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Focused and Fearless: A Meditator's Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  190 ratings  ·  10 reviews
With this accesssible guide, meditators (and non-meditators) can understand how to attain extraordinary states with relative ease. Blended with contemporary examples and pragmatic "how to" instructions that anyone can try, Focused and Fearless provides a wealth of tools to cultivate non-distracted attention in daily life and on retreat. Shaila Catherine has a friendly, ...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Published April 28th 2008 by Wisdom Publications (first published January 1st 2008)
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Steve
May 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is about states of mind called "The Jhanas" in Buddhist meditation. The jhanas are states of intense concentration. Shalia Catherine describes each of these mental states and suggests exercises that will eventually help in achieving these states.

Though many techniques exist for achieving the jhanas Catherine sticks to using meditation on breathing. This technique will be familiar to people who are interested in "insight meditation". The meditation technique in the book is pretty much
...more
Ulf Wolf
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
After encountering Buddhism tangentially in the 1960s, I have now been a practicing Buddhist for the last eight or so years, focusing on the Theravada tradition and on Ānāpānasati practice.

I am also studying Wisdom Publication’s now excellent translations of the Pali Canon where the Jhānas are mentioned if not in every Sutta, then in every other one. They are, to put it mildly, firmly part of the Theravada Path.

That said, I have read just about everything I can lay my hands on concerning the
...more
Dor
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I wrote this as an email to Shaila, and I believe it fits here as a review as well as that it may help others discover the qualities this book has to offer.

***

Dear Shaila,

I’m writing to express my appreciation of, and gratitude for, your book.

I’ve now read it cover to cover along with a re-read of a few select sections over a period of a month and through two (short, weekend) retreats.
It was a treat to practice alongside with, elucidating many aspects of both Samadhi and Vipassana. Generally, I
...more
Richard
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Ironically, this book is a bit unfocused.

It starts with a clear mission statement: discuss concentration practices (the luminous jhanas) that are only accessible during long retreats. Great, that's an underdiscussed part of meditation.

The problem arises when she decides to expand her scope to practice in general, with asides on things like integrating practice into work or home life. Those sections are unremarkable, and drag the quality down.
Ulf Wolf
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After encountering Buddhism tangentially in the 1960s, I have now been a practicing Buddhist for the last eight or so years, focusing on the Theravada tradition and on Ānāpānasati practice.

I am also studying Wisdom Publication’s now excellent translations of the Pali Canon where the Jhānas are mentioned if not in every Sutta, then in every other one. They are, to put it mildly, firmly part of the Theravada Path.

That said, I have read just about everything I can lay my hands on concerning the
...more
Shinta
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
A handbook to keep and re-read as your practice continues. Both samatha and vipassana are wings you should develop together to fly to the other shore. The practice is full of ups and downs. Next time I go to a meditation retreat I will try one of her practical tips; develop insight every time you come out of deep concentration. Don't wait for the higher attainments to start gaining insight.

Very humorous and human. I laughed a lot enjoying the personal stories and anecdotes between the serious
...more
Juergen
Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Good overview of Buddhist concentration practices, in particular the deep absorptive states known as "jhanas." This book does a good job describing the jhanic factors, the states that precede absorption as well as technical descriptions of the first four "rupa" or "material" jhanas, as well as the latter four "arupa" or "non-material" forms. Catherine also gives good exercises and explications from the suttas to help guide the reader through the technical territory.
Amy Karon
Aug 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding book on concentration meditation. Practices are clearly explained and placed in context. Catherine's writing ability and depth and breadth of knowledge are outstanding, far beyond that of most authors in this genre. These practices help me work more effectively and feel calmer, more focused, and more able to accept and respond to the ups and downs of being a freelance medical writer. -- Amy Karon, Karon Medical Writing, LLC
Tomas Likar
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
You want to sit and meditate? Don't read this book then, just sit and meditate. But later when you feel like doing something else, you might want to read this book. Priceless when accompanied with practice, arid and empty without it.
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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. She has extensive experience ...more
“There are two kinds of happiness; the kind to be pursued and the kind to be avoided,” the Buddha said.“When I observed that in the pursuit of such happiness, unwholesome factors increased and wholesome factors decreased, then that happiness was to be avoided. When I observed that in the pursuit of such happiness unwholesome factors decreased and wholesome ones increased, then that happiness was to be sought after.”7 The Buddha asks us: What pursuits lead to wholesome forces developing? And what pursuits lead to unwholesome forces thriving? The Buddha was a proponent of an efficient, long-term, sustainable approach to happiness, never settling for resigned acceptance of limited conventional comforts.” 1 likes
“You can save yourself a lot of anguish by investigating your response to the fundamental qualities of pleasure and pain. If you are unmindful of a pleasant feeling, the underlying tendency to greed gets activated. If you are unmindful of an unpleasant feeling, the underlying tendency to aversion gets activated. If you are unmindful of a neutral feeling, the underlying tendency to delusion gets activated.11 People commonly try to increase the pleasant, react against the unpleasant, and are dulled, confused, or inattentive to the neutral feelings. A skillful meditator will develop the flexibility to direct awareness to these subtler layers of experience and investigate the interaction of pleasure and greed, pain and aversion, neutrality and delusion.” 1 likes
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