IMSB Teachers

Shaila Catherine
Founder & Principal Teacher

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, (Wisdom Publications, 2008). She has extensive experience with the practice of metta, including seven months exploring metta as the meditation subject in retreats. In recent years, Shaila had continued her study of jhana and insight with the guidance of Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw of Burma. She authored Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana (Wisdom Publications, 2011) to help make this traditional approach to meditative training accessible to western practitioners.

Interviews, Articles, Written and Audio Teachings

Read Shaila's Blog

Read interviews, articles, and written teachings, or listen to audio talks by Shaila Catherine.

   Listen to Shaila interviewed by The Secular Buddhist


Shaila brings a wealth of personal experience to the Dharma that exceeds teachers who are a generation older than herself. As a dedicated practitioner of Dharma, she spent several years in India and Thailand to deepen her experience, her meditations and her understanding of the core issues of life. Shaila has never been one to rest on the past. Like yogis of old, she loves entering into extensive periods of silence and personal retreat. Such commitment gives her voice enormous authority. I would encourage everyone, from the complete beginner to the most seasoned meditator and mind/body professional to listen to the teachings and guidance of Shaila.

Christopher Titmuss Teacher of Insight and Inquiry, and author of many books including Light on Enlightenment and An Awakened Life

Shaila Catherine represents a new generation of Dharma practitioner in the West, with in-depth experience studying with some of the greatest masters of both the Theravadan and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Her commitment to intensive practice has been matched by her dedication to study, and her exploration of the practice of concentration and jhanas reflects both these strengths.

Sharon Salzberg Insight Meditation Society cofounder and author of Loving Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience, and several other books on Buddhism

Shaila is a terrific Dharma teacher and accomplished Buddhist practitioner, a genuine Bodhisattva. I have known her for many years, in both India and America. We studied and practiced together under some of the same master teachers and now enjoy a close collegial friendship. She has a clear mind and a generous, loving and unselfish heart. I believe that anyone interested in our practice tradition would benefit by studying with her.

Lama Surya Das founder of Dzogchen Center, meditation teacher, and author of many Buddhist books including Awakening the Buddha Within

Shaila is an excellent teacher with a vast knowledge and personal experience of meditation and dharma practice. She is quite unique in the breadth of her experience, which arises from years of dedicated learning from the greatest living masters of Myanmar, India and the West. She teaches deep concentration practice (jhana), which is hard to find from other teachers in the West. Yet as a teacher she is approachable, light, easy, humorous and clear. There is a precision and clarity in her teaching. Her language and approach inspire trust and confidence with her students and pave the way for good reliable practice. She is helpful and personal, and students don't feel that there is any distance or issues which might inhibit personal guidance. In short, Shaila is an excellent and wise dharma teacher.

Dr. Stephen Fulder Founder and senior teacher for The Israel Insight Society (Tovana)

Shaila Catherine is a deep, wonderful Dharma teacher and one of the most profound Buddhist practitioners in the West. She has a warm heart and is also gifted with crystal clarity of thought. Her talks and instructions glow with simplicity, humility and humor. Shaila also guides by example, a laywoman who has crafted a beautifully dedicated life. I highly recommend Shaila as a trustworthy and compassionate guide who has walked the path in many traditions and forms, and has the ability to help sincere students— at any level—to find ease for the suffering of our human condition and to discover its hidden potential.

Lila Kate Wheeler writer and meditation teacher

Shaila Catherine is a wonderful teacher who freely quotes from the suttas at will, and is able to offer these ancient teachings while keeping them fresh, vibrant and alive. With great compassion, she offers her wealth of firsthand knowledge in a very approachable and palatable manner. Shaila is not the kind of teacher who offers a dharma talk and then is off sequestered the rest of the day; she's the kind of teacher that is right there with you, practicing along with you, all day long, showing you the proof is in the pudding...and I don't know about you, but I find great comfort in that. It's easy to see that Shaila isn't just reciting from texts that she has memorized— she is teaching directly from her heart. She teaches from direct experience gained through years and years of fruitful, productive and intensive personal practice, while still being a great steward of her amazing lineage of powerful teachers. In all the other retreats I've been on, my teachers have ranged from being totally unapproachable to minimally accessible. Shaila breaks the mold and offers herself, her teachings, her direct experience, and the great teachings from her respected lineage freely and openly. Months after my retreat, my heart is still full of gratitude for what Shaila was kind enough to offer me. I cannot recommend Shaila as a teacher enough.

Gary Sanders Dharma Teacher with Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society

Shaila is a clear, fervent, eloquent, delightful voice within the movement to restore a well-rounded understanding of Buddha-Dhamma, which is itself a healthy sign of maturity within American Buddhism. Shaila is not one of those bliss junkies one occasionally meets, the sort who claim jh?na experiences, often over the top, and cavalierly disregard the main thrust of the Buddha’s middle way. While the many synonyms of joy are prominent throughout her book, they are well-grounded in the actual jh?na teachings, the broader Dhamma context of those teachings, careful reflections on experience, and the influences of competent teachers. Most of all, her teaching is in service of quenching dukkha, not merely 'attainments.' Shaila poses many good questions for our reflection that challenge common assumptions and thinking. Many of us have had enough of being told the way things are. I find it more helpful to be challenged with questions that provoke to inquire for ourselves. The best questions point us to look in the places we most need to understand yet least want to look. Shaila rightly sees emptiness (suññat? ) and non-clinging at the heart of practice. Surely, this helps her and us to avoid being partisan regarding technique. Arguments over technical expertise are generally distracting and often fraught with clinging, hubris, or both. Rather than the trendy promises of pop Buddhism — better relationships and the like — Shaila's teaching points to the promise of non-clinging to anything in this world, that is, liberation from suffering.

Santikaro Dhamma Teacher and editor of Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree

Guest Teachers

Insight Meditation South Bay hosts an array of guest speakers for the purpose of broadening our understanding of awakening. We at IMSB deeply appreciate the teachings contributed by distinguished teachers of the Theravadan tradition, the atmosphere of open inquiry created by speakers from the Zen and Tibetan traditions, the inspired contributions of local practitioners, and the myriad facets of wisdom offered by a variety of local researchers and guests who offer their expertise and insight on specific topics. You can find biographies for some of our regular guest teachers on the Movement Practices page.