Episode 160 ENCORE The Best Of HCP | The Inward Facing Journey: Interview With Joe Gilbert

Dec 20, 2023

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Why do some people embark on spiritual journeys? How is the mind like a puppy when it comes to meditation? What can you do to make yourself “lighter”?

MEET Joe Gilbert

Joe Gilbert is a clinical mental health counselor and meditation teacher. His primary office is at the Cedar Walk Wellness Center in Hillsborough, NC. He lives with his wife in Hillsborough, and enjoys hiking and backpacking, listening to the birds, and cuddling with his animal companions.

Find out more at Gilbert Meditation 

FREE meditation group hosted by Joe Gilbert


  • Why would you want to embark on an inward-facing journey?
  • Stilling your mind
  • Travel lighter

Why Would You Want To Embark On An Inward Facing Journey?

We hear people say “I want to be more present. I want to be in the present moment” and the reality is that you are never out of the present moment, it’s just for a lot of us – a lot of the time – we don’t like it and so we think there’s something wrong, that I need to go out of my soul to find something to fix it. (Joe Gilbert)

Many people live on autopilot, unaware or dissociating from their current reality, and think that they need to achieve something other than themselves in order to find peace, or presence, in their current lived experience.

Going on an inward-facing journey means meeting your own needs so that you can be present in your reality without running away from it. You meet your needs, put your ego to rest and simply be, without worrying continually.

I knew I could not keep living my life the way I was living it … I always had existential questions … a lot of the times I would get the response “just don’t think about it, no big deal” …there was this continual pull from me to question everything … self-inquiry to me is continuing to ask “what’s true here?” And we find out what’s true by stripping away what’s false. (Joe Gilbert)

Surrendering helps you to let go of the structures that you hold onto that remain the perception of what you think your reality is. Surrender, and open yourself up.

Stilling Your Mind

Find what works for you, because some people need:

More movement:

People who find stillness in mind and spirit could try a form of yoga, tai chi, or a gentle hike to move the body without becoming over-excited.

To get rid of the script:

Get rid of the idea of what you think meditation and stillness look like because it is different for everyone.

To stop running:

Stop running from something, because yoga works well when you settle into the unknown and say “yes” to what comes up if it resonates with you and your Higher-self.

To trust your intuition:

This may take a little while, but use meditation as a way to get back in touch with your intuition, and you can even use your intuition to get in touch with meditation.

Treat your mind like an excited puppy. It will run off and get distracted and want to play and collide into a million things at once, but you accept it for where it is and you do not yell at it because you understand that it is new to the world, just as your mind is new to meditation.

Travel Lighter

We just travel lighter [so] we don’t take ourselves so seriously, and when I’m not taking myself so seriously, I don’t have much to defend, I don’t get so defensive … I don’t get addicted looking for something that is going to somehow save me. (Joe Gilbert)

Through embarking on an inward journey you can travel lighter through life. By completing a spiritual journey and figuring out who you really are, what is really important, and what you really want to focus your energy and attention on, you become lighter.

When you know what is important to you, you can release all the rest that is weighing you down and keeping you stuck in the past and stuck in old habits that no longer serve you.

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The Art of Breath: How to Integrate Breathwork Techniques for Effective Therapy Sessions with Chris McDonald, LCMHCS

Resources Mentioned And Useful Links:

Find out more at Gilbert Meditation 

FREE meditation group hosted by Joe Gilbert


Chris McDonald: Hey there, it's Chris McDonald. I wanted to introduce this Encore episode called The Inward Facing Journey with the amazing meditation teacher, Joe Gilbert. This originally aired in July, 2021. He is such an inspiration to me and really helped guide me on my own meditation journey. This episode continues to be downloaded and listened to even two years later.

But I think the title says it all. We are all wanting to take that journey within and discover more about our true nature. And there's so much wisdom in this episode that I think you'll get a lot out of it. I hope you enjoy it. Here it comes right now. This is Holistic Counseling, the podcast for mental health therapists who want to deepen their knowledge of holistic modalities and build their practice with confidence.

I'm your host, Chris McDonald, Licensed Therapist. I am so glad you're here for the journey.

I am so honored to bring today's guest to you. Joe Gilbert is someone who helped me move my own personal meditation practice forward. When I joined his meditation group many years ago, I am forever grateful for his help and guidance. He is a clinical mental health counselor and meditation teacher. His primary office is at the Cedar Walk Wellness Center in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

He discovered Tara Brock in 2009, started attending retreats with her and other teachers. And eventually completed a two year teacher training program taught by Tara Brock and Jack Cordfield. He lives with his wife in Hillsboro, enjoys hiking, backpacking, listening to the birds and cuddling with his animal companions.

Welcome to the podcast, Joe. Thanks, Chris. It's a

Joe Gilbert: pleasure to be

Chris McDonald: here. Uh, so can you tell my listeners a little more about yourself and your work?

Joe Gilbert: Sure. So I, let's see, I became a counselor in 2004. I went to school at Penn State for rehabilitation counseling in particular, where I was trained in person centered counseling, which was based on the work of Carl Rogers.

And I worked for a treatment center, alcoholism treatment center for Two to four years, I guess, before starting to work with some outpatient clinics and agencies, and I developed my own private practice in 2014, and that was in Raleigh, and my wife and I moved to Hillsborough not too long ago, and I'm very grateful and fortunate to have found a space at the Cedar Walk Wellness Center, where I do individual counseling for adults, and I'm hoping once the pandemic is mostly behind us to do some more.

Introduction to mindfulness meditation classes, as well as some self inquiry groups for those who are just more contemplative in nature.

Chris McDonald: Excellent. I know you're very much contemplative in nature,

Joe Gilbert: right? It seems that way. Not by choice. Maybe we'll get into that a little bit.

Chris McDonald: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I feel as I was looking at your website and I was like, there's a real feeling of calm and just focus and reflection.

I don't know if that's. You did some meditation before creating your website, but it just, that's the energy I got

Joe Gilbert: off of it. Oh, thank you. Thank you. It's constantly changing. I try to keep the website fresh and organic. It seems like anytime I have a good insight, you know, life will slap me in the face the next day and I need to reevaluate everything.

And so I just try to update it based on the quality of perception I have at any given time. Well,

Chris McDonald: that makes sense. I really love it. It comes through to very genuine and real. I could see that for clients as well. I want to hear more about your training to be a certified mindfulness meditation teacher with Tara Brach.

Can you tell us about that?

Joe Gilbert: Sure. Prior to 2009, I had been searching through various spiritual traditions, looking for happiness, looking for an anchor, looking for something to help me just with my own personal suffering and a lot of existential grappling, if you will. And then I. I was working at Triangle Pastoral Counseling and Kelly Walker Jones, I think, recommended Tara Brock and her book, Radical Acceptance, and that was what really resonated with me, with my mind and my heart at the time, and I just dove in, which was great because prior to that, I had been digging a lot of small holes in different traditions, which can get confusing at times for people, I think.

And before you know it, I was doing some retreats with Tara. She really helped me to keep it simple in a way, just by I think, Talking about the two wings of mindfulness practice. So there's the awareness wing, or we're just saying to ourselves, what am I noticing? And then the compassion piece, which is the question, can I be with this?

Whatever is here right now. So keeping it that simple was a way to help me just bring into closer concentration what's right in front of me and to notice any resistances that I have to what is right in front of me. And then to work with those resistances, seeing those as skillful means or tools along

Chris McDonald: the way.

I love the simplicity, but.

And then looking at if there is resistance, can I accept where I am? And that's powerful.

Joe Gilbert: Yeah. If we look at in Buddhist teachings, for instance, we look at the classical hindrances and I like the way they're framed. Typically, if you go on a meditation retreat, they are talked about in the first couple of days as these energies that you can expect to show up in a sense.

And they're a nice reminder that if you see these, it's. There's a good indication that you're onto something, so you might notice desire, craving, grasping, or you might the opposite of that, which would be aversion or hatred or anger, ill will, experiences of restlessness, agitation, anxiety, depression, what they call sloth and torpor, just mental or physical sluggishness, and then the big one, self doubt, which is the hardest to see often, but the most insidious, if you will, when it comes to our practice and our walk in daily life with others.

Chris McDonald: Oh, that's great. I was looking at your, you offer meditation services separate from individual therapy. So was there a reason you do that?

Joe Gilbert: I just really found that I enjoyed it. I, I really, there's something very simple about that in the sense that. Most of the practice takes place outside of my office, so I'll sit with somebody, and it really, we just dive right in and say, you know, how's your practice?

What are you working on? And people will share with me what's showing up for them, and that, in a way, dictates the course of how this work unfolds. So based on what their experience is, we can say, okay, well, let's keep going in this direction, or let's try something different. And then I really enjoy practicing with people, too, so those who are willing to come and sit and be still, just notice mindfulness in front of them.

Um, and explore a bit, there's a level of intimacy in there that I think is, is healing in itself. Yeah. I imagine so. Yeah. It's like, it's something that, you know, I, I, there's only a handful of people where I work with in that manner, but it's something that I really enjoy and I hope to do more of it. And with the groups I really enjoyed too.

And I'd really missed doing groups over the last year or

Chris McDonald: so. So you were doing some of the in person meditation

Joe Gilbert: groups? I was. Yes. And I, uh. It was mostly an introduction to mindfulness meditation groups that I was doing, but I learned so much from the students and there's just such a built in quality of support and tenderness for one another that evolves over the course of the eight weeks typically.

Chris McDonald: And I noticed too that you said donation based service. Was this part of the training that they said that this was best or is this something that comes from you and your calling? That's what feels

Joe Gilbert: right for me. We spent a lot of time talking about, you know, paying attention to. Our position as a teacher and the traps of money of power of abusing sexuality, for instance, and also about finding a place where you're comfortable charging for meditation services, which I guess in a lot of traditional ways of looking at that might be considered a no.

No. So for me, it's something that again spills out. I mean, it's something that is with the 24 seven. So it seems weird for me to charge something that is so natural. And in a way, I'm meeting people where I don't have anything to offer them. You know, I'm just trying to point to something that's already within them and helping them to see for themselves in a way it doesn't feel, it feels large for me to charge them for something that they already have,

Chris McDonald: Something they already have inside them.

That's great. I love it. And on your website. I, I just want to read what you wrote. He said, if you find yourself here, perhaps you are ready for what I call the inward facing journey. This typically occurs when we become exhausted with a search for happiness outside ourselves, which kind of goes in with what you just said.

Can you share a little bit more about that inward facing journey?

Joe Gilbert: Sure, sure. And I guess that's a. Uh, I was thinking about the, why would somebody want to meditate? Why would somebody want to do what I call the inward facing journey for, for a lot of people, a lot of your listeners, this may not resonate and that's totally okay.

I remember going on a retreat with Tara and her husband, Jonathan Faust, and at the end of the retreat, he said, now, a lot of you have had some really significant insights of the course of this week, and there's a lot of excitement and energy that you want to bring back into the world. He said, now be mindful when you go back into the world that most people have not been on a seven day meditation retreat.

When you start sharing some of these insights, pay attention to the moment where their eyes glaze over. And that's where you want to stop talking about it. So this conversation we're having may resonate with certain people, but for a lot of people, it may not. So for me, the inward journey was not something I chose necessarily, but it was almost out of necessity because I had tried everything else, right?

I was really suffering. I had my own experiences of depression, anxiety, you know, abusing substances. And it's almost like the Christian story of the prodigal son running away from myself, looking for. Happiness, goodies, experiences, something to lock down outside of myself that would, I don't know, I don't know what I was looking for, right?

Just not this. There was something about this that was not okay. And I think that's a challenge for a lot of people is, you know, we hear people say, I want to be more present. I want to be in the present moment. And the reality is you're never out of the present moment. It's just for a lot of us, a lot of the time, we don't like it, and so we think there's something wrong, and I need to go out of myself to try to find something to fix it.

And that pursuit itself, especially in the spiritual path, can be laden with traps for our ego, too. The ego loves to wrap itself in a spiritual cloak and mala beads, and so in a way, it was hitting a wall. It was a surrender for me. There was a specific moment one night in November many years ago where I knew I just surrendered.

And I saw something very clear. I knew I could not keep living my life the way that I was living it. And then it became just a I'd always had existential questions. Even as a kid, I remember asking my parents about death. And a lot of times, you know, from others, I would get the response, just don't think about it.

No big deal. And as you know, just don't think about it. It doesn't work. So there is this continual pull for me. To question everything, and again, that's what the immigration journey is and what meditation is to me, self inquiry is continuing to ask what's true here in a way we're finding out what's true by stripping away what's false or what's an illusion, does that make sense?

That makes

Chris McDonald: sense. Yeah. I'm just thinking about what you're saying and how has meditation changed your life?

Joe Gilbert: A lot of people who've known me for a while say that I'm a lot more boring, which is fine by me because I'm a lot more peaceful. Really, things are simple. Meditation started off as a tool. Again, it was another practice to get me somewhere.

But eventually that got in the way too. You know, I was using meditation to achieve some state of consciousness to try to feel better. You know, I would meditate in order to feel better, which is very similar to saying, I want to get this car so that I will feel better. So it can be just as sneaky in that way, right?

It can, our ego can really take us for a ride in the spiritual path. And so we have to be pretty vigilant of doing that. And at some point I had to learn a different way and I landed on what's commonly known as a direct path. You may have heard of teachers like Adyashanti or Rupert Spiro, Gangaji, and these teachers have a, they start from the position of awareness, which in a way, The progressive path, like I was aligned with Kapasana or more Tarabrock and Jack Clonfield style is a gradual progression towards becoming more and more aware.

The direct path starts from awareness in a sense. It assumes, and I would say it's already the case that you are awareness, right? And then we can take that stance and learn to see the world ourselves and other people in a different way. It's letting go of the act of doing in meditation and simply being in your natural state, which is meditation, really.

Chris McDonald: So how is your natural state meditation?

Joe Gilbert: That it's quite simple. It's Have you heard of the 5 4 relaxation technique that we use? Yes. Can I

Chris McDonald: just review that real quick? Sure

Joe Gilbert: So it's basically we take a pause maybe a few deep breaths and then we say Okay, what are five things that I can see around me? And I might just let my attention drift slowly around the room and I might name all spider plants.

There's a tufted titmouse outside my window right now. And name a few more things. And then I might say, okay, what are four things that I can touch? And I might just even Rub my thumb on my forefinger together. Notice the texture and the quality of that, that sensation. Then grab my jeans. And then three things that I can hear.

I can bring my awareness to the, the white noise machine outside of my, my room right now. There's a low murmur of something outside in my neighborhood. And then two things that I can smell

and then what do I taste? What's one thing that I taste right now? And in a way, just doing that exercise alone can bring some relief. You know, if you do it patiently, it'll take anywhere from, yeah, two to five minutes. And it just helps you just reorient a little bit. Excuse me. But what I like about it is it reminds you that these things are always and already happening.

You don't have to do anything to see. You don't have to do anything to hear or to have your tactile senses or your sense of smell or your taste. These things are always already happening naturally and you're not doing any of that. But we have this part of us this mental process, right? We identify with thoughts that claims it.

I am doing these things. And therefore, I am in control of my thoughts, and I am in control of my behaviors, and we become addicted to this sense of self, this I, and we, we really go blindly from that, and most of us have a sense of insecurity, there's something wrong with this sense of self, and I need to go off onto the self improvement hamster wheel to get somewhere that is different than that.

And so the natural state is just going backwards. It's the moment when the prodigal son turns around to come home. And then you might hear somebody say, stop, go back. He really just rests as best as he can. And in a way, when we try to do that, we realize how hard it is for us to rest. Most of us are trained to be distracted.

We are just living at a, at a speed that, for me at least, was unsustainable. And so I really had no choice but to learn how to slow down. And fortunately, I have a, I've had a lot of great teachers along the way to help me do just that.

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You support your clients, Alma supports you. Visit helloalma. com to learn more. That's helloalma. com. Yeah. How do you help clients or anyone you work with meditation? If they say that they can't still their mind or it's hard for them to really get into a meditative state, how do you help them?

Joe Gilbert: Sure. I normalize that.

I mean, everybody I think that I've worked with who starts to meditate experiences profound self doubt initially. Uh, because a lot of people have ideas about meditation being, uh, the absence of thoughts, right? And we have these images from spiritual magazines of, uh, you know, somebody on a mountaintop wearing white linen and mallow beads with a smile, and I think I listed on my website a more accurate depiction of that might be somebody at a detox center throwing up into a toilet.

Meditation, especially initially, it's not fun for a lot of people. It's challenging. So I try to normalize that right away. Like it's, you're going to be met with resistance. You're going to, you're going to notice how insane our mental process is and how agitated our body is, how challenging it is to, to slow that down.

And there are so many different ways to meditate, how to practice mindfulness with people. I really invite people to find what's going to work for them. Some people may need more movement. So yoga or Tai Chi, walking meditation. Yeah, a lot of times it can be counterintuitive to just force yourself to sit still.

If you have a mood disorder, for instance, and you're in a hypomanic episode, right? Forcing yourself to sit still is going to be a lot more challenging. So just working with each individual with their direct experience and going from there. Um, but also trying to strip away the idea that you're going anywhere, right?

I think that's why it's so important to say, well, what's my intention here? Am I meditating because I want to get away from something or because ultimately meditation is learning to say, yes, it's learning to say, this is it. Can I, can I accept that? And it doesn't mean that we don't take action, it just, in a sense, it reduces our reactivity, our addiction to ourself, and allows us to actually be more responsible in ways that only meditation can show you.

I can't show you that just by speaking about it. True.

Chris McDonald: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And the benefits are just astounding. I know, since I, and you helped me a lot to get more into that consistent practice and I meditate almost every day. I can't say every day because there are some days when I work out and I don't have time, but most days I meditate, but I tell you, it really has changed my brain.

So I don't have that reactivity distress. Yeah. That's great. Automatic crash. I think that's a big one.

Joe Gilbert: And I noticed. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Yeah. Just that, that sacred pause, right? Just even a half a second. Sacred pause. Yes. I think Adyashanti put it well. He says, you know, once we start to bring awareness into our lives, most of us have been driving a car 120 miles per hour.

But our foot on the accelerator, and once you start to practice mindfulness or meditation, it's like you, you start to notice your habit patterns. It's like taking your foot off that accelerator, but it doesn't mean that the car stops right away. It's still going pretty fast, but now you have a different quality of awareness.

You can bring to these habit patterns and gradually with curiosity, hopefully with less judgment, less shame, they begin to fall away on their own.

Chris McDonald: That's what I love with mindfulness meditation, because that's mostly what I teach and what I use myself. Just noticing that present moment and what's going on within you and what's going on in the room.

Just for me, it's easier now to connect that I've done it so often. I think that's the thing too, to tell clients that, you know, it does, it's a practice. That's why they call it meditation practice. It takes some time to get used

Joe Gilbert: to it. It's funny. You've heard that metaphor of training the puppy in meditation, right?

No, I haven't. So when you're training yourself to sit still with thoughts, the mind's going to run away like a puppy. You tell the puppy to sit. It's going to run away. You don't whip the puppy or be it about positive reinforcement. So you just say, Oh, okay, sweetheart, you ran off again. Come on back and you invite it to sit back in your lap.

And then it runs off again. And you gently keep on bringing it back, rewarding it. So I think there's an important piece and. Once we notice we've been lost in thought, that's a magical moment of mindfulness, but that's also where most of us whip ourselves and say, Oh, I'm doing something wrong. Like, why did I get lost in thought?

But that's the opportunity, really, to say, Oh, suddenly I'm awake again. And it's so critical to take that moment to re relax your whole nervous system, take a deep breath, stretch a little bit. And gradually come back to whatever your anchor is, just focusing on your breath or sound or the sensations in your hand.

And I've been using that metaphor for years, but now I have it's interesting to my wife and I've just adopted a puppy now too. And I've never had a puppy. We've always adopted older dogs. And so I'm having to use all of these teachings. Absolutely. I'm having to use my meditation training to teach myself how to train this puppy.

So I'm grateful for that.

Chris McDonald: Yeah. And that's, that's what I love with mindfulness meditation. It's, it's without judgment to bring your mind back when at one person. Yes. It's doing what it does. I love how you said opportunity. I've not heard of it that way.

Joe Gilbert: Yeah. The mental process is just, it's not, the mind is not a thing.

Like we've never found something called the mind. It really is. Just restlessness. And so if we can understand that, that can hopefully soften the urge to, to control it, to beat it into submission and just let it do its thing. And then over time, it proceeds into the background, at least the psychological mind, that part of our mind that is what I like to call the color commentator.

It's constantly chirping at us saying, we should do this, we should do that, we must do this, you need to be better, yada. And that can gradually with meditation, just take a back seat, so it stops driving the thoughts. And I've been using that metaphor a lot too with people, the sports metaphor, you know, we have a play by play commentator for most sports events.

And this is the person who's saying so and so passed the ball, who shot it, they scored, right? They're just saying, this is what's happening. And then you have the color commentator who comes in and says, yeah, but I really wish you would have passed it over here. And that would have made more sense. And they're adding all of this extra speculation and fluff.

And that's the voice that most of us have that we predicted to. And so meditation can gradually help us see, Oh, this thing, this, this experience is not who I am. And yet I have been believing it for how many decades, whatever. And so it's not like you cut the cord and it just goes away. You see it and you can fire this employee, but they keep showing back to work the next day.

Wow. Okay. You're here again. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for sharing. Great.

Chris McDonald: Is there any other benefits to meditation that you found yourself personally? Absolutely.

Joe Gilbert: I think I, I sleep better. That's for sure. Just non reactive in general, a lot more at peace with myself and therefore with others.

Blame, judgment, opinions, a lot of these things have fallen away. There's just a real simplicity to life. It's hard to put into words. It's too simple in a way that you can't put into words. Words are great pointers, but they often miss the mark. That's true. So my, my compassion for others has grown exponentially and it's not the compassion we read about.

It's just simple understanding of our interdependence. You know, I, I see myself in everybody I meet and if we, if we really start to look at what meditation can show us and we're starting neuroscience, starting to catch up with it. If we really understand that everything is made of the same stuff, right?

There's not two things. Interconnectedness. So this is this, this, it's what they call a divine hope, hypno hypnosis in certain traditions, right? We get, I like to think of the metaphor of a a, a carpet, right? A multifaceted kind of colorful carpet, right? Which is what, let's call it consciousness, Christ consciousness, Buddha nature, whatever you wanna call it.

It is the, the suchness, it's the fabric of life, but it, it expresses itself in this multiplicity of, and diversity of colors and contours. Which is what makes life really fun, right? Anyway, it allows us to go out and to have relationships and experiences, but we can also get caught in addictive behaviors too, right?

And judgment, you know, my strand is better than your strand. And Oh, this carpet is not as good as that carpet, failing to see the underlying reality of all of it. And so meditation can help us to not only understand that, but feel it too. And we can feel the interconnectedness of all things. How can it not affect the nature of our relationships?

The nature of our relationship to the natural world too. When I talk with people who are really sincere practitioners, I tell them this is an invitation to find a happiness that is not dependent on any object, any person, or any experience outside of yourself. Because fundamentally, we know that any of those things are temporary.

They're impermanent.

Chris McDonald: Yes, in that inward facing journey. Yeah,

Joe Gilbert: yeah. So with all the, with everything being like sand in our hands, what remains? So these are more of the contemplative kind of questions that we can ask ourselves before a meditation session.

Chris McDonald: Absolutely. I hear a

Joe Gilbert: bird. Yep, let's see what kind of bird this is.

Beautiful. I have a little suet feeder attached to my window and it's just perched over the top. Oh, how nice. It

Chris McDonald: looks like a wren. that's okay. More distracted. It's okay. We are living in the present moment, Joe.

Joe Gilbert: Mm hmm. It is alive.

Chris McDonald: Yeah, but I love all the research, too, about meditation and how it actually does change the brain.

Mm hmm. Mm hmm. That's just so. Yeah. Yeah.

Joe Gilbert: I think it's Daniel Siegel, perhaps he says, you know, we use our mind to change the brain to change the mind, which is really a skillful way of putting it, I think.

Chris McDonald: Yeah. And there's an intersection too with yoga and meditation because I do both and I do yoga every day, but sometimes doing yoga too can set you up for meditation as well.


Joe Gilbert: absolutely. That's what I love. Would you be comfortable sharing a bit about that with me, about your experience with how that has helped you?

Chris McDonald: Oh, absolutely. So I used to do, since I got used to doing the daily meditation, I would do meditation and then yoga. And then as I, I did the yoga certification program and learned that no, the asanas are what can help you to make your mind and body ready.

For meditation and the way my teacher taught it too, is that we would do asanas and then do a shavasana and then meditation, which was new for me because I've never had a yoga teacher do that before. So you're actually in a better state of mind to after shavasana. that you're ready for the meditation.

So there's certain postures that really can help with certain variations of yoga. So, yeah, it's just very interesting how everything is intertwined like that. It can make you more, I guess, more focused maybe for the meditation

Joe Gilbert: piece. Absolutely. Well, that's great. We've got such a wealth of different tools and traditions and With some teachers out there to see what resonates with us and find and craft our own path.

Chris McDonald: Yes, because that's one of the limbs of yoga too is meditation. So the interconnectedness right of that. Also from your website, I want to bring up before I forget. So this was something I read too that you said about several years ago after facing many years of spiritual seeking, you experienced a letting go of who I thought I was.

There was a profound shift in perspective. The unfolding process continues to this day. So can you share a little bit of what brought you to that place of that profound shift?

Joe Gilbert: Yeah, I'll try. I know you said it was hard to put into words. Yeah. You know, if you really dive into some of the Buddhist teachings and the contemplative teachings, it really is an invitation to let go of everything.

And we hear that all the time, don't let go, but a lot of us identify letting go with objects, with others, with experiences, but letting go of the body too, of the mind, of who we think we are. I mean, you and I can talk about our identity as a counselor, for instance, but also know that that is tenuous. At any given time, something could happen when we are no longer in the role of counselor.

So we understand that doesn't define who we are, and so this is taking that further and saying, Okay, well, am I this body? Right? And if so, what part of this body is me? Am I the brain with this three pounds of floating tofu like matter encased in a skull? Am I the fingernails? Am I my eye? What am I? And so we really start to peel that away, if we can.

It's a challenging process. And ultimately, it leads you to the understanding that what you are is not limited to the mind and the body. But it's basically, it's hard because we perceive things as, you know, I'm in here encased in this skin suit and the rest of the world is out there. And meditation, ultimately, and soaping, we can dissolve that boundary in a way so that we, one person says, we just travel lighter, and we don't take ourselves so seriously.

And when I'm not taking myself so seriously, I don't have much to defend. I don't get so defensive, right? I don't, I don't become addicted looking for something that is going to somehow save me. You know, as Alan Watts used to say to his audiences, he'd say, you all are here looking at me, and you have the same question.

You want to know if we're going to make it? He'd say, the answer, of course, is no. We're all looking for something that's going to say we're going to be okay, as a body, as a mind. So eventually I had to get to the point where I saw for myself that I'm holding on to something that is smoke and mirrors. And so that was then what propelled me into this deeper search, deeper inquiry.

And the metaphor, you know, I think there's a lot of metaphors and stories that I like in talking about this shift with others is that imagine that you and I are characters in a movie. You know, and we are having our adventures, you know, through life on, on, in this movie, on this movie screen. And at some point somebody says, pay attention to the screen, pay attention to the screen in which, by which the movie is playing on.

And so that's the shift I try to talk about all my life. I'm fine. I was this character on this movie going somewhere and suddenly there was the shift in perspective where I could see. What we are is the screen itself, but it also has space. It also is this kind of timeless field, if you will, that holds everything, everyone.

And then we can learn gradually to go back and forth. We can be the characters in the movie, we can have our experiences, we can enjoy life, but we can also rest as that screen is open. Transparent, luminous awareness, and that's so deep, Joe, it is. And at the same time, those simple now, right now, that doesn't mean that this, this character I call Joe doesn't get irritated.

You know, I still have real life stuff. Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So. Unfortunately, that stuff still happens, but there's not a sense of some awful person doing it, right? And a much easier, I have a much easier job of forgiving myself, you know. More perspective, yeah. And it makes it easier to shift into, okay, can I make some amends here, clean up my side of the street?

How do I learn from this?

Chris McDonald: How do I learn from this? That's a good strategy too.

Joe Gilbert: Not wallowing. Yeah. Not wallowing so much and reinforcing this idea of not being good enough or there's something wrong with me.

Chris McDonald: Oh, that's great. And I know you talk about spirituality with clients as well, and there's always that fine line with.

Mental health therapists, like how much can I say without pushing my own values and spiritual beliefs onto them? So how do you use spirituality with clients and sessions to make sure you're not crossing over that ethical line?

Joe Gilbert: Sure. Well, I have on my intake form. There's a question about spirituality And or people want to share that and so and then I might broach it in the intake to see if it's something that is support for them if they have a personal history with it that they like to share or make part of the counseling process.

Ultimately, I, I don't really even talk about it unless it's, it's brought up in a session. I rarely even use the word spirituality in my sessions with people. So you just leave

Chris McDonald: it up to them.

Joe Gilbert: I mean, ultimately from where I am, everything, everything is spiritual in a sense, and I don't have any kind of spiritual or religious beliefs anymore these days.

So in a way that makes it easy to not project beliefs onto others. That's true.

Chris McDonald: So just being open to what they bring to the

Joe Gilbert: table and And again, keep coming back to that simplicity of this is, it's just this what's right in front of us. And then, you know, we have our color commentator that describes this.

But if we were to, you know, I love to ask people to imagine that they're an infant. We have no concept of language, time, space, or other. What can you say about existence? It's just experience. It's just sensations and perceptions. Yeah, these minds that are great tools, but ultimately they, they create kind of an illusory quality to life.

We end up living in this virtual reality, the stories that our mind is creating.

Chris McDonald: Yeah. You gave a lot to think about today. We're

Joe Gilbert: good.

Chris McDonald: Definitely. Deeper thoughts today. On a Monday. So Joe, what's the takeaway you can share today that could help listeners who may be just starting their holistic journey?

Joe Gilbert: This is a hard one. And it's one that a teacher. She shared with me several years ago, and it took me a while to really understand what she was pointing to. So I'm not going to try to explain it to your listeners, but do your best and know that you can't mess up. Spend time, you know, five minutes a day just trying to be in your natural state, you know, and it's going to be different.

It's going to be more challenging for us depending on our makeup, the extent of our personal trauma and substance abuse and things like that. So to try to be gentle, don't compare yourself to anybody. Um, do your best and know that, you know, whatever shows up is your path, right? So, if you have, if it's just a storm, a torrent of awful thoughts and, and, and challenging feelings, that's the path, right?

That's what's showing up for you. That's the path. Yeah. That's what you work with. Yeah. So, it's not getting rid of those things. It's trying to say, okay, here you go. Here we are. What do I do with this? How do

Chris McDonald: I work with this? It kind of sounds like some of that self acceptance and acceptance of what is.


Joe Gilbert: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah.

Chris McDonald: So what's the best way for listeners to find you and learn more about you? Probably

Joe Gilbert: my website. Do you have that LinkedIn? Excuse me? Gilbert meditation. com.

Chris McDonald: Okay, great. So we'll put that in the show notes and it'll be on the website so listeners can find you on there.

Right. But, but thanks for coming on today, Joe.

Joe Gilbert: It's been a delight for us and it's just great to connect with you again and thank you so much

Chris McDonald: for doing that. Yes, for sure. I know. We got to keep it. Better in touch.

Joe Gilbert: We'll do our best, and yes, I'd love to meet with you for a cup of coffee or something.

Chris McDonald: Absolutely. That brings us to the end of another episode. Be sure to tune in next Wednesday when another episode drops. And listeners, are you ready to take your journey as a holistic therapist to the next level? I'd like to personally invite you to be a part of our growing community of like minded individuals who share that passion for holistic therapy and know the importance of self care.

So if you haven't joined yet, come to my Facebook group. It's free. The Holistic Counseling and Self Care Group is a welcoming space to connect with other fellow holistic therapists. You can ask questions, share experiences. And exchange ideas. Go to hcpodcast. org forward slash holistic group. That's hcpodcast.

org forward slash holistic group. And once again, this is Chris McDonald sending each one of you much light and love. Till next time. Take care. Thanks for listening. The information in this podcast is for general educational purposes only, and it is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are giving legal financial counseling or any other.

kind of professional advice. If you need a professional, please find the right one for you. The holistic counseling podcast is proudly part of the site craft network.

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