About HSP’s — Highly Sensitive People

My wife Lynda and I just watched a fascinating documentary titled: Sensitive – The Untold Story. It turns out, the genetic trait of high sensitivity is found in 20% of the population. It is found equally in men and women and in over 100 animal species. The scientific term for the trait is SPS or Sensory Processing Sensitivity. This trait is not a disorder, but it does pose challenges for people who possess it, as well as those with whom they live.

What SPS means is, certain people are more tuned into subtly of words, emotions, environments, threats, meaning, sounds, beauty, loss, poignancy, world events, human suffering, the list goes on. On other words, the brains of highly sensitive people (HSP) not only process more information, but they also process it more deeply. High sensitivity can be a blessing or a curse. Because practically speaking, HSP’s feel more. So their emotions are not only more keen and profound, sometimes they’re more gripping. For this reason, HSP’s can get easily overstimulated in environments that are chaotic, loud, or otherwise intense. Overstimulation is the challenging aspect of this trait, both for the HSP and for those with whom they live. I imagine many stress-related illnesses – addictions, depression, chronic pain, anxiety disorders, and more – are correlated with HSP.

Mark as a babyI am a highly sensitive person. I even joked about it in my guided meditation booklet when I wrote:

“When I was a kid, I don’t remember people thinking that I was spoiled, but I do remember being overly sensitive. I would throw a fit if there were wrinkles in socks when my mom put on my shoes. I’ve always liked things to be just so. I can recall my Dad even telling me to “unfuss myself.” So I guess that’s my life’s journey, learning to accept and allow.”

Being an HSP has been a journey – an educational one – where I’ve had to learn about myself. Learning to meditate and be more mindful has been a big part of that journey. Since I started meditating, my sensitivity has not toned down. Rather, it’s even stronger than ever. But the remarkably positive difference now is in the quality of my sensitivity. I’m no longer reactively sensitive, throwing a fit when I get tired, hungry, uncomfortable, or otherwise when circumstances don’t go my way. Instead, now, I can sit for extended periods of time, experiencing relative discomfort with composure. I’m still sensitive, but now, I’m groundedly sensitive. That’s the blessing that makes all the difference. I now know how to open up and have complete experiences, riding the waves of energy around me. In this way, I can experience the fullness of my gift for sensitivity without it throwing me into an emotional tailspin. The blessed gift of grounded sensitivity heightens one’s senses, and that, in turn, makes life more precious. If you are an HSP, you have the potential to make the shift from reactive to grounded sensitivity yourself. If you need support, I’m here to help.

If you think you’re an HSP, let us know. Add your comment to this post. We want to hear your stories. Also, if you know other HSP’s, share this post with them. They want to know they’re not alone.



Doing Leads to Being

Ever been to a social gathering or a meeting and introduce yourself this way, “Hi, I’m Mark, I’m a _________.’ Funny how we identify ourselves with what we do. It makes sense. I’m not quibbling about it. But it’s also strange if you think about it. A Noun (being), arises out of a Verb (doing).

For example, if I start smoking, at some point, I become a smoker. In the case of smoking, it’s hard to say exactly when that transformation happens. Are there milestones that identify the shift? Once a person crosses an invisible line it is inevitable, smoking-1026559_960_720the consequences of the actions (smoking) start to emerge. Smelly breath, morning cough, higher blood pressure, lower blood oxygen, possibly even cancer can be effects of smoking. Interestingly, the activating force behind these results begins to fade once a person stops smoking. Changing the actions (not smoking) then attracts different results–better overall health. Also too, the now ex-smoker will eventually stop identifying him or herself as a smoker. The label (the noun) evaporates away as well.

As you know, I’m in the business of trying to inspire people to start meditating. I do this because the same potentiating force that turns doing into being is at play here too. If you start to meditate, you will initiate actions that lead to predictably positive results. Studies show that people who meditate are happier and healthier. The enhanced awareness that goes with a skillful meditation practice also improves relationships at work and home. Simply put, meditators learn skills and perspectives that enable them to suffer less and their life gets easier.

EVERYONE WANTS THE EFFECTS OF MEDITATION. But to my great dismay, less than one percent of people will do what it takes to achieve those positive results. People get so totally lost in the world that they won’t prioritize the one activity that will shift things for them.

One of my meditation teachers, John Yates, PhD., (Culadasa), wrote a book, The Mind Illuminated, that details the ten stages of meditative development. His formulation teaches that a person masters stage one as soon as they develop a consistent practice. If you are part of the one percent and are interested in cultivating the positive results that come with the activity of meditating, find my free guide on starting a practice. I’ve attached a PDF to this blog. Click the link at the end of this paragraph. And please, share it with your friends too. Begin-at-the-Beginning-M1. This PDF is a part of a more comprehensive 6-module online course on learning meditation and mindfulness for stress relief. If you feel inspired, you’re invited to check out that resource as well.

Remember, Being arises out of the Doing, and, when Doing changes, so does Being. Become a meditator. Then, reap the rewards!


In my mind, the word “ritual” conjures religious overtones. Today, I choose to use it in a much more mundane way. Here, let ritual mean any activity you engage in that captures your attention on a daily basis. I’m talking about ingrained habits, like walking the dog in the morning, watching TV after work, reading the Huffington Post at lunch (me), or posting on FaceBook after putting the kids to bed. We all have rituals we devote precious allotments of our time to every day.

Thoughts and feelings come to reflect whatever are our cumulative preoccupations. Capturing attention as they do, rituals lead to habitual emotional states. And, emotions felt habitually, eventually grow from states into temperaments. That is how mundane rituals mold us over time.

How the power of focus can create a positive spiral in your life
How the power of focus can create a positive spiral in your life

If you want life to be better, consider examining the effects of your mundane rituals. How are you ritually prioritizing your time each day? You may discover that some rituals are not serving you. Giving yourself over to them is costing rather than adding to your life.

If you decide you’d like to replace some of your rituals with a daily meditation practice, I’d like to offer you a quick lesson on how to get started. Just click here to gain access to a free webinar that explains the basics of how to use meditation for stress relief. On the webinar page, you’ll be able to watch a video and also receive free downloadable audio meditations. These are the same meditations that come with the first month of my 13-month guided program. Enjoy them. They’ll get you started.

My mission is to help as many people start a meditation and mindfulness practice as possible. The reason, I want the world to be a better place. So, if you’ve been thinking about taking up the ritual of meditation, go for it. I assure you, you’ll gain more happiness, mental and emotional clarity, compassion for yourself and others, more creativity, confidence, grounded sensitivity, peace, a sense of purpose, deeper sleep, and a better memory. If you want to improve as a parent, to be less impulsive and reliant on medicating substances and behaviors, to develop increased tolerance for distress, then begin to practice the ritual of meditation and mindfulness. IN ALL THESE WAYS AND MORE, THIS RITUAL WILL MOLD YOUR LIFE INTO SOMETHING WORTH CELEBRATING. I’m here to support you if you’d like to get started. Please share this newsletter with anyone you want to be happy.

As always, I wish you peace, health, and happiness.



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I wanted to pass on some exciting, and super valuable news to anyone interested in THE BEST EVER BOOK on the stages of meditation training. I’ve read many books on the subject, but this book is the most informative, clear, and thorough by a long shot. The book is titled, The Mind Illuminated, and it was written by one of my meditation teachers, John Yates, Ph.D. I’m excited about this book because it’s simply the best resource on the topic. Please check it out for yourself. Reading this book will totally jumpstart your practice. Also, please share this post with anyone and everyone who is interested in learning to meditate for the purpose of self-change and/or healing.

Wishing you well,


Kids These Days!

“Kids these days.” How many times have you heard someone speak these words? How many times have you thought or spoken them yourself? We adults are perfect projection machines—chastising children for their behavior while at the same time forgetting it is a reflection of our own. Sure, each person is born with a unique temperament. Nevertheless, the environment of the home and culture radiates a powerfully influential force that molds them as well.Fighting Children

It might be helpful to think of children as biological recording devices. As such, they come into the world equipped to record and playback everything they experience. How do we imagine children learn to feel, sit with, and process their emotions? Clearly, it is through the process of modeling the emotional responses of those closest to them. Kids learn to speak kindly to others or not, depending on whether or not they hear kind words spoken to them. They may learn to respect others and their feelings, but only if their feelings receive respect first.

Likewise, by modeling the adults in their lives, children learn to become anxious, depressed, aggressive, distracted, impatient or disinterested. Unfortunately, most often our medical system treats these emotional issues as medical conditions. Pharmaceutical companies create pills for dampening all such “symptoms.” This misguided polypharmaceutical approach has no endgame. Lab testing our kids by pouring psychoactive chemicals into them is not the answer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying in all cases. Sure, in rare instances medicine can be a solution. What I’m saying is that pills won’t solve problems related to an unsafe environment, or the unavailability of tuned-in, emotionally skillful caregivers.

Happily, there’s another alternative to taking our children to the doctor. Humans never exhaust the capacity for growth and evolution. Meaning, grace is embedded in the practice of parenting. But, progressing along the path towards positive change requires pulling yourself out of your routine, and then, learning something new. Happy ChildrenIf you want to change your child’s behavior, start by working on yourself first. When you learn to experience your emotions more skillfully, speak more kindly and respectfully, be more compassionate, you’ll become perfectly enabled to model that skillfulness for your children. Then they’ll change.

Dr. Mark Pirtle is a meditation and mindfulness teacher who works in the recovery field. He contracts for Sierra Tucson, Miraval and is a faculty member of the Center for Integrative Medicine Fellowship Program at the University of Arizona. He teaches Skillfully Aware, a 6-week class that teaches the brain science of emotional literacy and the practice of meditation and mindfulness. For more information on classes go to www.skillfullyaware.com.

Meditation Changes Everything

Meditation will change you, and eventually, change the world. I got support for this hypothesis from a dear friend, and super accomplished and successful business woman Cristina Burgess. She turned me onto this video of self-described “skeptical” journalist Dan Harris waxing philosophically about the many benefits of meditation. Watch it. It’s compelling.


Mark at 48 years oldDid you watch it? If so, now’s the time to act! Go get yourself a teacher and start learning how to meditate. Your partner, spouse, kids, family, colleagues, community, nation and the world needs you to be at your best. YOU need YOU! And don’t worry, if you need support, I’m here to help. The important thing is that you get started. Let’s do this.

Wishing you health and happiness,



People rather shock themselves than be with their own thoughts!

I heard a rather disturbing story on the radio show Science Friday this past week. Researchers at the University of Virginia were amazed to discover that many people would rather self-administer painful shocks than sit quietly with their own thoughts for 15 minutes. This research proves to me that people just don’t know how to work with their own thoughts. I find this both sad and worrisome.

thinkingMost of us think we think. But of course, this is not true. Spend anytime watching your thoughts and you realize that thoughts arise unbidden, in a chaotic stream. Which means we don’t often consciously pick our next thought.

Thoughts that arise do so because they carry emotional relevance. We tend to think about what we like and dislike. Most of us get stuck in traps of negative thinking because of a natural negative attentional bias. I think this is the reason why people would rather shock themselves than sit with their thoughts—too much negativity.

What if you had the ability to influence whether your attention fixated on negative thinking? What if you could allow thinking, but not be the thinker? You’d be free. That’s what meditation (mind) training can do for you.iStock_000004431227Mediumcmyk

The mind (not thoughts, but pure consciousness) can focus on itself and come to know its own nature. The nature of mind is like space: quiet and empty. Thoughts are like objects in the space. If you learn to see the difference between the two, you can choose to rest in the quiet peaceful space of your mind even if you are thinking.

I’d like to ask those researchers to test meditators (not just those who know how to be “mindful”). I know from personal experience that I’d have no trouble sitting alone with my thoughts for 15 minutes, or even an hour for that matter. I’d just meditate, which I find interesting and peaceful. You can learn to meditate the same way I have. Once you do, you won’t have to resort to shocking yourself to escape your thoughts, you’ll know how find peace anytime you choose.

If you’d like to learn to meditate, check out my guided meditation program. I want you to be happy.

Wishing you well,


Commute with Compassion

Traffic Jam in Sao Paulo

Traffic Jam in Sao Paulo
copyrights mariordo@aol.com
Statistics show that the vast majority of Americans start their day by commuting an average of 10 miles to work. If you’re one of those people, have you ever noticed how the tensions involved in this wordless, frenetic migration have the ability to influence the emotional tone of the rest of your day? Consider trying this simple driving meditation as a way to get ahead of stress and set you up for a happy and productive day.

As you watch cars moving around you, imagine the other drivers are your friends, or members of your family: your sister or brother, mother or father, kids or grandparents. Imagine wishing them well on their journey, wherever it takes them. In that vein, consider allowing these friends and relatives the space to move in front of you if they want. Smile at them as they do. Wish them well in your heart as they pass. Try to imagine where each person might be going. If they happen to be driving unconsciously and frantically, offer them kindness and compassion rather than scorn. We’ll all been in a rush at one time or another. It’s no fun. They’re suffering. Wish that your kindness may wake up, bring them a bit of mindfulness and peace. Your offering of peace and kindness not only helps them, it will help you as well. Happy commuting.

More Meditation, More Mindfulness

Dr. Mark Pirtle

I read an article published in the NY Times in the Life@Work section by Tony Schwartz titled: More Mindfulness, Less Meditation. Mr. Schwartz argues that mindfulness, not meditation is what brings about personal transformation. His take on meditation is that it is “learning to do one thing at a time… quiet the mind… relax the body… and, quiet the emotions.” Next, he goes on to say: “What I haven’t seen is much evidence that meditating leads people to behave better, improves their relationships or makes them happier.”

I must contend with Mr Schwartz. Tony is not doing his research. Meditation is a key element is helping millions of people learn critical skills of emotional and behavioral self-management. Meditation helps foster the capacity for attention, self-regulation, compassion, and increases positive emotional states including joy and happiness.

Sure, being mindful in life is the purpose, but formal sitting practice is how one learns to be mindful, which means skillfully managing the fast paced flow of triggers, thoughts and sensations. As my readers know, mind-body networks run by themselves. You’ve heard me say: “No one is growing fingernails or beating hearts.” Your network is reading and understanding English right now. Look at these words and understanding takes place, all by itself. Patterns of “self” (who you thing you are) emerge out of this unimaginably complex flow of subtle mind-body processes. Once a pattern stabilizes itself, it tends to continue to make itself. For example, if left alone, chronically depressed people stay depressed.

Such entrenched patterns are called “attractor states.” Attractor states are states that attract themselves through reinforcing feedback. If one is not taught how to peer skillfully into the mind-body, and the subtle stream of self-making actions (the purpose and practice of insight meditation), one has very little chance of self-management, let alone transformation. Formal sitting practice slows things down. It helps one see clearly how triggers, thoughts and sensations create the cause and effect loops, that then form the attractor state of “self.”

Once one learns to watch the flow of triggers, thoughts and sensations skillfully, mindfulness in life becomes the goal. Mindfulness in life is enabled by formal sitting practice. How else would one learn to be mindful? Basketball players don’t practice free throws because that is an end in itself. A basketball player only practices free throws so he or she can make them in the game. That’s the purpose of practice: to learn a skill, keep it sharp, and then apply the skill practically. This is why I say “more meditation, more mindfulness!”

If you’d like support starting your own sitting practice, I’m here to support you.



Learning to Unfuss Your Self

Mark as a baby When I was a kid, I don’t remember people thinking that I was spoiled, but I do remember being overly sensitive. If there were wrinkles in socks when my mom put on my shoes I would throw a holy fit. I’ve always liked things to be just so. I can recall my Dad even telling me to “unfuss myself.” So I guess that’s my life’s journey, learning to accept and allow.

I want to be as transparent as I can; just because I meditate does not mean that I’m a very highly realized person. Like you, I’m doing my best, and any spiritual growth I may achieve comes with effort, patience, and practice. I know that if I don’t engage in my daily spiritual practice, the peace and happiness I currently enjoy might slowly fade and I could turn fussy again.

Mark 44 years oldLike a lot of people, my journey to self-discovery began with a painful “bottoming-out” experience. This experience was so potent that it rocked me to the core. The cliff notes version is that I had a thriving business, a title, and a healthy income stream; basically my life and identity seemed solid and unshakable. Then, within a very short time it all collapsed. Afterwards, I was depressed, scared, and furious! I was forced to deal with powerful emotions that I’d never felt before. As a result, my health deteriorated quickly, and I was given a fist full of pills to cope with the intense emotions and the stress-related illnesses (insomnia, depression, chronic pain, anxiety, addictions, and more) that arose in the wake of those emotions.

It took me a couple of years to realize that the pills wouldn’t (and couldn’t) heal me. Looking back, it’s clear why not. I could not stop my mind from replaying my trauma over and over. It was like being stuck in the self-made movie theater of my mind, forced to watch the saddest, most scary and maddening film ever produced, and the one where I was cast as the main character. And, I had no idea how to get up and walk out of the theater.

Mark at 48 years oldThen, as grace would have it, I learned to meditate, and my life began to change for the better. Meditation taught me to watch the mind-made movie. It helped me to separate myself from that drama. More importantly, I could see that “I” was not the main character in the drama. Instead, I learned to identify with the quiet still space of the mind. Like existing only as the “Space” inside “the theater.” That shift from identification with the self, to identification with the “Space,” changed everything. In Buddhism, they have a funny saying, it goes: “no self, no problem.” Jesus communicated a similar sentiment when he told his followers to “deny the self.” I’m calling it “unfussing the self.”

I’ve created a 13-month program, that comes with a book and 40-guided meditations. It will teach you how to dis-identify or unfuss yourself too! When you do, your life will change for the better. Also, I tell my clients that ‘I come with the program.’ Meaning, if you need support, just contact me. I want you to be happy. For more information on the program, check out the Courses section of the website.

Many well wishes,