Health and Fitness

Mark Divine: Beating Stress, Warriors Yoga and Getting Comfortable With Discomfort

The creator of SEALFIT and bestselling author, Mark Divine, is capable of nearly superhuman feats… and he’s here on the show with me today talking about some really deep stuff, including the difference between a Master and a thug and why it’s important to merge the heart and the mind into our actions.

Before we get there, let me share the Review of the Week with you: “Rare & Helpful: Abel is one of the few Paleo life hacker types that doesn’t come across as an overgrown smarmy frat boy.”

This made me laugh out loud… I was a frat boy, but I do try my best not to be smarmy. The reviewer goes on to say how much they look forward to each new podcast, and I really appreciate that, for sure! I read every one of the reviews and comments and take it all to heart.

I’ve heard from a lot of you that you’d like to hear interviews with various experts in the wellness field—and some of them I’ve already interviewed (but hope to again). Check out the 150 archived podcasts by searching for whomever you’d like to hear on I’d hate for you to miss out on some really good info.

Now, let’s get to my talk with New York Times bestselling author of books that take deep training and experience as a Navy SEAL and apply it to business, mental toughness, and living a better life.


Always a favorite of the show, Mark is capable of almost superhuman feats. He’s a retired Navy SEAL commander with 20 years on SEAL teams, 25 years as a martial artist and instructor, and 15 years as a teacher and practitioner of yoga. He’s an entrepreneur and currently is 8 years into SEALFIT, a program with a worldwide reputation for developing mental toughness, emotional resilience, and warrior spirit.

Mark says it’s important we get people comfortable with discomfort again. That’s why he pushes people beyond their comfort zone. He lets you know that even if you’re devoted to your family or your career, being an athlete can still be part of your life. We are meant to play, and to challenge ourselves… exercise doesn’t have to mean hours on an elliptical reading “O” magazine.

Plus, when you accomplish athletic and mental challenges with a team, you take that back to the office and to your family and to every other part of your life.

One thing that’s so cool about Mark is that he’s 51 and still tromping the guys half his age, he’s handling career success and his fitness all at once. People quickly become stressed and overwhelmed by what the world throws at them… but how do you maintain your health and sanity?

“If you’re feeling a lot of stress, it’s because you’re choosing to accept that stress.”

Too often we are overcommitted and overstressed, but we have to all realize that it’s a choice. Commitments are a choice. Getting stressed is a choice. Can we control ourselves to where we have the capacity to make it a choice? Yes, we can.

“I was fortunate enough to learn how to control my mind and my emotions in my early 20’s,” says Mark. But he still got off track—he became a CPA and went for his Masters of Business Administration at NYU. He felt like he was living someone else’s life. It happens to so many of us—we achieve some level of material success and stability, but we have this feeling of… “Uck… whose life am I living?”

Finally, Mark went to Navy SEAL training, and he had learned enough from his martial arts grandmaster that he had an absolute blast and sailed through it. He showed up every day with a smile on his face while other guys dropped off left and right. While he attributes much of his success to martial arts, he claims that there is no one school of martial arts that’s better than another, but there are better masters.


How can you tell the difference between one of those good masters and a straight-up thug? Both may look tough. Both could be experienced with exceptional tactical skills. But a thug isn’t interested in developing himself into the highest level of consciousness—he or she is only concerned about the win and stroking their own ego.

Each day, when a master wakes, they are not just doing their job, but they are seeking through every moment to be a more complete human being—some may call this enlightenment. An individual who chooses the warrior’s path is oriented toward action and is duty bound, serving something greater than themselves. When you’re a warrior, you don’t expect to know it all… and as you grow, you realize how little you actually know.

A thug isn’t interested in refining his character or embracing failure as a learning opportunity. He is seeking to dominate or win—and he may win… but the decisions a thug makes to achieve victory will be very different than those of a real master, a true warrior. A master may achieve victory while leaving the enemy unharmed because they sense a higher good—a thug will win by any means necessary, even if that includes senseless violence.

In Star Trek the Next Generation, the android on board is named Data. In one of the episodes, they discover that Data has a twin and they launch into a philosophical debate about whether or not Data’s twin could ever be the same as Data. But no, his twin had never tried to be better, he never gained that thirst for understanding humanity that would lead to him developing a sense of humility.

That, my friends, is how Star Trek relates to Navy SEALS.

According to Mark, some people simply come to a place where they grow as a person… others need a swift kick in the balls.

Then they rise like a phoenix from the ashes. Mark has one SEALFIT session that’s 50 hours of nonstop training designed to expose participants to an entirely new reality. This is the hardest training available outside of the actual Navy SEALS, and the key to surviving it is to never try to do it alone. 90% of the guys who start Navy SEAL training quit because they refuse to ask for help, and refuse to give it. Life is hard and you can’t do it alone.


We live in an incredibly ethnocentric society with a huge egocentric component. It’s people like us who have to work hard to elevate humanity out of that and toward accelerate mindful growth.

This is where the integrative warrior tactic was born—people get the wrong idea about military personnel or those trained in the martial arts. Fighting is the Dharma, or the duty. At the master level, the warrior is the last to pick up his lance.

Physical Level

This is where you develop your strength, stamina, endurance and durability. You hone the skills of your profession combining functional fitness and mental toughness. But, as you’re learning these skills, you’re simultaneously building concentration, focus, staying power, and mental stamina.

Mental Level

The mind must work out and work in. We accomplish this using concentration drills, breath control, meditation, functional movement, Qi Gong, memory and visualization drills.

SEALFIT offers a training course called Kokoro, which means to merge the heart and mind into your actions. There are five primary ways of thinking:

  • The critical mind—that’s the kind of “normal” thought process
  • Accessing memories
  • The visual mind—images as language, the subconscious, the heart or the belly mind
  • Dreaming—combines memory and imagery
  • Direct perception—only found in the present moment

The critical mind is in the future—problem solving and planning. The memory extracts lessons from history… in fact, the only type of thinking that’s right in the present moment is #5, direct perception. But when you master the other four types, it frees you to be radically present, allowing you to absorb—it’s just knowingness, and it can be trained.

Once we reach Kokoro, we will be able to make wise decisions, not just clever ones that often leave a trail of negative consequences.

“My purpose is to master myself so I can serve others to achieve their maximum human potential,” says Mark. We all need to upgrade our human operating systems, because the system we have now is incapable of seeing the problem, let alone solving it.


Yoga is a martial arts tradition that reaches more than 5,000 years back in history. It’s the oldest form of personal development in the world… but it’s not what we think of in the west—a room of a couple dozen women (and a couple of men) in spandex on mats.

Mark is currently working on a book called “Warrior Yoga” that teaches the warrior development practice the inspiration for which was developed during a deployment to Baghdad in 2004. SEAL Team 1 was stationed near a lake where Saddam Hussein had a palace… but as Mark tried to figure out his fitness regime, with the gym an hour away, he tried just jogging and basic PT, but it wasn’t enough.

So, he found a spot near the lake and began to do an integrated practice that just kind of came out of him. He used a yoga mat (he had been doing yoga for about five years), and he started with a breathing technique he calls box breathing, which energized, balanced, and helped manage stress by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system.

He followed this with 20 minutes of standing poses… but yoga is a poor substitute for fitness. It’s great if you’re doing nothing, then add yoga. But if you’re fit, it’s not going to maintain for you. So he followed the poses with 20 minutes of cross training—such as burpees, situps, jumping jacks, etc. Anything he could do in that small space.

Next, he did a series of seated poses and ended in “corpse pose” with a visualization: He pictured himself, the future him, at home healthy and happy with his wife and son after deployment.

“I’d skip breakfast to do these workouts,” he said. “And the longer I was in the combat zone, the more I felt these stuck with me.”

In 2007, when Mark started SEALFIT, he turned to this protocol as he developed curriculum and practice that would incorporate breath control, visualization, a positive mindset, and would transfer to feeling and focusing on the right goals. He started teaching Warrior Yoga, and his trainees had a 90% success rate getting through SEALS training!

The Samurai had Zen. The Apache had sacred silence and warrior quests. In the west, we’ve completely ignored this component.


Mark turns to the wealth of knowledge found in ancient yoga texts—plus, he loves modern research. But primarily, he meditates and allows the knowledge to unfold. Much of what he writes and does just comes to him through meditation, yoga, his experiences teaching, and his students’ breakthroughs.

He says that learning comes from continually opening the vessel and emptying it to make a little room for more knowledge.

If you’re looking for Mark, you can find him at Check out one of his incredible books (The Way of the SEAL, Unbeatable Mind, 8 Weeks to SEALFIT), or join him for a SEALFIT program.


Chronicles of Tao: The Secret Life of a Taoist Master” and “Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization”.


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