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).
Doubt can be an obstacle to meditation or a form of healthy inquiry. It is helpful to ask questions, to ponder, and be willing to doubt our beliefs and opinions. Ask yourself: are my views true? We hold many unexamined beliefs—beliefs about self, about how things should be, about what other people should do. The Kalama Sutta encourages us to question what we think, and to not adopt beliefs based on hearsay or mere tradition. We can use our minds to critically inquire into how things actually are. Doubt as an obstacle, on the other hand, is a painful state that leads to confusion, fear, indecision, and uncertainty. It manifests as obsessive thinking, planning, and anxiety. The Discourse to Malunkyaputta (Middle Length Discourses, M. 63) proposes that if we indulge in speculative thinking we might miss the opportunity to free ourselves from suffering. Specific suggestions are offered for working skillfully with the hindrance of doubt.