Where did you grow up? In the San Francisco peninsula area.

When did you become a Buddhist and why? I started meditating in 1980 and discovered Buddhism with my first ten-day meditation retreat a couple of years later.

Is your family Buddhist? No.

What’s your daily practice? I enjoy basic mindfulness with breathing and other satipatthana practices.

Longest retreat? 10 months.

Who is your teacher? I have practiced with a number of amazing Asian teachers including H. W. L. Poonja in India, Pa-Auk Sayadaw of Myanmar, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu in Thailand, Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche in Nepal. I am also very grateful for my skilled and inspiring Western teachers, including Christopher Titmuss, Anna Douglas, Joseph Goldstein, and Sharon Salzberg.

Coffee or tea? I prefer teas. I like many kinds of teas . . . fine Japanese green teas and also milky ginger cardamom chai.

Why did you want to teach a dharma talk on this particular topic for Tricycle? Working with distraction and habitual thoughts supports deep concentration and leads to deep insights into the emptiness of the self. Therefore, overcoming distraction offers a rich arena for nurturing both concentration and insight practice. I find the step-wise practices offered in the early Buddhist discourses to be a convenient and easy-to-work-with systematic method for addressing distraction. I have enjoyed teaching this method in courses and retreats, and earlier this year I published a book on this subject called Beyond Distraction: Five Practical Ways to Focus the Mind.

Shaila Catherine’s Dharma Talk will be published in February at tricycle.org/dharmatalks.