfulness of the body. A guided meditation and instructions are provided that reveal the body as a dynamic interaction of characteristics classified as earth (hardness, roughness, heaviness, softness, smoothness, lightness), water (flowing, cohesion), fire (heat, cold), and wind (supporting, pushing).
This talk explores equanimity as the fourth of the four qualities called Brahma Viharas. Previous talks in this series addressed loving kindness, compassion, and appreciative joy. Equanimity allows us to remain present and awake with the fact of things—equally close to the things we like and the things we dislike. It is important to develop equanimity in two arenas: 1) in response to pleasant and painful feelings, and 2) regarding the future results of our actions. Equanimity develops in meditation and in life. We can use unexpected events that we cannot control to develop this quality. Our job is not to judge our experiences, but to be present and respond wisely. Equanimity is a beautiful mental factor that can feel like freedom, but if "I" and "mine" still operate, there is still work to be done. Many suggestions are offered for cultivating equanimity.
Appreciative joy (sympathetic joy, mudita) is the third of four qualities called Brahma Viharas (divine abodes) which are the subjects for this 4-part lecture series. Appreciative joy is presented as an extension of the loving kindness (metta) practice. Joy refers to the ability to delight and rejoice in the success and good fortune of others. Mudita overcomes the hindrances and obstacles of conceit, comparing, envy, avarice, jealousy, aversive criticism, resentment, competitiveness, and boredom.
Compassion, karuna, is the intention of non-cruelty. It is the aspect of loving kindness (metta) that responds wisely to pain, and wishes to alleviate suffering. Compassion training helps us to remain present with pain. There is no need to fear pain, no need to consider pain bad or wrong. A compassionate self-acceptance allows us to remain present and responsive in the face of life's most difficult moments. With compassion we can ask "How can I help?" and stay present to respond.
Loving Kindness, friendliness (metta) is a clear intention and attitude of heart that supports a connected and joyful encounter with life. Metta is not sentimentality; it is not affection or attachment. It is a strong quality of heart that overcomes ill will, hatred, fear, and anger. Loving kindness practice is a way to take responsibility for our own happiness; it is a way to cultivate an attitude to life that supports deep friendship.
Be as you are. This talk encourages a spacious and accepting attitude that embraces experience just as it is occurring. It is inspired by non-meditation approaches that bring relaxation, release, and ease to awareness without the exertion or efforts of striving. Mindfulness instructions are simple: observe your experience of sensory contact, observe what occurs at any sense door. You don't need to do very much with what you observe. See what is happening; be present with what is. Several obstacles to deep presence are examined. We learn to release attachments to material stuff, to overcome the influence of social expectation, and to renounce distracting and unskillful speech. We also learn to free the mind from mental proliferation, worry, and restless wandering; to embrace precepts that protect us from doing habitual or selfish actions; and to let go of clinging whenever it arises. This approach illuminates the power of renunciation; the calming of concepts of self, I, me, and mine; and the great peace that brings an end to suffering.