Gilbert Counseling, Inc.
Mindfulness-Based Counseling and Meditation
Gilbert Counseling, Inc.
Joe Gilbert, LPC
3721 Benson Drive
Raleigh, NC 27609
“Our refuge is not
not somewhere in the future–
it is always and already here.”
— Tara Brach
American Counseling Association Member
Welcome to Gilbert Counseling
If you have found yourself on this site, you have already taken a big step toward growth and wellness. Joe is deeply honored to walk with people who have found the courage to ask for help during difficult times.
Why Should You See a Counselor?
The simple answer is that it’s hard to be a human being, and it can help to share with others. The late Kathleen Dowling Singh, in her book Unbinding notes that although we know it’s hard to be a person, we rarely share with each other. She goes on to say: “we isolate ourselves, believing that the unease we feel is normal or that no one else feels it or that everyone else feels it and they just have better masks. This thinking keeps each of us feeling even more separate, isolated in silent discouragement and shame. We forget that honest self-disclosure keeps us in communion with each other.”
Sharing with a professional counselor in a nonjudgmental and confidential setting is an important first step in acknowledging the grief and suffering that so many of us carry. You don’t need to carry it all by yourself anymore.
Why Does it Feel Like Something is Wrong?
We often feel that there is something wrong with us, but feelings are not always true. Counseling can help to unravel these faulty beliefs and help us see more clearly and kindly. It can also help to know that much of what we experience is not personal, but universal.
Being part of this vast, interconnected life means that we move away from unpleasant sensations and toward pleasant ones. It’s part of our biological makeup. Even single-celled organisms do this! It’s hard for us to realize how much we try to control life by clinging to pleasant feelings and pushing away unpleasant feelings. This frantic way of being imprisons us in a cage that we construct and can’t even see. Rather than slow down–which requires us to sit with unpleasant feelings–we continue to seek out what we believe will make us feel secure and happy (money, sex, new relationship, power, position, status, etc.). Essentially, we waste a lot of energy dressing up our cage. This way of living is exhausting, and it keeps us blind to our potential to live with deeper awareness.
The good news is that we can learn to experience pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral circumstances with a caring mind and heart. In doing so, we learn to not identify so strongly with our thoughts and feelings. We might even begin to see the cage we are in.
A clever saying on a necklace with a silver dog bone reads: Sit. Stay. Heal. Mindfulness-based counseling relies on practices of awareness and compassion to help us do just that.
Freedom is Possible
The Buddha stated: “What the world calls happiness, I call suffering. What the world calls suffering, I call happiness.” Many of our methods for seeking happiness or comfort actually lead to suffering. Nobody picks up a beer for the first time wishing to become an alcoholic down the road. That extra piece of pizza we just ate but didn’t need leads to a stomach ache. Mindlessly scrolling through our cell phones leads to brief spritzes of dopamine (a “happiness” neurotransmitter associated with drug addiction), leading us to crave more and more…the result over time is restlessness and depression.
It’s also important for us to realize that we all have what is known as the “negativity bias” of our brain, which orients us to look for what is wrong or what could go wrong in our lives. This served our primitive ancestors well when they needed to be on high alert 24/7. Now, to try and quiet this ever-present worry, we unconsciously run a daily marathon of grasping for the perfect amount of comfort or what we believe will make us safe. We don’t realize that it’s the grasping and endless chase for happiness that makes us suffer.
Try this exercise if you want to get a better feel for this: Make yourself as comfortable as possible, perhaps with your favorite blanket, sweater, mug of tea, etc. Pay attention and see how long it takes before you experience discomfort (in your body, feelings, thoughts) and find yourself shifting, moving, planning, scrolling through social media, etc. to distract yourself or find the next comfortable position. There is no such thing as permanent comfort. Even if we had the one thing we desire above all else at our disposal, eventually we would get tired of it. How much chocolate cake could you eat in one sitting before feeling sick? Can you sense the wholesome pleasure in being able to turn down the second piece? (What the world calls suffering, I call happiness.)
Once we understand deeply that we can’t control life, no matter how much chocolate cake we have, there is an opportunity for freedom. Freedom is being able to abide with whatever is happening in the present moment, without judgment, and to then respond with wisdom and kindness.
Where Do We Go From Here?
As a human being, Joe also experiences pain. As a meditator, he has learned the truth in the formula: pain X resistance = suffering. As a counselor, he knows that he cannot fix or save anybody, but he can and will walk with you on your path. Together you can find the right tools for your unique journey.
Working with a mindfulness-based counselor can help you learn to slow down and experience insights that reduce suffering. As Tara Brach says: “When I slow down to half-speed, I notice twice as much.” And Lily Tomlin: “For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.” Once we begin to see and let go of old patterns of behavior that are causing harm, we enter a transitional phase that can be scary but is ultimately a necessary step in our quest for freedom. One way to describe this phase is that we begin to feel all of our feelings.
This may seem daunting, and at times counseling will be challenging. Viktor Frankl said: “what is to become light must endure burning.” Waking up from our confusion requires a sincere intention to live our lives authentically, with awareness and compassion. It requires wise effort, knowing when we need to try a little harder or when we need to relax. Waking up invites us to see for ourselves the benefits of mindfulness, compassion, and forgiveness. These experiences give us trust in our capacity to keep going.
Along the way you will likely experience states of joy, calm, concentration and contentment, but these states are not the goal, and they too–just like states of desire, anger, agitation, boredom and self-doubt–will pass. Each person will have different goals, and Joe hopes to help you realize them with growing awareness and compassion. Having fellow travelers on the path is also essential. Finding a counselor you are comfortable with is very important. Joe offers free consultations if you would like to visit him in the office to see if the relationship is a good fit for you.
Waking up to our true nature is our birthright. In his experience walking the path with others, Joe has found that wisdom, humor and kindness help light the way.