Mark Divine: Mental Toughness, Yoga for Guys & Why Stress is a Choice


Learn how to have mental toughness & why stress is a choice: http://bit.ly/mdivine

This week we have a fan-favorite throwback episode with retired Navy SEAL commander and New York Times bestselling author, Mark Divine. Mark takes his deep training and expertise as a Navy SEAL and applies it to business, mental toughness, and living a better life.

Mark served nine years on active duty in the Navy SEALs, and eleven years as a Reserve SEAL. He now runs SEALFIT, an incredible program that pumps out superhumans like nobody’s business. In this show, you’ll learn:

  • The one critical difference between a master and a thug
  • How to do yoga if you’re a guy
  • Where a millionaire Navy SEAL gets his knowledge today
  • Why Star Trek: The Next Generation rocks

MARK DIVINE: Martial Arts, Yoga & How to Stay Humble

Abel: Mark, you’re always a fan favorite. People rave about what you do, and for good reason—because you’re capable of superhuman feats.

That’s pretty humbling. No superhuman feats. Just don’t ask me to perform any right now. I’m still on my first cup of coffee.

I’m a “retired” Navy SEAL Commander. I spent twenty years in the SEAL teams, I’m a twenty-five-year practitioner of the martial arts, and fifteen-year practitioner and teacher of yoga, and also a business entrepreneur and owner. I’ve started about six different businesses, with varying degrees of success. Some major craters in the ground, which I’m sure you have a few of those black holes, still simmering a little bit. And then some really good, neat successes.

I’m eight years into an unbelievable experience and journey, with a program called SEALFIT. SEALFIT has a worldwide reputation now for developing mental toughness, emotional resilience, warrior spirit. And our training program is wickedly cool. I was just telling you, before we started, that I did an executive academy this weekend with twenty-one executives, all high-end consultants, and real estate professionals, and business owners, and…

Abel: You just kicked the crap out of them.

Yeah, we did kick the crap out of them, but they did it. Everyone did it; everyone loved it. We met everyone where they’re at. We’re using the same methods that I used to teach the SEALs and the Specs-Ops candidates, but obviously radically scaled and adapted, and appropriate for the age. We had a sixty-nine-year-old guy, and this fifty-nine-year-old lady came up to me afterward and said, “You know, Mark, beyond my wedding weekend, this is the most profound training of my life, or profound weekend of my life.”

“People have gotten away from taking themselves out of their comfort zone to the point that they don’t even know what their comfort zone is anymore.” -Mark Divine

Get people uncomfortable with this comfort again, and they realize, “Wow, this really feels good. We’re playing again.”

I trained a woman, who runs a big consultancy out of Denver, named Kelly Colman. And she said she had always been an athlete, and then as her business took over, her family took over, she just assumed that being an athlete wasn’t part of her life anymore. And now we’ve got her doing rope climbing, and tire flips, and burpees, and playing, and teaching her that fitness doesn’t have to be boring—going and standing on a treadmill and blah blah blah, reading O Magazine.

It can be fun, you know what I mean? It’s meant to be fun; you’re meant to play.

Abel: And challenge yourself.

Yeah. And challenge yourself. And guess what? When you do that, and when you add mental challenges, and you add emotional challenges, and you train with a team of like-minded individuals, and then you learn some of the skills of doing this together, all of a sudden all this translates back to being a better teammate, being a better person.

It develops character, ultimately. And so that’s what I’m doing with SEALFIT, and I’m absolutely having a ball doing that.

Abel: One of the things that’s so cool about you, Mark, is that a lot of people cave because they’re stressed. One of the biggest causes of losing your health is succumbing to chronic stress. But you seem to become only more resilient. How old are you now?

I’m fifty-one.

Abel: And you still train with the young bucks. When you’re abusing them in your program, you’re right there next to them.

How are you able to withstand so much challenge (and abuse) but still maintain your health and sanity?

Oh, my God. You know what? Geez, I could write a book about that.

Abel: You should!

I did. I forgot. Holy cow.

Abel: And that is one is a great book. But I would read another 800-page text on that, because I haven’t seen many people pull it off like you have.

What do you do? What’s the day to day? What would you say to people who are over-burdened?

STRESS: IT’S A CHOICE, SO DON’T CHOOSE IT

Okay. Let’s just start off with this notion that, if you’re feeling a lot of stress, that’s because you’re choosing to accept that stress. You’re choosing to live this life that feels fast, overburdened, rushing from here to there, overcommitted. And that’s all, it’s all a choice.

Learn how to have mental toughness & why stress is a choice: http://bit.ly/mdivine

If you’re feeling a lot of stress, that’s because you’re choosing to accept that stress. @MarkDivine Click To Tweet

Now it may feel like it’s not a choice, but ultimately everything in life is a choice.

So your health is a choice, what commitments you take on is a choice, what level of stress you allow in your life is a choice. So, let’s just start there. We have the capacity to turn it into a choice, instead of just being kind of driven by other people’s values, or society’s values, or just being rolled over by the steamroller of what’s happening in your life. That’s the first premise.

Now, I was fortunate enough to learn early in my life, in my early twenties, how to take control. How to take control of my mind, how to take control of my emotions, so I could write the script from here on out. I learned this through a martial arts grandmaster, for four years while I was in the business world, before I became a SEAL. So, I was actually a CPA. I went to NYU, got my MBA. And I was kind of charging along that path, and I was out of control. I was living someone else’s life—it wasn’t my life.

A lot of people are. And then thirty years later they wonder how the hell they got there. They have some material success, and probably not as much as they’d like, and they don’t feel secure.

But more than that, they just feel like, “Ugh, what’s wrong with my life?” They don’t understand how they missed the boat. It’s because they didn’t take the time to get back in control, and then to figure out what boat they were supposed to be on, and set it off in the right direction. And I just feel incredibly grateful that I had the fortune to learn the beginnings of this process, to regain total control, and then to develop that control.

I went into SEAL training at twenty-five, and I turned twenty-six in BUDS. I had learned enough from the grandmaster, Nakamura, that I literally sailed through SEAL training. I had a blast. You’re not going to find too many SEALs say they had a blast in training. We had 180 people start training, we had nineteen guys graduate, and one of us was the Honor Man. That was me, because I showed up with a smile on my face every single day. And I just attacked it with my hair on fire, and tried to be a good teammate and stayed in control, no matter what they threw at me.

Abel: What school of martial arts was it?

It was called seido. And just like Special Ops, there’s no one best martial art, and there’s no one best Special Ops force. The SEALs are great at direct action, and the Green Berets are great at guerilla warfare and counterinsurgency and that kind of thing. But there are better special operators, and there are masters, and then there are thugs. They all exist in that spectrum, even in the SEAL teams.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MASTER AND A THUG

Abel: What’s the difference between a master and a thug?

That’s such a great question. Well, on the outside, to the untrained eye, they might look the same.

Let’s say I got SEAL A who’s a thug, and SEAL B who’s a master. They both are going to look tough, they’re both going to have exceptional tactical skills. They’re able to run long and swim hard, and all that kind of stuff. The difference is that the thug is not trying to develop themselves. They’re not interested, nor caring, nor aware, to be able to develop themselves to the highest levels of consciousness and awareness.

Whereas the master makes it a first premise of theirs. That every day they wake up and they are not just doing their job, but they’re seeking, through every single experience, every interaction, every moment, to master themselves, to make themselves better, to become better people, to be more complete as human beings. And that leads them up the trajectory of consciousness development, to where they’re operating at the highest stages. And you might, from a spiritual tradition, call that enlightenment.

The Zen tradition, which was completely aligned with the Eastern martial arts—we’d talk about Satori or a Beginner’s Mind, in terms of swordfighting, like Miyamashi and the Samurai incorporated Zen training into their training.

These are examples of masters or individuals who chose this path, the warrior’s path, and they were duty-bound to perform a particular job in the world. They’re oriented toward action. And they’re duty-bound, so they typically are drawn to a career in the armed services, or something like that. But it could be at a Peace Corps, could be serving the environment as an environmentalist. You’re just drawn toward action, you’re serving something greater than yourself. It might be even in the spiritual sense, in serving God. But part of that is you don’t just expect that you know it all, or that you’re capable. And so you are always striving to grow. And as you grow, you realize how little you actually know.

Whereas, the other side of the coin is the thug, who pretty much assumes they know it all, they’ve got it covered, they’re good. So instead of stoking their humility along this path, instead of constantly refining their character, like iron sharpening iron, and choosing things that are going to humble them, and embracing failure, and really, really trying to cultivate that refined humanity, the thug is stoking their ego. They’re seeking to dominate; they’re seeking to win. And they’ve got enough skill and talent that they do win, but often at the expense of others.

You can imagine in the field of warfare, a thug would navigate a battlefield in a very different way than a warrior, than an authentic warrior, a master. You know what I mean?

The decisions they make are going to be different. They’re over there to, let’s say, go after ISIS and play Whack-a-Mole. Just kill as many of the booger-eaters they can.

Whereas a true master warrior is going to be much more thoughtful about how they go about it, and look at it from multiple angles, and be able to take the perspective of the enemy. And there may be certain situations where the enemy goes unharmed, because there’s a higher-order good that can come out of that. Does that make sense?

Abel: Yeah. It reminds me, we’re huge nerds, and when we watch TV at the end of a long day… I’ve been doing a lot of seven-interview-days in a row. So we were watching Star Trek The Next Generation, which was always one of my favorite shows growing up. What you said reminded me of Data, the android in that show. And they found Data’s twin. He’d been shut down for a while. And so it was this whole philosophical debate about the difference between the two, and basically it was that they could never be the same or equal because one of them never tried to get better. What distinguished Data on the Enterprise was that there was that constant thirst for getting better, for understanding humanity, for trying to better yourself. Even though you’re smarter than everyone, you have more knowledge than everyone, you’re trying actively to become more humble with all of that.

That’s cool. That’s great.

Abel: It’s great. It really makes it easy to watch in a way that… I think it’s tough to learn that lesson in life, so you need to be constantly reminded.

Data kind of was the Spock of the show, right? In a similar fashion, Spock, the humanity rubbed off on him. He tried like hell at first to just ignore it, but over time he couldn’t not see it, and it came out in his character. That’s pretty cool.

That is also a choice—a choice to grow. Some people never come to it, period. And then others need a major kick in the balls, they need a crisis situation, like cancer or something like that.

And that’s tragic, but then out of the ashes, like a phoenix, they rise up and they end up completely on this growth path, like born again, almost. In fact, there’s a leadership theory called “twice-born,” that a guy named Zaleznik talked about. And you see that in a lot of leaders, where they’re transactional leaders. They’re about power and control, and all of a sudden, something really radically life-altering happens to them, and then they completely change, and they come out and they’re really about service, and it’s not about them anymore.

It’s interesting. One of my training events at SEALFIT is a fifty-hour nonstop training event I modeled after Hell Week, which is actually six days of nonstop training around the clock. And what we try to do is to get people to experience, at least in a temporary state, a completely altered reality. Not like you would experience if you were on an LSD trip or something like that. Not that I’ve ever experienced that, or Ayahuasca or something, which I haven’t.

Abel: We’re going to Peru for a week of Ayahuasca ceremonies, so we’ll tell you all about it!

I was talking to Mike Bledsoe. He tried to get me to come on that trip, but I’m going to be in… You’re going to go on it. Yeah, I know exactly where you’re going. I’m excited for you. Yeah, I was invited to that trip. I’m going to go next year.

So anyway, in Kokoro Camp, it’s the hardest training in the world outside the SEALS, but it’s completely doable for anyone who has put the time in to prepare their body and their mind. However, they can’t do it alone. And when I went through SEAL training, the nineteen of us who were there standing at the end… There were some guys who got injured, but most people quit. And for a lot of them, the reason they quit is they didn’t have the emotional resiliency, the mental toughness, but also because they just didn’t know how to ask for help, and they didn’t offer any help. They just tried to do it alone; they tried to gut through it like a Rambo. It doesn’t work. And life is that way, especially now.

Life is hard, and you can't do it alone. @MarkDivine Click To Tweet

And look at the business world. No good business is ever accomplished alone.

Anything worthwhile requires extraordinary efforts of a large number of teammates. And so in Kokoro Camp, we try to get people to experience the sense of being a world-centric warrior, where everybody is interconnected. And you really can’t do this alone. When you get out of the experience, that stays with you, so you can go back and be a better family member, father, mother, teammate, and really get outside of yourself.

THREE PRIMARY STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT

Whether you’re talking about psychotherapy or even the spiritual traditions, note the three primary stages of development: egocentric, ethnocentric, and world-centric. And to grow, the human being is supposed to naturally develop through those, but you tend to level out at the center of gravity of your family tribe or country. And so we have a very ethnocentric society, and we also have a very large egocentric component of that.

Abel: Stroking the ego is encouraged in America.

Yeah, exactly. It is; it’s very individualistic. And so a lot of people are kind of stuck there without even an awareness that there’s a there to be stuck at. And so my training is to try to really accelerate or elevate people out of that, and then to provide the tools for them to continue to train in a manner that will accelerate their growth as humans. The way we do that is what I call Integrated Warrior Development, where we actively work on developing our physical, mental, emotional, intuitional, and spiritual intelligences every day, through our training.

Abel: A lot of people have the wrong idea about the military and those who are trained in fighting or martial art styles. I’m reading an interesting book right now, Chronicles of Tao. Basically it’s the making of a master who’s trained in martial arts, in Shaolin, who goes into military-type training. You see his journey from being a thug, to turning into a master. It seems to me that a lot of your work is really driven by the mental, the spiritual. How do you integrate those two things when you’re basically being trained to fight?

Well, again, fighting is just what the Buddhists will call your dharma, it’s your duty. Again, you could be a fighter in a corporate realm; you can be a fighter anywhere.

You don’t have to pick up a weapon. In fact, at the master level, the warrior is the last to pick up the weapon, to pick up the lance. The way we do it, we must have an equal emphasis on working in as we do working out. So the physical is necessary to be functionally fit, to have the mobility—developing your body so you have strength, stamina, the capacity to work really hard for intense periods of time, to be able to take care of crises, take care of your teammate, endurance so you can stay in the game, stamina. And durability, so you don’t get sidelined, you don’t break. And to be able to develop the physical structure to be able to stay in this game of life, regardless of what your career is, but especially if you’re an industrial athlete or warrior athlete, to use your body for your job. So that’s critical.

And also, you will develop the skills of your profession. We train electrical linemen that have to climb utility lines in storms and fix high-voltage electrical lines, which is pretty intense. So we train them. Our training is to give them the functional fitness, as well as the mental toughness and resiliency, to be able to stay the course through those trying times. But they’ve still got to develop the skills on their own and through their training to be able to do that kind of work.

The physical training is a great method to begin to do mental training, because when you train at the level that we do, where the training is hard, where the training requires complex motor skills, where the training requires long hours, and planning and working together as a team, now all of a sudden you’re getting into mental development. You’re developing your concentration, your focus, your staying power, your mental stamina, all that kind of stuff.

That’s really just the beginning, though; we don’t leave it at that. We say, “Okay, now let’s also develop our minds.” Now we can develop our minds through working out, and we develop our minds through working in. So we develop our minds through concentration training, breath control, meditation, moving… somatic movement, right?

More refined movement, like yoga, or tai chi or qigong, through memory drills, through visualization drills, stuff like that. And so it’s all developing not just the critical mind, which is just a small aspect of your mind.

There are five primary ways that we think.

  • Thinking (as we usually think of it), which is using our critical mind, our neocortex, to solve problems, and to analyze and rationalize and all that.
  • Accessing memory is the actual thinking capacity, so you can improve the ability of your mind to access memory.
  • Your visual mind. So consider your image, your ability to create images, to form images, to review images as a language. Well, we have symbolic language, like words and mathematics, but we also have a visual language. And that visual language is powerful because our subconscious mind, our heart mind, and our belly mind don’t communicate in symbolic language; they communicate in sensory feelings and imagery.
  • Dreaming is interesting. It kind of combines memory with imagery, but it’s a unique thing in and of itself, and it’s often thought of as a way for our subconscious to kind of process things.
  • Direct perception is the one I really try to hone, which can only be found in the present moment.

Now, your critical thinking mind and your memory mind can only be utilized in a future mental state, or a past mental state. And so part of my mental training at SEALFIT is to teach people how to use their minds—their thinking mind, their critical mind, effectively in a future state, to plan, to envision victory, to rehearse victory, and to make sure that you can focus on the right tactical things, the right targets en route to victory.

And then we use our mind in the past, to relive events and extract the positive, like the Silver Linings Playbook—extract the silver lining, extract the lessons, to celebrate the positive things. To decide what to kill off and leave in your past, and to choose what to bring forward, so you can use those lessons, either in a future planning state or in the present. But what’s neat about this, Abel, is when you develop your mind so it’s a choice to go into the future, a future state to do the planning and the visioning and stuff like that, and it’s a choice to go in the past and do that.

We have morning and evening rituals for both of those, that frees you up to be radically present during the day when you’re getting the job done. And in that present mind-state, that’s when we allow our direct perception faculties to be able to receive more information, to take it in and to absorb.

That’s when you get this sense of just knowing things—I call it knowingness—where you don’t really think it, but you just know it. And it’s a unique intelligence that we have as humans that can be trained. It’s related to intuition, but I think intuition also combines sensory awareness and other things. So it’s ultimately working on developing ourselves mentally, and then emotionally.

That’s another one, especially for us guys. Emotional intelligence is incredibly important; I think it’s equally as important as cognitive intelligence. I chose the word Kokoro, for the Kokoro camp, the fifty-hour camp, because it means “To merge your heart and your mind into your actions.” There’s just no American word that comes close. And so what they’re saying is, be intelligent, both emotionally and cognitively, and be able to use both for wise decisions, not just clever decisions that are going to have second- and third-order negative effects, which is what we have going on all over the place in our society, in our world, you know what I mean? It’s just a complete disaster.

My purpose in life is to master myself, so I can serve others to achieve their maximum human potential.

And one of the reasons I’m doing this is because I believe that we all need to upgrade our human operating systems, so every single person can take part in solving some of these intractable problems that we’ve created, and it’s not going to happen until we take a Kokoro, heart-mind approach, and everyone gets in the game. We can’t wait for the next president, or some world leader, to magically wave a wand. It just doesn’t work that way.

The systems we have right now are the ones that created the problem. They can’t solve it. They’re incapable of even seeing it.

The problems are going to be solved by social entrepreneurs, by guys like you and me, and by millions of people who literally get on board and say, “Okay, stop, it’s our time.” We’ve got to step up and take responsibility for the environment, and for our global health, and for creating an interconnected society of people who are mutually supportive, instead of trying to chop each other’s heads off.

Abel: Right. That heart-mind action connection is important. I was recently listening to an interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Tim Ferriss asked him if he meditated. Arnold said that he used to meditate often when he was body building. And now basically, when he’s exercising, when he’s lifting weights, he is “in” his biceps. He is using those meditative capabilities that he learned for basically anything that he does. And I really related to that, as a musician, because once you reach a certain level of mastery, you realize you’re not the one who’s playing. Right? You’re the one who’s channeling; you’re in a deep meditative state.

If Dave Asprey hooked my brain up to a bunch of gadgets, it would show that I’m in a very unique type of brain state when that sort of thing happens. And it seems like you’re one of the rare people who really does that. One thing you mentioned before the call is the warrior approach to yoga, and usually you don’t put those two things together.

YOGA FOR GUYS

I think that yoga, ultimately, is a martial tradition. It’s the oldest personal development system known to mankind. It’s at least five thousand years old. Probably way older than that. Yoga is not what we think of it in the West. It’s not a group of fifty girls and four guys sweating through a hot yoga class.

Abel: Sweating on chemical yoga mats?

Right, exactly. Although that’s certainly part of it, but it’s a small part of it. Even the martial arts have a connection to yoga. There is a fellow named Bodhidharma who was a great yogi sage, who found his way to the Shaolin Monastery. And the monks there had a rudimentary form of fighting called Shaolin boxing. But they didn’t really have the functional fitness or the mental control. They didn’t know how to meditate. And so Bodhidharma taught them Zen.

Zen came out of his work, and he taught them a form of functional fitness that was asana. And when combined with the fighting and developed over many more years, it became Shaolin kung fu.

Yoga came out of ancient India, but there is a martial art there that is considered to be the oldest martial art in the world. And if you go to Northern India, the people who are practicing it, there are aspects of yoga, asana in it. And there are aspects of regular kung fu fighting, and it’s all kind of one thing.

Where I went to do the martial arts, we didn’t do yoga. But now they offer yoga classes combined with their martial arts. So it’s coming full circle.

I’ve been teaching what I call “warrior yoga,” which is my version of yoga. I started with the SEAL candidates back in 2007, and now I teach it to everyone. And I actually am working on a book called Kokoro Yoga. And I just put a little DVD together.

And it’s super powerful, because it is a total warrior development practice. Whereas, I would say Unbeatable Mind is my philosophy and executive coaching. SEALFIT is my physical training. Kokoro Yoga is the practice. And I began this practice, actually, as a warrior when I was recalled after duty. I was a Reserve SEAL, which is a great job, by the way, if you can imagine being a Navy SEAL Reservist. It’s like being part of a staffing company for the coolest job in the world.

I could snap my fingers or pick up the phone and be around the world and jumping into some sort of firefight somewhere. It was really cool. But at the same time, I got to build a business and be with my family. So about half of my SEAL career was active duty, on a team; the other half was as a Reserve officer. So anyway, I went to Iraq, Baghdad, in 2004. And it was on a special project with SEAL Team One. When I got there, I had already been practicing yoga now for about five years. And so I didn’t think about it, but I did bring my yoga mat.

When I got into the SEAL compound, it was near a lake where Saddam Hussein had a palace, and we’d taken it over. And I went to try to figure out how to work out and realized pretty quickly that the gym was like a combat patrol an hour away, and so there was no gym. So I was relegated to just kind of jogging and regular PT, which I was fine with.

But I said, “Maybe there is something better.” And so I found this spot near the lake and near one of the little palace-like pouches, and I began to do what I call an integrated practice. I didn’t really understand it all at the time, but I look back and I think it was pretty cool that it just came out of me.

The spot that I was training in, it was the size of my yoga mat, because that’s what I used to hold the space. And I would start with breathing. And breath control training is profound, and super powerful. And so I started box breathing, which is a simple ratio of inhaling through a five-count, holding my breath through a five-count, exhaling to a five-count, holding my breath. It totally got my mind and my body really, really clear, energized, balanced. And my mind was empty, and the stress was being managed properly because I was triggering my parasympathetic nervous system. Again, just through trial and error; I didn’t have the words to describe it the way I just did.

So I did that for about fifteen minutes. And then I would go into a series of standing poses to warm up, so about twenty minutes of standing poses. And then I would pause because this served, or I should say, this session doubled as my physical training.

And what I learned from yoga before that was that yoga is a poor substitute for fitness. It really is not meant to be fitness. I mean, it will get you into better shape if you’re doing nothing else, but for guys like us who are warriors and athletes, it’s a complement to fitness. It’s not really the intention. Having said that, it is amazing for spinal health, which is one of the primary benefits as well as detoxification, and mobility, and flexibility. Obviously, those are important.

So anyway, then I would take a pause, and I would do about twenty minutes of functional fitness. I was just learning CrossFit, and I didn’t have any tools, but I could do squats, and burpees, and star jumpers, and stuff like that.

I’d get my heart rate up into that intensity zone and I’d stay there for about twenty minutes, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. And then when I was done, the third or fourth segment of this, I would go down and do a bunch of seated poses, a lot more core stretching, twist, and some ab work, and stuff like that. And then I would end in Shavasana, which is corpse pose, and I would do a visualization. Now, the visualization was not part of my yoga training; the functional fitness wasn’t part of my yoga training. The asana, or the poses, were, and the breath control was. So I was combining different elements.

The visualization was something I called the Future Me. I would visualize myself at home, healthy, with my wife and my son after the deployment. So I put myself in this future state where I was going to be there.

I’ll tell you what, Abel; the whole sessions would last about an hour or sometimes maybe an hour and fifteen, or an hour and thirty. And I would skip breakfast to do these, because it became so profoundly important to my day. And the longer I spent in the combat zone, the better I felt. I was getting in great shape, I felt amazing from this practice, and my mind was clear. And I just felt super confident.

I’ll tell you what: that stuck with me. And so a couple of years later in 2007, when I started the SEALFIT program, initially I was like, “Okay, we’re just going to do this hard-core physical training, and I’m going to teach them some mental toughness.” And then I thought, “What’s the mental toughness? What am I going to teach them?”

Then I thought, okay, what worked for me was breath control and visualization, maintaining a radically positive mindset, transferring that positivity to a feeling state so not only was I thinking positive, but I was feeling positively and learning how to establish and focus on the right goals and that was happening through… I found through the breath and the visualization training. And then everything started to get clearer, and ideas and insights were coming to me. And so I said, “Well, I’m going to teach all that.”

Then I thought, “Well, what’s the best way to teach that?” And I thought, “You need to practice it.” So not only do I need to develop curriculum around teaching this stuff so I could teach it, and so they could understand it, but I actually had to develop skills, and drills, and practices.

All that I remembered with warrior yoga, I said, “Well, you know what? That was profoundly useful for me.” So I started teaching the practices through warrior yoga. And then I developed these academies, which I referenced earlier, like three days, five days, and three weeks. And interestingly enough, the SEAL candidates who trained with me for three weeks, we have a 90% success rate getting them through SEAL training. The last two classes, the last two Honor Men were SEALFIT trainees.

Abel: Compare that to the average Joe…

80% to 90% washout rate. So we flipped it. And whatever we’re doing is working. I’d love to get down there and teach the SEAL instructors what we’re doing. That will probably happen someday. We’re not pushing it, because they’re busy and they’ve got their way of doing things. But it’s neat, it’s like Back to the Future to me, because I can imagine… all great warrior traditions have had some combination of working out, and working in.

If you look at the Samurai, they had Zen. The Apache Scouts had sacred silence, and their very long vision quest. And they would send a teenager out into the wilderness alone, forbid contact with other human beings for a year, and if they made it back they were accepted into the warrior tribe. All sorts of examples of this; the yogis I’ve already discussed. And even the ancient Greek Spartans, they had practices that were inner and outer, yet here in the West, we’ve just completely ignored all that.

Learn how to have mental toughness & why stress is a choice: http://bit.ly/mdivine

All great warrior traditions combine working out and working in. @MarkDivine Click To Tweet

So I’m trying to bring it back together, and I teach warrior yoga within Western cultural context; I take the fu out of the kung fu. There are no Sanskrit words. As a guy, you don’t have to wear Spandex. It’s not about any of that. We don’t chant, we don’t say “namaste” at the end of each session. It’s just a guy’s yoga, and it’s phenomenally effective and really cool and everyone loves it.

WHERE DOES MARK DIVINE GET HIS INFORMATION?

Abel: I have one more question for you that I’m personally curious about. You’re obviously very learned, you have many passions. Where do you get your information? What books do you read, where do you find things that you can trust and learn from?

Oh man, all over the place. I am a sucker for ancient yoga texts; everything I can get my hands on. We think the most interesting stuff is the most recent, but it is not.

Abel: Yeah, they figured it out way long ago.

They have. We’re just completely reinventing the wheel over and over and over. I love what’s coming out in modern research too, some of the stuff… Like I just picked up a book called Go Wild, and I’m excited about it. This is like SEALFIT in a book. Like basically, eat Paleo, get busy, get outside and play, meditate, hang with your family, reduce your stress.

I love just meditating and allowing that knowingness to unfold. @MarkDivine Click To Tweet

The yogis believe that if you spend enough time cultivating your consciousness and your mind, that you would ultimately know all things. Now again, that’s a fine art. I’m not sitting here telling you that I know all things. Because I don’t. The more I think I know, the less I actually know, it seems like. But I can honestly tell you that much of what I write about and much of what I do just came to me through meditation sessions or through yoga or one of our long-ass weekends, where I just spend a lot of time alone, rucking up a mountain or whatever.

And then also through teaching, I have great insights watching other people experience breakthroughs. We’ve trained a few thousand people now and there have been some extraordinary breakthroughs and extraordinary experiences that people have had, and I really learn a lot from them and I try to stay open. I really think that learning comes from continually opening the vessel and emptying it of concepts.

Sometimes I wake up really scared—I’m not scared in the sense of being scared for my life, I’m a very confident person—but I wonder if I’ve taught everything I know.

Then I realize that’s silly, because all I got to do is empty the cup a little bit and let something else flow into it, you know what I mean? That’s usually a time when I have some sort of my own little dip, and then all of a sudden, I just have another breakthrough, and I’m like, oh, out of that comes a book or something like that.

Abel: Right on. I feel the same way. That reminds me I had a dream last night—a nightmare I guess—about accidentally drinking Diet Coke.

Oh, my God. That would be horrible. You might survive.

Abel: It’s funny what comes to you sometimes, isn’t it?

Word, yeah.

WHERE TO FIND MARK DIVINE

For in-person training, head to Mark’s SEALFIT Training Center.

On sealfit.com you can find videos and tons of free information, a weekly blog, all of his books and training programs, and more. Also check out Mark’s podcast, Unbeatable Mind.

You can also find Mark on Twitter @SEALFIT or @MarkDivine, and on Facebook @MarkDivineAuthor.

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One thought on “Mark Divine: Mental Toughness, Yoga for Guys & Why Stress is a Choice

  1. was great until I read about going to Peru to do drugs …….. buddy its a drug
    used to scour the fields looking for magic mushrooms as a teen, a chemical that messes up your perception
    Do it every day for a month and tell me its spiritual or healthy ,
    saddened

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