Episode 37 | Joree Rose on Mindfulness, Integrating Trauma and Her Story from Surviving to Thriving

This is the transcript of a conversation recorded for the Unboxable, Unstoppable Podcast with Alena Turley and Joree Rose.

Find show notes here.

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Alena: Hello, I’m so excited to welcome today the gorgeous Joree rose, JOREE…. Is that right?

Joree: Yes I always like Lori with the J.

Alena: So Joree please tell me, where are you? Who are you? What’s your thing?

Joree: Yes, well, I’m so happy to be here. I know, I recently had you on my podcast and we were just so excited to connect. So to be able to connect again so soon. It’s just a real, it’s a real gift. So thank you. So I am Jory rose. I am a licenced Marriage and Family Therapist and a mindfulness and meditation teacher, an author and a podcaster. And a busy mama of two teenage girls. And I live in the San Francisco Bay area. So really coming to you all the way across the world.

Alena: That’s beautiful. Some of my favourite guests so far have come from the very same area. I think there’s a real synergy between Sydney, Australia, where I am in San Francisco, where you are. And tell me I’m really interested in the mindset of mindfulness and meditation part of what you do. Why did you originally learn about that or get drawn to it in the first place?

Joree: Yeah, I like to say mindfulness found me I didn’t go and seek it out. The short version of the story is that I was getting my licensure to be a marriage. And a therapist, which you’re in the state of California is quite a long journey of needing 3000 hours, in order of internship hours in order to qualify for the state exams. And I got halfway through my hours, I was quite young at the time. And I’d never quit anything in my life. And I decided this wasn’t the right time for me. I didn’t have the life skills to be guiding others in how to really truly live their authentic life. And so I ended up stopping halfway through those hours. And I stopped to have my babies. And like I said, I’ve got two teenagers. Now, my oldest is 18, and heading off to college in a couple of months. And my youngest is almost 16. Anyhow, when my youngest was in kindergarten, I woke up one day. And I was in my early 30s. And I literally had this awakening moment of asking myself, How did I get here? How you know, I, I didn’t really remember making the conscious choices to get to where I was. Now, I always knew I wanted to be married, I always knew I wanted to be a mom, I was really fortunate to be able to be able to be a stay at home mom at this time. But I always was in search of what was next what was next what was next what was next. And I think I was searching for the thing that would make me feel at peace and have safety and security. So I’d actually married my high school sweetheart. We had been together since I was 13 years old. And I literally kept always rushing to that next stage thinking once I get to that next stage, then I’ll feel good, or I’ll feel safe or secure, or whatever it was I was seeking. But here I was in my early 30s. And I didn’t know what stage was next. Because I had gotten married, we’d bought the house I had my first daughter had my second daughter. And I was like, what’s next? And that really kind of put me into an existential crisis because I had the life I I wanted, I had created and cultivated the life I had envisioned in my mind. And here I was, and something wasn’t right. And I got myself into therapy, because I kind of didn’t know what to do. You know, it’s I’m in my early 30s. Now what, there’s no more next stage to get to and what was there to look forward to what was I working towards. And again, I was happy but I wasn’t fulfilled and something inside of me was not in alignment. And I found a therapist, and I’m sitting in his office for the very first time. And not only was it that, you know, the doorway into my entire rest of my life was the path of that beginning of my own journey and my own self awareness journey and healing journey. But it also was overlapping but became this professional journey because I’m sitting in this therapist office and I had this very grounded sense that I think I want to go back and get My licence, I think I want to go back and work towards those hours. Because at this point, I kind of given that up and figured, well, yeah, I got a master’s degree, it cost me a lot of money, but I really learned life skills. So those taught me how to be a better wife and mother than it wasn’t for not. And I continued with the therapy, and I was in therapy for about five years. But it inspired me to contact my previous supervisor that I had worked with eight years earlier. And at the time, eight years earlier, when I was getting my hours towards my licensure, I was a school counsellor. And I thought, you know, being back in schools would be a really great schedule to fit the routine of my daughters who were in school. So I thought that would be a real aligned. Timing, since being a stay at home mom also was one of my highest goals, I don’t want to compromise not being with my kids. If I contacted my old supervisor, and that happened to be in January, and here I was thinking, you know, we’d have to wait till the next school year started, but I’d have it all the way till September to get an internship. Well, it was the very first of many, many, many serendipitous moments. And she happened to have a school who came on mid-year, she had an intern all lined up. And the week before I called her I hadn’t spoken to her in eight years. I hadn’t seen her since my baby shower. And this intern, dropped out last minute. And then here I call. So not only did I get to start my internship, the very next week, I happened to be placed at a school in which, ironically, I got to cultivate the internship as my own because not a lot of people in the school were using me as the free therapist on site. With an independent private school, these families had gobs of money who were sending their kids to top therapists. While simultaneously I’m in my supervisor’s office one day, and I see a book titled mindfulness. I had never heard of mindfulness before. Of all the books on herself, this book caught my attention. And I said, What’s mindfulness? And she said, Well, I’ve got an intern who’s doing mindfulness with kids give her a call, she can tell you more. And it went from, you know, making a phone call being directed in different, you know, places and websites. And again, serendipitous moment, there was a mindfulness class in Introduction to mindfulness class starting the following week, about an hour from my house, actually near Stanford University. And I drove the hour for the next six weeks to take this intro to mindfulness. And to be honest with you, Lena, I, I don’t know. But I really learned in those six weeks other than I know, I need to know more. And the teachers, I’ll have to say, weren’t really great. As far as explaining mindfulness at this point, mindfulness had not really been yet mainstream, it was still pretty esoteric meditation was just beginning to get more secular. You know, FaceTime, so to speak, right? It was still kind of in the beginning stages of all of this becoming more of a well known integrated, secular practice versus an ancient contemplative wisdom practice. So in that six week class, I was guided in my very first meditation ever, it was 10 minutes long. And I seriously thought I was gonna die. Because I had never sat still for 10 minutes.

Joree: And I think that the whole what was next, what was next? What was next was my own effort to prevent me from sitting still, because when I got still, it was like, ah, what do I do with all these thoughts? And what do I do with all these emotions? And I had to learn how to just literally breathe and how to exhale because I had taken a lot in, but I was not ever taught and how to let anything go. And I was in a habit of believing my thoughts as my truth. I was in a habit of not only believing my thoughts, but believing my catastrophizing thoughts, believing the worst case scenario would happen. And I came from a family in which the worst case scenario did happen. So my anxiety and my fears were actually handed to me on a silver platter, as I like to say, right for so many of us, our fears are a result of what if,

Joree: but I came from a family in which the what if was actually our reality. And so I felt like my fears were justified. So I felt it was understandable. I believe all my negative thoughts and to put it into context My mom’s parents when my mom was 16. My mom’s parents were killed in a car accident hit by a drunk driver. And my mom was the only survivor of the accident. And her parents were instantly killed. And my mom became a caretaker to her two younger brothers and her immigrant Russian grandparents moved into the house. And as you can imagine, that trauma permeated every which level of the family system and impacted her parenting greatly. And then I’m the youngest of three. And when I was three, my parents got divorced. And when I was 10, my dad committed suicide. So I really had a lot of trauma in my family growing up. So again, when I say fear and anxiety was in my DNA, and it was really the, you know, my mom was a survivor, but I’m not sure in that time that you really kind of was as common as it might be now to understand trauma and how to get past trauma. So I felt like I was really working against but I was embodied as having that negativity bias and believing those thoughts and being stuck in fear. So it made perfect sense to me. Why all I was doing was seeking comfort and security. And I think that’s why I married my high school sweetheart, because it was really safe. Yeah. So when I actually began this existential journey of who am I, and how did I get here, mindfulness practice, which I delved into, I mean, I, from that first six week class, I went on both a professional journey with it as far as getting certified and teaching mindfulness in schools. Going on retreats, I did a seven day Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction retreat with Jon Kabat Zinn, who’s like the grandfather of mindfulness in the Western world, really responsible for integrating these ancient contemplative practices with modern Western science. I did a five day silent Buddhist meditation retreat. I mean, I really, I went all in. And it was this overlap of professional journey. Because I always knew I wanted to be a therapist, but traditional models of therapy didn’t really align with who I was, as a human. I didn’t want to be a therapist in which I couldn’t show up as a whole person in the room. You know, I’m a very human centred therapist, and mindfulness gave me that amazing structure. And, you know, with the, my favourite humanist psychologist, like Carl Rogers, where the foundation of humanistic psychology was all about acceptance, and unconditional positive regard, which really goes hand in hand with mindfulness practice, and being present and being authentic. And so it gave me an avenue to figure out how can I authentically show up as a therapist. And so now mindfulness is a framework from which I teach with all my clients. But it also gave me this path of immense insight and learning and growth, and ultimately getting to a place of alignment because I was not in alignment, I, I thought one thing, but I felt another and I had been scared for so many years of my life, to actually trust my inner wisdom. And to believe the messages my body was telling me. And as a result, from years of learning how to be still and breathe and trust those messages, because I knew that in my head, I could over analyse over, justify, I could check the boxes. And I thought that was enough. But internally, I just, I knew some things weren’t right. So it did lead to my own divorce through that whole process, because I realised, you know, not having any problems in a relationship doesn’t necessarily make it a reason to stay together forever. And there was I was on a growth journey, and I needed to trust and follow that path. So I guess I was in the beginning. So this was a short story, but I guess I made it a long story. But, you know, it’s, I would not be where I was today. Had I not woken up that day and said, Who am i How did I get here?

Unknown Speaker
It was probably the most courageous and scariest thing I’ve ever done was to get still and to allow everything just to settle. Yeah, and to trust what I felt and to follow that path, even though it was the curviest path I never thought I would take because at that point in my life was kind of like a straight line. You know, in many ways, I mean, minus the traumas. I was very, despite the traumas I grew up in my family history, I was very centred and very grounded and also You know, it did, I was not trauma ridden, per se. And so, you know, while I made those conscious choices to get to where I was, I think they were based on a set of values that were really evolved with who I was meant to become. Yes. So yeah, so I mean, that’s really how I got to where I am now. And, and now I, you know, it’s my, my intention. And the way that I show up in my work is to teach mindfulness in a way that I wish I could have been taught. Yeah, because it, I still believe, even with meditation, you know, meditation is the foundation of a mindfulness practice, it’s considered that meditation is the formal practice where you consciously sit and do it. Whereas mindfulness is the informal practice, I always say, you know, mindfulness isn’t something you add to your to do list. It’s something that’s on your to be list. It’s who you want to be in the world. It’s the quality of the presence you bring to each moment. It’s how you want to show up in your relationships. It’s how you’re in relationship to yourself. And I have been cultivating curriculum and then teaching the, again, I teach the course I wish I could have taken, you know, because I want to teach mindfulness in a way that holds very true to the foundations and tenets and context of which it’s rooted in Buddhist meditation practice, but teach it in a secular, relatable, attainable into gradable sort of way that people can really say, Yeah, I can. I can be this busy stay at home mom, I can be that soccer mom, I can be a busy corporate woman. And I can still really live a mindful life because I think there was a lot of assumptions and judgments that you know, people who are very mindful, already were meditators, and were very calm and very zen like and spoke very softly and never got angry. And there’s a lot of misconceptions.

Alena: Yeah. Right. Curious, actually to explore some of that with you. So one thing you mentioned was unconditional positive regard, can you tell me what that means?

Joree: Unconditional positive regard is seeing another in their full potential. And that if I can see you and your full potential, and I respond to you from that place of acceptance and authenticity, and believing in your human ability to grow into who you’re supposed to become, that if I can help see that if I if I see that in you, then you can be interested in yourself.

Alena: Oh, I say that. So often. It’s interesting. And I say if you are having trouble, having faith in yourself, or believing in something or feeling confident, borrows some of my faith in you borrow my sense that you are confident borrow my belief, because I’ve got it in spades, you know, and I do I kind of generally am unconditionally positive regarding person. So it’s a very powerful thing, actually to have that. Even if it’s not in you yet. To understand it’s possible and to have someone Yeah.

Alena: Yeah. And I often will say something similar in language and say, even if you can’t believe it, yet, I will hold the space. Yeah, until you can, like, you know, allow, allow me to hold the container for you that this is possible. Yeah, believe it. And how do I know it’s possible is because I didn’t think it was possible for me. So if I can, if I can find that sense of authenticity and acceptance and alignment, then anyone can if I am able to get out of my head and into my body, if I’m able to, truly and honestly let go of fear and anxiety as a way of being anyone can. And I’m not any different than anyone. It’s a practice, right.

So interesting that I have two stories that come to mind. One is that the first time that I experienced a sense, really direct sense of unconditional love outside of my family was I went to see a healer, essentially. And she was more of an energy style healer, and I was pretty, you know, pretty deeply in addiction as a coping mechanism for some of the things I’ve experienced in my life. And I was ready to change and ready to leave that experience. And I went to see this woman in this apartment, you know, like, random had to drive an hour to get there, didn’t know her at all, walked into her apartment, burst into tears, like just felt this immense and I’ll never forget the feeling because the sense that you get when you’re around that energy when you haven’t been before, is so powerful, deeply. Like, it’s something I can never forget the way that felt. And there was another time I felt something similar, not the same, but similar. We’re always doing some work with a kind of human centred therapy, I would say. And I’d love to talk more with you about that. but I was kind of having an experience with a group of people do, they did sort of workshops, but you also got mentored and sort of split off with one on one with people. And the first time I did this session, one on one. And I recognise that moment as a particular moment in my life where everything changed for me. And literally all it was was me telling my story. But it was me telling my story in the context of a person with those beliefs with those abilities to create a space. And it Yeah, so emotional, almost.

Alena: It’s almost like believing it before you actually experience it. And how might you act differently if you believed it? Yeah. And I just told the story, I told a long story, she just wrote notes, all that was was met. And I know that for me, certainly, there’s been a lot of times in my life, where telling stories about either myself or listening to stories about other people when they’re telling the real story. That’s a very powerful thing, I can understand why this is something we’ve been doing for 1000s and 1000s of years, as humans, telling stories, and hearing stories and the power of that as a healing. You know, there’s a few things that I think are really healing, doing things with your hands, telling stories in a safe way, hearing stories in a safe way. Yeah, those are really fundamental to our being type things, you know. And when you come across that in our modern world, it’s all the more powerful because we kind of don’t just naturally do it anymore. We don’t generally have those rituals or those practices any longer. In mainstream Western culture, I would say,

Joree: which is why I love going on retreats, because I feel like so many of the retreats that I went on, provided the context for that, you know, container.

Alena: Yeah, sorry, my son just walked in.. that’s okay to be to tell me that there’s mail at the door. Thank you, boy, take the dog with you, darling. Thank you. This is how we do this. podcast interviews at home. Of course, you open the door, sweetie. And if you if you go, that’s fine, you can leave the dog. Thank you my love.

Joree: I was gonna say that my single most life-defining moment took place while on a retreat. And I just think that it’s powerful. Because when we consciously step out of our day to day routine, and we give ourselves the physical space and distance from our to dues, and even our relationships to really enter into a container for slowing down for breathwork for insight for growth, for experiences that we are consciously creating that space for. Yeah, that in of itself was transformational. Yes. And the life defining moment, the way that I got there was even through a series of serendipitous events. And so that’s the other part of it, to me, is the question of, you know, how much are we paying attention to these signs that are often always there, but we’re sometimes too busy to even notice them. And, you know, I trusted those signs. And, you know, I became like this okay, universe, give me whatever you got. I need science to point me in the right direction. Yeah. And that that most life defining moment, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the book, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior? Oh, yeah, moment. I love it. Okay, so that was the retreat that I was on with him. In Korea, and I’ve actually been on retreat with him three times. But it was the first time and at the Omega Institute, which is in upstate New York. I know of and yeah, yeah. And the weekend was the Peaceful Warrior weekend. Wow. So the first part of it was cultivating a peaceful, compassionate heart. And the Sunday morning was cultivating our warrior spirit. And the morning started off with him teaching us martial arts routine, that He then put to music to a Lionel Richie song, and I’m like, How in the hell did I get here? It’s the Sunday in July 2013. And I’m doing martial arts listening to Lionel Richie with Dan Millman, like how to get here. Again.

Alena: Dan Millman is a martial artist?

Joree: He is yeah, yes. That’s amazing. And I didn’t know who he is. And it was again, I paid attention to the signs and I trusted the science to follow the path, right. It was like the breadcrumbs. So we finish this martial art routine. And then he gets us into groups of three. And it was an exercise about self doubt. So let’s say you Alanna my long lost friend so you’re standing across the room I’m going to walk towards you to come embrace you. And then there’s a third person in our little diet, try out of our exercise. And as I’m walking towards you, this person throws their arm out, blocking me in front of the chest, preventing me from getting to you. And that person represented self doubt, well, beautiful. We had to go through the exercise a total of nine times, because I tried to approach you the first time I got blocked, I tried to approach you again, the second time, self doubt, right still stops me. The third time, I’m able to push past self doubt, and I now embrace you, we each had to rotate, and be all three of those parts of what it felt like to not be able to reach our goal, what it felt like to be self doubt, and what it felt like dead not have someone be able to approach us. So we finished this exercise. And then Dan Millman puts to get puts up to cement blocks, with a purple meditation cushion in between them, and a plastic interlocking board across the top of the blocks. And he says, we’re gonna have to break a board. Yeah, cool. And the immediate thought that I have, is it okay, if I swear on your show? Or should I just really feel good, because the immediate thought I had in my head was, I can’t fucking break a board. And I was like, wow, there was self doubt immediately. So he said that there was actually three different boards, one that was the weight of an equivalent piece of wood, a lighter one and the heavier one. So he said, Make pick your choice, and you’re only going to get one chance. Meanwhile, I’m having this like, self doubt mantra going through my head. I can’t do this. Yeah. So before he has a start, he says, Oh, by the way, what’s the goal here? And we’re all just like, well done. You just told us the goal. The goal is to break a board. No, he said, No. The goal is to hit the cushion. The board is simply in your way. Nice. He said the cushion represents your dreams and your goals. And the board represents your obstacles.

Alena:
I love that. And you know, I can verify that during martial arts gradings that I attend. Often, someone will either be looking doubtful, or they will miss first, first go. And the master will always say you’re not kicking the board, you’re kicking the person behind the board.

Jore: There you go. It’s my it’s my turn it finally and I picked the middle board because I don’t like taking the easy way out with things. I chose the middle one. All the while having this self doubt, Montra going through my head, and I’m kneeling down, and I’m looking up at Dan Millman and he’s guiding me on what to do. And I raise my arm, and I come down. And I didn’t break it. And immediately I was like, See, I told myself, I couldn’t do it. Yeah. And then I went into instant embarrassment and shame. Sure, because out of a group of like, 65 people, there was six of us who didn’t break the board. So everyone goes, and then he says, Okay, raise your hand, if you didn’t break it. I kind of sheepishly rose my hand coming out, I’m going to give you one more chance. So now I had to make the decision again, which board was I going to try to break. And I’m like, Well, I’m still not taking the easy way out. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it. I’m going to go back what I originally started with. So this time I, my turn again. I’m looking up at Dan Millman. I’m kneeling down. And I realised the first time I did two things wrong. One was I hit with the wrong part of my hand, I hit more with my pinky versus the meaty part. And it did hurt. And I could, I knew it hurt not only because it physically hurt, but the tip of my pinky was bright purple, because all the blood had a rush to the tip of my finger. But I realised all of my focus, like my visual focus, and all of my energetic focus was on the board. So I, this time consciously checked my mindset. And I consciously shifted all my energy and focus to the cushion, and not the board. And I’m taking my deep breaths, and I’m getting ready. And Dan Millman says to me, when you do it, that’s when you do it. Like when you do it commit, right? Yeah, I raised my arm up, took my deep breath, and I came down and I broke through that board and I hit that purple cushion. And I let out this whopping scream. Yes. And that was my single most life defining, changing moment because no longer could my mantra of self doubt, and I can’t fucking do this. It no longer applied. And I committed to myself through my mindfulness practice through my meditation practice through all these retreats that I had had gone on that I was not going to let this experience just passed me by and go back to my everyday life. And it was pretty amazing because I came home from that retreat. And I knew that at some point soon my marriage was going to end.

alena turley | creator, educator, martial artist
alena turley | creator, educator, martial artist

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